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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

October 16th, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and 3D Combo Pack

I've reviewed all three of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean films. I thought the first film was surprisingly good, the second film tried too hard to be epic, while the third film was a big popcorn flick, nothing more. Expectations for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides are not extremely high. I'm not expecting it to be as good as the first film. All I'm looking for is a fun ride. Can it deliver?

The Movie

Two Spanish fishermen pull a man out of the water who claims to have sailed with Ponce de Leon, who died 200 years ago. This is the best evidence yet that the Fountain of Youth had been found. The Spanish set sail immediately.

Meanwhile, Jack Sparrow is about to be executed for being a pirate. Actually, it's Joshamee Gibbs on trail for being Jack Sparrow, while his presiding judge is... Jack Sparrow. (In disguise, obviously.) It's all part of his plan to rescue his friend and escape. It goes poorly, as one can expect, and Jack Sparrow is captured by the British once again and brought before King George. They've learned of the Spanish's discovery, but also know Jack Sparrow has searched for the fountain for a long time and hope to use his knowledge to beat the Spaniards to the fountain, but he would have to work under another caption, Barbossa. Jack Sparrow is not interested in that proposal, especially since he heard rumors of someone posing as Jack Sparrow and recruiting a crew for an expedition.

After a second, more successful escape attempt. Jack Sparrow hunts down the man who is impersonating him, only to find it's Angelica, Jack Sparrow's former lover and would be nun. Another escape later, and a dart to the back of the neck, and Jack Sparrow finds himself on the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the most infamous of Pirates, Blackbeard. So why is Angelica working for the one pirate even other pirates fear? Because she's his daughter. Jack Sparrow deflowered the daughter of Blackbeard. He has a talent for getting into trouble, but this is impressive, even by his standards.

So you have the Spaniards, the British under Barbossa, and Blackbeard all looking for the items needed to complete the ritual at the Fountain of Youth. And Jack Sparrow in the middle of it all.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides earned more than $1 billion worldwide. It just just short of Dead Man's Chest for biggest global box office for the franchise. I don't know why. We've seen it all before, but this time it lacks the energy, or indeed the sense of fun, we have come to expect. There's an early scene where Jack Sparrow is escaping from the British military and he's straddling two carriages, as they race down the street. This scene should have been exciting, but all I could think of when I watched it was, "Been there, done that." Even Johnny Depp looked a little bored in the scene.

There's a subplot with a mermaid and a missionary falling in love. I didn't mention either character in the plot synopsis, because they were completely forgettable. I figure the filmmakers thought they needed a young couple to fall in love to replace Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, which makes sense. However, they should have chosen characters that were more interesting or had better chemistry together. Neither is the case here. For that matter, none of the secondary characters were interesting this time around. I miss Pintel and Ragetti.

There are quite a few talented actors in the movie; Ian McShane is certainly a worthy addition to the cast. However, by the fourth installment, the franchise has grown stale.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, outtakes, and a LEGO short. The audio commentary track has both the director, Rob Marshall, and the executive producer, John DeLuca, but there's not a lot of energy here. The other two features are simply too short to add that much value to the disc.

The only exclusive extra on the Blu-ray is a Second Screen version of the movie. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Second Screen sounds really cool, but unless you give people a way to access this information without a tablet, it's a waste.

The 3D version has a lot more extras, but since I haven't made the leap, I didn't get that version to review. However, since the 3D version only costs $4 more and comes with not only the 3D movie, but a full disc of extras, it might still be worth the price if you are part of the vast majority that haven't upgraded yet.

Moving onto the technical presentation... the film is dark. The film is often dark and foggy. This is not a complaint about the transfer, but it is a fact. Because of the artistic choices made, the video is not as showy as other $100 million blockbusters. However, the scenes that do allow high definition to shine, shine to the maximum you could expect. There are scenes that are reference quality material and even during the shadowy scenes, the transfer looks amazing. The 7.1 audio track, on the other hand, is reference quality material. Everything about it is amazing. Ambient sounds abound, directional effects are abundant, the bass is powerful, etc.

The Verdict

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides simply does not do enough that is fresh or new. At this point, I'd rather just re-watch The Curse of the Black Pearl again. There are not enough extras on either the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack to lift it to a purchase, but there's a bonus disc with the 3D Combo Pack that is worth the extra $4 if you really want to buy. Also coming out this week is the 15-Disc Blu-ray Box Set, but you know there will be another installment of the franchise, so this is only worth it is you are willing to spend $100 on the box.

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