Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (4K Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 13-Sep-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 129:06
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joachim RÝnning
Espen Sandberg
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Johnny Depp
Javier Bardem
Geoffrey Rush
Brenton Thwaites
Kaya Scodelario
Kevin McNally
Golshifteh Farahani
David Wenham
Stephen Graham
Angus Barnett
Adam Brown
Orlando Bloom
Martin Klebba
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Geoff Zanelli


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Chinese
Japanese
Mandarin
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Post-credits scene

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Plot Synopsis

††† 2017ís Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is probably the best instalment in this particular franchise since its initial entry, 2003ís The Curse of the Black Pearl, but thatís still damning with faint praise. Indeed, this fourth sequel is still studiously mediocre and in need of more editorial discipline (not to mention better screenwriting), but at least it provides intermittent charms, and wonít leave you wanting to run screaming from the cinema. Nevertheless, with lengthy six-year break since the last sequel (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), itís disheartening that this is apparently the best that Disney could come up with. Even with a pair of new directors, Dead Men Tell No Tales (a subtitle not to be confused with 2006ís Dead Manís Chest) lacks ambition and novelty, emerging as yet another lacklustre entry into the tired fourteen-year-old series.

††† Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the adult son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), has grown up to become a sailor in the British Royal Navy, but is determined to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman. Learning that the Trident of Poseidon holds the power to break any curse, Henry seeks to recruit Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to help him in his quest, and also meets Carina (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer who knows where the Trident might be. To complicate matters, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghostly crew are freed from their Devilís Triangle prison, and begin hunting for Jack who was responsible for taking away their corporeal freedom. In addition, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) sets off to find the Trident of Poseidon for himself, while a British Royal Navy officer, Lt. John Scarfield (David Wenham), is also interested in the treasure.

††† The primary drawback of Dead Men Tell No Tales is that it feels flat overall, lacking a certain spark to truly bring it to life. The screenplay is replete with nonstop exposition, and endeavours to work through too many different subplots and tangents, with no less than six different parties seeking the Trident for themselves, taking away focus and prohibiting any sort of enlivening momentum. Exposition lacks snap, dialogue is largely humdrum, and the script is too cluttered and over-complicated, as if screenwriter Jeff Nathanson was operating on autopilot. It appears that those involved in this fifth Pirates of the Caribbean picture have lost sight of what made The Curse of the Black Pearl such a hit in the first place - it was an exciting, high-adventure swashbuckler with a hint of the supernatural, whereas Dead Men Tell No Tales meanders all over the place. Ultimately, the finished movie feels more like a workprint waiting for a tighter edit. And thatís especially concerning given that this is the shortest instalment in the franchise to date.

††† Directors Joachim RÝnning and Espen Sandberg (2012ís Kon-Tiki) do what they can with the material, but the problems primarily stem from Nathansonís script which could have done with a few rewrites. Salazar and his undead crew have a longstanding grudge against Jack, of course, and theyíre only freed from the Devilís Triangle (right after Henry encounters them, coincidentally) because Jack gives up his magic compass, which is surely the flimsiest plot impetus in recent memory. Meanwhile, thereís no justification for Barbossaís return other than to add another party to an already crowded narrative, and some of the cheap slapstick moments and silly jokes might honestly make you feel as if youíre watching a dumb spoof like The Pirate Movie or Carry on Columbus, rather than an expensive blockbuster. Characterisations are strictly one-dimensional outside of the primary characters - of course all of the Royal Navy officers are snobby, and absolutely refuse to listen to Henry. Not to mention, the screenplay just rehashes several elements from previous Pirates of the Caribbean movies - Salazar and his undead pirates mirrors Barbossaís skeletal crew from the first movie, Salazar himself feels like a dull retread of Davy Jones, and the romantic angle between Henry and Carina is just reminiscent of Will and Elizabethís relationship.

††† Despite predominantly filming in Queensland, Australia to save on production costs, Dead Men Tell No Tales was still reportedly produced for a staggering $230 million sum, a sizeable chunk of which was allocated to Depp. (At least the budget is less than the eye-watering $410 million price-tag of On Stranger Tides.) Digital effects are difficult to fault and visuals are frequently spectacular, with cinematographer Paul Cameron making terrific use of the beautiful Australian locations, and with sumptuous sets and costumes bringing this world to life. Plus, itís undeniably rousing to hear the franchiseís recognisable soundtrack beats during the major set-pieces. (Despite a new composer, the score feels mostly recycled from the previous films.) Nevertheless, even though Disney brought in a couple of Norwegian directors who had the potential to create something truly daring, Dead Men Tell No Tales is content to colour inside the lines. The only real spark of inventiveness is a sequence involving zombie sharks that ultimately feels like itís over before it even begins.

††† With the return of Bloom, Rush and even Keira Knightley, it appears that the makers of Dead Men Tell No Tales were trying their hardest to bring back established fans of this franchise, but it doesnít add up to much. Depp, who was so endearingly offbeat in the original movie (he was even nominated for an Oscar), appears to be simply going through the motions yet again for the sake of a generous paycheque. The shtick has simply gotten old. Mercifully, the two completely forgettable young faces from On Stranger Tides are no more, but their replacements - Thwaites and Scodelario - are nothing to write home about. Scodelario (such a standout in TVís Skins) admittedly has spunk and charm, but the romantic angle is dead on arrival. Meanwhile, Rush happily chews the scenery as usual, but Bardem is the meatiest addition to the cast, sinking his teeth into this ghoulish role. Bardem is a reliably focused thespian, and heís the most sinister villain of the franchise so far, but itís a shame that most of his screen-time is wasted on exposition and minor threats while Sparrow engages in buffoonery around him. Nevertheless, Bardem manages to keep the material at least marginally compelling, which is welcome. And for eagle-eyed viewers, Paul McCartney makes a brief cameo, though the moment feels both contrived and unnecessary.

††† When Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales actually works, it is certainly fun, but the enterprise is too bloated on the whole, not to mention overloaded with CGI. Despite competent production values, itís all a bit ho-hum. Everything comes to a head for a climax thatís exhausting rather than exhilarating, failing to replicate the raw thrills of the 2003 movie which started it all. Even though Dead Men Tell No Tales runs a mere 129 minutes, which is short for this franchise, it feels much longer, and it doesnít linger in the memory - youíll forget all about it in a matter of days, if not hours. Itís just another rehash of the same Pirates of the Caribbean ingredients weíve seen before. And unfortunately, as long as these movies make money, Disney will continue to churn them out regardless of whether or not we want them.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Disney finally jumped aboard the 4K Ultra HD bandwagon with their excellent release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and thankfully the release wasn't a one-off as some had feared. Continuing to show their support for the superior new format, Disney presents Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales on 4K Blu-ray with a HEVC/H.265-encoded, 2160p presentation which easily exceeds its standard Blu-ray counterpart and stands as one of the best UHD releases of the year. Dead Men Tell No Tales was captured at 3.4K resolution using Arri Alexa cameras, and reportedly completed at 2K, presumably making this an upscale direct from the digital intermediate. Framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, this disc is demo material from top to bottom, from its stunning textures to the vividness of the colours, thanks in large part to the exceptional use of High Dynamic Range. Disney are certainly making a strong impression with 4K right out of the gate.

††† I did bemoan that the textures on the 4K release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 didn't pop as much as I had expected, which I attributed to the limitations of the RED cameras. But Dead Men Tell No Tales was shot with Arri Alexa cams, and the resulting picture is tighter, better resolved and bursting with detail. The opening sequence is caked in darkness, and the black levels are richer compared to the standard Blu-ray. The transfer can only resolve so much detail in lower-light scenes throughout the movie, which are perhaps a touch too dark (they are darker compared to the 1080p Blu-ray), but such scenes thankfully never look muddy or smeary - the video is stable and maintains excellent object delineation. However, it's in the daytime scenes when the presentation really shines - exceptional clarity, textures aplenty, as well as rich, vibrant colours. It gives you the chance to really appreciate the nuances of the production design, from the elaborate make-up and costumes to the insanely detailed digital effects and the intricate sets. Close-ups, mid shots and even long shots maintain an incredible level of detail, and never left me feeling underwhelmed. This may be an "upscale," but you would easily guess this to be a native 4K presentation if you were none the wiser.

††† The disc's High Dynamic Range is encoded in HDR10 as opposed to Dolby Vision, even though the movie was screened theatrically with DV and is reportedly available to stream in UHD with DV in the United States. As ever, some are destined to be disappointed about the lack of DV on the disc, but I can't imagine it would be considerably better. In addition, the movie was screened in IMAX cinemas at the 1.90:1 aspect ratio, containing more visual information at the top and bottom of the frame. It would have been nice to see the movie presented at 1.90:1 in 4K, especially since it was filmed for the expanded aspect ratio, and it feels like Disney missed a trick. Nevertheless, the addition of HDR and Wide Colour Gamut seriously bolsters the presentation, with stronger colours and superior contrast to bring out every last detail and highlight. The "blood moon" sequence at the 33-minute mark is all the bolder, while the various forest locations look seriously lush. There is plenty of pop to the nicely saturated colours, and the presentation consistently displays plenty of image depth.

††† On 4K Blu-ray, Dead Men Tell No Tales consistently impresses from start to finish, with a razor-sharp, crisp, highly-detailed Ultra HD presentation that won't leave anybody feeling underwhelmed or unsatisfied. I never detected anything in the way of unnatural digital tampering like edge enhancement or noise reduction (in fact, there is very slight noise in some scenes, which only accentuates the textures), nor is there any encoding issues like crush, macroblocking, or ringing. At no point does the video look too smooth either, which is an issue I usually find with digitally-shot motion pictures. The encode is simply flawless. As soon as Disney start churning out catalogue 4K Blu-ray releases, let's hope that The Curse of the Black Pearl is debuted on the format...

††† Subtitles are available in a variety of languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Whereas the standard 1080p Blu-ray comes with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, Disney ups the ante with this 4K Blu-ray by providing a Dolby Atmos track, in keeping with how it was exhibited in the cinema. (As ever, if your system is unable to decode Atmos, the mix defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track.) This automatically makes the 4K disc superior by default, though of course it does depend on what type of surround sound system you have. Let's not mince words here; this is a demo-worthy Atmos track, professionally-mixed and flawlessly encoded, taking full advantage of every channel and creating a seriously immersive soundscape. Even though I only have a 7.1 set-up and therefore cannot comment on the overhead activity, the countless strengths of the track are still on full display. Since this is a lossless mix, it sounds pristine and beautifully clear throughout, with no muffing, drop-outs, sync issues, crackles or pops. The encode is simply magnificent.

††† The movie is extremely loud during the primary set-pieces - see the destructive sequence in which a bank is dragged through the streets like the climax of Fast & Furious 5 - but dialogue miraculously manages to remain easily comprehensible and well-prioritised amid the mayhem. In smaller, dialogue-driven scenes, you can still hear light ambience coming from all the channels for maximum immersion, from the creaking of ship decks to the sounds of the ocean, as well as the score by Geoff Zanelli. Pinpoint channel placement is evident throughout, as well, from the sounds of canons to the explosions, and the various sounds throughout the climax which is set on the ocean floor. There are instances of panning throughout, while the subwoofer is put to great use to heighten the impact of the audio. Canons sound impactful, thunder & lightning will make your walls rumble, and so on. You'd be hard-pressed to find any shortcomings with this excellent track.

††† For those interested, the disc also contains additional Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks in other languages, as well as English Descriptive Audio. I was only interested in the Atmos track for the purposes of this review. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is truly a winner from all angles on 4K Blu-ray.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† The 4K disc contains no supplemental material, but the set contains the standard 1080p Blu-ray which houses all the extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † All 4K discs worldwide are similarly free of extras, and only differ in terms of language options. It's a draw.

Summary

††† Not as bad as I had feared but nowhere near as good as it rightfully should be, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is another hit-and-miss entry into this tired franchise. It's only for devout fans.

††† Disney's 4K Blu-ray, however, is a winner from every conceivable angle. The 2160p video presentation is simply spectacular, raising the bar for the format and easily emerging as reference material, while the Dolby Atmos audio is flawless. The included standard Blu-ray comes with an array of supplemental material, as well. Try before you buy, but if you're a fan, buy with confidence.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDLG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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