PictureI will start this review by pointing out that initial pressings of this disc incorrectly state that the encode is 1080i. This is a mistake. What we have here is a full 1080P AVC/ MPEG 4 codec.
The first two movies are quite rightly regarded as reference quality discs. I did not review them, but they are always the discs I get out when I wish to demonstrate the picture on my Samsung. I was expecting great things from the third instalment, seeing as it was shot concurrently alongside the second. At least I thought it had been.....
It turns out that apart from some key scenes, the films were in fact shot separately and the Director goes for quite a different look with this film. So, whilst like 300 the disc may be true to the Director's vision - it certainly lacks the wow factor that the other two films have.
For a start, although the source print is immaculate - I did notice an amount of grain in this transfer that is not present in the other films of the series. This is not as prevalent as in 300 or Close Encounters but it is certainly there and does take a little getting used to. The director also goes for a rather flat muted look and this rather spoils the 3d Pop that HD gives the other two films.
However, on thing that is unmissable is the level of detail on the print, especially in faces. Just look at any close up in the film to see just how much detail is present in this transfer. Every facial tick, every bad tooth, every scar is vivid and you feel you can reach out and touch the faces. Indeed, I watched this the night after the Blu ray of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and although that had the edge in many other areas, compare two close-ups side by side and At World's End simply blows Potter out of the water.
Another thing that has always been noticeable in the Pirates movies is the use of colour and again here the use of colour is vibrant, and well rendered. There is a slight greenish hue (intentional) to some scenes but overall this is a colour-rich print.
Finally, there are a lot of dark scenes in this film, especially in the first twenty minutes. But events are always clear and easy to see even in the darkest of shadows.
So, although this is not as good as previous transfers in the series it is still an excellent transfer which does the film justice.
SoundJust like the other discs we are presented with a PCM lossless track, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It was the latter I listened to for this review.
Unlike the picture, the soundtrack on this film easily lives up to the majesty of the other two films. Even though this is by necessity a bombastic soundtrack, it is also surprisingly subtle. Listen carefully, and even in the biggest action scenes, placement is pinpoint and pans are accurate and well-steered.
Fans of LFE may be a little disappointed by the effects in this film. It is not that the sub is ignored, but it doesn't really get as much of a workout as it does in some action films. However, the dynamics of the rest of the soundfield are spot on. The front has a nice wide expansive mix, and the rears are also extremely well used. The music has a more Eastern influence this time, and is well integrated even into the loudest scenes, and dialogue is always clear and precise.
ExtrasJust like its predecessors, At World's End is presented as a two disc set. Unlike the first two, however, there is no commentary. On the first disc, all we have is a five minute Bloopers of the Caribbean featurette - but is a very good one. Depp, in particular, seems to be having a whale of a time.
The majority of the extra features are presented on disc two, and are all in full HD. We start with a series of featurettes which are essentially part of a 90 minute documentary looking at all parts of the filming. What is great about these, is that they go beyond the surface, and are made with the co-operation of all involved in the film. The featurettes vary from short little five minute pieces, to full blown 20 minute mini-documentaries. They cover every aspect of the production in excellent detail.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom focuses, as the title suggests, on the climactic battle and how it was filmed. Masters of Design looks at the design of various aspects of the production and is divided into five subsections. Subjects include Singapore, Captain Teague's Costume, and others. Then we have The World of Chow Yun Fat a far too short appreciation of the actor, and then The Tale Of The Many Jacks which dissects the scene where the Pearl is crewed exclusively by Jack Sparrows.
Keith & the Captain: On Set With Johnny And The Rock Legend is another all too brief featurette looking at the appearance of Keith Richards as Sparrow senior, and another five minute featurette , Hoist the Colors features Hans Zimmer, the composer, talking about the song that features in the dark and haunting opening scene. Zimmer gets more room to talk in The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer where he dissects the trilogy's score in more detail.
Finally, we get Deleted Scenes and Trailers. However, rather undersold on the cover, is the HD exclusive Inside the Maelstrom. This is an excellent Blu ray exclusive that starts off as an eight minute featurette. However, at certain points icons appear and if you click on them you can further explore aspects of the production as you wish. This can expand the featurette to nearly 45 minutes, and it keeps track of what you have already watched, meaning you don't have to repeat featurettes. Considering may Blu rays don't even match their DVD counterparts, it's great to see this disc surpassing the SD equivalent.
VerdictThe third movie in the Pirates Trilogy will always be an acquired taste. However, I would argue that this film is not the turkey that many would have it to be. It may be weighed down in the middle with unnecessary plot, but there are some memorable scenes here - and the director has sensibly returned to focus on the characters that made the original film such a success.
The sound and extras on this disc are easily on a par with the other two blu rays in the series, whilst the picture is not quite as impressive - mainly due to the way the film was shot. However, if you already own the first two movies then you will have no qualms in adding this to your collection. If you are on the fence, then this is a far better film than you may think - and if you can get through the turgid middle there is plenty here to entertain you.
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