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Re: Zimmer, team, and alums rundown Pt 4 - MV 2003-04: Pirates Gets The Booty (4a)
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• Posted by: Riley KZ
• Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at 4:18 p.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: Zimmer, team, and alums rundown Pt 4 - MV 2003... (JBlough)

> This is part of a series. The last volume of Part 3 (Sprawball) can be
> found here:

> We now come to the point in time when I started to pivot from having a
> handful of film score albums to taking an active interest in this type of
> music. It feels fitting to start my overview of this two-year sub-era (The
> Media Ventures Lion In Winter, if you will) with probably the CD I played
> the most during this stretch of time.

> In the summer of 2009, a guy I knew in college got dead drunk and then
> proceeded to loudly and repeatedly tell me and others at a party that
> Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the best
> movie of all time, and that Bad Boys II was the second greatest
> movie of all time. There were others (the recent Star Trek film,
> for one), but those were the ones he kept returning to. Despite his volume
> and antics, he’d hit on a key point - 2003 was a very important movie year
> for guys like us who were in late middle school or early high school back
> then. Both movies were very loud and also very funny. They blew stuff up.
> A lot of stuff. We were practically the target audience at the time. They
> were wildly successful, Pirates especially so.

> The music for Pirates of the Caribbean is about as well-known as
> modern film music can get. A lot of people bought the CD after the film
> came out. Its main theme has been recorded and re-recorded and covered
> over and over on a bunch of subsequent compilation albums. Orchestras
> occasionally perform it at pops concerts; high school bands &
> orchestras even wanted sheet music for it. Zimmer still plays parts of it
> on his concert tours. You’ll encounter the occasional “one of the greatest
> film scores ever”-type comment about it by a fan on social media or
> YouTube even today. It has endured, even if affection for the films made
> after the first one largely hasn’t.

> It is also, in some film score fan circles and in the eyes of a few
> critics, the musical equivalent of a tire fire. They were largely fine
> with the Media Ventures sound colonizing most of Hollywood’s action film
> market. Most of them enjoyed the brand’s incursion into animation. Many
> accepted hearing sounds from The Peacemaker in ancient Rome during
> Gladiator. But having this musical accompaniment in a PIRATE movie,
> a genre that had produced thrilling, actively orchestral, densely thematic
> music in a swashbuckling style for decades, seemed to cross a red
> line. This was the sonic universe of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s The Sea
> Hawk
(one of my absolute favorite scores) and Alfred Newman’s The
> Black Swan
, and more recently John Debney’s Cutthroat Island,
> one of the all-time great scores to come from a terrible film. Even the
> seafaring second half of John Williams’ classic music for Jaws
> would be informed by that style; he’d tell Spielberg “it’s a pirate
> movie”
after he saw the footage for the first time.

> So what the heck was music these listeners had heard accompanying soldiers
> chasing nuclear weapons doing on the high seas? It wasn’t like Zimmer and
> his crew couldn’t write something more in line with what was typical of
> the genre, given that they had done so only seven years earlier in
> Muppet Treasure Island. But they had made conscious choices not to,
> albeit choices aligned to the demands of producer Jerry Bruckheimer (yes,
> him again).

> Not helping its perception was the text on the CD release. The front cover
> listed Klaus Badelt. The back cover would curiously include the following:
> “Score Overproduced by Hans Zimmer.” Overproduced? What the heck
> did that even mean? It prompted jokes about the music itself being
> overproduced, given the very processed (if not overprocessed) sound that
> permeates much of the album.

> But it also undersold his role in getting the music off the ground; Zimmer
> would create all the themes for the movie on his keyboard in an infamous
> all-nighter brainstorming session before handing them off to nearly every
> composer working at his company to adapt into over 90 minutes of
> orchestral music in less than a month. It is truly astonishing they pulled
> it off, but the whole nature of the production (sorry, overproduction)
> annoyed people who had already started perceiving Zimmer as less of a
> composer and more as the boss of a seemingly-anonymous army that created
> music for him on-demand. These were the years when the anti-Zimmer
> membership club would start to become larger and more vocal (Backlash-man
> Begins, in a way).

> And yet 2003 and 2004 would also be when the power anthem died. No one
> knew it at the time; the sonic template was still going strong and would
> be in blockbusters in both years (and would occasionally resurface in
> later years). But it would be the last time Zimmer and his team would
> consistently write their highest profile works in this style. The Remote
> Control era to come would introduce new collaborators or bring in old ones
> who would want different things from the brand, and new mannerisms and
> atmospheres would appear or evolve from ideas that had briefly shown up in
> some Media Ventures scores already.

> Alumni were a different story. For me, the best works of this era by far
> were written by John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams, two artists
> finally writing near-classics in their own distinctive voices after
> several years of experimentation - though both works would come attached
> to unsuccessful films, with the star of one of them still mocking his
> fee-based reasons for deciding to do the project to this day. Harry’s
> former assistant Steve Jablonsky would start to break out on his own, and
> despite being stuck in the minds of some fans today as “the guy who does
> the Transformers music” would actually show a surprising amount of range.
> Mark Mancina would re-up two more times with Disney after the success of
> Tarzan, though it may have been to his detriment. And one MV member
> would fall short of the expectations he had created in prior years.

> One more thing. Pirates would not be the only post-production
> hellscape for these composers in these two years. Arguably Jerry
> Bruckheimer’s concurrent production had it worse.

> Welcome to the party at the end of an era.

Fun intro! I love Pirates but much like Batman Begins, I’m not happy with what it helped do to modern action scoring. And considering it’s theme is SO famous and well known, jt really makes you wonder why just a year or two later they said “ah fuck it” to power anthems.

> —-------------

> We begin with other 2003 works, including one of the earliest and dullest
> entries.

> The Recruit - (2003) **
> Klaus Badelt; add’l music by Ramin Djawadi; orchestrated by Badelt
> & Ladd McIntosh; thank you to Jay Rifkin

> Dumped in January 2003 right around the time that Al Pacino’s career as a
> leading man started to decline, The Recruit received mixed reviews
> but cleaned up well enough at the box office. One could speculate that it
> was one of the first films to feature John Powell’s music from The
> Bourne Identity
in its temp track, but the turnaround time time from
> that movie’s release would’ve been too fast, and in any event Klaus
> Badelt’s music for this film, while sharing some of that work’s component
> parts, sounds nothing like it. Rather, it would ape the mannerisms of a
> different composer entirely. In his 2002 efforts Badelt had presumably
> been encouraged to channel Hans Zimmer, James Horner, and Jerry Goldsmith.
> Now he would seemingly be asked to write the kind of music Scottish film
> composer Craig Armstrong was churning out at the time, just as John Powell
> and team were seemingly asked to do for parts of Just Visiting two
> years earlier.

> Anyone familiar with Armstrong’s work will easily recognize the
> distinctive mix of piano, strings, and electronics deployed here, as well
> as the gradual progressions of relatively simple, straightforward melodies
> and the forcefully dramatic builds in the finale. If Badelt’s music had
> injected some nuanced elegance or pulled back on the abrasive electronics,
> it would’ve practically been a clone. Those who object to scores that
> occasionally devolve into processed noise or have multi-minute stretches
> of revolving thumps and loops that could have come from a video game
> hallway sequence might be advised to stay away from this one. The noisier
> passages clearly hint at Badelt’s background producing songs and fit with
> a desire he was expressing around this time to to work on projects where
> he could “bring alternative music that you hear on the radio, something
> more contemporary, closer to film music.”

> K-19 and The Time Machine were derivative too, but they
> still retained distinctive personalities and were executed with flair.
> This is more like the sonic wallpaper version of Face/Off -
> functional enough, but reminding you of all the ways an established brand
> had been done better before. It proved Badelt had range, and it was
> probably a result of what the production team demanded of the composer,
> but it was still a huge bummer given the potential he showed in 2002.

> This, my thirty-third discovery of this effort, was the worst one I’d
> heard so far. It would get worse later.

Well….shit, I like this score a lot. I’ve listened to it probably 20 times since getting it in high school - while you’re correct in that it can sometimes get pretty abrasive and it’s overall too moody, I still find it an excellent atmospheric piece to have on while working or writing (plus the main piano theme is excellent). Not up to his others of the era but a million times better than so many modern day dramatic thriller underscores.


> Agent Cody Banks (2003) - ****
> John Powell; add’l music, arranging & programming by JMS & JAT;
> orchestrated by B & W Fowler/Moriarty/McIntosh & Liz Finch; vocals
> by Lisbeth Scott;
> ProTools operators Kevin Globermann & T.J. Lindgren; Joel Richard
> & Daniel Lerner as Powell’s assistants

> A child superspy comedy, Agent Cody Banks ultimately came and went
> without a ton of fanfare, though it may still provide some nostalgia to
> adults who grew up watching the Lizzie McGuire or Malcolm in the
> Middle
and would view the use of those show’s two teen headliners as a
> superstar pairing. Its director Harald Zwart was a big fan of Chicken
> Run
and brought in John Powell to provide some of that sound while
> also paying homage to the 60s and 70s spy music sounds of Lalo Schifrin’s
> Mission: Impossible title theme and John Barry’s James Bond music
> (notice this work’s Bond-ian trumpet wails, which would also feature into
> next year’s even more obvious throwback music for The Incredibles).

> This score, though perhaps forgotten by the general public, is arguably as
> consequential as The Bourne Identity in my view. Powell has spoken
> regularly with both affection and frustration for his Media Ventures days,
> appreciating the big break and everything he learned but often feeling
> like he was restricted to emulating a sound he wouldn’t have necessarily
> created if left to his own devices. Now, coming after two years of
> experimentation, he was finding collaborators who were down with his often
> creative, borderline overachieving approach to film music and his
> synthesis of a host of different influences into a cohesive whole (Powell
> is someone who expresses affection about dang near everything from John
> Williams to Tchaikovsky to English classical composer Benjamin Britten to
> singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel and feels Aretha Franklin’s first album
> with Atlantic Records is “as much a work of art as Beethoven’s Fifth
> [Symphony]”
, and on some works he appears to try to finding ways to
> leverage all of those and more). These collaborators didn’t just
> appreciate his music standalone, they wanted music like that in their
> films so that it could enhance them. The music was there to be
> noticed
, albeit still in the service of facilitating the narrative and
> the emotional arc of the characters. If it wasn’t quite a Prometheus
> Unbound moment, it was definitely a validation of what Powell had been
> working towards the last several years.

> There’s a tiny bit of Bourne here, but this is much more an
> extension of the aforementioned Chicken Run by way of
> Evolution, and it’s a step up from that latter work in that it
> showed Powell had improved at live action musical storytelling by
> introducing his catchy themes early on and then developing them over the
> life of the film. The work is chock-full of finger snapping, throwback
> jazz sounds (perhaps bolstered by Powell’s team member John Aston Thomas,
> a respected jazz pianist and instructor), and exciting, hyperactive action
> tracks. Electronics and more modern percussion sounds are plentiful, but
> they’re done in a way that showed you could make more “traditional”
> orchestral film music sound hip and fresh without resorting to randomly
> dropping in loops or distortions or obnoxious allusions to alternative
> music (see the above The Recruit). Lots of little details pop up as
> you relisten to the music, including what appears to be the origin of
> Powell’s “mysterious strings” sound he’d play with over the years. There
> are harps! Whistles! Even a kazoo choir, the last a holdover from
> Chicken Run that in this case had the film’s director as one of the
> players.

> The score was barely released at all when the film came out, with around
> six minutes thrown at the end of a song-centric album. Specialty
> soundtrack label Intrada Records would eventually rectify this in 2015 by
> releasing almost 80 minutes on CD. At that length the work gets a tad
> overextended (the action material starts to become familiar by the end,
> and the closing credits seems a cut and paste arrangement), though that
> was superior to not having it at all.

> Powell would push the formula to another level by the end of the year.
> Alas, its film would do even worse than this one did.

Yknow…it’s weird, Powells been one of my most favourite composers for almost as long as I’ve liked film scores…and I’ve never heard this one.


> Phone Booth (2003) - *½
> HGW; programming also by Toby Chu, Mel Wesson & Clay Duncan;
> electric cello by Martin Tillman; guitars by Peter DiStefano & Michael
> Brook;
> album compiled by Meri Gavin; thank you’s to Michael Levine & Justin
> Burnett

> Discovery #34. Oh dear…

> This shockingly short movie (only 81 minutes!) about a man trapped by a
> sniper in (surprise) a phone booth was scheduled for late 2002 but delayed
> until the following year because of shootings in the D.C. area that caught
> national attention, though it would end up being moderately successful at
> the box office. Former Shudder to Think guitarist Nathan Larson had scored
> director Joel Schumacher’s prior film Tigerland and wrote a score
> for this thriller that was ultimately rejected. Larson, who four years
> later would also have his score removed from prestige drama The
> Queen
, would include one track from his take on Phone Booth on
> his 2005 album Fimmusik and it’s an in-your-face mix of
> electronics, percussion, and frankly bizarre sounds of phones and
> operators. Said Gregson-Williams a few years later, “I think people
> overestimate our importance as composers, so it’s not that surprising that
> composers are rejected. My score was very ambient, and it was clear why
> the previous score had been tossed—because [Nathan had] obviously been
> badly directed by [Joel].”

> HGW, who was originally approached by Schumacher about fixing the film
> during the filming of Veronica Guerin, was fascinated by the
> opportunity to do something he hadn’t done before: ”a purely electronic
> score. It was a lot of fun to leave the orchestra behind.”
Harry would
> create a library of street sounds around the phone booth and even include
> some phone sounds in the first track on the album, but otherwise he
> delivered an atmospheric work far removed from Larson’s material.

> The album is no picnic. When HGW said in 1998 that he was “constantly
> surprised that people would be interested in my music without the film
> [since] a lot of the music doesn't make much sense without the
> pictures”
, you wonder if he had any idea he would be writing something
> like this 5 years later. After the first four tracks, you feel like the
> the album cover should practically come with a big ol’ sticker on it
> saying FOR FANS OF HIS TONY SCOTT SCORES ONLY, and maybe even then it’s
> only for those who solely like the more challenging atmospheric or purely
> electronic passages from those. There are a lot of thumping, processed
> sounds, loops and their ilk (plus at least one track that randomly stops).
> Heck, Center of Attention is basically where Trent Reznor and
> Atticus Ross would go with their music on later movies like The Social
> Network

> HGW was tasked with having the “not ostentatious” score feel like
> it was part of the general urban atmosphere of New York City; he realized
> he merely had to support the picture rather than contribute a “major
> musical work.”
. Outside of the sensitive piano in Confession
> and the back half of It Could Be Anyone, and maybe also the
> propulsive cool of Times Square (the only things salvaging this
> from a lower rating), it really doesn’t deviate much from toggling between
> various forms of background haze. There is nothing to indicate any kind of
> escalating tension; it almost feels like you could put the rest of the
> tracks on random and perceive no difference in the narrative of the
> listening experience.

> It mainly plays like leftovers of scores I’m typically not wired to like
> anyway. Harry gave the director exactly what he wanted, and at least it
> seems he enjoyed doing it. As he said, some film music doesn’t make sense
> on its own.

While effective in the film, you’re pretty spot on with how uninteresting it is on album. I will also take this opportunity to say that Phone Booth is one of my favourite movies. Love thrillers all set in one location and I think the script is absolute dynamite (plus Sutherlands voice as the villain is just fantastic).


> The Italian Job (2003) - ***
> John Powell; add’l music, arranging & programming by Photek, JAT,
> JMS & T.J. Lindgren
> guitarists including Michael Brook & George Doering; piano by T.J.
> Lindgren
> Germaine Franco as Powell’s assistant (plus add’l percussion);
> Dan Lerner as Powell’s assistant (compiled the album)

> Not, not the 1960s film where Michael Caine says the iconic line
> “you’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.” This is the
> one where Seth Green claims to be (ugh) THE REAL NAPSTER (full disclosure:
> I still liked the film).

> Take the Bourne Identity formula, add a healthy dose of funky style
> from Forces of Nature, and pay for a brass section (admittedly one
> that still doesn’t sound Bond-ian), and you basically get this. With a
> heavy-hitting, guitar-heavy action sound that feels like some earlier
> string and brass activity from Agent Cody Banks got adapted by
> Trevor Rabin’s team, it’s probably the closest Powell will ever come to
> writing what Brian Tyler now does for the Fast & Furious
> franchise. Unlike Powell’s former and future action works from this year,
> it is largely not defined by memorable themes; what you’ll likely recall
> are the fun little heist planning moments (some nice bass work there) and
> the generally edgy attitude.

> I got some flack earlier for saying this might be “the worst” Powell score
> a month or so ago - which was more to say that it was unremarkable and one
> of the lesser ones I’d heard so far, not that it was actually bad. Don’t
> worry folks - it’s now no longer even in the bottom three!

> Probably the most important legacy of this score is that it’s the first
> appearance of future Encanto composer Germaine Franco. “I
> started composing in college while attending Rice University’s Shepherd
> School of Music. I used to write charts for my Latin-jazz band, then I
> started writing for theater. Eventually, I moved to film composition. [My
> big break was] a film for the Hispanic Film Project sponsored by
> Universal; shortly after that, Raul Pérez at Sony hired me to produce
> source music for [the 1992 film] Thunderheart. I worked with John Powell
> for many years. He is one of the kindest human beings I know. He allowed
> me to develop as a musician and composer by keeping me involved in every
> stage of the music production process as an additional composer, arranger,
> orchestrator, producer and session musician. I worked on over 35 projects
> alongside him”.

Nah, 4/5 probs cause it’s so much dang fun.


> The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - Not heard
> Steve Jablonsky; add’l programming Jay Flood; ambient music Mel Wesson;
> thank you’s to HGW, Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt, Toby Chu, Ramin Djawadi,
> Jim Dooley, Trevor Morris & Geoff Zanelli

> Released on CD by La-La Land, but not available via streaming. Worth
> including just for Steve's quote though. “I wrote that score in
> Zimmer’s room. I remember Michael coming in to listen. I was terrified,
> but he liked it. At the final playback he turned to me and said ‘wow, you
> did a great job, and we didn’t pay you shit!’ But I was young and a new
> guy and I was just happy to do it. That was the beginning of our
> relationship.”

You definitely didn’t miss much haha


> Gigli (2003) - ***
> John Powell; orchestrated by B Fowler/Moriarty; conducted by Gavin
> Greenaway;
> scoring operator T.J. Lindgren; Germaine Franco as score production
> coordinator;
> album compiled by Powell’s assistant Daniel Lerner

> One of the most notorious turkeys of all time, Gigli might’ve just
> been dumped in theaters without any notice if its lead actors weren’t two
> of the biggest stars on the planet at the time (and also dating, for that
> matter). Instead, audiences and media followed the film’s impending
> release with almost morbid fascination - “wait, they’re not really
> gonna put this out, right?” - and jokes about the film were resurrected
> almost two decades later when Ben Affleck and J-Lo started dating again.
> Bizarrely, Christopher Walken and Al Pacino both appear briefly; the
> former has admitted he doesn’t usually turn down work, while the latter
> copped a few years ago to having a “perverse” impulse for taking on
> movies he knows are bad just to see if he can improve them. Everyone
> seemed to emerge relatively unscathed except director Martin Brest, who
> never helmed another film again.

> This was the second time John Powell was attached to a gigantic turd of a
> film, coming after the equally misbegotten Eddie Murphy space comedy
> The Adventures of Pluto Nash was released a year earlier
> (thankfully, no one seemed to blame Powell in either case). The music
> isn’t bad though. It plays like I Am Sam with a light gospel touch
> - at least until the very last minute or so when it unleashes an explosive
> gospel outburst not too removed from his later concert work The Prize
> Is Still Mine
. The most most remarkable thing about the score may be
> that it’s the only thing untarnished by the film’s rancid reputation. If
> you were a bit fatigued by Powell in action mode at this time, it likely
> made for an effective palette cleanser.


Well….at least you didn’t hate it. Still, though, I hope SOMeday to find another who loves this score at least half as much as me. It’s so gorgeous and mellow and comforting, fuckin album is like wrapping warm apple pie in a big fuzzy blanket and shoving it in your ears. Love it.

> —------------------------------------

> Next time: Ok, I’ll actually review Pirates - and the year’s other
> hot mess.

I predict a 3/5 for Pirates.

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