Here’s how you conclude a trilogy of big-budget movies: With a bang, not a whimper. Give us a rousing finale, complete with a bittersweet coda that tells us these characters have changed, mostly for the better, but their adventures will continue. That’s what director Gore Verbinski and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have pulled off with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, rotten tomato throwers be damned.
Yes, the plots of the three films grew increasingly complex, with “At World’s End” finding the major players constantly scheming against each other, even when they’re on the same side. The filmmakers also took a turn into the surreal with Jack’s stay in limbo at the beginning of the movie, the manifestation of which continued, to some extent, during the rest of the story. None of this is typical summer popcorn movie fare, which I suppose led to much of the backlash, but I’d rather watch an ambitious movie of this sort than “Spider-Man 3” or the third X-Men entry, or the final two “Matrix” films. Is it so terrible to be asked to put your brain to work in a movie theater, even if it is a hot summer day outside?
Unfortunately, this two-disc DVD release doesn’t live up to the precedent set by the home video versions of the previous two movies, leading me to impose my usual half-star penalty for weak bonus features. For starters, there’s no commentary track on disc one, even though Elliott and Rossio sat down for very informative commentaries on the previous DVDs. All we have, in addition to the nearly three-hour main feature, are five minutes of bloopers and trailers for other Disney movies.
Disc two also doesn’t meet expectations, presenting a series of EPK-style featurettes that don’t delve into the kind of detail found on the previous DVDs. Even the pair of deleted scenes, which include optional commentary by Verbinski, aren’t very exciting. This release needed an in-depth making-of documentary, and all of the materials found here don’t add up to that.
“The Tale of Many Jacks,” “Keith and the Captain,” and “The World of Chow-Yun Fat” all run about four minutes and are pretty much self-explanatory: It was fun creating Sparrow’s different personalities, everyone was amazed by Keith Richards’ presence on the set, and Chow Yun-Fat is a great actor.
“Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom,” at about 19 minutes, is more interesting, especially for anyone who loves to peek behind the scenes of special effects-heavy sequences. While watching the movie, I was too caught up in the story to think much about how they pulled off the battle in the maelstrom, but after viewing this featurette, I was amazed at the technical complexity that went into the sequence.
That’s the high point of the bonus features, however. Rounding out disc two are: a 10-minute piece on composer Hans Zimmer; 20-plus minutes about five designers who worked on the film; a brief piece about the inspiration for the “Hoist the Colours” song; and 15-plus minutes about the Brethren Court of pirate captains, with a minute or two of biographical information about each one. All of this, like just about everything else in this set, is very by-the-numbers.
You’ll find three Easter eggs on disc two, each of them running about two minutes. One covers the trials and tribulations of getting a peanut onto a fork, another discusses contributions to the soundtrack by famous drummer Simon Phillips (he played in The Who, among other bands), and the third, which you can uncover on the second menu, is an animatic of the trip to the end of the world.
Finally, in addition to the ads for toys and coupons, Disney included a fold-out piece that details the discs’ navigation and lists questions and answers about the movie, in case the story wasn’t clear enough. It also notes that this two-disc edition will be available through September 30, 2008, so I guess the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films will be subject to the same “Going back into the vault” nonsense as Disney’s other classic films.