The Avengers (Alan Silvestri)Posted: May 10, 2012
Final Musings: Fans expecting the Alan Silvestri of yesteryear will ultimately be leaving this score disappointed. While the score offers rather entertaining highlights in its peak, it falls more along the lines of a rather generic entry in the composer’s career. The score falls short with the main theme and the lack of inspiration consequently makes this score a wearisome listening experience. Regardless, it still stands above the drivel that accompanies most modern blockbusters these days and for that perhaps there ought to be some gratitude.
Marvel’s long term cinematic plan finally came to be fulfilled with 2012’s The Avengers. Over the course of many years, the popular comic book studio has worked hard to unleash productions of their most formidable heroes so that they may be gathered to make the penultimate blockbuster, making millions on the way of course. There were high expectations riding on this film, and it did not disappoint. Financially, the film already broke several records in its opening weekend, having surpassed even the final Harry Potter film with its opening weekend grossing. It also served as a strong entry in television director Josh Whedon’s career as it managed to please critics with its intelligent dialogue and charismatic crew.
Now the Marvel films have always been rather colourful in terms of musical style. The scores for these ventures have ranged from mundane Remote Control Production clones for the Iron Man franchise to the symphonic heights of the Spiderman films. Hired for this assignment was action veteran Alan Silvestri. In a world where the Hans Zimmer/Remote Control methodology seems to be forced upon the most respectable of composers, even in the superhero genre (as recently shown by Patrick Doyle’s Thor), Silvestri seems to be a man who can be counted on to provide a more traditional, orchestral score. His recent work for Captain America: The First Avenger proved that the composer was still capable of his rhythmic force and bold themes.
Considering the nature of the film, Silvestri approaches the film more with the stylistic flavour of his disappointing effort for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. So the unreasonable folks expecting the return to the soundscape of Back to the Future and Judge Dredd are bound to be disappointed. The score is exactly one might expect for a film like this. The snare-ripping action, the dissonance for suspense, and the brassy thematic statements common to Silvestri’s career are all there. Electronic accents are also heard throughout the score to attune to the setting and personality of the movie (as heard in moments like 1:36 in “Assemble”). Stylistically speaking, there isn’t anything new this score has to offer. But perhaps this thought is exactly what fans are looking for considering the radically changing trends in today’s film music.
For the various characters in the film, director Josh Whedon specifically requested that Silvestri stay away from previously established themes for the Marvel heroes. This ultimately results in somewhat of a disappointment thematically. Its rather interesting to hear Silvestri quote his heroic theme for Captain America: The First Avenger in occasional snippets in moments like the end of “Assault”, “Subjucation” and half way through “Assemble”. Although it was an expected move on the composer’s part, one can’t help but wonder about the wasted opportunity to offer cameo appearances to the great themes already created for previous films. Also working to add on a contemporary style of the film, Silvestri includes effective RC-like string ostinatos all throughout the score.
Thus, having very little to do with previous musical identities, it was obvious that Silvestri would go for a rousing anthem for the Avengers themselves. This eventual product was a memorable and sufficient heroic idea, but strangely disappointing. First introduced brief at 2:19 in “Tunnel Chase”, one can’t help but feel that the main theme is ultimately rather generic for Silvestri’s usual standards. The theme is often accompanied with a compelling ostinato based on its chord progression (as heard in the opening cue). Admittedly, this melody does have its moments of great appeal in the final cues of the score. However, it’s a shame that we don’t ever hear the rather fun variation the theme receives in the end credits throughout the film. Taking away the over-the-top 80s drum kit rhythm, it would actually have served as quite the highlight in film. Other major themes include a small idea for Black Widow first introduced in the “Interrogation” cue and later developed in “Red Ledger”. Far more peculiar however is the Tesseract theme (first introduced at the beginning of “Arrival”), which stands for the antagonistic supernatural elements in the film. Either the composer attempted to draw parallels with the presence of the Tesseract in both films or it was simply a regurgitation of Silvestri’s stock suspense themes. Aside from various action motifs, the final major theme is the rally anthem, which makes its debut at 2:30 in “A Little Help”. It is a rather savory melody that runs along the lines of Zimmer’s own inspirational anthem in The Thin Red Line, and it certainly acts as refreshment amidst the chaotic action material.
Yet despite the score’s multifaceted qualities, there are most certainly highlights for all film music fans to feast upon.
Muse on These:
As mentioned before, this cue offers a very engaging true sense of awe and grandeur. Using its ostinatos rather effectively, it’s hard not to be moved by the music’s heroic majesty.
I Got a Ride
Simply a noteworthy example of Silvestri’s classic snare-ripping action. Fans of his heart-pumping material will find this entertaining.
One Way Trip
Besides the usual dense action material, it’s nice to hear the rally anthem and the expressive statements of the main theme to create a rather emotionally satisfying climax.
The opening guitar is a nice way to breathe new life into the score after the almost overbearing density of the score. Played over a finale-like montage, we hear statements of the Tesseract theme and the main theme to present a well-crafted finale cue.
About the closest thing the score has to a concert suite. It’s hard to deny that the flashy modification of the main theme is quite entertaining, even with the 80s drum kits in the background (clearly done intentionally). The phrase at 0:50 is absolutely sublime and it really is a darn shame that this was not explored with greater consistency throughout the score.
To sum it up, it might be reasonable to say that Silvestri dropped the ball a bit for this assignment. It has all the usual ingredients to a traditional Silvestri scores, but it rarely offers anything new or interesting to rank up with the composer’s greater works. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to really call this a generic score in his career. As bold as the main theme is, it’s a big letdown at the thought of what could have been. By the end of the album, listeners will likely have found the music to be rather tiring and a bit dull. But the peaks of the score do offer several minutes worthy of any fan’s collection. At the very least, the score is quite appetizing in its job of staying away from the drivel that would have come from a score of the Remote Control Productions methodology. Yet one can’t help but worry if it really just takes an orchestral score to get the lovers of film music pumping these days. But that’s an argument best saved for the more severe cases of the year. On an important note, the Intrada CD release does offer about 10 minutes worth of extra material compared to the digital release, but besides the additional “Interrogation” cue, fans of the digital won’t be missing out on much. Perhaps we’ll hear the composer stretch his wings more in the inevitable sequel that will come to be. But as it is, those looking for an inspired Silvestri romp for a Marvel flick are better left off looking back to his score for Captain America: The First Avenger.
Rating: * * *