Ultra HD
Worth a Look
3 stars
List Price
$39.99
Amazon
$27.96 (30%)
3rd Party
$14.97
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Street Date:
October 3rd, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
October 2nd, 2017
Movie Release Year:
2017
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
129 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the standard Blu-ray release, also written by M. Enois Duarte. Specifically, this review features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio and Final Thoughts sections, while both reviews share The Movie Itself, Audio, and Special Features.

For a full in-depth review of the Blu-ray SDR HERE.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hoisted their colors and set sail this summer against some rough waters, but the fifth installment in the swashbuckling fantasy franchise managed to snag some decent booty. Of course, it wasn't the large bounty studio execs were hoping to horde aboard their ships, but the plunder was enough to show the franchise remains fairly sturdy and can still float the treacherous oceans a little longer. Nevertheless, after the last two rather mediocre and stormy adventures, this entry reveals audiences are starting to turn a bit green and nauseous from sailing the seven seas close to fifteen years. Or, perhaps, moviegoers are growing weary of the pirating exploits of the notoriously self-obsessed and infamously narcissistic Captain Jack Sparrow. Despite seeing Johnny Depp return to the role that skyrocketed him into worldwide mega-stardom, the movie feels somewhat monotonous and unimaginative by this point, coasting along very familiar shores that dare not embark into stranger tides. (Shiver me timbers, they be bad, but me starting to run low on puns, matey! Ahem, sorry. Moving on.)

As with pretty much every Pirates movie, Depp's Sparrow must again prove himself to a frustrated crew of a loyal few and make arrogant wisecracks and risqué innuendos while battling another supernatural force that rules the oceans. The only difference is that the A-list actor is even more comfortable — not surprising after five films — looking the clown and performing bigger slapstick stunts while narrowly escaping capture or death by the whiskers of his beard through sheer luck alone. By this point in his career and how amazingly versatile he is at slipping into a role, he could be considered as the modern-day Buster Keaton, though some, I'm sure, will be quick to argue against such an absurd notion, considering the amount of CG imagery making the stunts possible. But overlooking that fact, the silliness in his performance when his crew rescued his neck from the guillotine is what brought this thought to mind. Although the leading star of the movie, Depp is consistently the jester and buffoon. Even when his life remains in danger, he bargains the cost of his men rescuing him, delivering each ridiculous line with a seriousness that makes it laughably preposterous.

Of course, if it weren't for an ensemble of strong actors willing to play along with Depp's foolishness, the whole thing would be rather sad and embarrassing. (There's an argument for not being the next Keaton.) Kevin McNally returns as Sparrow's most loyal First Mate, as does Martin Klebba's Marty and Stephen Graham's Scrum. And they're allowed to share in the jolly humor with a few lines of their own, such as the bawdy exchange when they learn one character is an astronomer (a donkey breeder, apparently) and horticulturist (say it aloud and the gag speaks for itself). And what sort of Pirates movie would this be if Geoffrey Rush didn't make an appearance — along with pushing the plot along — as the one-legged Captain Barbossa, who now commands an entire fleet of pirate ships and sports of bejeweled peg-leg. It's his deal with the vengeance-obsessed undead Spanish pirate hunter Captain Salazar (an excellent Javier Bardem) that produces a sense of urgency in a story that is little more than a typical treasure hunt. But as expected, Barbossa selfishly plays rival and ally while unexpectedly finding an opportunity for redemption.

And it's these little surprises, a mix of comedy, some heart and swashbuckling action, sprinkled throughout that makes Dead Men Tell No Tales a tolerably entertaining installment. Or at the very least, an improvement over the previous two. However, much of the movie's strength is sadly offset by the forced addition of two new characters that prove to be little else than clumsy plot devices. Kaya Scodelario is uninspired and contrived as Carina Smyth, a determined but characterless woman constantly announcing she's a student of science as though needing to confirm it to herself. But really, she's here to create the aforementioned heart, yet she's never given the screen time to properly generate the emotional impact assumed by the dispassionate ending. Brenton Thwaites also joins Sparrow's crew as the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, Henry, doing much of the same, except he introduces the plot's MacGuffin, the mythical Trident of Poseidon which gives the owner unlimited power over the oceans. They are ultimately forgettable, serving their purpose for reaching a rather artificial and pedestrian conclusion, hinting at a future installment, but it's just enough for keeping the franchise afloat a while longer before finally sinking. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray 

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brings Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Disney Digital Copy. When redeeming said code via RedeemPirates.com, it includes the HD and 4K UHD digital versions, giving VUDU users access to a UHD copy with Dolby Vision. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a lightly embossed, glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The fifth swashbuckling tale sails against some rough waters on 4K Ultra HD with a strong and mostly good-looking HEVC H.265 encode, but sadly, this ship doesn't really ride the waves any smoother or better than its Blu-ray counterpart. That's not to say viewers won't notice and appreciate a nice uptick in definition.

For the most part, the freshly-minted transfer displays sharp lines in the architecture and the streets of St. Martin, and occasionally, you can make out the small imperfections and wood grain in the blacken, aged planks aboard the Black Pearl. However, resolution weirdly drops a bit in the many long and extreme wide shots, even looking a tad noisy in some spots. There also instances of very mild aliasing along the sharpest edges of metal objects. Close-ups, on the other hand, are highly detailed, revealing each individual hair in the scruffy faces of the male cast, the threading and stitching in the costumes, and every jewel and bead on Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa. Unfortunately, the ghostly CG figures of Captain Salazar's crew are not quite as distinct as in the HD SDR version, though the creepy floating hairs and body parts remain well-defined. Facial complexions appear healthy with good lifelike textures, if also somewhat on the redder side and with the occasional softness. Filmed entirely on the Arri Alexa camera systems, capable of up to 3.4K resolution and later mastered in a 2K digital intermediate, the 4K presentation is welcomed but not a significant upgrade, looking very much like the upconvert it actually is.

The 4K presentation also lands ashore with the same spot-on contrast levels as before, which is neither good nor bad, but the overall picture lacks that vivid, energetic appeal enjoyed in its HD counterpart or compared to other recent, similar HDR releases. On the other hand, specular highlights offer a notable improvement, delivering crisp, pitch-perfect whites in the fluffy clouds that periodically give us that lovely, looking-through-a-window effect. The light from either the moon or the sun really pops off the surface of various objects and brilliantly glistens against the moist metal parts of Salazar's ship, his crew's uniform, and their weapons. The biggest improvement, by far, is the intensely rich, inky black levels that show extraordinary gradational differences between the various shades, which is most appreciated whenever Salazar makes an appearance. Interestingly, the 2.40:1 image is noticeably darker overall compared to the Blu-ray, which at times, makes for pleasingly natural lighting but also creates far more shadows than before. And there are times when the finer details in the background are engulfed by the darkest portions of the frame.

As mentioned in the review of the Blu-ray, the fourth sequel, like its predecessors, comes with a beautiful array of nicely-saturated primaries. Only, they don't seem to scream as enthusiastically as before, even making some of the more daring moments a bit more serious than comical and lighthearted. While the blues in the sky and the British officer's uniforms show a bit more pop and are true, the reds in other uniforms and the greens in some of the foliage are not much brighter, though still accurately rendered. It's the animated, vibrant secondary hues that make really remind viewers they are, in fact, watching the movie in HDR10. The yellow of the bones and gold decorating Barbossa's ship stand out more, the pastel-painted buildings of St. Martin are animated, and the faces of the cast appear a bit more natural. Best of all are the scenes with a view of either the sunset or sunrise, displaying an arrangement of yellows and oranges transitioning into a romantic combination of soft pinks and magentas before fading away into a dark purplish blue, making this a very good and strong 2160p video most fans will be pleased with. 

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Blimey! Batten down the hatches because Dead Men Tell No Tales roars against the wind with an awesome, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which is exclusive to the 4K Ultra HD version. And in my estimation, this is not only the best audio track of the entire series but also the best of the year, taking full advantage of the ceiling channels in some surprisingly unexpected ways. Seriously, right from the start, the design sets out to create a stunningly immersive 360° soundfield that continuously keeps the viewer caught in the middle of the action.

Like its DTS-HD counterpart, the chaos on the streets of Saint Martin fills the room with the screams of soldiers chasing after pirates. The bank falls apart piece by piece and each cracking snap of the building rains down from above, showering down the sides and rears. The same can be said of the climactic battle against Salazar, as everyone yells and water drips down over the listening area. The splashing trickling from the massive wall of ocean water feels as though it could come crashing down on the house at any minute. Canon fire echoes all around and above before the cannonball hits its target, splintering debris in all directions and engulfing the room in a deluge of wood and chaos. Quieter, dialogue-driven moments are arguably even more impressive, continuously employing the overheads for a realistic dome-like effect. The sounds of waves sloshing about in the distance encircle the listener while the creepy scream-like squawks of seagulls flawlessly pan across the sky above. My favorite bits were the crackling sounds of the wood and sails of all the pirate ships traveling overhead with shocking clarity and realism.

The score of Geoff Zanelli, borrowing extensively from the iconic theme created by Hans Zimmer, also joins the fun by taking up the entire soundstage and tremendously benefitting from the extra breathing room. At all times, the music displays extraordinary distinction in the instrumentation and bleeds into the sides and front heights for generating an immersive half-dome wall of sound. Amazingly, imaging feels even more expansive and spacious than before, as various effects discretely and effortlessly pan between the various channels, generating a highly engaging soundscape. The mid-range, too, seems a bit more dynamic, exhibiting superb detailing and fidelity in the loudest segments, allowing for the smallest shrapnel or wood splinter to be heard flying across the room. Amid the chaos and pillaging mayhem, dialogue remains crystal-clear and precise, fluidly moving the off-screen and to the sides during certain scenes. The low-end remains equally satisfying, providing a couch-shaking, room-rumbling force that makes every explosion hit its mark with amazing impact and a few moments that nicely dig into the ultra-low depths for good measure.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Making Of A New Adventure (HD): A seven-part short doc exploring various aspects of the production, from returning to the franchise, introducing new characters and seeing some familiar faces to the visual special effects, a surprise cameo and the legacy of the series.

            A Return to the Sea (4 min)

            Telling Tales: A Sit-Down with Brenton & Kaya (9 min)

            The Matador & the Bull: Secrets of Salazar & the Silent Mary (14 min)

            First Mate Confidential (9 min)

            Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks (4 min)

            Wings over the Caribbean (5 min)

            An Enduring Legacy (4 min)

Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (HD, 2 min): A collection of the producer's personal photos from the set.

Deleted Scene (HD, 3 min): Four scenes saved from Davy Jones's Locker.

Highwayman

Henry Turner Learns a Lesson from Captain Jack

A Whale in Poseidon's Tomb

Alternate Coda: Murtogg & Mallory "Flogging"

Bloopers (HD, 3 min). 

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Other than the UHD Blu-ray with HDR10, there are no exclusive features on this release.

Final Thoughts

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hoists their colors and sets sail for another adventure against the treacherous seas and a supernatural force that proves itself a worthy adversary. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush return as rivaling partners in crime, and joined by the excellent Javier Bardem as the vengeful ghost Captain Salazar. However, although the fifth installment in the swashbuckling fantasy franchise remains afloat for most of the shorter runtime, it sadly drops anchor with the addition of Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites, a pair of orphans in search of father figures. The fifth swashbuckling tale sails against some rough waters on Ultra HD with a strong and mostly good-looking HEVC H.265 encode, and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack that will bring the house down from a barrage of cannon fire. With a puny bounty in the supplemental chest, the overall 4K package nonetheless makes a strong treasure find for those loyal to Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew.

Technical Specs

  • Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack
  • UHD-66 Dual-Layer Disc / BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 2160p HEVC/H.265

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby Atmos
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Bloopers
  • UltraViolet Digital Copy

Exclusive HD Content

  • Blu-ray Copy

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List Price
$39.99
Amazon
$27.96 (30%)
3rd Party
$14.97
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»