Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a huge fan of the Disney theme parks. With that preface, the Pirates of the Caribbean series holds a special place in my heart, but it also makes the admission that Pirates 3 was a disappointment all the more difficult. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was an action-film masterpiece, and Dead Man’s Chest, while slightly less impressive, was an enjoyable romp. But Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End was painfully scattershot compared to the first two, with so much attention paid to the “CG porn” special effects that the script lost track of the personality and character development that made the first two films so great.
Having been so disappointed with the theatrical release (which I saw opening night), I cracked open the DVD of Pirates 3 with much trepidation. Did I really want to re-live the disappointment? Would I actually manage to find some depth that hadn’t been there before? Would either of the deleted scenes fill in some much-needed blanks? To all of these, the answer was “no.” Yet the amount of work that went into producing this two-disc DVD set and its impressive list of bonus features still manages to warm my Davy Jones heart.
Much like the Blu-ray version of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, this DVD set is presented on two discs and, amazingly, includes almost all of the same content. In fact, there are really only three differences between the two versions: an interactive Maelstrom feature on the Blu-ray Disc version that seems lazily produced (and is full of audio errors), the fact that the movie itself is presented in 1080i rather than 1080p, and a map-like menu on the DVD version that’s much more movie-appropriate than the Blu-ray Disc’s skull menu.
The highlight of the DVD bonus features is clearly a surprisingly long feature called Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom (19:25). Comprised of behind-the-scenes footage, this feature addresses everything about producing Hollywood’s most expensive and lavish action sequence, from lighting and electrical to special effects and stunts. Regardless of your feelings for the final sequence in the film (I found it far too long and outlandish), it’s impossible not to respect the acting and CG work that went into producing it, and this feature goes into detail about it all.
Hoist the Colours (4:38) is another nice bonus feature, and although short in length, it provides a nice behind-the-scenes look at the production and concepts behind the a capella song that opens the movie. Through Handicam-like video footage and after-the-fact interviews with composer Hans Zimmer, we learn that the creation of this song actually came together at the last minute and was a close collaboration between the composer and his director, Gore Verbinski. Verbinski was also heavily involved in the visual components of the film, as becomes apparent in Masters of Design (25:54), a series of interviews with costume, map and set designers in which we learn more about how the third (and final?) Pirates of the Caribbean movie got its distinctive look.
The traditional bonus-feature fare is also intact: Bloopers of the Caribbean (5:21) includes a series of outtakes, mistakes, miscues and forgotten lines; and Deleted Scenes (2:28) shows two never-before-seen scenes in which Barbosa and Capt. Jack argue over controlling the Black Pearl, and Pintel and Ragetti debate the value of riddles versus the despair of being caught in the middle of one. Yet just as quickly as you think the features will go “vanilla,” you’re vaulted right back into their excellence with the remaining five.
Keith & The Captain (4:40) is a brief feature about the experience of working with Rolling Stones star Keith Richards. For all the drunken inspiration Johnny Depp got from Keith Richards the man, you’d never know Richards was anything other than a humble rock star, as the various interviews in this feature attest. That is, of course, until you hear and see just how revered he was on set by everyone involved in the production.
This reverence carried over to Chow Yun Fat, who’s the subject of The World of Chow Yun Fat (4:12). As the world’s biggest movie star (based on his popularity in China and China’s massive population), one might expect Chow Yun Fat to be somewhat arrogant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Through a series of subtitled interviews, it’s clear that Chow Yun Fat “keeps it real” when on-set, even as the rest of the cast looks up to him like The Godfather. The only mystery here is why he conducted the interviews in Chinese; in the behind-the-scenes footage it’s obvious that he speaks perfect English.
The Tale of Many Jacks (4:48) chronicles how the camera crew, stunt doubles and editors pulled off a series of scenes in which Johnny Depp appears three or more times as himself on a single screen. Anyone who’s watched the oompa loompa bonus feature on Depp’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will find nothing new here, but the interviews with Depp’s stunt doubles are pretty funny. Likewise, Inside the Brethren Court (10:26) is an entertaining and occasionally comical series of biographies and back stories of the eight other pirate lords who assemble toward the end of Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End.
Perhaps the most refreshing feature, however, is The Pirate Maestro (10:29), a series of interviews about composer Hans Zimmer. In this feature, Zimmer comes across as a down-to-Earth, sincere man who truly appreciates the art of music, a nice break from the ego that often comes across in interviews like this that focus exclusively on one person. Zimmer’s love comes through in several ways, from video snippets of his experimentation with seldom-heard instruments to his interactions with director Gore Verbinski (who played the electric guitar in the climactic final song, by the way). Zimmer clearly has music in his heart, and his love for it comes through loud and clear in this feature.
With excellent bonus features, excellent video quality and excellent audio – heck, even an excellent menu system — it’s a shame that the movie itself isn’t quite as impressive. The writers in one feature say that they wanted to keep the movie and series unpredictable, so they just made things get weird. That’s quite obvious in this film, and it’s too bad that they focused on weirdness rather than plot quality, because this DVD set could’ve otherwise been a must-own item this holiday season.
- Score: 8.5
- The movie itself may be lacking, but there’s very little to complain about with the DVD presentation of the third Pirates of the Caribbean film.
— Jonas Allen