Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2-Disc Limited Edition DVD)
Directed by Gore Verbinski
At World's End is not without its faults, but it still serves as a grandiose adventure and a terrific send off for at least a few of the trilogy's characters. It's a shame, though, that the DVD doesn't follow through with the same abundance of booty found on the DVDs of the first two movies.
Hoist the Colors High
For those who know and adore Cap'n Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands), let's quickly get the bad news out of the way. At nearly three hours, this installment runs a little long. And Jack's rescue is a somewhat tedious affair (come on now, it's as obvious he returns as did Spock in The Search for Spock and Han Solo in Return of the Jedi). Also, Jack's introduction this time around isn't as witty as his intro in the prior two flicks, but he does make some compensation by way of two introductions.
But there you have it. That's the bad stuff. And to say this one runs long really isn't much of a complaint considering at its very worst At World's End always offers something interesting to look at. In other words, this one definitely provides a worthwhile bang for the doubloon. Savvy?
In filling out that hefty running time, director Gore Verbinski indulges in some tangential material that is really unnecessary. However, taking as an example the opening sequence in which numerous pirates and those who aid and abet them are sent to the gallows, many times that material in and of itself is pretty cool. Scenes like that add atmosphere, nifty hues, and a touch of foreshadowing to the already Technicolor world of Cap'n Jack. Most movies these days don't put in that kind of effort.
Besides, writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio established enough goodwill with their work on the first two installments to warrant patience through the self-indulgence. They fairly skillfully weave the threads together, creating a canvas upon which to stage a spectacular climax.
It's Hard Out There for a Pirate
Actually, there's so much chicanery in this unusually story-heavy sequel that it easily warrants a repeat viewing in order to take in all the machinations.
At World's End begins shortly after the events of Dead Man's Chest. The good guys, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice), Will Turner (Orlanda Bloom, Kingdom of Heaven), Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris, After the Sunset), and, yes, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, Shine) are in Singapore, their mission to rescue Jack in full swing.
They're in need of a map and the owner of said map is Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat, The Replacement Killers). He's got only one reason to help bring Jack back from the land of the dead and that is so he could send him right back there personally.
Suffice it to say from this point forward the lives of all the main characters (and a load of minor players) become inexorably intertwined. Topping it off, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, Love Actually) is out there terrorizing the high seas and serving as the focal point of the storm brewing at the world's nethermost point.
It's gotten hard out there for the pirates; the only way they can turn a profit is by betraying each other. But perhaps by rescuing Jack, convening something called the Brethren Court, naming a new Pirate King, and unleashing Calypso, the former love of Davy's life who is now cursed to live in human form, Davy could be defeated, and, with a little luck, the East India Company might go down with him, thus restoring the high seas to good ol' fashioned pirating.
Do you still savvy?
The Pirate Queen
Of course, there are loads of subplots that swim these waters. By pulling in the Brethren Court, a meeting of the nine pirate lords (Barbossa and Sparrow are among their ranks), this Pirates episode greatly expands the pirate world. And, even with its busy agenda wrapping up loose ends, the story still finds time to pull in a trove of high seas legends, including a more pronounced take on the superstition that women are bad luck on seafaring vessels (hence the male-dominated modern-day navies).
As for those loose ends, Will wants to free his father from the clutches of Davy Jones; Elizabeth has her own burden to bear as well as a surprise involving her father; and Jack… Well, Jack's Jack, mate and, besides trying to get his issues with Davy Jones behind him, he is reunited with his father, who is none other than Cap'n Teague (Keith Richards, one of the legendary Rolling Stones).
Speaking of Richards, the man's role is small but entertaining. While the circumstances of his appearance are somewhat humorous and involve a very, very large book, his part is of a surprisingly sober nature considering how Jack's loopy mannerisms are genetic.
Even though the humorous aspects are somewhat toned down this time around, the series' trademark wordplay and wit is still dished out in even doses throughout the movie. That's where the longer-than-average run time also works to the movie's advantage; it allows plenty of room for humor, adventure, drama, and romance.
Following the end credits of the first two movies, Verbinski and company added one last sight gag. This time, though, they've upped the ante and staying through the end credits is simply a must. The reward is a nifty final scene involving a couple of the main characters.
And, happily, like Indiana Jones (who'll return to the big screen next year), the door is left wide open for more adventures with Cap'n Jack.
The DVD jacket proclaims this limited edition is "loaded with hours of additional bonus features." Um... No. You see, roughly 90 minutes of material does not equate to the aforementioned and boasted of "hours," savvy? Maybe one of those shady characters from the East India Company walked off with some of the said bonus features. Those corporate types can't be trusted. Or perhaps they got lost in Davy Jones' locker. In either case, they should've put Cap'n Jack in charge of the extras. After all, if you can't trust a pirate, who can you trust? At least the quality of those 90 minutes is still on par with the earlier DVDs.
Unlike Curse of the Black Pearl (Collector's Edition) and Dead Man's Chest (Special Edition), it appears people have run out of things to say this time around. Curse of the Black Pearl had one running commentary plus two selected-scenes commentary tracks, Dead Man's Chest also had a running commentary. No such feature is presented with At World's End, which is touted as a Limited Edition (it's made quite clear elsewhere in the packaging that this edition will be available only until Sept. 30, 2008). Considering how good the screenwriters' commentaries were on the previous two releases, the lack of a yack track is a bummer. Their comments would've been welcome for this installment.
As it stands, the only extra feature on Disc One is a collection of bloopers. There are a few smiles to be had in the roughly five minutes of gaffs and guffaws, but nothing major.
On Disc Two most of the featurettes run three to five minutes long, with a couple notable exceptions. Possibly the most amusing feature is Inside the Brethren Court. By clicking on each of the nine pieces of eight, viewers get a very brief back story on the pirate and their piece of eight.
The Masters of Design section offers up some of the best material in the set. Focusing mainly on the artistic aspects of the production, the highlight is James Byrkit: Sao Feng's Map, which provides an excellent look at the making of the legendary, ringed map. Kris Peck: The Code Book is also a neat look at the work that went into making the Pirata Codex while Rick Heinrichs: Singapore offers a glimpse at the production art and tour of the Singapore set.
The design section also includes Penny Rose: Teague's Costume, a short chat with the designer of Keith Richards' garb, and Crash McCreery: The Cursed Crew, a nifty visit with artist behind Davey Jones and his fishy crew.
The artistic angle continues with The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer, which offers some interesting tidbits, including clips of director Gore Verbinski on the electric guitar. During this 10-minute segment, Zimmer sheds some interesting light on his approach when he describes the third film as featuring a rock ‘n' roll sensibility that swaps Harleys for pirate ships.
While on that note, Keith and the Captain: On Set with Johnny and the Rock Legend is an opportunity to see Keith Richards and Johnny Depp side by side, but it's not as good as it could've been.
Rounding out the musical side of things is Hoist the Colours, a nice little piece about the making of the movie's opening song.
On the technical side, Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom is a 19-minute, in-depth look at the massive undertaking behind the film's stormy, swashbuckling climax. The Tale of the Many Jacks is also an informative peek at the trickery behind multiplying Johnny Depp over and over again.
Wrapping up the behind-the-scenes material, The World of Chow Yun-Fat is thick on accolades and, while the behind-the-scenes bits are entertaining, it's the set's least valuable featurette.
Those 90 minutes are polished off with two deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without commentary from Verbinski. Two Captains, One Ship is amusing, but it simply carries on the chicanery between Sparrow and Barbossa as they compete to be captain of the Black Pearl. I Like Riddles is worth a look, but it's fairly immaterial.
It's also worth pointing out the menu designs are particularly nicely done this time around. Disc One revolves around Sao Feng's map. Disc Two is a quirky setup based on the scenes at, appropriately enough, World's End itself.
As with the other two movies' two-disc sets, this one includes a map of the features. And this time the map also includes "Pirates Secrets Revealed: Top Questions Moviegoers had About Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."
Picture and Sound
In keeping with the other two movies, the picture and sound here are excellent. The picture is enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is available in English and Spanish.
Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired and in Spanish.
How to Use This DVD
Grab another bottle of rum and watch the movie, savvy? Then, in a particularly unstable and rum-induced stupor, mosey over to Disc Two and check out Inside the Brethren Court (remember, there's a map packaged with the DVD in case you get lost). Next, in the Masters of Design section, go to the James Byrkit: Sao Feng's Map and Kris Peck: The Code Book segments. Those two are particularly cool and the other three segments are also good.
For those with a musical bent, The Pirate Maestro is also a goody and, well, you know you'll want to take a gander at Keith and the Captain.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.