potc2When the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was released in theaters it was a quick success and one of the favorite summer films of 2003. The film appealed to those of all ages as it was simply a great and entertaining action film that hit on all the points that make a good film (director, writers, characters, actors and, of course, story) and it came as no surprise to me that the sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, opened to huge numbers. What did surprise me is just how much it made in theaters (I think that surprised just about everyone), but if there are plenty of fans like my sister who saw it six times within the first two weeks of its theatrical run, it’s no surprise who the film made so much.

Whether you enjoyed the cliffhanging ending of Dead Man’s Chest or not, you cannot deny that it was one hell of an awesome ride along the way. Only the third installment will tell whether it was worth the wait or anticipation or not, but I can tell that even if it manages to disappoint by not providing a satisfactory resolution, it will be another fun film to jump into.

There are so many callbacks to the first movie in the sequel that makes it feel much more tightly knitted together than just a straight up sequel would normally be. Of course you can also perceive these nods and mentions to rum as easy joke material or laziness on the writers part, but either way you view it it’s still entertaining for the hardcore fans to see that nothing from the first was ignored merely to cash in and make a quick (and extremely profitable) buck.

The special effects in the movie are also a sight to behold, even if the final scene with Jack and the Kraken still looks kind of hokey (then again, since I don’t know what a real, giant squid would look like while eating Johnny Depp, I guess I can’t pass too much judgment). There was a fair bit of CGI work and all of the Flying Dutchman’s crew was obviously created in the digital world, but that didn’t make them any less menacing or disturbing to look at. There are times when you forget that Davy Jones was even CGI—it’s truly amazing how far we’ve come in recreating elements of the real world digitally.

Between the superb acting by the returning and new cast of the film, the surprise ending with Barbosa (and no, unlike every other person I talked to afterwards, I didn’t see it coming despite the obvious hints earlier in the movie) and impressive visual effects that are found throughout the entire film, it’s easy to see why this film series is so beloved by millions.

Like most Disney films, Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest is presented in a double-disc standard amaray case with clips along the edge. Over this is the usual cardboard slip, though this one is a “limited edition 3-D packaging” variant, which is neat to look at, but not enough to keep over the case permanently—it’s just one more obstacle between me and the DVDs.

Disc art is attractive and the foldout insert is always nice to have. The insert gives a quick rundown of the film, special features and other things to expect on this two-disc set. Always enjoyable to look at and never disappointing to see, inserts give the DVD a much more complete feel and I wish other studios would at least throw in single inserts from time to time so opening the case doesn’t involve only looking at the disc art.

Thankfully, the menus aren’t so convoluted that you can’t easily navigate them like so many other Disney films. There are menu transitions that make the menu navigation smooth and clean to look at and don’t overextend their welcome with extra animated nonsense.

On the first disc we have the feature film, commentary, bloopers and trailers before the film. The film is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic ratio and looks absolutely gorgeous. There are no blemishes on the film transfer that I saw and everything looked extremely well balanced. On top of the fantastic image quality is a floor moving Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track. From the opening sequence we get a lot of vibrating bass straight away and we’re given subsequent blasts of it throughout the entire film. This is definitely a movie that needs to be played loud, as there is a lot of great ambient noise and rain play all around the speakers in the room.

The commentary is very informative and interesting to listen to, though I wish we could have heard from more people on it. Regardless, I love listening to audio commentaries, if only because it extends your viewing experience of the film and you get to pick up on small things that you otherwise might not have seen as the commentators point things out. It’s a very enjoyable track, which I recommend listening to.

Unfortunately one of my favorite things about films, bloopers, is included in very brief form on this set. Perhaps I was spoiled by recent My Name is Earl and The Office blooper reels which run nearly the length of a full episode, but the under four-minute blooper reel on Pirates just felt too short to me. The flubs probably got redundant most of the time, but still I would have liked to see a bit more—the shoot on the film lasted 200 days and I’m sure there’s more than enough bloopers filmed to fill a few more minutes.

Switching over to disc two we have a plethora of great content to wade through. First up is the “Charting The Return”, which covers the decision to make another Pirates film, the delays and all the insanity that comes along with making a film of this size. “According to Plan” is a video journal of the film being made and goes much deeper into the production of the film. We see all of the locations covered in the 200 day shoot and all the disasters (Hurricane Wilma) that halted production and everyone in their element. This one runs about two hours, so be prepared for a long sit if you opt to watch this one first.

“Mastering the Blade”, “Fly On The Set”, “Meet Davy Jones” and “Creating the Kraken” focus on specific behind the scenes footage for each featurette and feature even more cast and crew interviews. “Captain Jack: From Head To Toe” covers every thing on Captain Jack except his skivvies (personally I’m thankful for that) and runs much longer than I thought it would have.

“A Producer’s Photo Diary” is a collection of beautiful photos and interviews with Bruckheimer recanting the scenery of the locations they shot at and the actors that populated them for a brief time. This one is worth watching for the scenery alone as it offers up some breathtaking shots of the sunset that make even the city dweller dream of a sandy beach.

“Dead Men Tell New Tales” covers the revamping of the Disney theme park attraction the Pirates films were based off of. Between the creation of Barbossa and Jack animatronics and Johnny Depp’s first ride through the newly re-imagined attraction, we cover everything in this featurette, including interviews with the voice and creator of the original Pirates ride.

“Pirates on Main Street” wraps up the film and disc nicely with the premiere at Disney, packed with a crowded red carpet full of fans and press. Interviews the cast and crew are present in this feature as well and it ends with you wanting more—more Pirates, that is.

This second disc is packed with just enough special features so that it’s not overkill. Between the commentary and behind the scenes special features, fans can get a good idea of just how epic of a film this was to make and how many of the shots in the film are actually not CGI. It’s truly impressive to see the sheer number of real-life stunts the actors did (spinning wheel fight? Not CGI!).

Overall this will be a hard set to pass up for fans of the series, even despite the lack of deleted scenes. I was originally hesitant to buy the series on DVD as I can see a big box set of the trilogy coming after At World’s End hits DVD, but these current releases really are packed to the brim with content and I couldn’t see myself actually wanting to watch more. Highly recommended.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest hits DVD on December 5th.

Originally posted on the DVD Discussion forum on December 3rd.