Film Score Friday: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ By Hans Zimmer

The Pirates of the Caribbean film series is a great many things. It has covered four long, epic films and has captured the imagination of a generation of movie fans excited to embrace adventure. One of the aspects of the franchise that has stayed consistently great up to this point is the musical scores.

Mostly the brain child of Hans Zimmer, with a great start by Klaus Badlet, the music of the first three films has been excellent. Now with the fourth thrilling tale of Captain Jack Sparrow in theaters we have the chance to re-visit the high seas with another Zimmer score.

Before I get knee deep into the new score I did want to spend a minute talking about the score for the third film. The last movie gets a lot of negativity, some of it deserved, some of it not-so-much. This has led the film’s score to become one of the most criminally under appreciated pieces of film music ever written. Everything that made the Pirates themes brilliant is enhanced and expanded upon here, and the new pieces are all uniformly excellent.

The album is capped by the single best arrangement of the classic ‘He’s a Pirate’ theme that flows seamlessly into a beautiful main theme of the third film which is probably best described as Will and Elizabeth’s love theme. Great stuff all around, and I encourage any score fan to seek it out, you will be pleased.

Now to the latest film’s music. On Stranger Tides is a stand alone adventure, but it leans heavily on the themes already established for the main pirate characters of Jack and Barbossa. The new elements in this soundtrack come from the characters of Angelica and Blackbeard, both getting new themes that are generally successful. The mot exciting new sound in the score originates from Angelica’s theme, she is a Spaniard and as such Zimmer crafts a wonderful Spanish sound with the help of Rodrigo y Gabriela.

My first listen was cold, as usual. I was immediately taken back into the Pirates world with an excellent opening track that recalls some of the better playful Captain Jack music of movies past. The album then quickly transitions to the Spanish sounds of Angelica’s theme which is really when the score begins to develop it’s own personal feel. I was able to get swept away by the music pretty quickly which is a great first sign, but not at all surprising because just about anything Zimmer does evokes the excitement I look for in an adventure score. The real test will be how it sounds in context of the film.

Once I had an opportunity to watch the movie I discovered most of the uniqueness seemed minimized, all of the new elements were barely used. Most of what was heard was old themes reused, and reused poorly. I can tell that the temp score probably influenced the final project way more than it should have and most of what made the album fun is buried.

One of the neat little audible Easter eggs that did make it to the movie is the ‘Dies Irae’ hymn which was quoted  in the finale of the film. This is classic musical piece has come to represent death, and Zimmer uses it here during the scene at the fountain of youth. Haha Hans, I get it!

I do have one major problem with the album that I am finally going to bring to the table. The last seven tracks are all remixes of previous tracks on the album. Disney tried this a little bit with the second film’s soundtrack, but that was only one track and it was a remix of the most popular theme from the first film. It sucked then, it seven-fold sucks now. The album as a whole would have been great as is, but to add 2/3rds of redundant, uninteresting white noise passing as remixes just sort of ruins the whole thing.

Three Favorite Tracks:

Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow by Hans Zimmer: The first track of the album and it starts off a blast. Perfectly capturing the fun of Captain Jack and the whole Pirates series. Listening to this track immediately put me in the mind set of a pirates movie and that is exactly what it was supposed to do. I was pleased that this track remained mostly intact in the final film, and it was great to hear in the movie. This track is the only one that blends perfectly the sounds of classic Pirates with the freshness of being in a new film.

Angelica Feat. Rodrigo y Gabriela by Hans Zimmer: While the first track balanced the best of the old with the newer material this track is all new and it is all really good. Hans Zimmer had a chance to play with Spanish sounds for this character and the whole movie, and this was where it sounds it’s best. Zimmer said that after the third film their was nothing else he thought he needed to say with Pirates music after the third film. Thankfully the third sequel provided the interesting addition of Spanish characters that lured Zimmer back.

Palm Tree Escape Feat. Rodrigo y Gabriela by Hans Zimmer: Another great track that played heavily with the Spanish sounds, this one excels based on the fact that it blends these elements with classic Zimmer action music that usually struggles to sound unique these days. There are also some hints of the main Pirates theme played in the Spanish styles which proves that this theme is one of the most adaptable ever written for a movie. In fact in the Lego Pirates game the same theme was played in a pseudo disco style. Some of the better written action music Zimmer has produced recently.

Least Favorite Track(s):

All The Remix POS Tracks by Who Cares: No, bad Disney. BAD! At least with Tron you had the decency of releasing all of the pointless remixes on a separate album. There was much more than good music in the movie that should have made it to the disc. Heck, even the rehashed temp music would have been a far more welcome addition. Here is a hint Mouse House, wait to see if a theme is going to become popular before you think of remixing it. Then, if it does deserve a re-vist don’t destroy all of the musical hallmarks that makes it popular.

In all, the music isn’t bad, quite good in some places, but the inconsistency with how it ends up in the movie  and the horrible remix black hole at the back end of the album makes this a bad experience. I recommend some of the themes, particularly Angelica’s theme, but I can’t give good marks to the album as a whole.

Total Score for Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides –

2 out of 5

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    December 31, 2011 at 6:36 am

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