Pirates of the Caribbean
The Curse of the Black Pearl

Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush
Walt Disney Pictures
RRP: 26.99
Certificate: 12
Available 11 June 2007

Set sail for adventure with this swashbuckling pirate tale starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. Blacksmith Will Turner finds himself thrust into a world of danger and magic when the secret love of his life, Elizabeth, is kidnapped by a legendary band of pirates. The only person willing to help him is down-on-his-luck pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. Together the two of them set off to free Elizabeth from the clutches of the evil Barbossa and find themselves facing an army of cursed pirates...

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is loosely based on, and pays homage to, the Pirates of the Caribbean theme-park ride at Disneyland. In fact if you've ever been on this ride, which originally opened in the '60s, you'll spot quite a few of the scenes and characters hidden away in the film.

Johnny Depp stars as Captain Jack Sparrow, who arrives at Britain's Jamaican Port Royal. He's intending to steal a British ship and set off again on the high seas. He ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and saving the life of Elizabeth Swann, the governor's daughter. So, instead of keeping his head down he is brought to the attention of the highest ranking official on the island. This act sets into motion an adventure that ropes in Elizabeth's childhood friend, blacksmith Will Turner; a mysterious medallion; and a legendary pirate ship, the Black Pearl. The Black Pearl's Captain Barbossa wants Elizabeth's doubloon necklace in order to break a curse on him and his men. Elizabeth is kidnapped and Captain Jack and Will set off to rescue her.

Almost everyone has, or should have seen this movie already. But if you haven't then you are in for a treat. Depp is wonderful as the slightly mad Captain Jack Sparrow - whose accent flips between tinges of Australian to full blown Liverpudlian But, there is a good reason for this. Not only has he sailed all over the place, but he's gone a little crazy after being marooned on an island in the past. And why the drunk-as-a-skunk walk? Well, it appears that he's been at sea so long that walking on land is as difficult as walking on a boat is for most landlubbers.

The movie is well scripted, directed, acted and beautifully shot. Not only that, but the digital effects are really impressive. This film successfully resurrects a genre from the golden age of Hollywood, by reinventing the style of old Errol Flynn pirate movies for a new generation in much the same way that Indiana Jones did for old action B-movies.

On disc one we get the movie; three scenes that the DVD makers think will show off the video and sound of the film best on home theatre systems; and the interactive feature Scoundrels of the Sea. This allows you to watch the movie while bits of trivia pop up on the screen. Every now and then, along with the trivia, a gold doubloon will appear. If you are interested in that topic, simply select it and it will be filed away until the end of the movie, then a documentary will play that will feature all the elements that you showed an interest in. Worry not if you missed some though, as once the documentary has finished you are shown all the topics and can play the ones you missed or play the whole thing through from the start.

My biggest complaint with disc one is that there is no DTS soundtrack option for the English version of the movie (only the German and Italian dubs include a DTS option). Also why on earth are there no audio commentaries? I can't believe that there were none recorded for the DVD release, so where did they go? And one final moan. The text on the Scoundrels of the Sea featurette is so small it's almost impossible to read on any screen smaller than 40". And if you can just make it out, the parchment style background that the text is on means that it's often difficult to make out the words anyway.

Disc two is packed to bursting with extras, but to be honest there's nothing here that would not fit onto a single DVD disc and I doubt there's anything you'd want to watch more than once. Again the text is too small to read on most normal screens, which means you have to press your face up against the screen to read what most of the features are.

Features include: An Epic At Sea: The Making Of Pirates (38 min feature that looks at almost every aspect of the movie. Can be played in segments or as a single feature); Fly on the Sea (35 min look at some scenes as they were being filmed and then the finished clip from the movie. Can be played in segments or as a single feature); Becoming Captain Jack (7 mins interview with Johnny Depp as he explains how he created his character); Becoming Barbossa (6 min look at Geoffrey Rush's take on his character); Thar She Blows (6 min look at the making and final destruction of the model ship); The Monkey's Name is Jack (5 min look at the monkey that appears in the movie); Sneak Attack Animatic (4 min early CGI scene designed for the underwater attack); Pirates Around the World (4 min selection of scenes that flip between the various foreign language audio dubs. It was interesting to hear that all the voice actors sound almost identical and that lip synching is almost perfect); and Spirit of the Ride (7 min featurette that explains what elements of the theme park ride have been incorporated in to the movie); Dead Men Tell no Tales - The History of the Attraction (14 min look at the theme park ride interviewing some of the people who were responsible for creating the attraction in the '60s).

We also get: Deleted and Alternate Scenes (19 mins of scenes not in the final cut. These can be played individually, or as a single feature. It was interesting to see a couple of scenes that made Jack Davenport's Norrington look a lot more human - you almost feel sorry for him); Diary of a Ship (11 min featurette filmed on board the Lady Washington as it set sail to make the journey to where filming was to take place); Diary Of A Pirate (10 min on set video diary with actor Lee Arenberg who played Pintel); Producer's Photo Diary With Jerry Bruckheimer (4 min look at photos that Bruckheimer took while on set); Blooper Reel (3 mins of deleted mistakes - well some are); Below Deck: An Interactive History Of Pirates (Interactive documentary. Either move around the pirate ship discovering things about pirates, or watch the documentary as a whole); Moonlight Serenade Scene Progressions (7 min look how the moonlight scenes were made); Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour (18 min feature on the Disneyland attraction which was originally broadcast on 21 January 1968) and finally we have a whole heap of image galleries that examine every aspect of the production.

Yet again, as with the introduction of DVD players, it makes me laugh to see the following warning on the back of this Blu-ray box: "Some players may not be able to access all features and all bonus material". So the industry does it again. Why can't manufacturers who are going to use a similar format get together and bang out some ground rules for the authoring of DVD discs and manufacture of players? It wasn't such a problem with the implementation of DVDs (sure you p*ssed off a few customers but then no one cared about that) but when there are two competing formats on the market you think they'd bang their heads together and make sure that everything worked alright.

Another thing I couldn't understand was why this was being released over two discs. With a tight squeeze almost all of this would have fitted on a single DVD so it certainly would have fitted on a single Blu-ray disc with ample room to spare. Could this be another example of companies ripping off consumers?

This release doesn't really showcase the benefits of Blu-ray technology, and to be honest you'd be much better off buying the DVD edition - unless the additional picture quality (which won't be that noticeable on most current TV sets anyway) is something that you really want.

That makes this release hard to review. The movie and extras get a solid 10/10, but the fact that this is spread over two discs when one would do, that there's nothing that exciting on here that's not on the DVD release, and that an English DTS audio track is missing means that my final mark will be much less than it should be.

Darren Rea

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