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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - BRD

(Gore Verbinski, 2007)









Theatrical: Walt Disney Pictures

DVD: Buena Vista Home Entertainment (USA)



Resolution: 1080p / AVC MPEG-4

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

169 minutes

Supplements: 1080p (both discs)



English 5.1 Uncompressed (48kHz/24-bit)

English DD 5.1 Surround

French DD 5.1 Surround

Spanish DD 5.1 Surround

Bonus: English 5.1 & 2.0



Feature: English SDH, French & Spanish

Bonus: English SDH


Extras on Disc 1

• Bloopers


Extras on Disc 2

Behind the Scenes Documentaries:

Enter the Maelstrom (BD-Java enhanced interactive feature)

Keith & the Captain (with Keith Richards as The Pirate King)

The Tale of Multiple Jacks

Hoist the Colors

Masters of Design

Inside the Brethren Court

The Pirate Code: Revealed

• The World of Chow Yun-Fat

• The Pirate Maestro

• The Music of Hans Zimmer



Disc #1: BD-50.  Disc #2: BD-25

Standard Blu-ray case with slipcover

Release Date: December 4, 2007



Pirates of the Caribbean : Curses, Chests & Pieces of Eight

Like just about everyone this side of Fantasyland, I cringed at the announcement that Disney was to make a movie based on, inspired by, in bed with – whatever – one of their major theme park attractions. I could not work up sufficient imagination to come up with a scenario that could quell the political and aesthetic distress caused by such a confluence.




The first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, beat the hell out of everyone's expectation. The sequel, Dead Man's Chest, could not possibly be as good, I assured myself.  It wasn't, but neither was it at all bad.  In fact, my second viewing was much more satisfactory – at least I was prepared for some of the scenes I had thought went on too long.  Most critics felt that the second sequel, At World's End, went on even longer, so I was again prepared.  Let's hear it for low expectations!  While not nearly up the standards of the first movie, it was not a difficult experience, and seeing on video was even less so.  My main criticism of Dead Man’s Chest was not so much its length or the interminable drone of some of its action sequences, as it’s relative lack of anything that so grabbed my visual, dramatic and emotional attention as the walking dead in The Black Pearl, who would turn in and out of skeletons as they entered and left a beam of the full moon.



Even the most casual of outlines for the plot of At World's End, is mind-bogglingly complex – even more so than Dead Man's Chest.  This is not altogether a bad thing as it requires for most of us repeated viewings to put it altogether and be properly swept along with its flow.  Whether you would submit to a second helping of this final episode depends, I would think, on more subtle matters: like how you feel about the various characters.  For my part, I was still able to remain connected to just about everyone except the villain, Lord Beckett.  It wasn't so much his character, as the actor who portrayed him (Tom Hollander) that I found utterly without interest.  Evidently the idea was for him to be cold-blooded (like John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire), but in doing so, Hollander's Beckett lost all sense of interest in his own adventure.  Fortunately, Beckett is generally on screen for a relatively small part of the movie, but when he shares the frame with other more engaging characters, from Davy Jones to Elizabeth, to Captain Jack, all suffer from his presence.  He seems, quite unintentionally, to drain the life from their efforts.




Pirates of the Caribbean : At World's End

The Score Card

The Movie : 6.5

At the end of Dead Man's Chest, Captain Jack Sparrow had been given over to Davy Jones' Locker and was, for all practical purposes, dead: at the end of the world, you might say.  It is there that Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who had been revived by Tia Dalma (Naomi Harris), along with Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and a crew of familiars, make their way.  World's End, it turns out, is more or less at the North Pole, where Captain Jack spends his days in an imaginary universe giving orders to interminable doubles of himself.  Even when rescued, Jack does not quite return to his old self until quite some way into the movie, and so we find him in more of a stupor than usual.


Meanwhile the larger plot concerns Lord Beckett's master plan to annihilate all the pirates at once as they are manipulated into convening a special Brethren's Court at Shipwreck Cove.  Beckett, you'll remember, is the principal agent for the East India Trading Company, and as such has a special interest in putting an end to piracy.  Thus far, Beckett had employed the services of Davy Jones and his invincible Flying Dutchman to destroy any and all pirate ships, but Beckett is impatient and schemes to use whatever means possible to achieve his objective.  Once Captain Jack is rescued from World's End his ship makes for Shipwreck Cove where the Brethren Court decides to confront Beckett with the help of Calypso, whom they had imprisoned many years before.  Calypso, you will not be surprised to learn is none other than Tia Dalma – or vice-versa, and has a special connection with Davy Jones.




Image : 8.5 (8.5-9/9)

While the color scheme of The Black Pearl favored cool blues, and Dead Man's Chest exuded warm oranges and yellows, At World’s End prefers deep gold when there is color to speak of at all.  As often as not, the image is not so much concerned with color, as contrast and saturation.  In the frozen wastes of Davy Jones’ Locker, the high contrast image is desaturated – a sensible idea when you consider that life as we know it has been put on hold.  In the cellars of Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), on board the Black Pearl, or at the Brethren Court, all is antique golden darkness, with some noise thrown in for good measure. There is hardly a fraction of a moment anywhere in the movie where skin tones have a natural color.


There is evidence – more here than in the previous episodes – of image processing.  We can see a little more noise in the sky than we’re used to in a Blu-ray image.  The high contrast of some scenes, especially where Captain Jack is imprisoned in Davy Jones’ frozen wastes, appears to generate extra noise and, as noted, deliberate noise in the darkest scenes.


For the most part, however, the image is sharp, but not agreeable – much as it was in its theatrical manifestation. A deliberate ugliness pervades that wasn't there in the first two movies. I speculate that some of the complaints about POTC3 were motivated as much by the image itself as by the screenplay.














Audio & Music : 10 & 8

As in the Blu-ray editions of The Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest, the audio mix for At World’s End is nothing short of spectacular. The sound is engaging, magical, and powerful by turns even in a 2-channel configuration, but stunning in surround.  Dialog is always crisp and clear – which is a good thing when pirate-speak is the dominant language, complicated by brethren pirate lords from all corners of the globe.  Once again Hans Zimmer's familiar themes are heard, adding some motives of its own to give this installment its own identity.


Operations : 8

Unlike the first two POTC Blu-ray DVDs, At World's End does not take minutes out of your life to load, and load again.  The perennial previews first have to be negotiated, but soon our pirate skull guide gets on with the feature film in short order.  There are almost no Extra Features to speak of on the main disc, so load times will be quicker than on POTC & POTC2.




Extras : ??

Like the BRDs of The Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest before it, At World's End takes full advantage of its 2 discs.  Except for some Bloopers, which are the only extra feature on Disc 1 - why Bloopers at all on this disc passes understanding, but there they are - all the other features (roughly 90 minutes’ worth) are neatly presented on the Bonus Disc.  I say “neatly” because the menu is neat, not because I actually watched any of the supplements and am thus able to testify accordingly.  The reason is that I encountered a fault – the evidence for which is included in the following screen captures – and for which I was not able to discover a workaround.  The menu, as you can see, is displayed at the full 16:9 frame.  Note the thumbnail of the Jolly Roger Pirate in the upper right corner.  When I click on any of the features on the menu, the feature simply replaces the skull: that is, it remains as a thumbnail and does not expand.  As if this were not enough, any other disc played afterward will also be displayed as a thumbnail in the upper right corner!  I kid thee not.  A simple reboot of the player fixes the ensuing disc display, but has no effect on the POTC3 Bonus Disc.  I reported this to Disney who sent me a replacement, but it, too, exhibited the same problem.  I verified that the problem was manifest at two other venues with a second Sony S300 and a Pioneer Elite.  The rep at Disney seemed to feel that I simply received two bad discs and that the problem was likely not widespread.  I shall say no more.




Recommendation: 7

Because of my peculiar difficulties with the Bonus Disc, I have to give POTC3 a lukewarm recommendation.  I surely enjoyed the feature film more than in the theatre, in part because I knew what was coming and partly because whatever squirming I was due was easier to manage in the privacy and space of my own living room: Thus one of the not so hidden virtues of a home theatre.  While not as involving an image as the first two movies by some measure, the Blu-ray presentation is close to first class and the audio of demonstration quality.

Leonard Norwitz
December 10th, 2007








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