Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales by Geoff Zanelli (Review)

posted Jun 2, 2017, 12:03 PM by Kaya Savas

Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, the Pirates movies brought swashbuckling adventure to the forefront of studio tentpoles for this generation. The multi-billion grossing franchise resonated with audiences worldwide and gave us a supernatural infused world of pirate lore. A big part of the films’ resonance are of course the scores. Hans Zimmer’s Pirates themes have become part of pop culture and even everyday people on the street could most likely identify the themes. At this point you’re probably familiar with the hectic situation of the first Pirates. Last second creative changes resulted in Hans Zimmer writing a main suite of themes overnight and with only 2-3 weeks, a team of 10 composers had to work together to make the score work. A big part of the team was Geoff Zanelli, who had a rare opportunity to infuse his voice into the franchise working alongside Hans. Geoff’s involvement on the rest of the franchise was instrumental as well (no pun intended), and he proved himself reliable to both Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer. This led to Geoff being a huge part of The Lone Ranger, where he was responsible for the epic train climax that meshed Hans’ themes into the William Tell Overture.

So when it came time for the 5th Pirates movie there was no one better to take the reigns of the franchise than Geoff. His familiarity with the films and Hans’ themes were second to none, plus he was able to breath new life into the franchise which was sorely needed after the 4th outing. For Dead Men Tell No Tales, Geoff delivers an extremely engaging and entertaining Pirates score that is faithful to the past while still infusing a new set of thematic material.

Firstly, just ignore Rotten Tomatoes if that influences your judgement on movies these days. The film itself is a decent summer distraction that was honestly better than expected, and way more fun than On Stranger Tides. The score itself matches the film’s return to a lighter and leaner narrative with more swashbuckling flair. Listening to Geoff’s score almost felt like seeing Pirates after it got a nice haircut, it’s feeling cleaner, lighter and fresher. Geoff makes some great use of the old themes and he never ignores them. The film undoubtedly has more of that material than what you experience on the already robust album. The album focuses a lot on Geoff’s new material such as Carina’s theme which is beautiful and Salazar’s theme which feels familiar but is effective. If there is a drawback it’s that the past scores did a great job of giving each villain such a unique feel. Villains such as Davy Jones, the East India Trading Company, Blackbeard and the mermaids all had a very definitive musical presence. For Salazar, his theme commands presence, but it feels too close to a musical phrase that was part of the build up to Blackbeard’s theme. It’s true the notes are not exact, but they are close. And Geoff did enough to really gritty it up to make it stand on its own two feet, but I think it would have helped to give Salazar something new. This could have been a Bruckheimer temp-track demand, but who knows. A great new motif which can be heard in full in “The Butcher’s Bill” is a great example of Geoff infusing this Pirates with more nimbleness and adventure. The end of the adventure ties everything together nicely with a giant climactic set piece and resolution that appropriately references the big love theme from At World's End.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is really a joy from start to finish. Geoff made sure to keep Pirates feeling like Pirates while still being able to infuse enough new thematic material. Geoff now holds a unique title in being the only composer to have had a hand in every single film in the franchise. While the movies will always be dominated by Hans’ themes, including this one, one can’t deny the new life that Geoff injected into the franchise here. After 5 movies you’d think things would feel dried up and dead, but this score is great proof that the world of Pirates is still full of bold thematic energy. Geoff did a fantastic job here, Dead Men Tell No Tales will be one of those Pirates scores that you’ll revisit like the others because of all the great moments it brings to the table.