Just in time for the holiday season, the studios are trotting out their summer blockbusters on DVD. Disney proves the rule with it’s release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End out on DVD today.

Much like it’s sometimes murky and crowded predecessor, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End plays a little bit better on the small screen. The amazingly rich details of the sets and effects work are kept somewhat more within a controllable scope on the small screen. It really allows you to drink everything in an appreciate the more subtle aspects of what is otherwise a bombastic action thriller.

Unfortunately, some things don’t improve with a reduced scope. While the performances of Johnny Depp, Geoffery Rush and Bill Nighy are largely bulletproof. Rush particularly attacks his roll of Barbosa with zeal. Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom are as wooden as ever. Dialog is stilted, themes are muddled and there are so many interwoven plot points, it’s difficult to keep track (or care.) The issues I had with how the film was put together back in May still hold true here. For more detail on those opinions, you can read my original review here.

So why review At World’s End on DVD? Presumably for the extras! After all, this is a special 2-disc “limited edition” copy of the film that is apparently going back in the vault on September 30, 2008. If it’s so limited, one would think that the extras are spectacular, right?

Well, not quite.

“Bloopers of the Caribbean” is your standard collection of actors flubbing lines, tripping over the set and asking to “go again” – but not saying anything particularly clever or entertaining. There are only two deleted scenes that were cut for good reason and are equally as boring.

The rest of the bonus features are largely behind-the-scenes documentaries. Some are total fluff, meant to stroke the egos of their subjects – one about Chow Yun Fat and the other about Keith Richards. Much has been made about Johnny Depp’s inspiration for Jack Sparrow coming from the perennial Rolling Stone’s guitarist. But it’s evident in their interview while sitting side-by-side, Depp is trying to extend as much courtesy and politeness to Richards as possible. Meanwhile, his eyes are screaming “THIS GUY IS NUTS!”

I suppose, in hindsight, that’s kind of entertaining.

A few documentaries were interesting, but not entirely up my alley. “The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hanz Zimmer” and a documentary about Penny Rose, the film’s costume designer were expertly done and add another layer of enjoyment to the film, but didn’t fire up my imagination.

The documentaries under the “Masters of Design” series focus on the propmasters behind Sau Feng’s map, Teague’s Code Book and the dressing of the Singapore set shot for the opening of the film are fascinating explorations into the level of detail provided for the film. The short on Crash McCreery and his design work on Davy Jone’s and his cursed crew was breathtaking. As spoken by one of the interviewees during one of the documentaries “these guys are winning Academy Awards for a reason.”

The big documentary is “Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom” and it has to be seen to be believed. Two full-scale replicates of The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman were built inside a warehouse for the film’s climatic sea battle. To see the amount of detail, practical effects and integration with computer effects is mind-boggling and a real treat for people who are looking for ways to deconstruct scenes. Everything from the filming to the editing is on display here and it really gives you a sense of the enormous amount of strategic planning that goes into orchestrating these things.

In fact, I would even go so far to say that it bumped up my respect for the film a few notches. Sure the script had holes in it and the characterization was a little weak. But that’s not exactly why you watch these movies, is it? When you see the great level of care that comes into the process of creating something that has never been seen on-screen before, it forces you to reassess what it is you’re trying to take from the experience. In this way, the bonus features succeed.

Is the film worthy of your collection? Completionists like me will demand it, but frankly, it’s no go without it’s first half – Dead Man’s Chest. Disney had great success with the Pirates franchise. Consider how long it had been since the last pirate film of any sort or the likelyhood that another director will attempt to come along and try to top what’s been done here, it might be a while before we see another entry in the genre ever again! So, yeah – pick it up. It’s a good time.

↓ Transcript
Theater Hopper reviews Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End on DVD.