Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)

Composer: Klaus Badelt, Nick Glennie-Smith, Steve Jablonsky, Geoff Zanelli, Blake Neely, Ramin Djawadi... and 14 other ghostwriters

Label: Walt Disney Records

Catalogue Nr.: 60089-7


Jerry Bruckheimer's summer blockbuster of 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean, successfully revitalized a genre that was considered to be dead. The historical box office failure of Renny Harlin's Cutthroat Island (1995) not only sank Carolco Pictures which produced the film but the entire genre as well. It took almost 8 years before director Gore Verbinski and producer Bruckheimer presented their "refreshed" version of a swashbuckling pirate adventure based on the famous theme park ride at Disneyland, featuring tons of effects and goofy over-the-top acting from Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush. For some reason, the film was highly anticipated by the audience. Needless to say that two sequels are already in the making and set for a release in 2006 and 2007.

The score:

(Now some of you might wonder why I review this score as a part of the Halloween Special but the answer is simple: The score is horrible! Certainly the perfect scare on Halloween)

Before I continue to review this 'music', let me tell those who don't know it already the story behind this score:

Director Gore Verbinski's composer of choice for the film was actually Alan Silvestri. Both already collaborated on two movies, the cheesy Mouse Hunt (1997) and the modern pseudo-western The Mexican (2001). However, producer Jerry Bruckheimer had other plans for the music and wanted Hans Zimmer's media ventures sound which became a signature of Bruckheimer films over the years. At that early stage of post-production, Zimmer was not interested in the film at all while Silvestri was already on board and started writing the music. Rumours are saying that his score heavily relied on flutes and featured a very original approach but he was not able to record anything because Bruckheimer made him walk the plank and insisted on having his usual sound formula. Hans Zimmer half-heartedly agreed to do it but in the end he was too busy to work on it himself. Shortly before the film's release, he gave the project to Klaus Badelt who was under enormous pressure at that time and thus all people at media ventures contributed something to the score.

The result is a Frankenstein-work, assembled of parts from previous media ventures scores which is actually wall-to-wall noise. It is funny that at the time when Silvestri was still on board, the teaser trailer was accompanied by excellent music from Wojciech Kilar's orchestral score for Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). After the rejection of Silvestri's mock-up sheets, the trailer music was changed to Zimmer's Drop Zone (1994). That was the foreshadowing of the final score which is virtually a blatant and shameless rip-off of its trailer music with an overused main theme sounding like a crossover of the themes from The Rock and Drop Zone. Furthermore, there are variations of Gladiator (2000) and The Peacemaker (1997) with a pinch of Black Hawk Down (2001) thrown in (and don't even dare to ask me in which tracks I found that!).

I have watched the film with my family and even my mother, who has no idea about film music, said at one point: 'Isn't this music from Gladiator?' I would agree with her on the Gladiator part but I am not so sure about calling it 'music'. Especially the "Moonlight Serenade" is just an terrible wall-paper of noise that does not go anywhere.

You can basically find all ingredients in this piece that you would not expect in a score for a pirate film: E-guitars, synthesizers, drum-loops and tons of other inappropriate stuff. Sure, this is not a serious period film which cries for a historically correct score but this Media Ventures sampler of a score is not only inappropriate but exchangeable to a ridiculous degree. In fact, it is not necessary to go into detail because there is virtually nothing swashbuckling about this mess and it is totally missing the point during the film. I only rated it 9% for 'score as heard in the film' because it got the pacing somewhat right. It is one of those examples of a score that works around the film only to sell more albums. No wonder that it works slightly better on CD because you can't connect it with the film at all.

Let me summarize: 20 people were needed to create a horrid Frankenstein-work that lacks of heart, excitement or creativity and successfully avoids to emphasize the swashbuckling aspect of the film. Unfortunately, the formula catched on especially with the crowd of younger cinema goers (around the age of 10 to 17). Now these poor people are seriously convinced that Pirates of the Caribbean is great film music work but even James Horner's score for Star Trek 2 (1982) could have been more thrilling in the film. My advice to the filmmakers: let an experienced composer like Alan Silvestri score your films to elevate it on a higher level and don't use uninspired media ventures library music.

Luckily, it can hardly get any worse... oh wait... there are still the two sequels...!

Review by Andreas Creutzburg



Score as heard in the film: 9%

Score as heard on CD: 21%

TOTAL: 15%


The presentation:

Walt Disney Records should be ashamed. The studio had long been a representative of fine music with one classic piece of art after another but Pirates of the Caribbean really marks a low point in Disney music. Putting this stuff on CD was the most unnecessary thing in film music history. Really... it is not worth the CD it was printed on! Collaborations with Bruckheimer are certainly not healthy for the quality of Disney's Music.

Presentation by the Label: 30%



Serious film music lovers should avoid this... All others probably have it already anyways.



01. Fog Bound (02:16)
02. The Medallion Calls (01:52)
03. The Black Pearl (02:16)
04. Will & Elizabeth (02:08)
05. Swords Crossed (03:15)
06. Walk The Plank (01:58)
07. Barbossa Is Hungry (04:06)
08. Blood Ritual (03:32)
09. Moonlight Serenade (02:08)
10. To The Pirates' Cave (03:30)
11. Skull and Crossbones (03:24)
12. Bootstrap's Bootstraps (02:38)
13. Underwater March (04:12)
14. One Last Shot (04:46)
15. He's A Pirate (01:32)