Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The best-looking Pirates DVD of the three, I couldn’t find any concerns here.
Sharpness always came across well. At no point did softness interfere with the presentation. The movie appeared concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge haloes were minimal. Happily, print flaws appeared totally absent, as I noticed no specks, grit or other defects.
I wouldn’t expect a pirate film to come bursting with dynamic hues, and the tones of Pirates looked appropriately subdued. The movie displayed colors that fit within its setting well, though, and they came across as clean and well developed. Given the atmosphere of the movie, blacks became more important, and the DVD presented nicely rich and dense dark tones. Shadows were good. They caused some distractions in the prior flicks, but here they looked clean and smooth. I felt very pleased with this consistently excellent transfer.
No complaints accompanied the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of End. The soundfield was wonderfully dynamic and involving. The various channels presented a surfeit of information that blended together with great clarity and smoothness. All elements seemed placed accurately within the environment, and these components moved neatly across and between the speakers. This helped create a good sense of place and made the action all the more engrossing.
Lots of action sequences brought out the strengths in the soundfield. The battles at sea added the best moments, but plenty of other elements stood out as strong. These used the surrounds well and created a lively, immersive piece.
I also found the audio quality to live up to high standards. Speech came across as firm and natural, and I noticed no edginess. Music occasionally risked getting submerged beneath all the action, but the score remained bright and dynamic nonetheless, as the mix depicted these components vividly. Of course, the effects remained the stars of the show, and they appeared well displayed. The different elements sounded distinctive and clean, with no distortion or other issues. Dynamic range was excellent, and low-end seemed superb. Bass response always stayed tight and rich. Overall, I felt quite pleased with the audio.
The first Pirates DVD included two audio commentaries. The Chest disc presented one. In this downward spiral, we get none for End. Perhaps a potential double-dip will include one, but it come as a disappointment that End offers no audio commentaries.
That means we find little on DVD One. Bloopers of the Caribbean is a five-minute and 23-second compilation of antics from the set. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, as we get lots of goofs and guffaws.
The disc includes the usual complement of ads at the start of the disc. When you pop the platter in your player, you’ll find promos for 101 Dalmatians, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, High School Musical 2 and Underdog. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Pirates of the Caribbean Online, The Game Plan and Blu-Ray discs. No trailer for At World’s End appears anywhere in this package.
Moving to DVD Two, we open with some featurettes. Keith and the Captain: On Set with Johnny and the Rock Legend goes for four minutes, 41 seconds as it offers shots from the set, movie clips, and interviews. We hear from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, guitar maker Danny Ferrington and actors Johnny Depp and Keith Richards. They tell us how they got Keith to play Jack’s father and reveal a few tidbits from the shoot. The level of information seems insubstantial, as most of it falls into the “Keith rules!” category. However, it’s fun to see him on the set, especially when he – inevitably – botches his lines.
Another featurette follows with the 19-minute and 30-second Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom. It presents remarks from Bruckheimer, Depp, director Gore Verbinski, executive producers Bruce Hendricks, Mike Stenson and Chad Oman, writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, special effects supervisor John Frazier, director of photography Dariusz Wolski, production assistant Nicole Matteson, unit production manager Douglas Merrifield, visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett and John Knoll, special effects gimbal foreman Jim Thomas, chief lighting technician Rafael E. Sanchez, stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge, ILM animation supervisor Hal Hickel, compositing supervisor Eddie Pasquarello, Maelstrom water effects supervisor Joakim Arnesson, digital production supervisor David Meny, and actors Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Bill Nighy.
“Anatomy” looks at all of the challenges that went into the creation of the film’s climactic scene. We learn about the sets, the effects, the action, and other concerns. While we get some good details along the way, too much of the show focuses on impressing us with the enormity of the project. Despite those elements, there’s enough worthwhile content to make this one worth a look.
Next comes the four-minute and 48-second The Tale of the Many Jacks. This piece discusses the creation of the scenes with multiple Depps. We hear from Elliott, Rossio, Depp, Wolski, Bruckheimer, first AD David Venghaus, editors Stephen Rivkin and Craig Wood, costume designer Penny Rose, and production designer Rick Heinrichs. They go over the effects and other issues that came with the shots that included duplicate Captain Jacks. Short but sweet, this piece gets into the topics well and proves both interesting and informative.
Two Deleted Scenes go for a total of two minutes, 26 seconds. These include “I Like Riddles” (0:56) and “Two Captains, One Ship” (1:30). The first one features Pintel and Ragetti and acts to set up the later scene when he solves a riddle. The second shows the rivalry between Barbossa and Sparrow. Neither is necessary, though “Riddles” probably would’ve added more to the film. We don’t need “Ship” since the various films long ago set up the conflicts between those guys.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Verbinski. He gives us a little background for the sequences and lets us know why he cut them. Verbinski’s short remarks add value.
With that we return to the featurettes. The World of Chow Yun-Fat fills four minutes, 14 seconds with comments from Bruckheimer, Bloom, Ruge, and actors Chow Yun-Fat and Reggie Lee. We learn a little about Chow’s working methods, but mostly the piece discusses his greatness. It doesn’t bring much to the table.
The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer lasts 10 minutes, 31 seconds, and includes Bruckheimer, Wood, Rivkin and composer Zimmer. We find info about the musical themes found in the movie. Zimmer dominates as he gives us a nice glimpse of his work for End.
We get a collection of featurettes under the banner of Masters of Design. This area features “James Byrkit: Sao Feng’s Map” (6:18), “Crash McCreery: The Cursed Crew” (5:23), “Rick Heinrichs: Singapore” (5:13), “Penny Rose: Teague’s Costume” (3:37) and “Kris Peck: The Code Book” (5:20). We hear from Heinrichs, Rose, property master Kris Peck, conceptual consultant James Byrkit, creature designer Crash McCreery, standby painter AJ Leonardi, Jr. and shajdks Celeste dshakjdsahd. Each looks at various production specifics. The shows cover the design and implementation of Sao Feng’s map, the creation of Davy Jones and his freaky shipmates, the Singapore set, Captain Teague’s costume, and the making of the Pirates Code book.
The different featurettes approach their topics in a limited way, by which I mean that they focus on subjects more specific than “visual effects” or “set design”. I like that micro approach to the material, as the tightness of the focus allows the programs to dig into their subjects in a dynamic manner. These turn into a series of good pieces.
Next we find the four-minute and 41-second Hoist the Colours. It presents notes from Zimmer as it looks at the opening sequence and its song. The show offers a decent look at this subject, especially as it examines the tune’s development.
Finally, we locate an interactive feature called Inside the Brethren Court. After a 55-second video introduction, we can select the various Pieces of Eight and learn about the different Pirate Lords. It’s a fun way to get a little more information about these personalities since the movie doesn’t tell us much about them.
The original Pirates of the Caribbean remains the best, but that doesn’t mean At World’s End doesn’t do well for itself. The movie comes with a number of issues but turns into one of those examples of a whole that exceeds the sum total of its parts. Despite some weak storytelling and an excessive running time, it manages to entertain. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio but the extras don’t live up to those found with the first two releases; they’re good but a disappointment given all the great components included on those releases. Nonetheless, this is a nice release for an enjoyable flick.