Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.4:1 1080p 3D picture and is Region Free.
The film was shot natively in 3D using the Red cameras, and upon its theatrical release was criticised for its rather lacking involvement in the third dimension. Unfortunately, I did not see this released in theatres, but I can say that if there were deficiencies, they have been rectified on the Blu-ray for this home presentation because it is extremely well realised. As with all natively shot material there is a wonderful sense of solidity to everything in the frame and tangible distance between the distinctive layers – even the simplest two shot shows a ‘roundness’ to the characters and they are separated by viewable space. When careful framing has been used, such as looking along a table full of food, the sense of the objects retreating into the frame is very satisfying and, thankfully, most of the film is shot to reveal this extra depth; shots looking along the ship’s decks, long establishing shots, even the various ships as they voyage on the open seas have a great sense of perspective – the water’s surface giving the anchor the eye needs demonstrate distance. Best shots would be the landscape of the island housing the ‘Fountain’; the helicopter shot over the vast forests, looking over the edge of the gorge that Jack has to jump into, or the reveal of the cavern of the ‘Fountain’ itself; each and everyone opening up the frame to wonderful extremes. I also revelled in the swooping shots through fog, all of which showed fantastic misty layering. Although more intimate setting work just as well to close in the atmosphere and claustrophobia, such as below decks, in the darkened taverns, or the caves below the ‘Fountain’ which are close enough to feel squashed. Of course there are still a number of ‘point at the screen’ moments, the trailer showcasing the ‘best’ when the sword just missing Jack’s head as it pierces through that door, though Blackbeard waving his sword at the screen or various muskets pointing towards us are equally noteworthy. There are a number of scenes that are very dark, and with no distance reference point the frame case shorted considerably, but the fore and middleground are well catered for in such scenes, and every object, be it character or prop, is always ‘solid’ in its representation so whilst it might not stand out as 3D, it is extremely natural and that, in my book, is far better than being artificially enhanced. Something good to see, again enhancing the natural feel, is the amount of unfocused fore or background, that remains in 3D, you know, how we see the world, as opposed to being clear focus going further back into the frame in separate layers – whilst that latter effect may be stunning looking 3D, there is nothing natural about it. I guess it depends on how you like your 3D to how you will interpret this picture, a terrifically natural frame with plenty of solidity to the layers, such as this, or the artificially enhanced ‘hyper-real’ 3D, such as Resident Evil: Afterlife. Both are equally valid and both score within reference, but the individual may prefer one over the other as giving the ‘better’ 3D.
The rest of the picture fairs just as good, being clean, bright and detailed. Detail, itself, is near absolute right from close ups such as skin, or the beads in Jack’s hair, to the distant tree lines of landscape shots. Look at the clothing weaves, or the worn creases in leather, or the scuff marks on tarnished metal swords; there is a pin point accuracy reserved only for the best releases.
Colour is bold, wild and striking, with never any hint of wash or bleed – typical of a Bruckheimer production, where the colours are glossy and shine from the screen. This is best realised in the location shots, particularly of the deep blue ocean, or better yet, the lush green forests of the ‘Fountain’ Island.
Contrast and brightness are set to give some incredibly inky blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) with plenty going on in the shadow detail, or the black of Blackbeard’s costume and ship. There is neither black crush, nor any white clipping with detail being held even in the brightest of scenes, wave crests in the sunlight for example. Simply wonderfully realised.
Digitally there were no compression problems, no softening, no edge enchantment, no banding or posterization and, of course, no grain. My passive technology revealed no crosstalk to the image and held all aliasing in check also. A spectacular picture, all the way.
I opted for the English dts-HD High Resolution 7.1 track. Yes you read that correct, High Resolution, not Master Audio, but there is no need to worry about the numbers, because there is negligible differences between this and the MA track on the 2D Blu-ray (also included with this set), so small that in a blind test I could not pick out one from the other. In short, this is wonderfully immersive surround track that compliments the visuals perfectly. Right from the off you are met with a terrific surround experience, from the courtroom with its plethora of stereo and surround effects right out into the street chase sequence with even more effects from all the speakers to place you in the centre of the action. Ambient effects range from general chatter (such as the court room, or in taverns) to wind, the creaking of ships to rain and birds; seldom is there a chance missed to add something to the enrich the surround track, but never pushing it too far as to be over powering. Dialogue is always clear and precise and given directionality when needed as well as sounding very natural. Bass is deep and strong, with plenty for the sub to kick into life, from musket shots, to cannon fire. And over it all is Zimmerman’s score which sits as just another wonderful layer in the sublime mix. Top stuff.
- Sneak Peek – The only extra on the 3D disc is a trailer for Cars 2, coming soon.
- Audio Commentary - Director Rob Marshall and executive producer John Deluca give us a rather dry chat but unusually big up the 3D filming process, shame this wasn’t included on the 3D Blu-ray ... There is the usual back slapping with everyone involved and some good information about the various location shooting, but it is a tough one to get through in one sitting.
- Bloopers of the Caribbean (03.29, HD) – A selection of forgotten lines, dropped props and other mishaps that occurred during filming.
- Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (02.06) – Two short Lego inspired features, well adverts really, featuring characters from the film in scenes that are linked to it, fun and lively but not particularly relevant.
- Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon & Pumbaa (04.23) – The same advert for 3D Blu-ray that adorns most other Disney 3D releases.
- 2D Version – The same 2D Blu-ray that is currently available, contains all the extra material.
- Digital Copy
And that’s your lot – an extremely miserable amount of extra material for a premier release of a premier franchise, made even more mearge when you look at the extras listed on the US release of this title due next month, disgraceful!
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth film in this burgeoning franchise of fanciful swashbuckling adventures set on the high seas. This time Captain Jack Sparrow is joined by ex-lover Angelica and the fearsome Blackbeard in beating the Spanish and the English to find the fabled Fountain of Youth, on the way battling adversary, each other, prophecy and mermaids. Rob Marshall takes over directing duties and delivers the same action packed adventure that we are used to seeing on a Bruckheimer production. Unfortunately, despite assertions to the contrary, there is little to no characterisation or character moments and this coupled with a distinctly lacking narrative drive leaves the film without that prevailing sense of fun and adventure that made the initial film so successful. Whilst not the dead turkey that most seem to label it, On Stranger Tides fails to even live up to the lesser sequels; even Depp’s most famous characterisation can’t lift this one out of the depths.
As a Region free 3D Blu-ray set, Disney have put together a rather small package, whilst the picture and sound are definitely top tier, the extras leave a lot to be desired, especially for a premier release that seems to getting a lavish overhaul in the US next month. Still it is future proof with the 2D Blu-ray and digital copy included.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.99
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