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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Composed by Geoff Zanelli
  • Walt Disney / 2017 / 75m

Only one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films may be any good, but that hasn’t stopped all of them being tremendously successful.  Six years have passed since the release of the fourth, and worst, and now here’s the fifth, known as Dead Me Tell No Tales in North America and – for reasons which escape me – something else everywhere else.  Johnny Depp’s back of course, along with Geoffrey Rush, but there’s a new villain of the piece, Captain Salazar, played by Javier Bardem.

After Alan Silvestri’s score for the first film was thrown out and while the flavour of the month at the time Klaus Badelt (whatever happened to him?) received the main credit, pretty much everyone at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control studio chipped in to write the replacement score, from the man himself through Ramin Djawadi, Steve Jablonsky, Kelvin S. Wheelbarrow and Geoff Zanelli.  Zanelli went on to work on all of the sequel scores and stepped up to become the main composer for the fifth instalment.

Geoff Zanelli

All of the scores have been entertaining to some degree of other, as lightweight as they may be, peaking with the excellent third one At World’s End.  The fourth was the most disappointing, with the score plain terrible in the film – most of the music on the album wasn’t actually heard in the film, and that was hardly great either.  Zanelli has pulled things back up a notch for Dead Men Tell No Tales, taking advantage of the surprisingly broad range of themes built up so far in the series and providing a couple of decent new ones to go with them.

The pick of them is “Salazar”, a comic-book villain theme full of amusingly overblown menace.  It sits perfectly well in the franchise’s music, sounding quite similar to the Davy Jones theme from the second score at times, and there are some terrific renditions throughout the album.  There’s also a more tender theme for Carina Smyth, which is actually the first music heard in the opening cue and later forms the basis of “The Brightest Star in the North” – a bit generic, but not unattractive.  I love the new heroic theme for Jack Sparrow – heard most fluently in the entertaining action track “Kill the Filthy Pirate, I’ll Wait” – it’s a very close relative to his familiar theme but different enough to count as something new.

Of the returning themes, of course “He’s a Pirate” is the most well-known and it makes numerous appearances (I wasn’t the biggest fan of it when I first heard it, but over the years it’s become one of my favourite Zimmer themes, its simple exuberance doing just what it needs to).  The little jig theme (the only thing that sounded remotely piratey at the time the first score was released, but such has been its influence, the whole thing is probably now what most people think of when they think of pirate music) is woven into several cues, and the Will and Elizabeth love theme makes a return too (prominently, at the end of the finale “My Name is Barbossa”).

There are some decent action tracks.  The macabre nature of some of “Kill the Sparrow” is appealing (the Mad Max: Fury Road lift, less so) – I really enjoy the soaring emergence of the heroic new theme late in the cue.  Indeed, action dominates especially in the second half of the album (“The Power of the Sea” is great), and many cues contain such grand dramatic gestures they sound as if they ought to be the finale.  I know some people like things like that, but it does make it all a bit exhausting and is a bit of a structural weakness to the flow of the music.  Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had here – the cheap sound is now so familiar it has actually stopped bothering me – and while the album’s undoubtedly longer than it needs to be, it’s nice to hear all the old themes again.  The new ones are so closely related to them that it doesn’t actually feel like there’s much fresh material here, but there’s no doubt that fans of the series’ music will like it a lot.  While there’s nothing as good as “Mermaids” or as flat-out entertaining as “Palm Tree Escape”, it’s undoubtedly a step up from On Stranger Tides and as pieces of disposable entertainment go, it absolutely does what it sets out to.

An entertaining continuation of the series | |

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  1. Bracklin (Reply) on Monday 5 June, 2017 at 15:06

    Listen to the track “El Matador del Mer” and tell me that wasn’t temped with “Barbarian Horde” from Gladiator. It’s actually kind of amusing how the transition to the Earth theme at the end of Barbarian Horde is contorted into a transition to the Salazar theme music in Matador del Mer.

    Overall, the bad mixing kind of kills this for me (everything practically sounds mono). It’s not terrible, just nothing here is all that memorable.

  2. Michael (Reply) on Thursday 8 June, 2017 at 20:26

    I really hope you’re reviewing Wonder Woman. I don’t think it’s the best score in the world but compared to lets say Man of Steel it’s got some beautiful orchestral moments and nice use of the main theme. Anyway I’m kinda split on this score as the use of Sparrow’s theme, the action and use of existing themes is fun and works well but everything else feels annoyingly temp-tracked and the mixing is horrible. I still think it’s an enjoyable score though

    • tiago (Reply) on Friday 9 June, 2017 at 15:41

      Yeah, Wonder Woman was fine, in a sort of a throwback to early 2000s Remote Control “epicness”. It reminded me of both Zimmer (of course) and Rupert’s elder brother, Harry, like “King Arthur/Gladiator meets The Chronicles of Narnia”. It seems that RGW is now the only RC composer writing music like this these days (see The Legend of Tarzan and Hacksaw Ridge).

      As for Pirates 5, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one to notice the terrible mixing. Poor Zanelli, tried so hard to sound “epic and gigantic”, only to end up being sabotaged by the mixing. Aside from that, his new themes were fun enough, anyway.

      • Michael (Reply) on Sunday 11 June, 2017 at 07:54

        I see what you mean. Just I don’t want Rupert Gregson-Williams to become one of those generic RC composers because I think Hacksaw Ridge is a score with good moments and is a really emotional score although you can clearly see its influences. I liked a lot of things about the Tarzan score but a lot of it felt like diet Zimmer.
        It frustrates me because in Wonder Woman, he has awesome reprises of the theme (No Mans Land) and has good orchestral moments(Trafalgar celebration) but then you have the annoying, Jablonsky esque sounds blaring but whatever Rupert is doing next.hopefully he can put it in a bit more of his identity,
        BTW,I’ve listened to the mummy by Brian Tyler and the main theme is Goldsmith esque and really well done. Tracks I’d recommend is between “Between life and death”,a “sense of adventure” and the mummy”

  3. , Andre>>Cape Town (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 00:08

    U Tube have an insert of TYLER conducting a Symphony orchestra in Krakow as they perform his theme from The Mummy. I don`t want to make a snarky comment about this music, but I`m not going to order the score until I hear it in the movie. And, I am an admirer of TYLER. In the meantime, I Iistened to JERRY GOLDSMITH`S 1999 score for `The Mummy`—he wasn`t particularly inspired by the film and had only a few weeks in which to write the music. As always though, he created a memorable score with an exquisite love theme, exciting adventure music with a Middle Eastern flavour and suitable horror themes.And, the film was a commercial success. I`m such an admirer of this GOLDSMITH score that I also listened to two suites of his music, performed by the Tenerife Symphony Orch & Chorus, with Diego Navarro conducting, and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orch & Chorus, helmed by Nic Raine. Pure retro bliss!