You may have noticed this video making the rounds on Facebook this week. It’s by a YouTube account that goes by the name of Every Frame a Painting, which posts detailed analyses of movies. TLDR: It basically claims that the MCU doesn’t really have any iconic musical themes even after churning out 13 movies.
It then points the finger at a systemic problem in the industry where directors make use of temp music – music from other movies used as a temporary placeholder – when making a preliminary cut of the film. This means that when composers get the film and are asked to score it, the director has already subconsciously incorporated the rhythms of the temp music into the cut, which in turn limits composers with the type of music they have to write for the movie.
The EFP video does bring up a lot of good points about how some MCU music just doesn’t stand out. Here’s my response:
1Every Frame A Painting seems to be cherry picking its examples
It singles out the music in transitions or lead ups to big, attention grabbing scenes as being too bland, but it also seems to make the conclusion that most MCU original soundtracks then sound bland and safe. There are some amazing musical themes that have come out of the MCU, and yes, while the majority of the score has become literal background music, comparing it to the Star Wars, Harry Potter and James Bond franchises seems a little unfair.
The latter three have been around in our collective cultural consciousness for decades (even the Harry Potter movies were released over a period of 10 years), and two of them were scored by John Williams, whom most consider to be the best film composer of all time. Those three franchises also use their main themes again and again, which is something that the Marvel Symphonic Universe doesn’t do.
This is because in the 13 movies that have been released so far in the MCU, they have had 10 different directors (I’m counting the Russos as one entity in this case) and 10 different composers scoring the movies.
2The MCU is made up of several smaller franchises
3Marvel has to strike a delicate balancing act in each movie
The EFP video also claims that there aren’t any musical themes in the MCU that elicit emotional reactions, or if they do, they tend to be hidden behind narration.
But I think Marvel squeezes a lot of things into its scenes to try and move the story forward. They create a lot of character moments that tie each bit into the bigger picture of the MCU, which is a delicate balancing act in any franchise, and this means that sometimes the music gets covered up by something else.
But one thing stood out to me in the EFP video. Beyond one scene from Captain America: Winter Soldier and a couple of beats from Ant-Man, there were no examples of similar sounding Marvel soundtracks beyond Winter Soldier. That might just be a coincidence, but I personally think that Henry Jackman’s score for Winter Soldier was a turning point in terms of the Marvel Symphonic Universe, because from that point on, the music was brilliant.
4Marvel is consistent in its choice of composers
Marvel has stopped hiring wildly differing composers for the time being and seem to have decided which composers they’d like to work with more often: Henry Jackman was brought back for Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man 3 composer Brian Tyler was brought back to work with Danny Elfman for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Alan Silvestri is being brought back for Avengers: Infinity War after writing the music for The Avengers.
In fact, in the list of movies that are currently in post- or pre-production, there’s only one new composer they’ve brought into the fold: Michael Giacchino for Doctor Strange. And this is the part that has me really excited, because Giacchino’s work has always been amazing. He’s written fantastic music for Up! and The Incredibles, but I’ve always loved the music he’s written for the Star Trek reboots.
Conclusion: As a movie soundtrack nerd, I’ve always enjoyed the music of the Marvel Symphonic Universe. While I can see the point that EFP is trying to make, I do hope that it’s a trend that goes away soon.
Music is an integral part of any good movie, and more so when it makes us feel for the characters. Doctor Strange already has a lot riding on it, but I’m confident that the music, at least, will be in good hands. I can only hope that the Marvel Symphonic Universe continues to develop and outdo itself the way the movies have.
Do you agree with Every Frame A Painting about the Marvel Symphonic Universe? Tell us!