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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Special Edition

The canny plot of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) takes the classic damsel-in-distress trope and skews it just enough to make it palatable for a modern audience without looking like a feminist reworking. Despite being hijacked by a shipload of cursed scalawags, Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) — the lovely young daughter of Port Royal's Governor (Jonathan Pryce) — can handle herself nicely, thankyewverymuch. It is, in fact, Elizabeth's rescuer and potential True Love, Will (Orlando Bloom), who ultimately ends up needing the rescuing. Despite his hatred of pirates, the young blacksmith initially throws in his lot with Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp) in order to pursue the pirates who've absconded with the girl. But it turns out that Will's the one they really want — and Elizabeth finds herself first stranded on a desert isle and then, later, fighting side-by-side with Sparrow to save Will. It's a very refreshing spin on the classic Hero/Sidekick/Endangered Dame triangle. And every moment that Depp brings to Pirates is a marvel. Swaying almost drunkenly, as if his years on the water have given him permanent sea-legs, Sparrow is a ruthless pirate, an ethical man with questionable morals, and possibly a little brain-damaged. Based (he says) on Keith Richards, Depp created everything about the character himself, from his gypsy hairdo and kohl-smeared eyes to much of his hilariously strange dialogue. It's a daring high-wire act, a balance of funny/smart/dashing/silly/weird/cunning characteristics, switching between them from moment to moment. Despite a couple of fight sequences that go on just a tad too long, Curse of the Black Pearl is a dazzling and satisfying spectacle, with every dollar of its budget visible up on the screen — there's sea battles, sword fights, treasure caves, skeleton pirates, magic curses, comedy, drama, and romance. Films like this are as rare as pirate gold, and more than worthy of a space in one's permanent collection. Buena Vista's two-disc DVD release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Special Edition offers a pristine, beautifully rich anamorphic transfer (2.35:1). The video is sharp throughout, with details in even the darkest scenes coming through nicely. The audio, available in either DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 (in English or French) is very good, with the lower registers getting a workout from Klaus Badelt's bass-heavy score and the booming cannons. Extras include three commentary tracks, several "making-of" featurettes, video diaries, a blooper reel, deleted scenes, storyboard-to-screen progressions, an image gallery, an excerpt from a 1968 episode of "Disney's Wonderful World of Color," and DVD-ROM content. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case with paperboard slipcover.

(The "Lost Disc" special edition, which marks a not-quite-second DVD release, includes a separate disc packaged with the original two-disc edition, which offers eight new featurettes comprising about an hour of additional behind-the-scenes content.)
—Dawn Taylor

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