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Zimmer, team, alums rundown Pt 5 - RC intro + 2005-07: (B)atmosphere Man Begins (5i) [EDITED]
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• Posted by: JBlough   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 6:02 a.m.
• IP Address:
Message Edited: Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 6:06 a.m.

This is part of a series. Part 5h is here:


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) - ****½
Hans Zimmer; add’l music by Lorne Balfe, Tom Gire, Nick Glennie-Smith, Henry Jackman, Atli Örvarsson, John Sponsler & Geoff
Zanelli; featuring Pedro Eustache, Michael Levine, Heitor Pereira, Martin Tillman & Gore Verbinski; ‘Hoist the Colours’ by Zimmer
& Verbinski with lyrics by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio; orchestrated by B & W Fowler/Moriarty, Liz Finch, Steve Bartek & Ken Kugler;
conducted by Blake Neely & Nick Glennie-Smith; choir conducted by Matt Dunkley; technical music assistants Jacob Shea &
Bobby Tahouri; thank you’s to Ramin Djawadi, Jim Dooley, Clay Duncan, Bart Hendrickson,
HGW, RGW, Steve Jablonsky, Henning Lohner & Matthew Margeson

Zimmer, after Dead Man’s Chest: “There's stuff in the second score that lays pipe for things in the third, and there are bits that are going to go by the wayside as well.”

Sound mixer Alan Meyerson: “After Pirates 1 I thought it would never get any larger; that was as big as a music mix can get. And then Pirates 3 was totally insane.”

Score recordist Slamm Andrews - “On P3 Gore said nobody was allowed to shower or shave, cut their hair, groom at all. I had a full beard.”

Music editor Katie Greathouse - “During P3 I was in a room every day for four months with Slamm.”

The process of filming Dead Man’s Chest and the third film in the franchise back-to-back took its toll - multiple scenes for At World’s End were written on set, some filming had to be moved to L.A. after a hurricane wiped out a set, and there were only 10 weeks for post-production. Legend would tell you that the film was a box office disappointment - though that seems to only be because its predecessor made over $1 billion globally and this one only made $961 million, even if that still made it one of the ten highest-grossing films ever made at that time. Reviewers and audiences would have mixed opinions, with some exasperated by the script’s inclusion of pirate bureaucracy, a lot of double crosses, and a giant lady who turns into crabs that turn into a whirlpool. I’ll concede that it’s a cumbersome film at times, but its lengthy final maelstrom battle holds up remarkably well - and it’s leagues better than the sequel that followed.

There were over 30 minutes of new musical suites written before the team saw the first cut of film, with all seemingly performed by an orchestra (Zimmer would later say he was “warming them up” for the actual score). Two of those five suites were done for the villain Cutler Beckett, one by Hans alone and one with contributions from Lorne Balfe. Balfe would say, “The Beckett tune didn’t really kick in until Pirates 3. Due to the great soundproofing in our rooms [Hans and I] could only hear vibrations. I heard “dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun” and knew the way I should be going and the tempo.” These wouldn’t just carry on the character’s repetitive harpsichord idea from the second film; newly added would be a brutal descending fanfare, a secondary idea that wouldn’t have been out of place in Zimmer’s 90s action scores, and a quick flourish that would make a few appearances in the movie. Both suites are entertaining in a guilty pleasure fashion, though some of the style is a bit too harsh - practically doing 90s Media Ventures action and Gladiator at some points - and there are some ideas that wouldn’t make it to the final film (Zimmer’s relentlessly ticking percussion and Balfe’s active bass thumping sound, for example). Also, Zimmer’s Lord Cutler Beckett practically takes the secondary Beckett idea into Peacemaker territory; some listeners might laugh out loud at the commonalities like I did.

A third suite would cover Chinese pirate Sao Feng, his crew, and the Singapore region - and find Zimmer operating in the same kind of pseudo-Eastern environment he did in Beyond Rangoon and The Last Samurai. There are three ideas (often performed concurrently) that would make their way to the film: a floating flute line (possibly in a pentatonic scale), an ascendant bass line, and something close to an actual melody. The suite’s active midsection would inform the film’s early Singapore battle music. A late flowing melody wouldn’t show up in the film at all but would clearly inform some of Zimmer & team’s ideas for the later Kung Fu Panda. All of this seems to be an attempt to unite the disparate halves of The Last Samurai (the contemplative material and the Gladiator-style action) into a cohesive whole.

A lot of the score’s major thematic ideas would emerge from the 11+ minute Marry Me suite that Henry Jackman helped on. An ‘A theme’ seems to function as the main adventure idea for the new film, though it eventually becomes more associated with Will and Elizabeth. A descending ‘B theme’ seems associated with doom and mortality and is sometimes played alongside an ascending secondary adventure idea. A ‘C theme’ is mainly used around Will and Elizabeth’s later scenes and is arguably the first time the franchise had a love theme (the couple’s earlier moments in the first two films had been accompanied by a slow variation on the main franchise theme). Zimmer would say he was “quietly proud of” the love theme, which seemed to be a reference to all three of these ideas. “I think [it']s one of the best themes I’ve ever written. It was 11 at night and at this point Gore was so fucking pissed off with me that I had to move into Disney to write. I was just about to throw [it] away because I [didn’t] quite believe in it. Gore was walking by and heard it through the door. He sat down next to me and he goes, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’” There’s also a spirited jig, possibly a variation on the descending ‘B theme’, set against the ‘A theme’ in the second half of the piece - which would carry over into the film’s delightful Up Is Down sequence. And there’s a tragic idea for lost love, though this would only make it into the actual movie once.

And (best of all) there’s a lurching sea shanty suite called Hoist the Colours which Gore Verbinski helped write and actually seems to contain three distinct ideas (the verse melody, a “yo-ho-yo-ho” chorus melody, and a slightly more dour version of that chorus which tends to move down the scale instead of up it). What was astonishing about all these ideas (and especially the score material that would emerge from the last two suites) is how not like other Pirates franchise music they were. They were very orchestral. They were decidedly less weighted down by mixing or synthetic embellishments. And the writing had flourishes and mannerisms, plus a sense of romance and adventure, that one would more associate with (gasp) more traditional pirate movie music. Maybe Zimmer finally stopped trying to reinvent the damn genre every time. Or he finally got enough inspiration from the story. Perhaps it just took this long to crack the code on how to smuggle things more expected of swashbuckling fare (obvious woodwind and string parts, fanfares, that swaying feel to the melodies, and such) into a freakin’ Bruckheimer movie. One could joke that Zimmer read too many Amazon reviews about the anachronisms in Dead Man’s Chest, got fed up, and said, ‘screw you, you guys want something more like pirate music, fine, HERE’S your f-ing pirate music’, similar to how we get a ‘fine, HERE’S your superhero music’ album over a decade later for Wonder Woman 1984. Whatever the reason, the results were awesome.

As I said, nearly all of the ideas in the suites would filter into the actual film score. There’s also a haunting “back from the dead” melody, often sung by two singers doing slightly off-kilter harmonies, that’s one of the rare cases in this fantasy film franchise where the music adds a sense of awe and wonder. And there’s some weird atmospheric stuff for Jack Sparrow’s hallucinations. On top of those ideas were all the other components that continued from the prior films - the main franchise theme, the first film’s death theme and its sprightly cello idea, both Black Pearl themes, Jack’s sequel theme and its action variant, Davy Jones’ theme and associated organ, Tia Dalma’s theme, and the anticipatory set of three ascending notes that appeared at the end of the second film. It’s a densely packed work that puts Zimmer’s estimate of 19 themes for Gladiator to shame. And, heck - those are just the ideas unique to this franchise; bits of Journey to the Line and King Arthur snuck in as well.

Not continuing from the second film’s music would be any of the edgy “biker gang” sound for Davy Jones and his crew (i.e., running the orchestra through a guitar amp for a darker sound), save for one climactic resurrection of a thumping heartbeat sound. Yay.


Unlike Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End would receive a largely satisfactory album release covering about an hour of the music in the film, save for a snippet of the Singapore track coming from the aforementioned suite. Disney would also release the suites and a 7-minute early demo of Beckett ideas, though in an obnoxious fashion: months later as part of the fourth CD of a box set that contained the preexisting album programs as the other discs. There was no remix on the original album, though the fourth CD of that box set would have six (six!) of them. However, this is an enormous work, possibly the longest Zimmer score to date, and there’s a ton of material not on either album, including over 90 minutes of score and another 30ish minutes of known alternate tracks. At the film’s premiere Zimmer would claim he and his team wrote something close to five hours in total. There really is no point in evaluating anything less than the whole enchilada, especially because I already gave that courtesy to Dead Man’s Chest.

Like King Arthur before it, this really isn’t as much an innovative work as it is an effective repackaging of familiar ideas, mannerisms, and chord shifts in as big an environment as possible. If hearing even a bit of the legacy Media Ventures style in a movie about pirates still felt like a bridge too far, this score may still not be for you, despite its massive improvements over the formula of the earlier scores in the series. For me, however, those improvements ARE significant. It feels like Zimmer and team decided to lean into genre conventions rather than trying to reject or reinvent them. There’s a rich orchestral sound to some of the proceedings; the first score in the series sometimes felt like it was all programmed on synthesizers or had its mix aggressively processed after the orchestra was recorded (and certainly sounds that way on film), but this sucker sounds like it was played by real instruments. Most of the new themes are great, and there’s an energy and spirit to many moments that puts them near the pinnacle of Zimmer’s Remote Control output.

Also, there is astonishingly little cut-and-paste from the earlier films given how much time Zimmer and team had. Heck, I’d venture that the themes from the first movie make up less than 5% of the runtime.

I thought about trying to effectively summarize my thoughts similar to many other works, but that’s nigh impossible to do efficiently with a 3+ hour score. So, instead, I’ll just limit myself to eight key sequences and what I like about them.

1) Trying To Get Lost (the opening of At Wit’s End on the album) by Zimmer - This was the first track in the score that gave audiences a clue that the music was gonna be different this time. It all kicks off with a terrific anticipatory introduction to the ‘A theme’ and ‘B theme’ from Marry Me before segwaying into dual female voices singing the “back from the dead” theme and then closing with a triumphant statement of the ‘B theme’. The influence of the Da Vinci Code is obvious here (those churning strings at the start, plus the haunting singers), but regardless the track introduced something rather new to this franchise: a sense of wonder. It also showcased Zimmer’s continued fascination with wordless female vocals since he saw Once Upon a Time in the West, though later tracks would take even greater inspiration from that work.

2) Who’s Captain / Below Deck (the opening of I See Dead People In Boats on the album) by Zimmer & Balfe - the main focus here is an (I think) English horn performance of the ‘A theme’ as Will and Elizabeth have a private conversation. It’s gorgeous, and almost jaw-dropping to hear in a Bruckheimer movie, though I have to remind myself that Bruckheimer isn’t inherently opposed to an orchestra, rather he just thinks such flourishes tend to be distracting in the types of movies he usually makes - and At World’s End was about as far as one could get from Bad Boys and Days of Thunder.

3) The Green Flash (Up Is Down in the album) by Zimmer & Jackman - the jig from the second half of the Marry Me suite kicks off one of the most thrilling things Zimmer and team came up with in this era. It adds variations on the ‘A theme’ and the ascending part of the ‘B theme’ on top of the jig, as well as some horn trills that wouldn’t have been out of place in an Elliot Goldenthal score - with all of it gradually building up an anthemic grandeur without ever losing its sense of playfulness. It’s an absolutely vital part of one of the better scenes from the film. Not making the album - more mysterious statements of the intoxicating “back from the dead” theme.

4) Jack & Beckett (unreleased) by Zimmer, Zanelli & Balfe - over eight minutes in the middle of the film where Jack & Beckett talk aboard Beckett’s ship as various other double crosses occur. The various themes for Beckett get some intriguing variations - quiet strings on the new theme, solo horn on the old one, the new secondary idea first on accordion and later in its martial Peacemaker mode. The ghostly female voices from earlier in the film return, but now they’re carrying the Tia Dalma theme. Halfway through the conversation the original Beckett theme starts chugging relentlessly on strings and harpsichord, gradually adding a puffing snare part, cimbalom, and flute parts. A conclusive outburst of Jack’s action theme as he escapes is a delight, and the track closes with something fun - a reorchestrated version of the music when Jack stole a ship in the first film (the film makes a visual reference to that moment), but this time with Beckett’s theme on top of it. The first six minutes of this would be rescored with some slightly different takes on the same ideas.

Not only do I appreciate this track for all the new things it does with its thematic toolbox. I also really like how it enhances the proceedings on film. The first six minutes are just people talking and negotiating, but the music adds nuance, tension, and a real sense of different characters gaining the rhetorical upper hand at different times, all while simmering at a volume that doesn’t overwhelm the material. Stuff like this is really hard to get right (it’s probably why a lot of conversational scenes in today’s films just feature sustained notes, if they even feature music at all), and it’s worth applauding when it’s executed this well.

5) Keith & The Code (unreleased) by Zimmer & Örvarsson - This belching, almost drunk take on Jack’s comic theme for the introduction of Keith Richards (playing Jack’s father, and also basically playing himself) seems to be another place where Zimmer smuggled in some Morricone material. The quirky woodwind farts in the first half could’ve come right out of a Spaghetti Western.

6) Parlay by Zimmer - Zimmer couldn’t resist having a six-way negotiation on a sandbar turn into an homage to the film that got him interested in film music, and so this track becomes a blatant throwback to Man with a Harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West, with that work’s recurring rhythm and harmonica parts combined with some chopping Media Ventures strings as director Gore Verbinski plays a Morricone-style guitar solo of this score’s ‘A theme’. Admittedly, when it came out in 2007 I just thought it was one last burst of anachronistic cool; I hadn’t heard the older music or even seen that earlier Western film (it’s since become one of my favorites), and I had no clue that Zimmer had already done a version of this in the film Broken Arrow over a decade earlier. Regardless, it still slays. You can put this in the same bucket as the Vegas music from Rain Man and much of the first Pirates score - “I should hate this, but dang it, I don’t.”

Zimmer: “We’re not doing a pirate movie. We’re making a Western. So those old Spaghetti Westerns, how come it worked that [Ennio Morricone] had an electric guitar in there even though [the movies are set] in a time where electricity hadn’t been invented yet? It never feels in [conflict].”

7) The final battle across Maelstrom + The Wedding + Getting The Chest + Davy’s Death + Liftoff (parts of Maelstrom Pt 2, The Wedding & Getting The Chest are covered by the second half of I Don't Think Now Is The Best Time on the album) by Zimmer, Gire/Sponsler, Jackman & Zanelli - Okay, yeah, I know. Including a 20+ minute sequence across several tracks might be cheating. But this is a non-stop thrill ride of music for a non-stop thrill ride of a sequence, and it’s almost impossible to discuss how many different ideas are at play without listing them chronologically.

The music in the first five minutes of the battle does a lot of fascinating stuff - an apocalyptic choral take on the Tia Dalma / Calypso theme that leads into more Goldenthal-like horn trills, Beckett’s original theme doing battle with the Hoist the Colours verse theme, an brawny outburst of the secondary Beckett theme, and enormous statements of both versions of the Hoist the Colours chorus. The sequence then transitions to Jack’s comic material and a rare appearance of one of the Black Pearl themes from the first film before a nasty series of organ chords as Davy Jones eliminates his human military supervisor. Jack’s action material blasts as he escapes to the top of the ship before a male chorus belts out a thrilling version of the main Hoist the Colours chorus as Jack and Davy Jones duel.

The Wedding is maybe the most magnificent track in the entire score - not just for its thematic highlights but also because it so effectively captures the danger, action, comedy, and romance of a very unique three-minute scene. Following a brief appearance of that same Black Pearl theme as we cut to the other ship, horns hit this film’s ‘A theme’ amidst some churning strings. We then get a wildly new take on the bridge part of the main franchise theme, structured here to sound like a layered brass fanfare, which blends with fragments of Hoist the Colours. The piece starts to behave like the halfway point between a dance and the thrilling momentum of the earlier Green Flash sequence. It all builds to an utterly perfect reveal during a series of slow motion shots - the Will/Elizabeth love theme finally unleashed in all its romantic glory with a dope French horn countermelody that would’ve made Elmer Bernstein proud. An earlier version of The Wedding (v11) would follow the same outline but not quite nail the elegance of the final version.

After this point, everything in the film is happening at an almost feverish intensity, and the music matches that by revisiting and reinterpreting a lot of the first film’s action material in a more gargantuan fashion, along with a rowdy take on Jack’s action material as Davy Jones chases him around the ship (an earlier version of Getting the Chest would follow the same structure but include a late unique take on Davy Jones’ theme that wouldn’t end up in the film). The menacing Davy Jones ostinato from the second film returns as the final confrontation with Jones starts, and the kraken heartbeat sound returns as Jones stabs Will. Jones’ defeat is scored by a King Arthur-sized choral explosion of Tia Dalma’s theme.

As the Black Pearl escapes the whirlpool, a nicely clever surprise happens - the choir sings out a snippet of the “back from the dead” theme. The ‘B theme’ follows, now backed by choral chanting as Elizabeth laments Will’s apparent death. Jack and Elizabeth escape the sinking ship to the tune of the theme for lost love from the Marry Me suite; this seems to be that idea’s only appearance in the movie.

Zimmer: “Paul Massey, who dubbed this picture, did a genius job of managing to have us hear the music while all sorts of things are blowing up.”

8) The End Credits (Drink Up Me Hearties and the Hoist The Colours Suite on the album, though the credits version of the latter is slightly different) by Zimmer, Zanelli, Jackman & Glennie-Smith - After starting with the franchise theme and the action transition from the second score, the credits give us an impressive recap of most of the ideas from the Marry Me suite, though it’s worth noting that there are some unique twists here, namely the jig idea playing underneath the ascending and descending parts of the ‘B theme’ before continuing underneath the Will/Elizabeth love theme. When I saw this movie in theaters I had already heard the album, so I thought we were done! I had no clue that we were about to be treated to a 5-minute large-scale variation on Hoist the Colours.

There’s also something bittersweet here. Nick Glennie-Smith helped on the Hoist the Colours suite, as well as a few sections of the score involving the theme, and this was the last major score he wrote additional music for. Nearly all of his subsequent contributions to scores by Zimmer and MV/RC alums have been as a conductor, though he has had a few scores of his own since then. Glennie-Smith is an underrated part of the Media Ventures era. He gave Zimmer free space at the studio he owned in London when Zimmer was a jobbing musician, and he was Zimmer’s first assistant and provided a lot of additional music in the 1990s including a bunch of Cool Runnings, one track on Beyond Rangoon, several stretches in Crimson Tide, and even parts of Bad Boys. It seems fitting that after 20+ years of composing for Hans’ team he helped write one of the most sensationally entertaining pieces the group had ever produced.


That’s not to say these are all the moments of note - I suppose if I was trying to do something closer to track-by-track liner notes I could’ve hit on the full Singapore sequence, the spectral Da Vinci Code mannerisms of I See Dead People In Boats, the macho statement of Hoist the Colours as the crew heads inland after escaping Davy Jones’ locker that leads into a “surprise!” outburst of the ascending Singapore bass line in Jiggy Kraken, the rare use of the Hoist the Colours verse melody for the transition to Shipwreck Cove (and its two alternate takes), the Lord of the Rings-sized choral outburst as the sea goddess Calypso is freed, the unabridged heroic version of the Davy Jones theme that didn’t make the album presentation of Beckett’s Death, or the delightful new performance of the first film’s sprightly cello idea in The Ship Is Gone.

Zanelli: “Pirates 3 was my chance to go and develop the theme I wrote for Tia Dalma in the previous movie. I wasn’t aware when I originally wrote her music that she was to become Calypso and, literally, a much larger character for this film. Her theme is used throughout the film in all sorts of places, but it really plays in its fullest version during her growth sequence, in the piece Calypso. I did many other things for the film - Entering The Bath House, the music for when Sao Feng seduces Elizabeth, Shipwreck Cove and Lift Off, [the last two] made up primarily of my own arrangements of Hans’ themes.”


As much as I adore this score, it is not without its frustrations. There is no earthly reason for a duduk to show up multiple times; it makes about as much sense as it did in King Arthur. It also doesn’t seem to have any coherent application, showing up for Elizabeth, a few scenes with Will’s father, and even the remains of Jack’s mom (though in that last case it’s basically restating To Zucchabar from Gladiator). But it is the first appearance on a Zimmer score of woodwind player Pedro Eustache, who would go on to have a very prominent role in last year’s Dune.

And that’s not the only King Arthur recycling going on here. The two triumphant statements of Hoist the Colours that bookend the final battle feature that work’s repeated string rhythm; both made the original album and the similarities are still distracting to this day. And a male choir bellows out the earlier film’s ascending three-note motif (the one that Zimmer said was the apex of that whole score) right before Davy Jones is struck down.

It is hard to know what to attribute those redundancies to. Laziness? Unlikely. Bruckheimer demanding adherence to the temp? Maybe - it had happened before - but that wouldn’t explain why the rest of the score is so strikingly different. My gut tells me that Zimmer and his team just ran out of time amidst an incredibly compressed post-production schedule and basically had no choice but to just recycle these elements. Thankfully they’re not omnipresent.

If it wasn’t for these things, I might’ve named this Zimmer’s finest accomplishment.


Zimmer tied a dapper little red bandana around his neck at the film’s premiere. His scarf game has been fierce for most of his career - check out what he wore when he won that Lion King Oscar! “Jerry had this idea that we should have some of the stuff played at the premiere. I wanted to be the bit of anarchy, where everything can go wrong, so I brought my guitar. It was definitely done in a pirate spirit with the core musicians of these three movies - it was a goodbye to all of it from us.”

Fun fact: Zimmer would again get an album credit for “overproducing” - as would music editor Melissa Muik and Bruckheimer’s frequent music supervisor Bob Badami.

Hans, talking to all his collaborators and thinking he was done with the franchise: “We spent years of our lives together making these movies. We’ll never have these years back, but the years were well spent.”


Next time: Shpider-schweine

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