The Avengers

The latest episode of Tony Zhou‘s fantastic video essay series Every Frame a Painting takes a look at one of Marvel Studios’ biggest problems. While Marvel gets a lot of things right that others don’t, one aspect consistently criticised of their films is the lack of iconic theme music. But why hasn’t Marvel been able to produce a movie with a theme song that you can remember? Watch the video now after the jump.

The Problem With Marvel Scores

And if you’re looking for isolated examples of movies that likely used temp tracks side by side with the “inspired” scores, here is a video:

As Zhou notes:

Off the top of your head, could you sing the theme from Star Wars? How about James Bond? Or Harry Potter? But here’s the kicker: can you sing any theme from a Marvel film? Despite 13 films and 10 billion dollars at the box office, the Marvel Cinematic Universe lacks a distinctive musical identity or approach. So let’s try to answer the question: what is missing from Marvel music?

The video takes a look at all of the Marvel Studios films and tries to get to the bottom of the issue. Is it due to the scoring process which is currently leaning too heavily on the use of temp music during the editing process, which often leads to a bland, homogenised result? This is a problem that is much larger than just Marvel but stretches to almost all genres of films big and small. Temp music is definitely a big part of the problem with modern film scores, but it doesn’t explain why the Marvel movies haven’t had a memorable score.

Zhou theorizes is that Marvel’s scores are missing risk, which sometimes leads to the bold, iconic, emotional scores that we tend to remember.

While they have remained hugely successfully financially, Marvel has always listened and considered what the critics have said and have tried to improve. At San Diego Comic-Con International, Marvel Studios revealed a new logo which will open all of their new movies. The studio title has a score composed by Michael Giacchino, and it’s certainly bold and trying to make an impression. And it should; this is pure branding — the first impression every moviegoer will get out of any Marvel movie.

I personally like the main Avengers theme composed by Alan Silvestri. And I think we’ll be getting some more interesting scores in the next couple years from the company. Mark Mothersbaugh is scoring Thor: Ragnarok, Michael Giacchino is composing the music for Doctor Strange and Ryan Coogler cohort Ludwig Göransson is doing the score for Black Panther.

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