As you're no doubt aware by now, I'm a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. At this point, you either love the series or you're completely disinterested in the franchise, so I'm guessing this DVD review is meant for the "already fans." We'll start off with some material from my original review of the film, then some thoughts after my second third time with the flick, and then we'll finish off with a blow-by-blow on the DVD goodies. (The DVD hits the shelves on December 4 in a solo-disc or dual-platter format. This review covers the two-disc special edition, which is scheduled to go "into Disney moratorium" as of September 2008.)

Sometimes the big-time franchise makers are damned if they do and damned if they don't: Churn out a skimpy "Part 3" that just rehashes what was offered in Parts 1 & 2 and you've got something vaguely entertaining but clearly inferior like Shrek the Third. Try too hard to jam too many arbitrary plot threads and flimsy characters into your third entry and you're stuck with a lurching behemoth like Spider-Man 3. And then you have the middle ground: The sprawling, gorgeous and massive adventure epic Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which while far from a flawless film, aims to stay faithful to its predecessors while still upping the ante (a lot) with a boat-load of new plot developments, characters and surprisingly nifty subtext. Yep, this particular popcorn movie runs almost three full hours, but if producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski had produced a quick-buck 92-minute third chapter, then the complaints would be legion. You can't win. Except at the box office, obviously.