Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Can the sea-faring franchise bounce back from the brink? Don't bet on it...

While it’s a long way from the abject disaster that was At World’s End, this fourth Pirates of the Caribbean flick proves that the franchise still has a long way to go before it can re-capture the spirit of the original film.

This mind-numbing two-hour-fifteen-minute series of chases, double-crosses and action set-pieces casts Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow as the main protagonist, but disappointingly finds little new for the character to do. Instead it simply settles for introducing another needlessly convoluted plot and a boatload of new characters for him to bounce off – some fun (Penelope Cruz’s Angelica and Ian McShane’s Blackbeard) but most utterly forgettable.

Picture: This latest Pirates… outing can be a surprisingly dark and drab looking film at times, so it’s a damn good job that the disc’s AVC 2.40:1 1080p is up to the task at hand. The clarity and detailing evident in the hi-def visuals ensures that even the dingiest candle-lit sequences manage to impress in a purely technical sense and make these parts of the film just as easy to follow as the brightly lit island exteriors. Speaking of which, when the action shits to the jungle in Chapters 16 to 18, the encode steps up yet another gear, delivering the most spectacularly verdant greens as part of its impressively rendered colour palette.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: On Stranger Tides’ DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is an absolute joy from start to finish. Naturally, it’s the action set pieces that really excel, and thankfully there’s no shortage of those. A particular favourite is the mermaid attack in Chapter 14, which makes excellent use of the surrounds to position you on the boat with the pirates being attacked from all angles. Similarly, the movement of the precariously balanced boat in Chapter 19 makes great play of the full 7.1-channel soundfield as each tilt of the vessel is accompanied by its cargo falling from right to left and then back again. But even quieter scenes, such as the trek through the marsh in Chapter 21, deliver acoustic thrills such as a mosquito buzzing around the rear speakers.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: The three previous Pirates of the Caribbean flicks all made their debut on Blu-ray as sumptuous two-disc editions, loaded with behind the scenes material, plus all manner of BD-Java powered features and games. The same is not true of this latest instalment – at least not when it comes to this UK release.

Indeed, On Stranger Tide’s UK Blu-ray features a surprisingly poor collection of bonus features. The only additional video content on offer is a three-minute Bloopers of the Caribbean, a pair of one-minute Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: Captain Jack’s Brick Tales animated shorts (made to promote the videogame), plus the ubiquitous Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon & Pumbaa instructional video. And that’s the lot for video-based extras. On the plus side, all of it is encoded at 1080p.

This leaves director Rob Marshall and executive producer John Deluca’s audio commentary as the sole bonus feature that provides any insight into the making of the film itself. Thankfully, there’s a fair amount of technical information and amusing anecdotes on offer throughout the track, although a surprising amount is given over to filming in 3D – which seems a bit pointless when you can only watch the 2D version on this release.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: The hi-def disc may dazzle the eyes and ears, but the film itself isn’t worth your pieces of eight.

Walt Disney Home Entertainment, All-region BD/R2 DVD, £20 approx, On sale now