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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Album Cover Art
2006 Disney
2007 Disney
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Co-Produced by:

Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony

Co-Produced by:
Bob Bodami

Additional Music by:
Lorne Balfe
Tom Gire
Nick Glennie-Smith
Henry Jackman
Trevor Morris
John Sponsler
Geoff Zanelli
Labels Icon
Walt Disney Records
(July 4th, 2006)

Walt Disney Records
(December 4th, 2007)
Availability Icon
Both the 2006 album and the 2007 set are regular U.S. releases. The 2007 "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" initially retailed for $60 or more.
Nominated for a Grammy Award.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you accepted The Curse of the Black Pearl as a viable entry in the swashbuckling genre and seek a slightly more orchestral and jaunty version of the same general sound for the sequel.

Avoid it... if more tired regurgitation from The Rock and The Peacemaker and an overwhelmingly awful bass-heavy mix are the last things you need to hear in yet another film involving pirate ships and swordfighting.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 7/1/06, REVISED 7/20/11
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: (Hans Zimmer/Various) When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl debuted in 2003, its immense success on film and in the box office record books took many by surprise. With a trilogy originally in the making, the second film continues to follow the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow and develop the relationships between the trio of lead characters. As the supporting characters and adventures continue to expand in scope and take increasing bizarre shapes, the franchise increases the grandeur of its production elements with each entry. Helmed once again by Jerry Bruckheimer, the basic production style of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is much the same as the first, including its score. While Hans Zimmer was only listed as a producer of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean score, his involvement included the composition of many of its themes and other aspects, but he was legally unable to take credit for his work because of contractual obligations to another production. Thus, the contributions of Klaus Badelt and several other Media Ventures graduates were given credit for the hasty work. It had been completed quickly after the firing of veteran Disney composer Alan Silvestri, whose ideas for the score did not match the muscular inclination that Bruckheimer was looking for. So in the end, Bruckheimer brought in his usual collaborators, and after assembling a mostly stock, electronically-enhanced Media Ventures-style score for The Curse of the Black Pearl, their work raised questions about the definition of swashbuckling music. It was highly polarizing music, with older generations of film music collectors largely writing off the score as garbage while hoards of younger listeners, many of whom did not collect film scores, made the album into a best-seller. The longevity of the original score's top selling status can't be ignored, and has sparked due debate about modern listeners' expectations and clearly identified attempts by Bruckheimer and Zimmer to redefine swashbuckling (or "pirates and high seas") music. Does the bass-heavy, electronically-aided music by Zimmer for these Pirates of the Caribbean scores represent the official end of the swashbuckling style famously introduced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and retained with fantastic success by the likes of John Williams and John Debney in the modern era?

Those questions will wait for the time being, for the merits of the score for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will help determine their answers. Zimmer obviously had more time for this sequel score, though that didn't stop him from assembling at least seven ghostwriters to aide him once again in his efforts (whether or not they actually qualify as "ghostwriters" is another issue that will wait until later in the review). Wherever you stand on the Media Ventures style of music for this genre, you will notice that Dead Man's Chest has some significant differences in style and structure from The Curse of the Black Pearl. Zimmer expands the orchestral palette a little farther, uses a variety of new rhythmic tools, and seems to have a more intelligent grasp of thematic integration. In fact, he even manages to infuse a little more genuine spirit of character into the score, whereas the Badelt-credited effort for the original prefers to bludgeon you without trying to make any such finer points. Zimmer spends significant time developing the franchise themes for the film's primary characters, including the one for Jack Sparrow in the opening cut on the album. Zimmer's love for the waltz influences the sprightly cello theme for this piece, easily the most flamboyant of either score. A fresh theme for Davy Jones is provided on music box a few cues later. Interestingly, both performances climax into nearly stereotypical action levels for Zimmer, with echoes of Crimson Tide and The Rock abounding in their middle sections, negating the intrigue created by each themes' more instrumentally careful introductions. The Davy Jones theme breaks into an extremely brutal and deliberate rhythm complete with driving organ, the instrument that defines much of Dead Man's Chest. The third substantial thematic idea in the score is that of the Kraken, the underwater menace (which is so ugly that it becomes painfully humorous) that inspired Zimmer to take his typically heavy bass mixing even lower in range. Perhaps suggested by Captain Nemo and a historical tendency for dangerous creatures of the deep to be represented by pipe organ, the use of the shadowy organ sound for the Kraken's domineering theme is arguably Zimmer's most intelligent move in the score, though even this theme, by its stomping climax, isn't immune to the usual treatment of pounding orchestra hits (which sound partially synthetic) and broad electric guitar emulation.

The album presentation opens with the character action pieces that introduce these three main themes. Thereafter, the score continues to jump around wildly in style, which is a welcome move after the nonstop action of the previous film's score on album, though for Dead Man's Chest, the lack of consistency creates its own problems. In "I've Got My Eye on You," Zimmer returns to the deep choral suspense of The Peacemaker, accompanied by bloated, churning electronics before a heroic performance of the franchise's main theme returns to the scene. Enhanced percussion and singing sections spur the natives in "Dinner is Served," one of Zimmer's most bizarre career cues though one with necessary comedy. After a heavy dose of brash percussion, wailing solo female voice, and rough throat singing, more comedy comes in the form of one of Zimmer's favorite kind of straight-laced classical waltzes. Maybe the most interesting cue on the album is "Tia Dalma," which, after a stereotypical opening with the "Black Pearl" theme from the first film, tones back the bass far enough to allow other elements of the ensemble to shine, including female vocals, violin plucking, the music box, and various light percussive effects. The "Turtle" track is the type of boisterous accordion and fiddle source cue that contributes to stylistic diversity in the score, but really only serves to break up the album's cohesion. The battles then break out with regularity, "A Family Affair" offering both the "Black Pearl" and Davy Jones themes in heavy, drum-thumping exhibitions over choir and typical Zimmer string layers and bass enhancements before the lament of a solo cello takes the latter theme back to conversational levels. The lengthy "Wheel of Fortune" cue is a cut-and-paste piece of action music from the first score that adds snippets of the three primary themes from the current score presented in rapid succession without much integration. After reminders of the Davy Jones and Kraken themes, some of Sparrow's thematic ideas from the first film are reprised. The following "You Look Good, Jack" cue is a largely uninteresting atmospheric interlude for strings and synthesizer before exploding into an electric guitar-like action outburst of significant irritation at the end. Zimmer's score concludes with the derivative "Hello Beastie," a cue with heavy influences in choir from The Peacemaker as it hints at the franchise theme before oddly inserting some straight brass-layered material from the closing of The Da Vinci Code. The score almost dies with a whimper before a final burst of Sparrow's theme from the first score on cello.

Interrupting the flow of the album with even greater intensity is a lengthy trance remix of "He's a Pirate" from the first score (one of seemingly dozens that eventually flooded the market due to the theme's remarkable popularity), which oddly maintains a refreshing sound compared to the significantly predictable score that had gone before. It's not entirely listenable in and of itself, but compared to Zimmer's inability to break out of his stubborn mould and write something truly original for the franchise, the trance beat is at least a splash of cold water in the face. You can hear what Zimmer was trying to accomplish with Dead Man's Chest; he seems to have attempted better character identification (as made necessary by the film's exploration of them) and added more stylistic spark through his rhythmic deviations. On a basic level, he has succeeded, and the result is a score that ironically leaps around in style too often to be an easily appreciated and consistent listening experience. Despite his efforts, though, Dead Man's Chest is often considered by both film music collectors and enthusiasts of the franchise to be the weakest of the original trilogy of scores (dwelling for some as low as the awful On Stranger Tides follow-up in 2011). It fails on two entirely separate levels, whether you like this kind of music for the genre or not. First, Bruckheimer and Zimmer's attempt to put swashbuckling music on steroids for the modern generation still doesn't work if you subscribe to classical notions of music for the high seas. In short, if you found the score for The Curse of the Black Pearl obnoxious in the picture, then you'll have to do your best to try to ignore it in Dead Man's Chest. Secondly, even if you can accept hearing music from The Rock and The Peacemaker in your Pirates of the Caribbean films, this music just isn't that good on its own merits. It sounded great when it first debuted in full in Crimson Tide. It was fresh and entertaining back in 1995. But it's simply overused in the 2000's, not only by Zimmer but by all of his associates in their spin-off scores. It doesn't matter if this music is for a modern military flick or a science fiction affair, it has become an all-too-predictable extension of Zimmer's increasingly one-dimensional bluckbuster style. On a technical level, the number of Zimmer's self-ripoff mechanisms started to rival that of James Horner, and Zimmer had a smaller palette of sounds to work with (at least in this action genre) from the start. There's plenty of evidence in Dead Man's Chest to back up both the aforementioned failures described in this paragraph, and in all fairness to Zimmer, they should be explained.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.69 Stars
***** 982 5 Stars
**** 483 4 Stars
*** 856 3 Stars
** 1,246 2 Stars
* 1,341 1 Stars
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Vincent - July 12, 2015, at 1:08 p.m.
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Extended Editions!
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POTC: DMC Soundtrack Petition
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Newest: June 20, 2007, at 2:13 Michael

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2006 Disney Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 58:32
• 1. Jack Sparrow (6:06)
• 2. The Kraken (6:55)
• 3. Davy Jones (3:15)
• 4. I've Got My Eye on You (2:25)
• 5. Dinner is Served (1:30)
• 6. Tia Dalma (3:57)
• 7. Two Hornpipes (Tortuga) (1:14)
• 8. A Family Affair (3:34)
• 9. Wheel of Fortune (6:45)
• 10. You Look Good Jack (5:34)
• 11. Hello Beastie (10:15)
• 12. Bonus: He's a Pirate (Tiesto Remix) (7:02)
2007 Disney Set Tracks   ▼Total Time: 47:22

Notes Icon
The insert of the 2006 album includes no extra information about the score or film. The 2007 "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" contains extra notation about the music. Its DVD contents include "Making of a Score" (19:48), a general production overview of the scores, "The Man Behind the Pirates Music" (17:38), an interview with Zimmer alone with recording sessions footage, and "Hans Zimmer's Live Performance at Disneyland for the World Premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (8:37).
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest are Copyright © 2006, 2007, Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/1/06 and last updated 7/20/11.
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