Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Composed by Hans Zimmer

The Pirates trilogy concluded with At World’s End. While still not as good as the first film, it was a big step over Dead Man’s Chest and a real thrill ride. Lord Cutler Beckett and the East India Trading Company, with Davy Jones and his haunted ship now under their control, are clamping down on piracy around the globe. With a broad definition of “pirate” and “conspiring with pirates,” this means they are executing thousands of small-time criminals and innocents as well. The heroes need to get all the pirate lords together to defeat Beckett and Jones, but first they need to go to Davy Jones’ Locker and rescue Jack Sparrow (and his ship the Black Pearl) from the afterlife. The film contains a dizzying array of double-crosses and shifting allegiances. My dad had the odd misfortune to fall asleep for about 10 minutes and woke up absolutely confused by why all the character alignments were suddenly different. My one main quibble is that the audience is told to root for what essentially are violent criminals. Things do make more sense when you consider that the movie intentionally presented a large corporation vs. small business scenario, represented by the East India Company’s attempts to create a monopoly on all sea trade. This message is actually quite timely, though hypocritical coming from Disney. As for the music itself, Zimmer finally created a worthy score.

Zimmer’s score for At World’s End is much more pleasing than Dead Man’s Chest. For one thing it’s got a lot more energy and enthusiasm, and even breaks out classical piratey woodwinds at a couple points. While the previous entry had a prolonged, downbeat last act, this score boasts a thrilling series of climaxes, full of action, romance, and adventure. Even if one finds the Media Ventures anthems inappropriate, the music is undeniably engaging from start to finish. Also delightful is Zimmer’s tribute to Ennio Morricone, who had received an honorary Oscar the same year. There’s no real in-film reason to reference the famed composer, but the tributes are appreciated nonetheless. Both are derived from Once Upon a Time in the West. First is the new take on Jack Sparrow’s theme in “Multiple Jacks” that brings in the humorous and quirky instrumentation of Cheyenne’s theme down to the harpsichords. This mode of Jack’s theme represents the further madness created by the character’s time in Davy Jones’ Locker. Second is the throwback to “The Man with the Harmonica” in “Parlay.” The scene involved has a standoff between six characters so the Spaghetti Western showdown music is not wholly inappropriate. The rhythm in “Parlay” is actually the East India Company’s theme which was introduced in Dead Man’s Chest. Zimmer must have recognized its similarities to the rhythm from Harmonica’s theme and used it accordingly. Also present in this track is the Love theme (which covered several paragraphs down) on guitar. Continue reading

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Composed by Hans Zimmer

Naturally, after the surprising smashing success of Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney went head  with a sequel. Actually they went for a full trilogy, with the second and third installments to be released in close proximity in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Dead Man’s Chest sees Will and Elizabeth’s marriage ruined by the arrival of Thomas Beckett and the East India Trading Company. Beckett has them arrested for conspiring with pirates, but offers freedom if Will can get Jack Sparrow’s magic compass. Sparrow himself is targeted by the monstrous Davy Jones (played by British national treasure Bill Nighy), the ferryman of souls lost at sea. If Sparrow does not hand himself and his soul over at the right time, Jones’ pet Kraken will hunt him down. To save himself, Sparrow determines to find the heart of Davy Jones, locked in a chest, and use it to gain the upper hand. What ensues is a series of shifting alliances and double crosses. Dead Man’s Chest is a fun film, but doesn’t stand too well on its own as it’s almost all build-up for an epic third entry. This time Hans Zimmer officially took over scoring duties and would have a much more amenable schedule to work with.

Zimmer created his score with the help of the Media Ventures gang and once again he came under fire from critics from failing to utilize a period-appropriate sound. Another hurdle was on the thematic front. Zimmer wanted to develop more original themes, but the first score was so popular that he had to reference that one as well. Zimmer largely is able to develop a cohesive thematic framework, though there are perhaps too many themes and motifs for certain aspects. The album starts with three thematic suites, covering most of the new themes and motifs. These make for a mostly engaging album-opener, turning several cues from the film into expanded album editions. Continue reading