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

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Composed by Klaus Badelt and the Media Ventures gang

Curse of the Black Pearl, based on the wonderful ride at Disneyworld, is one of the best adventure films I have ever seen, with a lot of wit and good action, not to mention Johnny Depp’s awesome performance as Captain Jack Sparrow (which would unfortunately pigeonhole him into playing off-kilter characters for years). The plot sees Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the daughter of a governor in the Caribbean, come in possession of a medallion found on castaway boy Will Turner (who grows up to be played by Orlando Bloom). Will Turner grows up to be a blacksmith with a secret love for the upper-class Elizabeth. The pirates, of the ship Black Pearl attack their island town and abscond with the girl and the medallion. Will Turner finds himself partnering with the strange pirate Jack Sparrow and his colorful cast of associates to rescue Elizabeth. It also turns out that the pirates, led by Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa, are cursed by Aztec gold. The film was a massive success and its soundtrack was certainly popular. When I had just started getting into film music I adored this soundtrack, but with more knowledge it’s proven to be a technically troubling, though still entertaining, product.

Originally director Gore Verbinski was going to have his pal Alan Silvestri write the score. But just a couple of weeks before the film was to be wrapped up, producer Jerry Bruckheimer threw in a monkey wrench by throwing out Silvestri’s music and hiring Hans Zimmer and his Media Ventures to once again produce a loud summer action blockbuster soundtrack. With barely any time, Hans Zimmer created a set of main themes overnight and had Klaus Badelt head the scoring duties, so basically Zimmer is really the mastermind of the whole soundtrack. Badelt would not do most of the work, as he would have over ten other composers help score the film. The result is a fun yet vastly overrated score that has unjustly been lodged in the public mind as an equal to John Williams’ Star Wars and Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings. Continue reading