In my recent review of the Starship Troopers Trilogy, I said sequels could be a tricky business. And it's true. But when you begin a project based on a 10 minute long theme park ride, throw in some memorable characters played by strong actors and turn that into not one but three feature films (so far), you actually might accomplish something. As is the case with the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, now available together in a complete boxed set of all three films on Blu-ray Disc.
The films feature Oscar-winner Johnny Depp who embodies the role of the irreverent (and seemingly always drunk) Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann, the woman whose affection the two men seek. The trio maintains a sometimes uneasy alliance while staving off various mythical creatures, other pirates (some of them ghostly) and the evil East India Trading Company, a government-sponsored paramilitary corporation bent on eliminating all pirates so they may rule the seas unchecked. A talented supporting cast includes Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce, Chow Yun Fat, Bill Nighy (though he's mostly clothed in his CGI-generated character) and Keith Richards (yes, that Keith Richards).
The first film finds Captain Jack Sparrow in a quest to reclaim his ship, the Black Pearl. Along the way, he discovers that a cursed treasure has doomed the current ship's captain (Geoffrey Rush) and crew to "life" as undead zombies. The stolen treasure, it seems, must be returned - intact - to its rightful place in order to break the curse. Enter Elizabeth Swann, who has gained possession of a small part of that treasure, hence becomes a person of interest to the zombie pirate crew. Will Turner is the sword-maker's apprentice who has vowed to wed Miss Swann, and who will follow her to the ends of the earth if need be, to keep her safe.
For more detailed reviews see film guru Joe Lozito's take on POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl, POTC: Dead Man's Chest and POTC: At World's End.
I'll admit, when I first hear that Disney was releasing all three "Pirates" films together on Blu-ray Disc one September 16th, I thought "double dip!" But it turns out that this is not the case. In fact, the new trilogy boxed set is simply a way for those who have not yet bought into the Pirate films on Blu-ray to do so at a discount. The discs included in the boxed set are identical feature for feature with the earlier released Blu-ray Discs. But instead of paying $34.99 (list) each, now you can pick up the set for $82.99 (list).
The set features the same high quality 1080p video transfers in 2.35:1 aspect ratio that we saw in their individual Blu-ray releases. And (of course), the first film in the trilogy is absent the framing problems that caused quite a stir last year on the avsforum, prompting Disney to offer replacement discs and to recall a significant portion of the first run of POTC Blu-ray Discs. Colors are well saturated (when meant to be) and detail is sharp as a tack. As a darkly comedic adventure there are quite a bit of dark shadowy scenes, at night aboard ships, inside caves and prison cells and in drab ship's interiors. In these scenes shadow detail is well-preserved.
Also carried over from the previous releases are the uncompressed multi-channel (5.1) PCM soundtracks which have garnered much praise from consumers and reviewers alike. The scores by Klaus Badelt (first film) and Hans Zimmer (second and third) add perfect complements to the action with sweeping, grandiose gestures that accentuate the spectacular on-screen action and subtly eerie passages that underscore the suspense. In the third film particularly, Zimmer's exciting score recalls one of his earlier film soundtracks (Gladiator), with its purposeful sense of grandeur that almost, but not quite, borders on pompousness.
Surround channels are used effectively to create an immersive sonic experience, particularly in the third film where Captain Jack's rescuers enter a surreal purgatory between worlds after falling off the edge of the world. Voices and echoes come from all around you, making you wonder if they're alive or dead, in this world or the next, or somewhere in between. The LFE track is also given a workout with the many cannon attacks, gunshots and the monstrous rumblings of the Kraken as it devours any hapless ship in its path.
The POTC Blu-ray Discs are no slouch when it comes to extras with several Blu-ray specific interactive features. These include "Scoundrels of the Sea" - a viewing option which pops up movie facts and historical tidbits (first film), "Liar's Dice" a BD-Java game (second film), and "Enter the Maelstrom" - an interactive featurette of sorts in which producer Jerry Bruckheimer reveals the massive undertaking involved in filming the third film's climatic battle in a giant whirlpool (third film). I admit, that one almost put me to sleep, but other more interested in the technical aspects of film-making may find it more entertaining.
Plus you'll get the usual assortment of deleted scenes, blooper reels, making-of features and featurettes that you'd expect with blockbuster titles such as these. If you like Blu-ray titles that provide high replay value, you'll enjoy this set.
Details on Bonus Features by Film:
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Although there is nothing new here that wasn't in the earlier Blu-ray releases, the Pirates of the Caribbean 3-Movie Hi-Def Collection provides an easy and more affordable way to purchase all three of the Pirates films, for yourself or a loved one on Blu-ray Disc. The high quality audio and video transfers are sure to satisfy and the extras will keep you entertained for hours.
Where to Buy: