English language 5.1 48 kHz/24-bit PCM sound mixes are supplied for each of the three films in this collection. Like the video quality, the audio quality in this set is excellent across the board. There are plenty of directional effects used to add atmosphere and depth throughout the trilogy that comes at you from all over the place. The battles scenes are intense and immersive while the more subdued moments remain crisp and clear with much of the dialogue coming from the front of the mix. Bass response is strong and tight without overpowering the higher end of the sound mix. There's an amazing amount of fantastic background noise present here - listen carefully and you'll notice all manner of interesting little details like the creaking of the boats, background chatter during crowd scenes, and clinks and booms and other effects during the battle sequences. Subtitles are included for each film in English SDH, French and Spanish and standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are supplied for each film in English, French and Spanish.
Each of the three films is given a two-disc release and the extras are spread across both discs. Here's a look:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl:
The bulk of the extras on the first disc come in commentary form, as there are three different tracks included here, the first of which features director Gore Verbinkski and lead actor Johnny Depp. This is a fairly relaxed track with the two participants nonchalantly discussing their work on the picture together. At times this track is quite quiet and there's a bit of dead air here and there but it is interesting to hear from Depp about how he got into character and what it was like investing some of himself into the role. The second track is a bit more interesting. Featuring producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actors Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport, this track is more humorous and light hearted. Knightley and Davenport have a very good rapport with one another and while they don't always contribute cold hard facts, they do give us a good idea of what it was like working together on the film. Bruckheimer was recorded solo and spliced into the track where needed and his input is more screen specific and technical and it balances out the good natured goofiness supplied by Knightley and Davenport. The third commentary features the writers - Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert. This is an interesting discussion that focuses on character development and creation. It's interesting to learn just how these guys went about creating a film out of an amusement park ride and where many of their ideas and influences came from. Between the three commentary tracks we get a good sense of what it was like in front of and behind the camera and despite some lagging moments in the first track, a lot of ground is covered here.
Also included on Disc One is the Scoundrels Of The Sea option that, when enabled, displays some interesting historical facts and related trivia on the screen while the movie plays out by way of some pop-ups. As these pop-ups appear, click on ones that look like a piece of gold and a related documentary will start to play at the end of the film. This basically allows you to figure out, as you watch the film, what parts of the movie you'd like to learn more about once it's finished. A little instruction booklet is included inside the case explaining how to play the game.
Rounding out the extras on Disc One are the Disney Movie Showcase option (that basically shows off pre-selected effects intensive scenes to serve as home theater demo material), some Disney promo ads, animated menus and chapter selection.
The second disc (all of which is presented in standard definition, unfortunately) starts off with a decent forty minute documentary entitled An Epic At Sea - The Making Of Pirates Of The Caribbean. Featuring interviews with all of the principal actors and actresses from the film as well as important crewmembers and members of the writing team, this is a reasonably interesting documentary that never quite gets as deep into the making of the film as it could have. Covered here are specific areas of the production such as the actors, the locations, production design, ships of the Caribbean, make up and wardrobe, the art of sword fighting, special effects and the film's premiere and even if it's a somewhat superficial piece, it does at least give us a feel for what went into the making of the picture, leaving some of the nitty-gritty specific details to some of the other supplements on the disc, such as the Fly-On-The-Wall mini-documentaries. These are essentially quick little documentaries that show us from a 'you are there' perspective how a few scenes were shot and created before then showing us a bit from the finished version - interesting stuff! The scenes covered here are Town Attack, Tortuga, Blacksmith Shop, The Cave, Jack's Hanging, The Dock, The Tavern and last but not least, The Plank.
Up next are a pair of character-centric featurettes, starting with Becoming Captain Jack. Here, Johnny Depp talks about how he tried to make the character his own, some of the influences that came into play as he was shaping the character before shooting started, and how he stays in character when he needs to. Becoming Barbossa is a similar featurette wherein Geoffrey Rush explains how he shaped the character and how he brought some of his idiosyncrasies to life for the big screen.
From there, check out a few effects related featurettes starting with Thar She Blows! which is an interesting look at how green screen photography was used to blow up The Interceptor in the film. The Sneak Attack Animatic is a look at how CGI was used to create the effects where the pirates walk on the ocean floor before commencing their attack on the living, while the Moonlight Serenade Progression shows how yet more CGI was used to flesh out the scene where Elizabeth discovers that the seamen of the Black Pearl really are cursed and not just making stuff up.
Thankfully, a few supplements pay tribute to the ride that inspired the film starting with Spirit Of The Ride which is a really nice look at how many tributes to the original Disney ride were thrown into the motion picture it inspired (there are a lot more above and beyond the more obvious ones like the prisoners trying to tempt the dog holding a key by waving a bone at him). Dead Men Tell No Tales - The History Of The Attraction is, as you've probably gathered, a history of the Pirates ride that shows how Walt Disney's original drawings were used as a source material to create one of the famous theme park's most famous creations. It's quite interesting to see how the ride was built and how the animatronic pirates were created. Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color is a clip from a vintage television show where Walt himself explains the concept of the ride before it was actually a finished and working attraction. Here we get an idea of just what Walt wanted and it's neat to compare it to how it all turned out. Some of the footage from this clip is also used in Dead Men Tell No Tales, but it's good footage and it fits well in both featurettes.
Also worth watching are The Monkey's Name Is Jack which is a collection of bizarre but unusually touching interviews with the four key cast members, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinkski as they discuss what it was like working with a monkey co-star. There are some amusing stories here and this is well worth a watch. Diary Of A Ship is an interesting look at how a ship called The Lady Washington was sailed from Long Beach in California to the island of St. Vincent to essentially become The Interceptor while Diary Of A Pirate allows bit part player Lee Arenberg (he played Pintel) to talk about his experiences working on a huge picture like this.
Rounding out the extra features on the second disc are Jerry Bruckheimer's Photo Gallery (where the producer talks about his love of taking pictures before showing us a bunch of his fairly impressive work), an interactive guide to the history of pirates entitled Below Deck, Pirates Around The World (an amusing collection of clips from the film dubbed into various foreign languages), a standard still gallery of promotional and behind the scenes images, a collection of roughly twenty-minutes of moderately interesting deleted scenes that were likely cut for pacing reasons, a blooper reel, and some nice animated menus.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest:
The main supplement on the first disc is a commentary track courtesy of screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the same team that worked on the first film in the series. These guys have worked together on a lot of projects and so they have a nice, relaxed manner to them and a very solid rapport on this track that does a good job of mixing some humor in with the more screen specific information that comes out as the film plays. They cover a lot of the character development and various ideas that the bantered around for various plays in the film and they discuss some of the ideas that they opted not to use as well. They also discuss their thoughts on the finished film, their relationship with series' director Gore Verbinski, and their appreciation for the performances in the film and how the actors handled the material that the two wrote.
Remember the game that the characters play in Davy Jones' ship in the movie? Well, through the interactive magic of Blu-ray technology, no you can play it too with the Liar's Dice feature where you'll be pitted against Pintel. Basically, you compete against him in a game of chance and depending on the outcome, you'll be treated to an appropriate video clip showing your opponents response. Hardly an essentially feature, but it's neat to see some interactivity worked into this format on the DVD and it is in keeping with the spirit of the movie. An instruction booklet is included for this game inside the case as well.
Rounding out the extras on Disc One are the Disney Movie Showcase option (that basically shows off pre-selected effects intensive scenes to serve as home theater demo material), some Disney promo ads, a 1080p trailer for Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, animated menus and chapter selection.
The rest of the supplements are found on the second disc (though as with the first film, none of them are in HD except for the trailers), starting with a documentary entitled Charting The Return that spends a half hour looking at what went into getting this project off the ground and in front of the cameras. This is basically a fairly extensive look at all the pre-production work that goes into creating a film of this scale, from the writing to conceptual art to scheduling problems. This almost entirely made out of actual footage shot while pre-production work was underway, rather than made up of interviews and talking head bits, and it gives us a fairly intimate look at some of the problems that the various parts of the production team ran into and how they either solved them or worked around them.
According to Plan is a lengthy hour long slot that examines the film's actual shoot that was carried out over a couple of hundred days and took the crew from Los Angeles, CA to the Caribbean islands. It's interesting to watch this initially enthusiastic group soon grow tired and weary - it takes some of the glitz and glamour out of the movie industry, but at the same time, it also paints a very real portrait and proves that as interesting a career as it might be, it's still a job. Along the way we're treated to a wealth of crew interviews and a ton of behind the scenes footage and the end result is a very enjoyable and fascinating glimpse into the grueling schedule and sheer amount of work that can go into a big budget picture such as this.
Up next are a few character/actor related featurettes starting with Captain Jack From Head To Toe that covers pretty much every minute detail of the costume design work that was done for Depp's character. Mastering The Blade is a fun peek at the training that Orlando Bloom, Jack Davenport and KeiraKnightley underwent to learn how to handle swords realistically in front of the camera - there is some interesting interview and behind the scenes footage contained in here. Meet Davy Jones - The Anatomy Of A Legend allows Bill Nighy to get in front of the camera a bit to talk about his work and for the ILM effects crew to show how Davy Jones was created for the film, while Creating The Kraken explores how this monster was created for the film. There's some pretty amusing footage of Depp interacting with the beast as well as some interviews with Depp and some of the crew that give the behind the scenes footage some context.
From there, check out some more effects/technology oriented segments like Fly On The Set: The Bone Cage which is a quick look at how blue screen technology was used to create that specific and memorable scene in the film. Pirates On Location: Cannibal Island And Tortega are quick looks at the location shooting that was done to create these two sets for the film while Inside Dead Man's Chest, a fairly EPK-style promotional featurette, gives viewers some interviews with the cast and the screenwriters mixed in with some clips from the finished film.
Dead Men Tell New Tales is a fun look at how Disney added a few characters from the films to the amusement park ride, namely Jack Sparrow, Davy Jones and Barbossa. It isn't very long or very in depth but it is kind of fun to see how the characters were worked into the ride and then to see Depp enjoying himself riding it once it's all complete. Rounding out the second disc of extras are another one of Jerry Bruckheimer's photo diaries, a three minute blooper reel, a brief collection of footage from the film's Disneyland premier, a still gallery of production and promotional shots, a collection of trailers. (the only extras on this disc in HD), and some animated menus.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End:
As it was with the first two films, the extras are split up over the two discs in the set. All of the supplements are presented in 1080p HD, which is a nice touch.
Aside from animated menus, previews for other Disney DVDs and chapter stops, the only supplement on the first disc is Bloopers of the Caribbean, which is an amusing outtake reel featuring some flubs made by the cast and crew while on set. There's just over five minutes of material here, and it's worth a watch even if you probably won't go back to it over and over again. Sadly, there's no commentary track for the film included.
Keith & the Captain: On Set With Johnny And The Rock Legend is an interesting segment that covers the casting of Keith Richards and Johnny Depp (the later of whom admits that Richard was the primary influence when he was trying to figure out how to play Jack Sparrow). With input from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and a few other notables we learn how Keith came on board the project and how he and Depp enjoyed working together. It's pretty self congratulatory and it doesn't amount to much more than Richards fan worship but it is fun to see Richards on set in the behind the scenes footage and it's a nice tribute to the man.
Inside The Maelstrom is an interactive segment is done using some interesting technology that allows you to dig deeper into specifics of how this was made - you want to know about the blue screen effects? Click on the appropriate icon when it appears during playback and it'll happen. It starts off with some time lapse photography showing how the scene was created on a gigantic soundstage but once that's over with, by using the interactivity, it goes fairly deep into some interesting detail. It's really the only Blu-ray exclusive feature on the disc.
Anatomy Of A Scene: The Maelstrom is an interesting technical supplement that provides an in-depth look at the most impressive action set piece in the film. Looks for thoughts on this scene from director Gore Verbinski as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Orlando Bloom. A lot of the effects technicians who helped create this scene are interviewed and this basically just shows us how the scene was created from the ground up. It's quite well done and very informative and it serves to give us a pretty serious look at the visual highlight of the film.
The Tale Of The Many Jacks looks at how the multiple Captain Jacks were created for the scene in question. We hear from a few of the effects people, the costume designer, as well as Bruckheimer and Depp as this brief but interesting segment details how Depp was replicated again and again in the film through some digital effects, clever camera work and editing. Also on the second disc are two quick deleted scenes, available with or without commentary from director Gore Verbinski who explains why they were cut out of the finished version of the film. The first scene is I Like Riddles (0:49) and the second is Two Captains, One Ship (1:30). Neither scene would have changed much in the cut of the film we see on Disc One but it's nice to see them included here.
The World of Chow Yun Fat is an all too brief look at the career of the inimitable Chow Yun Fat by way of some thoughts and interview clips with the people that he worked with on this film such as Bruckheimer, Orlando Bloom and Reggie Lee as well as from Chow Yun Fat himself. It's fairly superficial and it doesn't go into a whole lot of detail but it is nice to see Chow Yun Fat given some recognition on the disc as he's one of the more memorable characters in the film.
The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer is an interesting look at Zimmer's compositions and musical score used in the film and how he went about creating it. We get plenty of thoughts from Zimmer himself and we also hear from Bruckheimer and a few other notable crew members, all of whom sing Zimmer's praises.
Masters of Design - Here we find five documentaries (available to watch on their own or through the play all function) that detail the work that the design teams did on the production:
Jim Byrkit: Sao Feng's Map (6:18)
Crash McCreary: The Cursed Crew (5:23)
Rick Heinrichs: Singapore (5:13)
Penny Rose: Captain Teague's Costume (3:37)
Kris Peck: The Pirate Code Book
Though the titles pretty much explain what each of the five parts covers, these short documentaries focus quite specifically on their individual parts. This results in a detailed look at only a few of the more remarkable designs used in the film rather than a general look at the overall production. It's fairly interesting stuff as we learn about the various bits and pieces that have to come together in order to get the look right for the film and it's interesting to hear from the members of the design team and to get their thoughts on the challenges involved in their work.
Hoist the Colors allows Zimmer to explain his inspiration for the "Hoist the Colors" composition that is used in the film for the opening scene. We learn how the song went from an idea through to a fully composed piece of music. Zimmer compares the pirates in the film to The Wild Bunch, accurately describing them as the last of a dying breed.
Inside the Brethren Court - This is a fun, interactive feature that lets us learn about the eight Pirate Lords from the film. We get to check out their costume designs, learn about their origins and their biographies and about their individual personality quirks. This is set up in a clever way and it works quite well. A brief video introduction is also included here. Rounding out the extra features are trailers for the first two Pirates movies, trailers for a few other unrelated Disney DVDs, and some slick animated menus.
Despite some flaws in the two later films, this trilogy offers enough action, adventure, comedy and romance to appease all but the pickiest of movie fans - they're just a lot of well made and very creative fun. Disney has done a fantastic job on the presentation and on the supplements and while those who own the previous releases will find nothing new here, those who don't can consider The Pirates Of The Caribbean Trilogy highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.