Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End released late last year on Blu-ray with as much fanfare as could be expected for the final (?) film in the Pirates series. With Chow Yun Fat appearing alongside Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush’s Capt. Barbossa reuniting with Capt. Jack Sparrow, Pirates 3 was both an actor and CG powerhouse. The Blu-ray Disc suffered from some technical bonus-feature snafus, but the picture and audio quality were great, even as the film suffered from some overwriting and melodrama. Of all three Pirates films, At World’s End was the one we were least likely to watch again. But when D-BOX Technologies released Motion Code for it, we knew it was time to take the Black Pearl for another spin to Davy Jones’ locker.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End seems like the perfect candidate for D-BOX Motion Code, with its high-flying swashbuckling action interspersed among some of the most intense oceanic — and thus wavy — sequences this side of the Atlantic. In most cases this assumption is right on the money; the D-BOX actuators are active through most of the film. If the scene isn’t on a rocking boat, it probably involves a character or five slashing a sword into wood or foes, the impact of which is encoded through the D-BOX Motion Controller.
Ironically, the most effective D-BOX-encoded sequences in Pirates 3 are those that make the most subtle use of the system’s motion capabilities. The scene with Elizabeth Swann’s father rowing his way to Davy Jones’ locker is one of the film’s most emotional, and it happens to be one of the most effective D-BOX scenes as well, with a smooth rocking motion that reflects both the tone and on-screen action of the conversation between father and daughter.
The sequence in which the Black Pearl escapes from Davy Jones’ locker is also quite impressive. The platform obviously moves from side to side as Capt. Jack Sparrow and his crew rock the boat, but for all intents and purposes, that effect seems too “easy.” As if they realized this, the engineers at D-BOX Technologies encoded the platform to react in a different manner as the boat tips over. Although the platform obviously doesn’t flip, its vibrations feel like the crushing wave of water is actually descending not only on the on-screen ship, but on the D-BOX platform itself. It’s a pretty intense experience, all things considered, and it’s a unique way to interpret what the crew of the Black Pearl might have been experiencing under the weight of all that water.
However, the “weight” of the film’s final 45 minutes, which are so over-acted and filled with CG that they border on overbearing, undoes all the niceties of those subtle movements. This is no fault of D-BOX’s; the film itself is overwritten, melodramatic and a bit too liberal with the CG during those last 45 minutes, so D-BOX could only do so much. In fact, taken in a vacuum, the Motion Code suits the film perfectly. But because the film itself is so busy, the movement nuances can’t be appreciated, and even with the Motion Controller’s sensitivity turned down, the climactic scenes leave one with a feeling of “haven’t I been doing this for half an hour already?”
In some respects, this vibe is a perfect summation of the D-BOX experience of Pirates 3, because frankly, the film on the whole feels this way. Pirates 3 is easily the most poorly written film in the trilogy, and while its CG achievements are admirable, its overuse of them is not. D-BOX Motion Code is certainly a nice addition, but even it suffers from the film’s reliance on effects over substance. Although the D-BOX motion adds to the experience, the engineers could only work so much magic within the confines of the film’s showboat nature. It’s a true shame, but with Motion Code support for Pirates 1 and 2, the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy Blu-ray release still holds great promise for those who own a D-BOX system or are considering buying one.
- Score: 7.8
— Jonas Allen