UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | New and Upcoming DVD Schedule | Recent Live Action Disney Films Page | Search This Site

Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD: The Curse of the Black Pearl - 2-Disc CE3-Disc Gift Set / Dead Man's Chest / At World's End

Pirates of the Caribbean DVD Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl movie poster - click to buy from MovieGoods.com Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Theatrical Release: July 9, 2003 / Running Time: 143 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Geoffrey Rush (Barbossa), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Jack Davenport (Norrington), Jonathan Pryce (Governor Weatherby Swann), Lee Arenberg (Pintel)

Buy Curse of the Black Pearl from Amazon.com: 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD3-Disc Gift Set DVD2-Disc Blu-ray

In the fall of 2004, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was re-released to DVD as a 3-Disc Gift Set, combining this 2-Disc Collector's Edition with "The Lost Disc", a third disc featuring over an hour of new bonus features. Click here to read the Pirates 3-Disc Gift Set Review.

Review by Jack Sparrow, er . . . Jack Seiley

Back in 2002, Walt Disney Pictures virtually created a new genre:
movies based on amusement park rides. The Country Bears, a film inspired by an audio-animatronics show at Disneyland, was released that summer, but proved to be unsuccessful both critically and financially. This seemed to bear bad tidings for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. If a G-rated family film based on an attraction flopped, why wouldn’t a pirate movie of the same nature, with a stronger PG-13 rating, perform similarly? As all now know, Pirates ended up surprising everybody and became a success in every sense of the word.

My experience concerning the film was the opposite of most moviegoers. I was heavily anticipating it months before hand, with the trailer getting me excited two-fold for what I thought would be a fantastic experience. After I saw it opening day, I was heavily disappointed. It struck me as just a standard, cliché-riddled action movie. I thought it had a pathetically predictable love story, an overlong running time, and repetitive action sequences that lacked the energy they should have had.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) smiles in thought, as Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) looks on.

Still, I found Johnny Depp’s hilarious performance and Klaus Badelt’s old-fashioned score to be redeeming factors, and appreciated the moody, atmospheric direction by Gore Verbinski. Regardless, I just couldn’t understand Pirates’ eventual widespread popularity.

Upon seeing it again on DVD, my enjoyment of the film improved tremendously, partially due to my lowered expectations and taking it less seriously than I did initially. But I still believe that without Depp, the movie would have been nothing more a conventional popcorn flick. He added a spark of energy and fun that was otherwise lacking. In my opinion, Pirates isn’t a strongly structured movie, but still makes for good entertainment.

As with so many huge blockbusters these days, Pirates of the Caribbean gets the double-disc treatment under a ‘Collector’s Edition’ banner. However, unlike some other sets of its kind, it contains a surplus of enticing and high-quality bonus materials that enhance appreciation of the movie. A cardboard slipcover, with an embossed title logo, covers a black, standard amaray case, with a flap inside to hold the two discs. Currently, not every copy in stores will come with the slipcover, as Disney tends to exclusively manufacture them close to the release date. An attractive-looking (but not as attractive as Kiera Knightly) 10-page insert lays out and describes all the extras, has a chapter listing, and displays several full-color pictures from the DVD extras.

Buy Pirates of the Caribbean from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
DTS 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned
Release Date: December 2, 2003
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Dual Amaray Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover


The menus keep very much in the style of the movie, with the options placed in front of screens filled with pirate treasure.

I’d like to say that I applaud how Pirates of the Caribbean is only available on DVD in its original aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Since it has a very wide frame, I cringe at the thought of cropping it with a pan-and-scan version.

While some have complained about the quality of the transfer, calling it ‘murky’ or ‘grainy,’
I honestly don’t find much wrong with it. It’s not as sharp as other DVD titles I’ve seen, but I think part of that has to do with the original film print. I saw it in theaters and on DVD, and both times it was a dark and soft looking movie, with lots of fogginess. On my display, I think the transfer reproduces the colors and detail of the film quite well. I don’t have any major qualms.

Two THX-certified Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, one being English, the other French, and an English DTS 5.1 track are included. I thought the Dolby track was marvelous. Dialogue is completely clear; the sound effects are dynamic and produce great response in the subwoofer. A prime example of this is when two ships pull alongside each other and begin to fire. The sound puts you right in the middle of the action, with audio coming from all speakers. Excellent.

No less than 3 audio commentaries are provided. The first is a full-length track with director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, in which both are extremely mellow as they tell us about the upsides and downsides of the production. It’s interesting, but I found it especially hard to listen to.

Next, producer Jerry Bruckheimer joins actors Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport for a select-scene commentary that only lasts through portions of the movie. Bruckheimer’s audio is taken from an interview, and he only glosses over the project without going into detail. Knightley and Davenport are under the spotlight of this track, who are the most energetic of the bunch. While they aren’t as informative as other participants, they are enjoyable to listen to, both having plenty of enthusiasm and playfully interact with each other for fun results.

Lastly, screenwriters Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, and Jay Wolpert get a full-length track, of course focusing on matters concerning the script, with some information concerning pirate lore thrown in.

Sneak Peaks play before the menu comes up, promoting the theatrical release of Hidalgo, and the DVD releases of Freaky Friday, The Lion King 1 ½, and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. These can be accessed via the menu along with advertisements for Disney Cruise Line, the “Mission Space” ride at Walt Disney World, and the TV series "Alias." In addition, a THX Optimizer lets the viewer calibrate the audio and video of his home theater system specifically for this title.

The large amounts of supplements spill over to DVD-ROM features. On Disc 1, there is the option to view the film on the computer via “Script Scanner” or “Storyboard Viewer.” Both allow the movie to be seen on one side of the screen, while a corresponding script section or storyboard appears on the other side.

Disc 1 Main Menu


Like the first disc, the menus carry the mood of Pirates, using fogginess for transitions between different screens, and posts the options on what appears to be worn papers like you would find on a pirate ship. Disc 2 is divided into the following areas . . .

An Epic at Sea

This section is devoted to a solid documentary that covers the many aspects of bringing the movie to the screen. The feature is divided into several segments: “Intro” (0:34), “The Actors” (2:48), “Locations” (4:29), “Production Design” (4:35), “The Ships” (4:03), “Costumes and Makeup” (4:46), “Stunts and Swords” (6:14), “Visual Effects” (6:04), and “The Premiere” (2:04). While it is segmented, it seems to be designed to view altogether, and that is readily possible with a “Play All” button.

Participants from the commentaries return: Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Jack Davenport. Newcomers include actors Orlando Bloom, Treva Etienne, Geoffrey Rush, and Jonathan Pryce, executive producer Bruce Hendricks, a huge special effects team from Industrial Light and Magic, set decorator Larry Dias, art director Derek R. Hill, sword master Bob Anderson (who also worked on the original Star Wars Trilogy and The Lord of the Rings), and costume designer Penny Rose, among many other crew members.

The documentary never becomes fluffy, though everyone seems to have a genuine enthusiasm for the project. It’s a rather straightforward look at different facets of the production, and offers some very interesting details directly from those involved. I wish that the superb score would have been touched on, though.

Moonlight Serenade Moonlight Serenade DVD-ROM Gallery

Fly on the Set

The title says it all. Here is a behind-the-scenes view of the shooting of 5 scenes from the movie, broken into: “Town Attack” (4:46), “Tortuga” (3:09), “Blacksmith Shop” (3:58), “The Cave” (3:41), and “Jack’s Hanging” (4:07). Preparations for scenes, things that go wrong, and second takes are all seen in a raw look at the filming.


Centralizing on key players in the production of Pirates are three relatively personal featurettes.

In “Producer’s Photo Diary” (4:18), Jerry Bruckheimer explains his fancy for taking pictures of goings-on at the sets of his movies, and continues to present several snapshots of his experiences.

Under “Diary of a Pirate” (9:40), Lee Arenberg, who plays a supporting role in the movie, displays footage from a camcorder he carried around on location. Many other members of the cast and crew make appearances to smile for the camera. Don’t expect it to be as ‘real’ as the “Fly on the Set” shorts, but rather an entertaining string of cameos.

“Diary of a Ship” (11:03) is a travelogue of the Lady Washington, the ship that was used for portraying the Interceptor in the film. We accompany the journey of the craft as it leaves a port in California to reach the Caribbean. This was definitely my favorite of the diaries.

Below Deck

By far one of the coolest DVD extras I’ve ever come across.
A long list of short, historical pieces, which last about a minute-or-two each, is hosted by David Cordingly, a maritime historian who talks about facts, myths, specific events and people in pirate history. Woodcarvings and paintings of the period are showcased, plus clips from pirate movies, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and of course Pirates of the Caribbean. These shorts can be accessed in 3 separate ways.

Firstly, an exploration of a virtual pirate ship (selecting the “Set Sail” option) lets the viewer see all of the vignettes by entering various compartments. The Captain’s Quarters hold: “Code of Conduct,” “Rank and Privilege,” “How Piracy Began,” “What They Stole,” “Buried Treasure,” and “X Marks the Spot”. On a wall in the quarters, there are paintings of many famous pirates. When each is selected, a brief history of that individual or group’s life is given. These featurettes are for: “Black Bart Roberts,” “Blackbeard,” “John Paul Jones,” “Captain Kidd,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Sir Francis Drake,” “Women Pirates,” “Chinese Pirates,” and “Edward Lowe.” On Deck of the ship is: “Punishments,” “Symbols,” “Nature’s Wrath,” and “Pirate Ships.” The Gunnery contains “Weapons” and “Battles.” The Galley has: “Daily Life,” “Superstitions,” and “Types of Pirates.”

Secondly, a fraction of the shorts (other reviews have claimed that it’s all of the shorts, but it is indeed only a fraction) can be strung together in a single featurette called “A Prisoner’s Last Tale” (22:08). The segments are linked by interstitials of a pirate - the supposed owner of the ship that can be explored via the “Set Sail” option - writing a letter. When he begins to write about subjects connecting with the historical pieces, the corresponding short begins to play. What is included are: “Rank and Privilege,” “Battles,” “Blackbeard,” “What they Stole,” “Symbols,” “Sir Francis Drake,” “Pirate Ships,” “Captain Kidd,” “Black Bart Roberts,” “Buried Treasure,” and “Punishments.”

Thirdly, every single one of the shorts is listed at the “Scene Index.” Besides the educational and thoroughly entertaining content, I love this feature for its clear-cut organization.

Blooper Reel (3:10) is the most obscure goof-up piece I’ve ever seen. Its rapid cuts show people acting silly on set or flubbing up their lines, and it seems no blooper lasts for more than a few seconds. It goes too quick to really get any laughs.

Deleted Scenes

The name of this domain is misleading, as it seems like there are entire cut scenes to be found here. In fact, all 19 snippets are short extensions of already existing pieces from the film.

The list is made up of: “Meet Will Turner” (0:43), “Carriage Ride” (0:35), “A Change in the Wind” (0:59), “Only One Shot” (0:36), “Peep Show” (1:53), “All is Well” (0:24), “Make it Last” (0:33), “A Bit of a Stick” (0:33), “It’s Begun” (1:09), “The French” (0:44), “Not All That Big” (1:43), “No Truth At All” (2:08), “Accepting the Proposal" (2:07), “Peas in a Pod” (1:04), “Take a Walk” (0:50), “Let Them Eat Cake” (0:30), “The Immortal Captain Jack” (1:03), “Good Luck” (0:39), and “Happy Endings” (0:53). This adds up to a grand total of 19 minutes and 14 seconds. Seeing as the movie runs for well over 2 hours, I definitely would’ve preferred that more had been cut than just these shavings of numerous sequences.

Moonlight Serenade Scene Progression (6:34) follows the part in which the pirates reveal themselves to be cursed from beginning to completion. The team at ILM covers the multiple stages, as animation is inserted into the live-action template and lighting and clothing effects are used to add detail. This one is interesting, but not terribly compelling.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Action Figures

Image Gallery

Actually, this isn’t a gallery at all, but a slide show instead. I would have favored having the usual thumbnail displays that allow you to access full-screen images, as it’s easy to view an image as long as you wish. Despite this nit-pick, the gallery is nicely extensive, with close to 300 stills under several domains.

Early drawings are within “Inspiration” (13) and “Concept Art” (47). Storyboards are for the scenes “Blacksmith Shop” (48), “Black Pearl vs. Interceptor” (33), “Dauntless Capture” (58), and “Captain Jack Sparrow” (41). Sketches join with photos under “Costumes” (14), behind-the-scenes photos are in “Production” (30), and posters can be found in “Publicity” (5).

Pirates in the Parks

“Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” (18:18) is an episode from the Disneyland TV show called “From Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow” that originally aired January 21, 1968. Starting off with a clip from the Disneyland 10th Anniversary show
(which can be found on the Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland U.S.A. DVD) that shows Walt describing the Pirates attraction when it was in the conception stage, the program then shows how Walt’s dream was realized by presenting footage of opening day for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and then actually going inside the ride itself. Ever wanted to get to Disneyland but haven’t been there yet? This is your answer. Having ridden Pirates myself, I can say that this program effectively duplicates the ride experience - this is about as close as you can get to seeing it first hand.

The last ‘extra’, if you would call it that, is a preview of what can be found in the enhanced computer features (0:32). This trailer-of-sorts pops up elsewhere on Disc 1 & 2 if you try to select the DVD-ROM options while having the disc in your DVD player.

So what does Disc 2 have to offer in terms of enhanced computer features? “Dead Men Tell No Tales: The History of the Attraction” is self-explanatory - a documentary concentrating on the ride, including plenty of interviews with Disneyland ‘imagineers’. An image gallery for the ride has nearly 50 stills, and the unusual “Disneyland Pirates Virtual Reality Viewer” allows 360-degree exploration of certain environments from the attraction. At last, the “Moonlight Becomes Ye Effects Studio” enables you to alter a portrait to look like the cursed pirates from the film.

Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) shows just how you're in the middle of a ghost tale.


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a movie that utilizes a few saving graces to prop it up from being just another popcorn flick. Its arrival on DVD is spectacular, with acceptable video and audio, and benevolent bonuses that are all very solid. I’m not huge fan of movie, yet I own this release because of how packed it is with worth-while material. With that in mind, I’d say that everyone who likes or loves the movie should consider this a must-have for their DVD collection.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com: 2-Disc DVD / 3-Disc DVD Gift Set / 2-Disc Blu-ray

NOTE: On November 2nd, 2004, this DVD became available in a 3-Disc Gift Set, adding to this 2-disc Collector's Edition "The Lost Disc", a third disc containing an hour of never-before-seen bonus features. Suggested retail price was the same ($29.99), in spite of the new bonus disc. Since then, the Gift Set has become hard-to-find and the Collector's Edition was reduced in price.
Read our review of the 3-Disc Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Gift Set.

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | New and Upcoming DVD Schedule | Recent Live Action Disney Films Page | Search This Site

Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD: The Curse of the Black Pearl - 2-Disc CE3-Disc Gift Set / Dead Man's Chest / At World's End

Related Interviews:
Click to read UD's exclusive interview with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the writers of all three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
UD's Interview with Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, the writers of Pirates of the Caribbean

Interview with Gore Verbinski, Pirates of the Caribbean director

Other Recent Live Action Disney Films:
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) | Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005) | National Treasure (2004)
The Haunted Mansion (2003) | Freaky Friday (2003) | Glory Road (2006)
The Santa Clause 2 (2002) | The Rookie (2002) | Max Keeble's Big Move (2001)
Inspector Gadget (1999) | I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998) | Eight Below (2006)
Snow Dogs (2002) | The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003) | Sky High (2005)

Reviewed February 27, 2004.