Pirates of the Caribbean
Dead Man's Chest

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

As Will and Elizabeth prepare to exchange vows at the alter, their wedding plans hit rough waters with the arrival of sea-bound scallywag Captain Jack Sparrow. The captain has found he has a debt to pay: he made a bargain for his soul with Davy Jones himself, the ghostly, fearsome ruler of the ocean depths, and he needs all the help he can get to escape this time...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest picks up where The Curse of the Black Pearl left off... more or less. Will and Elizabeth's wedding is interrupted when officials from the East India Trading company arrive with warrants to arrest them both. In allowing Captain Jack Sparrow to escape, it appears that the British crown wants to make an example of them both. They are offered clemency on condition that Will finds Sparrow and brings back his compass. Will is unsure why the East India Trading company should want a compass that doesn't actually work, but he agrees to their terms and heads off to look for Sparrow.

In the meantime Sparrow, who is once again captain of The Black Pearl, has discovered that a pact he made with Davy Jones has made him a marked man. It seems that Davy Jones is out to reclaim what is rightfully his - Sparrow's soul.

The movie is possibly one of the most complex blockbusters you'll ever see. This is by no means a complaint though - it's great to see that the writers manage to cram so much in to the film's duration without patronising the audience. This is especially impressive when you consider this is the first of a two-part story. At no point do you feel like the writers are padding the plot out with pointless elements in a bid to keep some story elements in their back pocket for the third movie, At World's End.

One of the plus point for me was the fact that all of the main characters are not what they at first appear. How refreshing to have a Hollywood blockbuster movie where you are uncertain of how honourable the heroes are. In fact this was something that the first movie played with somewhat. While you were always unsure of Sparrow's real intentions, Barbossa wasn't your usual Hollywood 2D villain. In fact he's not really that evil a character. He's just a poor soul who is trying to cure his crew of the curse. He wasn't interested in killing for the sake of it.

As with the first movie, this film is well written, directed and acted. And, once again, the CGI effects are really impressive. Well... except for the Kraken attack on the ship. That looks a little poor, as though they hadn't quite got the lighting right.

As with the Blu-ray release of the first movie, I'm really unsure how much of the extra material was/wasn't on the DVD release. But, again, everything on these two discs could easily have fitted on to one Blu-ray disc.

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 Liar's Dice - an interactive game. Liar's Dice is actually quite a fun addition. It's basically a version of the game that's in the movie. You play against Pintel, from the movie, as you try and beat him in a round of the dice game. The other notable character from the movie is Marty, who also hurls abuse at you as you play. The only annoying aspect is that every time you play they all go on a rum raid, for no real reason, about half way through the game. While this is funny the first time, it gets a little annoying if you play again.

My biggest complaint with disc one is that isn't a 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? There is at least one on the DVD, so why not on the Blu-ray edition?

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. The menu 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: Charting the Return (26 min look at the problems getting the movie up and running. Highlights include the problems of getting a late script to the director and the casting for the skinny pirates); According to Plan (1hr 3 min look at the entire location shoot for the movie. There are some incredible locations images and this is certainly one of the more interesting features I've seen); Captain Jack From Head to Toe (26 min look at all aspects of Jack Sparrow's costume. This can be played in segments or as one long feature); Meet Davy Jones - Anatomy of a Legend (13 min look at how they created the CGI for the character as well as Bill Nighy's role in its creation); Creating the Kraken (10 min look at the Kraken scenes); Dead Men Tell New Tales - Re-Imagining the Attraction (13 min look at the slightly revamped Disneyland ride which now has a couple of very convincing Johnny Depp animatronic figures and a not so realistic Barbossa figure); Fly on the Sea - The Bone Cage (4 min look at filming the bone cage scene. It shows us how they got the effect of the bone cage swinging - by actually swinging it from a crane with all the actors inside. Orlando Bloom looks genuinely surprised when he's told what's going to happen, but it's too late he's already inside the cage); Jerry Bruckheimer - A Producers Photo Diary (5 min look at the beautiful photos Bruckheimer took will on location); Pirates on Main Street - The Dead Man's Chest Premiere (4 min featurette that shows the stars attending the movie's premiere); Stills from the Set (6 min); Bloopers of the Caribbean (4 mins of mistakes from the film); 3 x Mastering the Blade featurettes that show how Orlando Bloom (6 min), Keira Knightly (5 min) and Jack Davenport (5 min) fared when it came to doing their own sword fights; 2 x Pirates on Location features - that are basically very short highlights (lasting 8 min and 4 min) of the According to Plan footage; and finally under the Pirates Around the World section we get a selection of trailers and teaser trailers in various languages.

This release doesn't really showcase the benefits of Blu-ray technology. Okay, the Liar's Dice game has a stab at it, but 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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