DirectorJoachim Rønning and Epsen Sandberg
Release Date(s)2017 (October 3, 2017)
Studio(s)Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Walt Disney Pictures (Disney)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C-
The story of Joachim Rønning and Epsen Sandberg’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is driven by two young characters who are new to the franchise: Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). Henry is the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who is determined to free his father from a watery curse as captain of the Flying Dutchman (seen in At World’s End). Carina is an orphaned but headstrong young astronomer accused of being a witch, who is searching for the trident of Poseidon based on clues in a book left to her by her own father. When their paths cross, Henry learns that the trident can break his father’s curse, so they decide to work together to find it. Naturally, the path to doing so runs through the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), so they must first find him. But others are searching for Jack too, including Aramando Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spanish captain once defeated by Jack and now cursed as a ghost because it, and Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack’s sometimes ally and sometimes enemy.
The good news here is that Dead Men Tell No Tales is actually a modestly better film than it’s been given credit for my many reviewers. It certainly holds one’s interest for a couple of hours, adds a bit of mythology to the franchise, and features strong performances by Bardem and Rush especially. On the other hand, the two young leads aren’t quite strong enough to carry the narrative here, compared to Bloom and Knightley before them, and it sometimes feels as if Depp is simply doing a shtick that stopped challenging him as an actor two or three films ago. Generic as it is, though, the visuals are strong, the pace is all ahead full, and the set piece action sequences pack enough creativity to carry things along well enough.
Dead Men Tell No Tales was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW code (at 3.4K) using ARRI Alexa cameras and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. This source was upsampled, given an HDR10 color grade, and is presented here at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The resulting image benefits from a modest improvement in fine detail compared to the Blu-ray, but a few shots occasionally look a bit noisy while others don’t have quite as much detail as you’d expect. As is often the case, it’s the high dynamic range that makes the most difference here, noticeably deepening the shadows, giving highlights added punch, and greatly enhancing the film’s colors – particularly the gleaming golds of both treasure and fire and the deep blues and greens of the ocean deep. Still, the HDR experience isn’t on the level of, say, Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy in 4K (reviewed here). Part of the reason for this is that much of the film takes place at night, in shadow, or underwater. This image has been timed notably darker than the Blu-ray, but that darkness is also much more detailed here in 4K. Overall, it’s a solid visual presentation, but not a reference one.
The disc’s English Dolby Atmos audio mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) is, however, very good. The soundstage is big and beefy, with excellent clarity, rich bass, and wonderful immersion. Surround panning is smooth and buttery, and the overheads are surprisingly active with the sound of birds, wind, sails, rigging, and the like. Even in quiet passages, you’re surrounded by subtle atmospheric cues. During the set-piece action sequences, especially when Jack and Carina are freed from the British authorities and of course the film’s climatic battle scenes, there’s some very clever use of panning and directionality, including interesting vertical sound play. Additional audio mixes are available in English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and English, French, Spanish, and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus. There are also optional subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese.
There are no extras on the actual 4K Ultra HD disc, but the package includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray with the following bonus features (all in HD):
- Dead Men Tell More Tales: The Making of a New Adventure documentary (47:50 in all – includes A Return to the Sea – 3:33, Telling Tales: A Sit-Down with Brenton & Kaya – 8:48, The Matador & the Bull: Secrets of Salazar & the Silent Mary – 13:38, First Mate Confidential – 8:48, Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks – 3:50, Wings over the Caribbean – 5:11, and An Enduring Legacy – 3:59)
- Bloopers of the Caribbean (2:58)
- Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (1:40)
- Deleted Scenes (4 scenes – 2:59 in all)
There are also preview trailers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Cars 3. The extras are unfortunately all of the glossy EPK variety. There’s little here you’ll want to watch more than once and none of it is particularly memorable. You also get the usual Digital Movie Code on a paper insert.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales pales in comparison to the earlier films in this series, but it’s still decent Saturday afternoon matinee viewing. Disney’s 4K Ultra HD release looks good but the image improvement isn’t dramatic over the Blu-ray version, though its Dolby Atmos audio mix is excellent. Taken all in all, if you’re a fan of this series you’ll appreciate the 4K experience, though you’re best advised to get this disc on sale rather than pay full price.
- Bill Hunt