Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides needed to prove something when it released this summer, and prove something it did: the film grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. What it needed to prove wasn’t the franchise’s status as a cash cow, nor Johnny Depp’s ability to make being a thieving drunk look so fun. No, what Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides needed to prove was that the abomination of At World’s End was simply a fluke, a bad movie that tarnished an otherwise awesome franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides accomplished just that, establishing itself firmly in the third spot in terms of narrative, originality and action in the Pirates series. Now that it’s released on Blu-ray 3D, the first such Pirates film to ship in the format, it’s redeemed the franchise even further, making the wait for the three other Pirates films to release on Blu-ray 3D that much harder.
The overall video quality in On Stranger Tides is great in spite of its overly dark palette. The perennial nighttime that’s descended upon the film was an irritant in the theater, and although I still wish the film was brighter — it does take place in the Caribbean, after all — its lighting and contrast really set the mood without compromising quality or clarity. Because of the dark palette, colors don’t exactly jump off the screen, but the characters and certain environmental objects do, and that’s really what matters for the purposes of this Blu-ray 3D review.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is full of 3D effects that seem natural and immersive, which are infinitely more valuable than a few nifty “gotcha” effects. Granted, the flying fruit in the beginning of the film is a campy, but that opening sequence delivers great depth and illustrates how carefully the cinematographers setup each scene to leverage the angles and forced perspectives that would drive home a 3D effect. Capt. Jack’s above-ground adventure through London is arguably overdone as well, but in terms of 3D it has nice dimensionality.
Throughout the film, all sorts of little details make you feel as though you’re there on the Queen Anne’s Revenge, sailing through Whitecap Bay, walking through the jungle or a bystander as the English and Spanish battle over the Fountain of Youth. The clarity and level of detail mix well with even the most nuanced of 3D effects to deliver a sense of place. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides isn’t full of many “gotcha” effect; it’s full of a whole lot of reality instead. Ladies, beware: Johnny Depp’s going to seem like he really is in your living room.
Once the movie progresses to Whitecap Bay, where the Pirates and English encounter mermaids, the 3D effects become nothing short of phenomenal. The CG special effects in this scene are solid, and the depth associated with the CG effects is equally impressive. The land-based action at Whitecap Bay has a nice 3D feel as well, with even the smallest environmental aspect reproducing well in the Blu-ray 3D format. Get into the island’s interior, where Capt. Jack, Barbosa and others are walking through the jungle, and the overgrown vines and leaves are rife with 3D effects that make them feel as though they’re sticking out of the screen.
The 3D effects suffer a bit during the final scene featuring Blackbeard, which is anticlimactic from a 3D perspective, although the last scene with Capt. Jack and Gibbs walking on the beach looks darn near lifelike.
Disney’s inclusion of the previews in 3D is a nice touch as well, both because many studios don’t include anything other than the feature film in 3D, and because it underscores Disney’s dedication to the Blu-ray 3D format. There are two 3D previews total, one for John Carter (which looks like an even more-awesome Prince of Persia and releases theatrically in March 2012) and one for Cars 2, which releases on Blu-ray 3D on Nov 1 (review coming soon). It may not seem like much to have what amounts to five more minutes of 3D content, but in this still-fledgling world of Blu-ray 3D, every little bit helps.
That same concept of “every little bit helps” also advances the mission of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to “prove something” to franchise fans. The movie took theaters by storm and started to reinvigorate the fanbase after a marginal Pirates 3. With this outstanding Blu-ray 3D release, the film continues to win kudos and rekindle my interest in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I can’t wait for the rest of the films to release in 3D. I might even watch At World’s End again.