Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Rob Marshall
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 136 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, 2.0 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Review Date: October 16, 2011
The search for the legendary Fountain of Youth is on, and there are three different parties vying to rediscover it: a Spanish legion, a galleon commissioned by the King of England (Richard Griffiths) and captained by privateer Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and the renowned cutthroat Blackbeard (Ian McShane), his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and his ship of zombie pirates. It is in this latter party that Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds himself conscripted. He has the map to the Fountain and the instructions for capturing the magical powers of the waters there (which involve everything from locating some long missing silver chalices to gaining the tear of a mermaid), but he must manage to stay alive to be able to put his knowledge to good use.
With Marshall’s long experience as a Broadway and Hollywood choreographer, he appears to be the perfect director to pull off the many action set pieces that a film of this kind requires. In much the same manner of a James Bond film’s pre-credit action scene, Captain Jack first appears in a surprising disguise that leads into a lengthy but beautifully sustained action sequence as he continually eludes, gets caught, and escapes in delightfully funny and engaging ways. All of the action scenes, whether it be with the mermaid attack on a rowboat or a mutiny on board Blackbeard’s ship, carry this same sense of wonderfully planned and expertly staged chaos that are hallmarks of a talented action director. Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are back for this film’s screenplay, but since their romantic couple from the first three films (played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) are no longer around, they’ve inserted (foolishly) another insipid romance for this movie between a less lethal, captured mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and saintly missionary Philip (Sam Claflin) which always brings the forward momentum of the story to a screeching halt. (The battle of the sexes between Depp’s Captain Jack and Cruz’ Angelica is much more engaging and fitting for a pirate movie, and one senses we haven't seen the last of this fiery couple. A coda after the closing credits suggests as much.)
Johnny Depp, as always, is having the time of his life as the charlatan Jack Sparrow, and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa seems also to now be a prerequisite for these films to reach their greatest entertainment potential. Ian McShane isn’t the most threatening Blackbeard imaginable, but in a comic adventure such as this one, perhaps he’s menacing enough. As in many of her other English-language pictures, Penelope Cruz struggles sometimes with enunciation, but she’s a captivating physical presence and fits right in among the rest of the derring-do around her. Kevin R. McNally and Stephen Graham make welcome returns in their familiar characters of Gibbs and Scrum. Look fast, and you’ll see Keith Richards back again as Jack’s father and Judi Dench in a luscious little cameo with a great payoff.
3D implementation – 4/5
The film is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. As with the other Pirates films in the franchise, this is reference video quality with startling sharpness and so much detail you can count the number of eyelashes or the amount of mascara that Captain Jack is using in any single close-up. Colors are wonderfully rich (reds and greens are especially lush), and with much of the filming being done in Hawaii, there are spectacular vistas to see. Flesh tones are consistently natural and appealing. Black levels reach reference levels of inkiness, and shadow detail is never compromised. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.
The use of 3D is very well rounded though there is perhaps less depth to the image than one might expect in a live action film such as this. The staging of shots on multiple planes works very nicely throughout, and the variety of shots either full on, overhead, or from below always leads to interesting dimensional compositions. The use of forward projection is judicious but quite apt when applied: swords, ropes, a snake, and rifle barrels do give that three dimensional punch necessary for a fully three dimensional experience though with the cocked hats, mermaids’ tails, masts, and other objects at the ready, the director has not implemented this effect as much as he might have. There may have been a tiny bit of crosstalk in one of the sword thrusting projections, but it was quickly gone; ghosting is otherwise not a problem with the transfer.
As with many modern big budget action-adventure extravaganzas, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound design cannot be faulted. There are few moments when something isn’t happening in surround channels to extended the soundstage to the farthest reaches of possibility. The dialogue has been planted in the center channel and is always easily discernible. Hans Zimmer’s musical themes resonate throughout the soundstage and demonstrate great zest to complement the on-screen action. The LFE channel also gets a very active workout from this film’s reference quality sound design.
The 3D disc contains 3D promo trailers for John Carter and Cars 2.
The bonus features for the film are contained on two Blu-ray discs, all in 1080p.
In addition to the movie, the first 2D Blu-ray disc contains the audio commentary by director Rob Marshall and executive producer John DeLuca. Despite the film’s lengthy running time, Marshall finds much to talk about (always with superlatives, of course) about the actors and the production crew. Various anecdotes are offered about the six month shoot that fans of the movie will likely want to hear.
“Bloopers of the Caribbean” is the film’s gag reel, a few missteps by the cast which runs 3 ½ minutes.
There are five LEGO animated shorts called “Captain Jack’s Brick Tales” They may be watched separately (where they run about a minute each) or in one 5 ¼ minute grouping.
The disc is Second Screen ready, so the film can be watched with friends on an Ipad or other devices allowing you to add your own commentary while viewing.
There are 1080p trailers for Cars 2, The Muppets, John Carter, and Phineas and Ferb.
The second disc carries the majority of the bonus material. All are in 1080p.
“Legends of On Stranger Tides” is a behind-the-scenes look at the process of filmmaking going from the beginning of the shoot in Hawaii and then moving from there to Hollywood, then the Caribbean, and finally finishing up in London. Along the way, we hear from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Rob Marshall, star Johnny Depp, and other members of the cast and crew. It runs 36 ¼ minutes.
“In Search of the Fountain” is an 11-minute featurette about the construction of the fountain set at Pinewood Studios in London after setting the location up in Hawaii. Part of the featurette also deals with the special effects used in showing the death of Blackbeard.
“Last Sail/First Voyage” details the transformation of the Black Pearl ship used in the previous two movies into the Queen Anne’s Revenge for this movie. This runs 8 ¼ minutes.
“Under the Scene: Bringing Mermaids to Life” goes into the three sets of mermaids used for the mermaid sequence including the casting and training of the women who would be playing the parts. The vignette runs 9 ¼ minutes.
There are five deleted/extended scenes, each with an introduction by director Rob Marshall. They may be watched individually or in one 8 ¾-minute grouping.
“Johnny Vs. Geoffrey” is an affectionate look at actors Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush squaring off in a scene, ad-libbing and being blocked into their positions by the director. This runs 2 ¾ minutes.
There are three Easter eggs which I found above the menu line on the second disc. They feature first assistant director Peter Korn staging a scene (¾ minute), a quick piece on the ships in the bottles (1 minute), and an anecdote told to one of the writers which ended up in the finished film (1 ¼ minutes).
The fourth disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
The fifth disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie.
4/5 (not an average)
With another billion dollars in world box-office receipts from this latest edition of Pirates of the Caribbean, the most important aspect of the film is that the franchise has been given a new lease on life with On Stranger Tides. It’s an entertaining film in both 3D and 2D (I did prefer the 3D), and with the reference quality video and audio, you can’t go wrong with this one if you’re at all a fan of the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.