Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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Released 15-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
THX Optimizer
THX Trailer
Audio Commentary-Gore Verbinski (Director) And Johnny Depp (Actor)
Audio Commentary-Screenwriters
Audio Commentary-Selected Scenes:Jerry Bruckheimer / Knightley And Davenport
DVD-ROM Extras
Featurette-Making Of-An Epic At Sea
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Fly On The Set - 5 Scenes
Featurette-Diaries (3)
Featurette-Below Deck - An Interactive History Of Pirates
Deleted Scenes
Script To Screen Comparison-Moonlight Serenade Scene Progession
Gallery-Image Gallery
Featurette-Pirates In The Parks -Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 137:18 (Case: 139)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:50)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gore Verbinski

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Johnny Depp
Geoffrey Rush
Orlando Bloom
Keira Knightley
Jack Davenport
Jonathan Pryce
Lee Arenberg
Mackenzie Crook
Damian O'Hare
Giles New
Angus Barnett
David Bailie
Michael Berry Jr.
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Klaus Badelt
Ramin Djawadi
James Michael Dooley

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English dts 6.1 ES Matrix (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Sequel anyone?

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Many a successful theme park ride has been based around a blockbuster Hollywood movie, but never before had someone tried to make the transition in reverse (although a lot of theme park rides have more substance and better scripts than some summer blockbusters). So when Disney decided to make a huge-budget film, based on their Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, it was generally written off as a potential gigantic flop (that's if the general vibe on the Internet is an accurate indication). Throw in Jerry Bruckheimer as the producer, and you've got a potential gigantic flop with lots of explosions and loud noises. Then, add a director with a few decent films under his belt, an ensemble cast containing some excellent actors, a good fun script which tells a rollicking good tale, combine a liberal dose of tongue and cheek, and you've got yourself an absolute smash hit.

    For the two or three of you who didn't go and see this movie at the cinema, here's a brief plot synopsis; The film opens with a very young Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley - after these first few minutes anyway) travelling to the Caribbean from England, under the protection of her father, Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce), and the dashing Lieutenant Norrington (Jack Davenport). Their ship comes upon a destroyed merchant vessel with only one survivor - a young lad named Will Turner (soon to be Orlando Bloom), who has a gold pirate medallion around his neck. Will is placed under the protection of Elizabeth, who removes this medallion before anyone else can see it, in order to protect him. She then briefly spots a ghostly-looking black pirate ship, before we jump forward 10 years and find her living in the Governor's house in Port Royal.

    Will, now a talented swordsmith apprentice, is also living on the same island, and Norrington, now a Commodore, has all but wiped out the threat of piracy in the Caribbean. The one victory that is still eluding him though, is the Black Pearl - the ghostly black ship that Elizabeth first spotted all those years ago, which is said to be crewed by the damned, and is still terrorizing the area. Enter Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a somewhat quirky, off-centre pirate who appears to waver between madness and genius, and who arrives in Port Royal with very little to his name. After a run-in with Norrington (and Will) that sees him in a prison cell awaiting a hanging, the Black Pearl attacks Port Royal and takes Elizabeth prisoner. Will, desperate to save her, breaks Jack out of prison and they set off after the pirate ship (which we now discover is captained by the evil Barbossa - Geoffrey Rush), with Norrington hot on their heels.

    What follows is a lot of action set-pieces, swashbuckling, sword-fighting, special effects, some twists and turns, and a few plot holes - all interspersed with occasional exposition about the curse that is on the crew of the Black Pearl. To tell you more would be to ruin the joy of the ride, because reflecting its origins, this movie really is a ride - and a fun one at that! I remember seeing it for the first time at the cinema, and by the time Jack Sparrow had made his entrance, the tone of the film had been very much set, and I knew I could just sit back and enjoy. I've since read many complaints about it being a bit too long, but personally I disagree. If I'm still enjoying myself, then you can keep going till the cows come home.

    You could pick out so many reasons for the success of this film, because there are so many positive aspects to it; Depp's masterful interpretation of Sparrow (well publicised as being based largely on Keith Richards), Geoffrey Rush's brilliant over-the-top Barbossa, a host of talented supporting cast providing characters that you can't help loving, a story that rarely lets up in its momentum, a healthy dose of humour, beautiful visuals, and rousing music to accompany the whole thing. All in all though, it's the perfect combination of all its ingredients that produces the final mouth-watering dish.

    Even before I began reviewing this DVD (which involved repeated viewings), I'd watched the film multiple times already, and like a good theme park ride, I still haven't gotten tired of the experience. Sure, the plot holes with some of the convoluted curse "logic" become more and more evident on repeat screenings, but for the amount of fun you get from the rest of the experience, you can easily ignore these little faults. With massive box-office receipts it was inevitable that sequels would very quickly get green-lit, and they're currently preparing to make 2 follow-ups together (a la The Matrix). I can only hope that they don't ruin this first film by flogging the proverbial, and that they just provide us with a continuation of the thrill.

    A couple of side notes to finish off; firstly, might I suggest that if you haven't seen the film yet, that you don't read the back of the DVD case before playing the disc. It gives away one or two plot points that are meant to be a bit of a surprise on your first viewing. Secondly, although this is a Walt Disney production, there are many scenes that are not suitable for small children (I believe this was the first PG-13 release under the Disney banner, but I'm willing to accept correction on that point), so make sure you've watched the whole thing before you decide on whether to leave your kids alone with it.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    For those of you who've seen the Region 1 version of this DVD, or have read about the problems with the video transfer, you'll be happy to know that our version is a marked improvement. This is a pleasure to watch.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is very close to the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

    This transfer exhibits excellent sharpness. For example, the fantastic pirate makeup is revealed in all its fine detail. The film's settings are very dark and shadowy for large portions of the runtime, so it's necessary for blacks to be solid, and shadow detail to be spot-on. Fortunately this is exactly the case. Also of note is the fact that there are no problems with grain - something that the Region 1 transfer does exhibit.

    Colours range from bright and vibrant (in the sunny outdoor scenes), to deep and rich (in many of the dark interior scenes - with lots of golden lighting). They are rich and accurate, and in my opinion are generally more vibrant than the Region 1 transfer.

    Film to video artefacts are for the most part absent. The studio has successfully put a 136 minute movie, 2 soundtracks, and 3 commentaries onto one disc, without there being any visible MPEG compression artefacts - a feat they should be applauded for. There are plenty of outdoor scenes with stark lines set against bright backgrounds (such as ship's masts), and there is edge enhancement visible sometimes (such as 2:50 and 9:36), but it's not quite as severe as on the Region 1 transfer. There are no film artefacts.

    There are 2 subtitle streams; English, and English for the Hearing Impaired. I sampled them both and found that besides the occasional dropped word of dialogue, they are very accurate.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change taking place at 72:50, right after a line from Jack and before a scene transfer. It's pretty well-placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Like most films of its ilk, you'll be getting a good workout on all your speakers during this movie.

    There are 5 audio tracks on this disc; English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s), English dts 6.1 ES Matrix (768Kb/s), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s). I listened to the dts track and the commentaries in their entirety, and sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 track for the sake of comparison. Note that the EX and ES flags are both set properly, despite the fact the packaging for the DVD set does not advertise this at all.

    Dialogue is set to a good level, and is audible and clear even when there's a lot of action going on. Occasionally it's hard to make out some of Jack Sparrow's lines, but this is a problem associated with the way the character talks, rather than the audio transfer. Audio sync is spot-on.

    According to IMDB, music is provided by a host of contributors; Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi, James Michael Dooley, Nick Glennie-Smith, Steve Jablonsky, James McKee Smith, Blake Neely, James McKee Smith, Geoff Zanelli, and Trevor Morris (the last 9 being responsible for additional music). The influence of Zimmer is very evident in the film score, and there were times when I could have sworn I was watching Gladiator! The music, to my mind, is one of the key elements to making the action set-pieces in this film work so well. Its rousing nature and driving beats suit the movie perfectly, and add immensely to the atmosphere.

    Surrounds are certainly put to good use, but they aren't used quite as often as you'd maybe expect from such an action-packed movie. I also didn't notice a whole lot of use of the rear centre channel. These aren't necessarily bad things though, and when the surrounds are put to use, it is very successful in immersing the listener.

    The subwoofer is put to very good use, with storms, cannons, music, and explosions all playing a role in keeping this piece of your sound system awake (not to mention the neighbours).

    In comparing the Dolby Digital 5.1 track to the dts track, I selected a mix of loud action scenes, some surround-heavy scenes, and a few quieter dialogue-driven scenes. In general I really couldn't pick a whole lot of difference between the two. To my ear there was slightly better separation of sounds on the dts track, which made the dialogue slightly clearer, and also the LFE channel seemed slightly more solid and less boomy. They're both very good tracks though, and either will do very nicely.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    Menus are 16x9 enhanced, are animated, and have music from the film score looping in the background. They are of a suitably piratey theme.

Audio Commentary-Gore Verbinski (Director) And Johnny Depp (Actor)

    Note that all these commentaries are presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (96Kb/s), for the sake of squeezing everything onto the one disc. Personally I don't have any problem with this, since I don't see a lot of need for commentary tracks to be in 2.0 Stereo. Admittedly if there are multiple participants it can help to have different voices coming from different speakers, but if it means not being able to fit a dts track on the disc, then I'd prefer mono.

    I must admit I was expecting a little more from this commentary, but that's not to say it's bad. Initially I had trouble telling who was who when they bantered between each other (which was sometimes a little confusing), but it doesn't take too long to be able to discern between the two men. There's lots of chatty reminiscing about the people involved with making the movie, the shooting process itself, when they met each other, and so on. There's also a bit of back-slapping going on, and Johnny Depp makes sure we all know which of his lines were improvised. All in all, it's worth a listen, but it's not as good as the next commentary.

Audio Commentary-Screenwriters

    This is the best of the commentaries, and if you only feel inclined to listen to one of the selection on this disc, then go for the screenwriters' comments. These guys talk mostly about the story, how it was developed, who thought of what, and they even fill in some of the gaps for things you don't see onscreen. As well as this, they comment occasionally on the actors, and their contributions to the story or dialogue. Occasionally they fall into the trap of stating the obvious about what's happening onscreen, but for the most part they provide useful information, and rarely pause for breath.

Audio Commentary-Selected Scenes: Jerry Bruckheimer / Knightley And Davenport

    This is more a Knightly and Davenport commentary, since they get the bulk of the film's runtime, so I'll comment on their contributions first. In a nutshell - unless you're a die-hard Knightly fanboy, I wouldn't bother too much with this track. Basically she flirts with Davenport, butts in on his comments, points out what's happening onscreen, and makes useless remarks about herself and her acting, how cute Depp is, and other similarly female teen insights. Davenport treats Knightly in a gentlemanly manner for most of the time, and it seems he has quite a good sense of humour, so it's a shame he doesn't get a chance to talk more. Admittedly Keira was only 17 when she shot this film, but having been impressed with her quite mature acting performances I was a little disappointed to hear her childish behaviour during this commentary. To be honest, I guess if you're really bored on a Sunday afternoon, this could be worth putting on for a bit of a laugh - but nothing more.

    Bruckheimer's contributions are actually taken from an interview, rather than being specific to what's on screen. He talks mostly about the different people in the movie, and why they were picked for their job, and why it worked. He also gives a few insights into the movie-making process, and talks about some of the roles of a producer. At only 12:52, it's not too hard to sit the whole thing through.

    With this commentary you have the option of just listening to Bruckheimer's bits, just Knightly and Davenport, or both together.

Featurette - An Epic At Sea (38:15)

    A making-of featurette broken up into 9 sections, with the option of selecting which section you want to watch, or just going for the "play all". The 9 sections are as follows; Intro, Actors, Locations, Production Designs, The Ships, Costumes and Make-up, Stunts and Swords, Visual Effects, and The Premiere. As you can see from the headings, most areas of the making-of process are covered, and it's actually a fairly interesting watch. There's plenty of interview segments with the standard promo back-slapping going on, but there's also enough real information and footage to maintain the interest.

    We get to see the difficulty in finding a location that's uninhabited, the different ships (both real and mock-up) that were used in shooting, application of the Academy Award nominated make-up, techniques for the excellent visual effects of skeletal pirates, and all the stars walking down the red carpet at Disneyland for the premiere screening (complete with weird fashion sense). It's worth at least one viewing.

    This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Fly On The Set (20:51)

    This is a great little featurette that simply shows a behind-the-scenes look at the rehearsing and shooting of a number of scenes. There is no narrator or interviews - just the raw footage of extras, actors, stuntmen and explosives-experts practicing and doing their thing. The 5 scenes we get to see being shot are; Town Attack, Tortuga, Blacksmith Shop, The Cave, and Jack's Hanging. Once again there is the option of selecting specific sections, or playing all at once.

    This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Diaries

    There are 3 separate diaries - one is a photo diary, and the other two are video diaries. They are all presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and are as follows:

Featurette - Below Deck: An Interactive History Of Pirates (35:45)

    This is a fascinating selection of general facts covering the aspects of real life as a pirate. Hosted by maritime historian David Cordingly, the topics covered are; Code of Conduct, Rank and Privilege, How Piracy Began, Black Bart Roberts, Blackbeard, John Paul Jones, Captain Kidd, Robinson Crusoe, Sir Frances Drake, Women Pirates, Chinese Pirates, Edward Lowe, What They Stole, Buried Treasure, X Marks the Spot, Punishments, Symbols, Nature's Wrath, Pirate ships, Weapons, Battles, Daily Life, Superstitions, and Types of Pirates. You can either view these separately by navigating your way around a CGI pirate ship, or by selecting from a text index, or you can watch the majority of them all strung together by selecting the option entitled A Prisoner's Last Tale. I'd highly recommend choosing the text index option, as the first method is cumbersome, and the final choice is incomplete. I've no idea why the last option doesn't include all the sections, but for some reason it misses out almost half of them, running for 22:21.

Deleted Scenes

    19 deleted/extended scenes, which are as follows:

    These scenes are all presented in varying aspect ratios, since the matting clearly hadn't been finalised on some of them. They are not 16x9 enhanced though.

Outtakes (3:12)

    A standard blooper reel, but actually more entertaining than a lot I've seen recently. Some of the improvisations make this extra well worth watching.

Script To Screen Comparison-Moonlight Serenade Scene Progression (6:36)

    A look at the first reveal of the pirates in their cursed form, and how it was all done. Despite the fact that we've all seen dozens of these sorts of computer graphic breakdowns, I still found this to be interesting. Maybe its short runtime helped to keep it snappy.

Featurette - Pirates In The Parks: Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color

    An unintentionally humorous excerpt from a 1968 Walt Disney promotion for the then new Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It is quite amazing to see how skilfully the animatronic characters were created, almost 40 years ago, with archaic computer technology even playing a part. It's also good to see the actual ride, and understand a lot of the little private jokes that can be found in the movie.

    This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Image Gallery

    A large stockpile of 290 images, covering Inspiration, Concept Art, Storyboards, Costumes, Production, and Publicity.

DVD-ROM Extras

    A selection of DVD-ROM bits and pieces. Note that these are spread across the two discs, and are as follows:

    As you might be able to tell from the description, there are actually some worthwhile little DVD-ROM extras here, something you don't see that often these days. Note that both discs also have a 32 second preview of all the DVD-ROM features, called Enhanced Features Preview (surprise, surprise!).


    A rather cool little fold-out booklet that takes you in detail through the contents of both discs, including a centrefold tree chart, that shows the layout of all the different extras.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    Unless you need the French language track and/or subtitles, I'd highly recommend you go for the local version of this 2-disc set. The extras are identical, right down to the DVD-ROM features (which we often "miss out" on), and the image quality of our transfer is superior. I also found the dialogue clearer when compared to the Region 1 version, and didn't think the LFE channel was quite so overbearing. After seeing Disney so recently shortchange us with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, it's nice to see them provide us with a product that's more than the equal of Region 1 this time round.


    This isn't high art, but if you enjoy an old fashioned rollicking good time, which plants a grin on your face for most of the runtime, then put this disc in your player, crank up your sound system, sit back, and enjoy. Old style swashbuckling, with up-to-date production standards, romance, humour, and the icing on the cake - Johnny Depp.

    The video transfer is of an excellent quality, and outshines the Region 1 release.

    The audio transfer is also excellent and will give your system a good workout. The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and dts 6.1 Matrix ES tracks are both very impressive.

    A plethora of extras, with some of mixed quality, but there's not a lot more you could possibly want to know about the production of this film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© David L (Only my Mum would have any interest in my bio)
Monday, March 22, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDOmni 3600, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersAccusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Jeeze, that took it's time! -
Re: Jeeze, that took it's time! -
Re: Re: Jeeze, that took it's time! - Brent R (bio-zet is especially formulated for front loading machines)
Ummm, what? - REPLY POSTED
Re: Ummm what? - wolfgirv
Centre-rear action... -
The Keira Knightley Commentary - Trevor
Not quite the first ride-to-movie attempt - REPLY POSTED
Region 1 problems - REPLY POSTED
Re: Ummm, what? -
picture quality -
Sound glitch on PowerDVD - Baybearoz
Region 1 problem followup -
Below Deck Confusion - REPLY POSTED
Aspect Ratio Details - REPLY POSTED
Disc lockup/pause problems -
Not Enough Color - Damien (biotech is godzilla)
2 Disc Version No Longer Avaliable -
Blu-ray release -
Blu Ray Release -
RE: Blu Ray release -