Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest 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. A couple minor issues evolved here but most of the presentation looked solid.
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 the weakest link here, as low-light shots often seemed a bit too dark. Some of this resulted from the photographic design, but I still thought some images became a little tough to discern. Overall, however, this was a quality presentation.
No complaints accompanied the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Chest. 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 Kraken attacks 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. Some lines became tough to understand, but that resulted from “pirate diction”, not due to poor recording. 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.
Chest presents a good mix of extras on its two discs. DVD One includes an audio commentary with screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. They chat about challenges related to the creation of the sequel and matching it with the other flicks in the series, plot and characters, locations and shooting concerns, and other script and production details.
Satisfying but not scintillating, this commentary achieves its basic goals. We get a series of reasonably good notes about the script, and I particularly like the details about cut lines and scenes as well as alterations made by the actors. There’s enough information from the set to give us a decent view of the production as a whole.
That said, I don’t feel this is a particularly full track, and it doesn’t compensate for the absence of a director’s commentary. Perhaps Gore Verbinski’s too busy finishing the third Pirates flick, or perhaps Disney just wants to save his discussion for a double-dip that’ll likely come out just prior to that movie’s summer 2007 release. In any case, the writers provide a good but not great chat.
Catty footnote: I must admit that Elliott got on my nerves. For one, he has a really annoying loud, staccato “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” laugh that quickly becomes irritating. In addition, he constantly pronounces “escape” as “ekscape”. I’m sure Elliott’s a great guy, but some of his traits grate on the listener – or me, at least.
Anal Simpsons correction: at one point, the writers cite an episode in which Bart paints eyeballs on his eyelids as an inspiration. This is incorrect; they’re confusing it with a show in which Homer wears glasses with eyes on them to snooze during jury duty.
We also find Bloopers of the Caribbean. The three-minute and 50-second compilation offers the standard collection of goofs and giggles. A few amusing moments appear due to a funny screw-up by Jonathan Pryce and some good improvisation from Johnny Depp, but otherwise this is pretty forgettable fare.
New low in merchandising: when you try to watch the bloopers, you encounter a short but unskippable ad. This tells us a telecommunications company I refuse to cite brings the reel to us. Ugh – how cheesy!
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 Peter Pan, the Extended Edition of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Meet the Robinsons, Ratatouille, Disney’s Movie Rewards, and Disney’s Blu-Ray Discs. In addition, the Sneak Peeks domain features all of those trailers as well as additional ads for Invincible, The Guardian and Disney Parks.
Moving to DVD Two, we open with Charting the Return. The 25-minute and 40-second documentary offers a mix of shots from the set and interviews. We hear from Rossio, Elliott, director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, 1st AD/associate producer Peter Kohn, conceptual consultant James Byrkit, unit production manager (Caribbean) Doug Merrifield, executive producer Bruce Hendricks, assistant production coordinator Barrett Leigh, special effects tech Frank Iudica Jr., extras casting assistant director (LA) Kristan Berona, and extras casting director (LA) Sande Alessi.
“Return” looks at concepts for the two Pirates sequels and the development of Chest. The show also digs into location scouts and sets, casting and research, budgetary problems, and other issues involved with the flick’s prep.
This show offers a surprisingly blunt look at various aspects of the pre-production. Instead of the usual happy, fluffy tone, this one comes across as cranky. Everything’s a problem, especially since the writers just can’t seem to churn out a script. It’s quite interesting and entertaining.
The disc’s most substantial piece, According to Plan runs one hour, two minutes and 58 seconds. It includes comments from Bruckheimer, Elliott, Rossio, Hendricks, Iudica, Merrifield, Kohn, Verbinski, Rossio, Elliott, camera operator Martin Schaer, script supervisor Sharron Reynolds-Enriquez, production designer Rick Heinrichs, marine coordinator Dan Malone, executive producers Eric McLeod, Chad Oman and Mike Stenson, underwater DP Peter Zuccarini, transportation coordinator Dave Robling, Caribbean unit assistant production coordinator Kelly DeTample, production supervisor Thomas C. Hayslip, stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge, stunt double Tony Angelotti, DP Dariusz Wolski, gimbal foreman Mark Hawker, shop supervisor Thomas Pahk, 1st AD David H. Venghaus Jr., still photographer Peter Mountain, picture boat coordinator J. Wilfrid White, and actors Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Kevin R. McNally, Jack Davenport, Orlando Bloom, Martin Klebba, David Bailie, and Lee Arenberg.
“Plan” picks up where “Return” left off and looks at the actual production. We start with the first day and examine the return to the set from the original flick, filming on the water, and continued script problems. From there we zoom through location logistics and concerns, stunts and action sequences, boats, and various shooting topics.
Though we get a lot of comments from cast and crew, “Plan” mostly resembles a production diary. Shots from the set dominate and give us a solid glimpse of the shoot. The delightfully cranky tone of “Return” continues, as “Plan” catalogs a mix of problems and obstacles faced by the production. It’s informative and fun in a dark, Schadenfreude way.
An interactive feature called Captain Jack: From Head to Toe digs into many aspects of the popular pirate. You can look at each segment individually – keyed to a pictorial map of Jack – or watch them all at once via the “Play All” option. If you go that way, you’ll find 27 minutes, 33 seconds of information. Through these we hear from Wolski, Depp, costume designer Penny Rose, property master Kristopher E. Peck, makeup department head Ve Neill, chief hairstylist Martin Samuel,
These segments look at Jack’s costume and look as well as aspects of the character. They focus on the physical elements of hair, makeup, costume, jewelry, props and whatnot, and they become surprisingly detailed. Actually, I guess that’s not much of a surprise since we take almost half an hour to examine Captain Jack. In any case, we get quite a lot of good information in this solid collection of clips. I definitely appreciate the “Play All” option, as this area would be a chore to navigate otherwise.
Next we find three elements under Mastering the Blade. Each of these featurettes spotlights the sword work of three actors: Orlando Bloom (5:36), Keira Knightley (5:06) and Jack Davenport (5:16). In addition to those performers, we hear from Bruckheimer, Ruge, Verbinski, Arenberg, and stunt doubles Lisa Hoyle and Thomas Dupont. We see a little of their training and watch the filming of a few specific sword-intensive scenes. These continue the production diary feeling of prior programs and also provide nice details.
Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend fills 12 minutes, 32 seconds with remarks from Bruckheimer, Hendricks, Knightley, Verbinski, ILM animation director Hal Hickel, visual effects art director Aaron McBride, digital model supervisors Geoff Campbell and Steve Walton, visual effects supervisor John Knoll, additional visual effects supervisor Bill George, digital artist Mike Sanders, associate animation supervisor Marc Chu, digital production supervisor David Meny, animator Steve Nichols, compositing supervisor Eddie Pasquarello, and actor Bill Nighy. “Legend” analyzes all the elements that went into the combination of live-action performance and computer work for Davy and his crew. We learn about visual design and a mix of other elements. I love seeing the raw footage of Nighy’s performance, and the show fleshes out the various techniques quite well.
Another featurette appears next. Creating the Kraken goes for nine minutes, 57 seconds, and includes notes from Elliott, Rossio, Arenberg, Bruckheimer, Knightley, Knoll, Verbinski, Nichols, Depp, sequence supervisor Francois Lambert, special effects coordinator Allen Hall, on-set foreman Andrew Weder, and special effects coordinator Michael Lantieri. We get a few comments about the creature itself before we find details related to the movie’s depiction of it. This follows some practical elements on the set as well as the visual effects techniques used. It adds up to another interesting and useful program.
For a look at the theme park ride, we go to the 13-minute Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction. It features details from Bruckheimer, Depp, Walt Disney Imagineering senior creative executive Tom Fitzgerald, senior show producer Kathy Rogers, senior VP creative development Eric Jacobson, director and chief of sculpture Valerie Edwards, sculptor Scott Goddard, animator John Cutry, principal plastics technician Michael Traxler, mechanical lead Rick Taylor, senior concept designer John Gritz, principal show artists Heather Greene and Tod Mathias, and actor Geoffrey Rush.
The show examines changes made to update and refresh the “Pirates” attractions at both Disneyland and DisneyWorld, I don’t know if I like the idea of alterations in such a classic ride; don’t mess with a legend, especially since the introduction of movie characters feels trendy to me. I do like this featurette, however, as it presents a really nice view of how the Imagineers at Disney work and the challenges they face. We even get to follow Johnny Depp as he experiences the reworked attraction.
A repeat of a feature on prior releases, Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage lasts three minutes, 48 seconds. The featurette presents exactly what one might expect of it: video footage from the set free from interviews, movie clips, or narration. It’s straight material from the shoot as we watch rehearsals, collaborations and the actual filming. I love this sort of stuff, and “Fly” gives us a fun – albeit brief - look behind the scenes.
Another element with a sibling on the prior packages, Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer’s Photo Diary runs four minutes, 41 seconds. We see Jerry Bruckheimer’s personal pictures from the set. He discusses his interest in photography and various elements of the production as we watch a montage of his snaps. Bruckheimer remains one of the dullest commentators ever known, but his photos provide some very good images from the shoot. He’s a talented photographer, so this section presents many fine pictures.
The set concludes with the three-minute and 58-second Pirates on Main Street: the Dead Men’s Chest Premiere. We follow Verbinski as he braves the teeny-bopper-lined red carpet at the movie’s Disneyland debut. It’s mildly interesting.
While I don’t think Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest lives up to the fun presented by its predecessor, it holds up acceptably well. The movie packs just enough spry adventure to make it enjoyable and inviting. The DVD offers very good picture along with excellent audio and extras. This turns into a strong release for a likable flick.