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'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: The franchise finds its sea legs again

October 2, 2017Ben MK

Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, this fifth Pirates installment finds Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) muddling through a spate of harsh luck. He's gone from captaining one of the sea's most legendary vessels, the Black Pearl, to steering a rickety boat named the Dying Gull. His crew have abandoned him after a string of bungled attempts at plundering. And now, one of his fiercest adversaries — a ghostly pirate hunter named Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) — has been freed from his supernatural prison, and is leading a small army thirsty for revenge.

At the same time, however, Jack finds himself characteristically in luck. After all, how else can you explain his fortuitous crossing-of-paths with two of the sequel's new characters, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina (Kaya Scodelario)? As Salazar closes in, the trio form an uneasy accord to quest for the trident of Poseidon, the only thing that can stop Salazar, and an item that holds special significance for both Henry, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, and Carina, a headstrong, science-minded young woman out to uncover her true lineage.

The result is a fun, funny and action-packed adventure that does a rousing job harkening back to the series' roots. In fact, the main reason why Dead Men Tell No Tales seems so apt at rekindling the spirit of the franchise is because of its many parallels with 2003's The Curse of the Black Pearl. Taking a cue from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which benefited hugely from moviegoers' insatiable nostalgia for A New Hope, Dead Men Tell No Tales tips its buccaneer's hat aplenty to the original, while also doubling as an all-hands-on-deck handoff to a new generation.

That said, does Dead Men Tell No Tales signify the last we'll be seeing of Captain Jack Sparrow? If so, it makes for a fitting farewell, not just for him, but for Will, Elizabeth and, yes, even Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa, concluding their various arcs with poetic irony, emotion and set piece after visually thrilling set piece (plus a cameo from Sir Paul McCartney, to boot). However, even if that isn't the case — if this marks the beginning of a whole new chapter in Jack's continuing high seas adventures — that's still far from a cause for mutiny.

As the first installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to hit the Ultra HD format, Dead Men Tell No Tales has a high bar to set. Fortunately, this 4K transfer is up to the task, and with the crystal-clear picture quality and vibrant, eye-popping hues afforded by the increased resolution and the HDR color boost, there's little cause for complaint. From the maritime backdrops, to the costume design, to the CGI that brings to life Salazar and his undead crew, the visuals here are reference quality. Factor in a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix that bustles with the sounds of crashing waves, musket and cannon fire, and swordplay and fisticuffs, and this audiovisual package makes an excellent case for the upgrade to 4K over standard Blu-ray.

Disney's two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy, as well as a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray:

  • Dead Men Tell More Tales: The Making of a New Adventure (47:50) - A seven-part making-of documentary that looks at getting the original actors back together, the new additions to the cast, the villain of the piece and the visual and special effects and production and costume design involved in bringing him and his crew to life, actor Kevin McNally's experience shooting the movie, the making of the ghost shark attack sequence, Paul McCartney's cameo, and the lasting impact of the franchise ("A Return to the Sea," "Telling Tales: A Sit-Down with Brenton & Kaya," "The Matador & the Bull: Secrets of Salazar & the Silent Mary," "First Mate Confidential," "Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks," "Wings Over the Caribbean" and "An Enduring Legacy").
  • Bloopers of the Caribbean (2:58) - Goofs and flubs from the set.
  • Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (1:40) - Producer Jerry Bruckheimer shares his photos of the film's production.
  • Deleted Scenes (2:59) - Four scenes ("Highwayman," "Henry Turner Learns a Lesson from Captain Jack," "A Whale in Poseidon's Tomb" and "Alternate Coda: Murtogg & Mullroy 'Flogging'").

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of October 3rd, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 hrs. 9 min.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on May 26th, 2017.

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