Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
9 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
Jack Davenport as Norrington
Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann
Lee Arenberg as Pintel
Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti
Giles New as Murtogg
Angus Barnett as Mullroy
David Bailie as Cotton
Isaac C. Singleton Jr. as Bo'sun
Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs
Treva Etienne as Koehler
Zoe Saldana as Anamaria

Special Features:

Commentary by director Gore Verbinski and Star Johnny Depp

Commentary by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Stars Keira Knightley And Jack Davenport

Commentary by writers Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio and Jay Wolpert

An Epic At Sea: The Making of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl"

19 Deleted and Alternate Scenes

"Moonlight Serenade" Scene Progression

"Below Deck" - An Interactive History Of Pirates

"Fly on the Set" Featurette

"Diary of a Pirate" - Behind-the-Scenes look with cast member Lee Arenberg

"Diary of a Ship" Video Journal

"Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" - Archival TV Program

Producer's Photo Diary Featurette With Jerry Bruckheimer

Image Gallery

Blooper Reel

DVD-ROM Features: "Moonlight Becomes Ye" Effects Studio, History of the Ride Featurette, Virtual Reality Viewer, Scriptscanner & Storyboard Viewing Modes

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) Ė Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
THX Certified
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track
French and English Subtitles
Running Time: 143 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is loosely based on the ride at the Disney theme parks.

Elizabeth Swann is the daughter of an English governor on an island in the Caribbean. Though prim and proper, she has a fascination for the sea and pirates. That partly explains her attraction for a young blacksmith by the name of Will Turner. Elizabeth and her father rescued the young lad, who she believed was a pirate, from a shipwreck many years before. Though she continues to be infatuated with Turner, sheís betrothed to one of the commanders in the Royal Navy.

Things turn ugly, though, when a gang of evil pirates arrives in town on the Black Pearl. They destroy the town, attack the fort, and kidnap Elizabeth. It turns out that the pirates have been cursed and they believe Elizabeth holds the key to removing the curse. Whenever the moonlight shines on them, they are revealed to be undead skeletons. Never able to feel anything, they are doomed to haunt the high seas forever unless they reverse the curse.

Will Turner is determined to rescue Elizabeth, but he canít raise help from the Navy and he doesnít know where to find the pirates. His only hope lies with a mysterious pirate of questionable competency by the name of Jack Sparrow. Sparrow knows a bit more about the Black Pearl and the pirates than he lets on. Will gets him to agree to lead him to Elizabeth and the two set off on their suicide rescue mission. But can Will really trust a pirate? And what will he learn about his own past?

Pirates of the Caribbean is rated PG-13 for action/adventure violence.

The Movie:
This movie had one major thing going against it Ė it was based on a Disney theme park ride. That alone implied a lot of things such as it possibly being a 2-hour commercial for Disneyland, a blatant marketing attempt, and of questionable quality. However, it also had a lot of good things going for it. It had Jerry Bruckheimer producing. It had Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom at the helm. Gore Verbinski (The Ring, The Mexican) was directing. Industrial Light & Magic was doing the effects. Fortunately, all this good outweighed the bad and the final result is an immensely entertaining popcorn flick.

Pirates of the Caribbean is the perfect summer popcorn movie. It has action, adventure, romance, horror, swordfights, big special effects, humor, and a monkey. You canít go wrong. The plot and characters are very similar to Star Wars. Jack Sparrow is very much like Han Solo. Will Turner is similar to Luke Skywalker. Elizabeth Swan is similar to Princess Leia (which is ironic, because Keira Knightley played the Queenís handmaiden in Star Wars Ė Episode I). The rogue and the young boy team up to save the damsel in distress (who is actually pretty tough) from a menacing evil. There are swordfights, battles between ships, and even a bit of magic. If you liked Star Wars, youíll like Pirates of the Caribbean. The plot also offers up a few clever twists and turns at the end that provide some excitement.

The cast in this is perfect. I think Johnny Depp is one of the best actors working today. You never recognize him from one role to the next and you totally believe him no matter who heís playing. This time heís Jack Sparrow, the pirate version of Keith Richards. The funny thing about Sparrow is that heís mostly talk. He looks gallant and poses dramatically while his ship is sinking from under him. He brags defiantly when heís backed into a corner with no hope of escape. While making a big entrance, exit, or escape, heíll fall flat on his backside. It seems an unusual combination of luck and skill keeps him alive. Depp really brings him to life and makes him one of the more memorable characters at the movies this year.

Supporting Depp is Orlando Bloom as Will Turner. I like Orlando Bloom, but to be quite honest his character could have been played by anyone. Still, Bloom looks good while swashbuckling and seems to have some chemistry with Elizabeth. Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Swan. Sheís beautiful, funny, and tough. Sheís also a clone of Natalie Portman (see the Star Wars mention above). Whether sheís telling off Jack Sparrow or defying Barbossa, she more than holds her own in this impressive cast. Geoffrey Rush plays the cursed Captain Barbossa. He seems to be having a blast playing the pirate captain. He yells out all the traditional pirate phrases with gusto and is later enhanced by the skeleton CG effects. Itís a great combination and Rush makes it all convincing and entertaining. A colorful supporting cast rounds things out.

The effects by ILM are amazing. Itís some of their better work in a while. As the pirates move in and out of moonlight, they are revealed to be skeletons covered in bits of flesh and tattered clothes. Itís impressive in brief glimpses and becomes even more so when they get into an all out battle at the end of the film. They run in and out of the moonlight flashing back and forth between flesh and skeleton. Itís not only visually amazing but quite a technical achievement as well. There are also some really cool underwater shots where the skeleton pirates are seen walking on the seafloor. It was creepy and beautiful at the same time.

The action is also good with some great swordfights between the various characters. If you wanted your buckle swashed, this will do it. Thereís also a stunning cannon fight between two ships that will blow you away. (Pun intended.) All of this is supported by an impressive musical score by Klaus Badelt. I kept thinking it sounded like Hans Zimmerís work, then noticed that he was listed as one of the music producers. I guess that explains the similar sound.

As for similarities with the Disney ride, there are very few. Youíll see a couple of moments here and there that youíll recognize if youíve been on it. Youíll see prisoners trying to get keys from a dog. Youíll see a guy sleeping with pigs. Youíll see pirates chasing women around the town. However, thatís about the extent of the similarities with the ride and thatís probably a good thing.

On a side note, be sure to watch through the very end of the credits to see the ultimate fate of one of the characters.

The Extras:
This two disc set has a fair number of extras on it. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by director Gore Verbinski and Star Johnny Depp Ė This is actually a surprisingly boring commentary. Verbinski and Depp donít offer much insight into the making of the film and most of their comments consist of compliments to the cast and crew. If youíre looking for funny comments or trivia about the making of the movie, you wonít find it here.

Commentary by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Stars Keira Knightley And Jack Davenport Ė In a change of pace, these commentaries are only for specific scenes in the film. They do not provide commentary for the entire movie. This is actually pretty nice because it is only limited to the interesting things they have to say. Rather than hearing them ramble between the big scenes, you only have to listen to them when they have something enlightening to add. Bruckheimer does commentary for some of the scenes. He doesnít always talk about whatís on the screen, but he always has cool bits of trivia for you. Knightley and Davenport provide an energetic and funny commentary thatís quite a hoot. Not only do they talk about the filming of the movie, but Knightley really gets into the story of the film and she cheers for the characters as the scenes unfold. All in all, this is probably the most fun commentary on the DVD. You also have the option of watching just the scenes with commentary individually or playing them all together.

Commentary by writers Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio and Jay Wolpert Ė This is also an interesting commentary though it lacks the teenage enthusiasm of Knightleyís commentary. The writers provide a lot of insight into the characters and they really sing the praises of Depp. They talk about the thinking behind the scenes, the subtleties of the plot, and more. If youíre looking for a more in depth look at the story, this is the commentary for you.

An Epic At Sea: The Making of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl" Ė This is your typical ďMaking ofĒ video about the film. It has interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. The video is broken up into segments highlighting the actors, locations, production design, ships, makeup and wardrobe, stunts and swords, visual effects, and the premiere of the film. Itís quite a thorough look at the movie and youíre guaranteed to find something interesting here. I particularly enjoyed seeing the legendary Bob Anderson talk about the sword fight choreography.

19 Deleted and Alternate Scenes Ė There are a ton of deleted scenes included here. Some are nothing more than a couple of seconds in length, others are whole sequences. The most notable to me was extra footage of Depp and Knightley marooned on the island together. You hear a lot more of their conversations and you get a better idea of why Elizabeth would get drunk and confide in Sparrow. Other than that, the others arenít terribly exciting and they donít expand on the characters. They are not missed from the final cut of the film.

"Moonlight Serenade" Scene Progression Ė This feature details the making of the scene where the pirates are revealed as skeletons for the first time. ILM gets to strut their stuff here and you get a good look at every step in the creation of the effects. Itís quite impressive to see how realistic skeletons are generated from nothing more than pixels.

"Below Deck" - An Interactive History Of Pirates Ė This is an interesting look at real life pirates. In several short videos, a maritime historian discusses the real pirates, their ships, weaponry, superstitions, and more. He separates fact from fiction and also shows you a few things you may not have known about them. You can either access these videos by exploring through a CG pirate ship or you can choose them directly from a menu. All in all itís a pretty cool feature.

"Fly on the Set" Featurette Ė In this section you can watch a few videos shot on set during the filming of the movie. Thereís no commentary or narration here. Itís simply a camera crew wandering through the set capturing behind the scenes looks at the making of the movie. They catch Depp preparing for scenes, Verbinski explaining scenes, and more. This is done during several key moments in the movie. Itís another fun feature to check out.

"Diary of a Pirate" - Behind-the-Scenes look with cast member Lee Arenberg Ė This ends up being one of the most unique features on the DVD. Cast member Lee Arenberg (who plays the pirate Pintel in the film) is given a camera and shoots footage on and off the set in the Caribbean. Itís full of fun moments like Knightley clowning for the camera, Depp trying to figure out how the camera works, a tour around the island, and more. Itís truly an insiderís look at the making of the movie and itís a really interesting way to see how things are done. Iíd like to see more of this kind of things on other DVDs.

"Diary of a Ship" Video Journal Ė This is a video journal kept by the crew of a replica ship that was used in the movie. You follow them as they travel from Washington along the west coast and through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean. Itís quite an interesting journey as they see dolphins, face storms, and celebrate Christmas on board. This is one worth checking out.

Producer's Photo Diary Featurette With Jerry Bruckheimer Ė Along with the two other diary features, Bruckheimerís diary is also included. It turns out heís an avid photographer and he spent a lot of time snapping shots during the production. This video features many of his pictures. Some shots are more impressive than others, but itís cool to see the making of the movie through this producerís eye.

"Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" - Archival TV Program Ė This feature from the 1960ís talks about the creation of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and it also shows footage from the opening at the Disneyland theme park. If youíve never been on the ride this gives you a good idea of what youíve been missing. It also pointed out a few more similarities between scenes in the movie and the actual ride. Itís a fun trip back in time.

Blooper Reel Ė This is your typical blooper reel with the characters falling down, flubbing lines, and more. Itís a lot of fun and actually the first bonus feature I checked out on the DVD.

The Bottom Line:
This is a fun movie and a fun DVD. Youíll definitely want to add this one to your collection.

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