Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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Angela Dec 14, 2010

The worldwide trailer of the new upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean was just released.  Check it out here, or direct download it from here.

My rabid fandom for the series has been lying dormant for a while, but I must admit it's stirring again.  The prospects are looking far more promising than they were a year or two ago.  It's great to see such mainstays as screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, and composer Hans Zimmer making a return.  Despite that, I'm keeping things on a cautiously optimistic footing in light of new director Rob Marshall; let's hope he proves to be a worthy successor to Gore Verbinski.
I suppose we can treat this just as much a reboot as it is a sequel.  Continuity in certain characters aside, we are leaving behind the ovearching Will/Elizabeth story, and starting anew with the Fountain of Youth.  Despite Disney's preemptive plans for successive sequels, "On Stranger Tides" does appear to be a self-contained story, much like how the first Pirates initially was.  In fact, early word from test screenings concur that the new movie hems closest to the overall feel and storytelling of The Curse of the Black Pearl - which will undoubtedly serve as relief for those who couldn't hang with the more densely convoluted second and third films.

Angela May 22, 2011 (edited May 22, 2011)

The film's getting hammered by critics and longtime fans alike - and as much as I was looking forward this one and wishing for it to succeed, I have to concur that it's largely deserving of the hate. 

On Stranger Tides is frustrating, because there's an awesome movie lying within somewhere.  It looks great, and the action and choreography continue to be topnotch, but it's the story that takes a massive hit.  The core plot is intriguing enough, but ultimately tainted by its momentum killing screenplay.  This series was never one to shy away from exposition whenever it called for it, but the writing here is so verbose and overbearing, that it manages to deter at every possible opportunity.  It also doesn't help that the dialogue is dry and witless, dulling a lot of the sharp character dynamics.  Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio's fall from grace is a mighty steep drop indeed.

The big offender here is Depp's Jack Sparrow.  Everyone seems to concur that it was a mistake to make Jack the protagonist this time around; as a trickster, he's always worked best as a supporting character, drawing his success from playing off of others.'s Nick says it best: "I think Jack Sparrow is the Han Solo character in this series, he’s great and he’s meant to brighten the proceedings whenever he’s onscreen, but you can’t build the plot around him.  What made him perfect in the first film and at times in the others so magnetic was that while he was in on the action, his magic was in his reaction to it.  He was playing in the margins and almost riffing on the action while the other characters did the generic stuff."  The writers now saw it fit to saddle Jack with huge chunks of redundant dialogue, which is a big no-no when you're trying to preserve the nature of a character's unpredictability.  Here, you could read Sparrow like an open book.  Blindfolded.

The rest of the characters fare slightly better.  Ian McShane looks great as Blackbeard, and while he has a couple of excellent moments to illustrate the character's cruelty, they could have done so much more to make him head-on intimidating.  There's a backstory between Penélope Cruz's Angelica and Jack Sparrow, but it's a weak link when compared to the here and now game of deception that they play against one another in the film.  Rush's Barbossa gets a good revenge plot, and he and Depp manage a glimpse of that old, lively spark whenever they share the screen.  The subplot between Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey's Syrena and Sam Claflin's Philip Swift feels like a scaled back throwback to the Will/Elizabeth story arc, and while there could have been a few more intimate moments for them to share, I appreciated that they provided the only real heart in the film.  I think the best I can say about the story is that it takes its self-contained nature into account; characters, both returning and newly introduced, all see resolution by the end.  No nagging loose ends to contend with, and in that sense, yes, it does feel like a throwback to The Curse of the Black Pearl.

After the thematic powerhouses of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, the score for On Stranger Tides is a muddled, lazy effort from Zimmer and the RCP boys.  Entire cues are lifted wholesale from the first three films, throwing thematic relevance to the wind.  Why are they even referencing Cutler Beckett's theme when there's no mention of him whatsoever?  Yes, it's a stretch to have it refitted as the theme for London authorities, but the same goes for Tia Dalma/Calypso, and the Will/Elizabeth love theme from At World's End.  If this was supposed to be a series reboot, the memo sure wasn't passed on to the sound producers.  There is one new original theme, and it's presented as an amazing suite on the official soundtrack: Blackbeard.  And while Mermaids can't claim compositional originality due to its flagrant use of the undead pirates theme and At Wit's End (and in one jarring instant, Beckett's demise from AWE), it is one of the more impressive tracks on the score, accompanying what is undoubtedly the very best sequence in the movie.  The vocal production by Eric Whitacre is terrific all around, but it is surprising that the much touted collaboration with Rodrigo y Gabriela is greatly subdued as heard in the film.

It pains me to say it, but they've finally created a Pirates movie I can't be bothered to see more than once.  As said, it's infuriating that On Stranger Tides seems like such a squandered opportunity; it had all the makings of an amazing pulp swashbuckling adventure, and even a fantastic story by way of Tim Powers' original novel.  (Few if any elements are culled from the book.)  Direction-wise, it's also missing the 'Gore' factor -- Verbinsky, that is.  Gone are the quirky, edgy indulgences of the prior movies, with Rob Marshall trading in delightfully off-kilt for rigidly straight laced.

Adam Corn May 23, 2011

It's nice to see you're not above putting the hurt on one of your favorite series. smile
After reading that PoC 4 is more along the lines of the last two than the original, and possibly even a further descent into mediocrity, I'm not sure I'll even bother with a rental.

Amazingu May 23, 2011

The trailers have shouted nothing but uninteresting mediocrity to me from the very beginning, so I find this hardly surprising.

Tim JC May 26, 2011

After the third movie I thought they should have called it a wrap, but the thought of Jack Sparrow getting his own movie did interest me. I never considered the sidekick rule. I guess it's like video game spinoffs, which usually seem cool and novel at first, and then fizzle.

jb May 29, 2011

Just saw this today, and although it was a bit anti-climatic compared to the last 3, Ian McShane as Blackbeard was absolutely awesome.  He nailed it and I love his acting in Kings and The Pillars of the Earth.  A+ performance from me!

Idolores May 30, 2011

I'll be seeing this tomorrow with some of my dudes from work. I got a free movie pass I'm dying to use up. Even if the movie sucks a big one like fans have been saying, it'll be just fine with me; nothin' cheaper than something free, after all.

Idolores May 31, 2011

Just got back from a late night showing with some of my dudes. Left a bad taste in my mouth. I know its' endemic to Hollywood to have lots of dialogue, both witty and otherwise, to pepper the film, and OST is no exception. Everyone seemed to have something punchy to say before, during and/or after scenes of action or exposition. In a series of films rich with mood, setting and atmosphere as the Pirates franchise, it feels like every effort the film makes to immerse me is undermined by poorly placed one-liners and completely unnecessary dialogue. It drives me crazy.

As for the film itself, it was a decent popcorn flick, I suppose. I probably won't want to watch it again. Just felt like a lazy sequel to what was a solid, if not outstanding trilogy.

Boco Jun 2, 2011

Maybe I just went into the film with low expectations, but I saw this today and really enjoyed it. It was a traditional action/adventure/fantasy film and was far more engaging then a number of other films I've seen recently. There were several rather annoying plot holes, one of which really irked me for some reason, but on the whole I was able accompany Jack on his journey and enjoy the ride.

I was especially fond of Blackbeard and the mermaids. Despite the fact that the mermaids were the source of a couple of the plot holes. ^_^; I also found Penélope Cruz / Angelica a far more engaging actor / character than Keira Knightley / Elizabeth ever was. As for the score, the new material by Zimmer was excellent and the reused pieces sufficed although I'm not sure why he felt the need to be so lazy on this one. I'll probably pick up the soundtrack somewhere down the line.

Idolores Jun 3, 2011

I'm not sure if i entirely agree with the assessment that making Sparrow the main focus this time around was a bad move in and of itself. The execution of the movie was certainly questionable to be sure, but considering Elizabeth and whatever Bloom's character was called's plot points were resolved at the conclusion of At World's End, there really wasn't too much left to focus on except Jack's quest for the fountain of youth (and also getting back his ship).

With that in mind, I did find Cruz's character to be kind of tacked on; for someone so integral to Sparrow's past, her sudden arrival in the latest Pirates movie with absolutely no prior build-up was mystifying.

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