Saturday, May 19, 2012

Quick Review: The Avengers

The Avengers
Music composed by Alan Silvestri
Conducted by: Alan Silvestri
Orchestrated by: John Ashton Thomas, Mark Graham, Dave Metzger, Alan Silvestri
Recorded at: Abbey Road Studios, London
Album time: Intrada (76 min); Download (64 min)
Available on Hollywood Records/Intrada Records

With the Marvel film lead-in films Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America, writer/director Joss Whedon has finally brought all the characters together in The Avengers.  The Marvel films have gone through a nice variety of composers: Ramin Djawadi, Craig Armstrong, John Debney, and Patrick Doyle.  After his triumphant score to Captain America, Alan Silvestri returns with The Avengers.


In a surprising move to score albums and the sadly fading physical CD sales, the score was released as a 64 minute download album as well as a 76 minute CD.  I’ll be reviewing the physical disc, since it has more music than the download.  (Note: The download has one less track, and the minutes trimmed off various tracks).


Like the previous Marvel films, the story starts right away without main credits, no themes blaring at the beginning.  He did start Captain America in this same way, which evolved as the character did.


Silvestri starts the score in a very militaristic style, similar to G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra (2009).  The music in Doors Open from Both Sides and Tunnel Chase sound like generic action cues.  Tunnel Chase does sound like a lot of Silvestri’s past work, with the snare drums at high levels.  The heroic sounding Avengers theme is hinted at the end of the track.  We don’t get a chock-full of new themes for the characters, but really only 2 main themes for the film.  (First being the Avengers theme).


The new character theme is for Black Widow, which first appears in Interrogation.  The theme has a Russian flavor to it, like Black Widow herself.  (This track only appears on the Intrada release). Stark Goes Green is one of the tracks benefitted by the longer release.  The track features a keyboard solo and one of the quieter tracks.  Helicarrier is a standout track of the album which features the brass kicking in, and large horn moments.


Subjugation, while relying heavy on percussion and the ever-present Silvestri anvil and snare drum, it provides good tension and even features a snippet of his own Captain America theme.  It is hinted at in the score a few times, which works well as his motif.  Don’t Take My Stuff features more action music (no surprise there), as well a more quiet moment with the Tesseract theme. (The Tesseract theme was hinted in Silvestri's previous Captain America score).  Red Ledger features a reprise of Black Widow’s theme.  This track is largely underscoring the talk between Loki and Black Widow, and a welcome break between action scenes in the film.


Assault mixes a few past motifs, including a hint at Captain America, the Tesseract and a brief turn at the Avengers Theme.  As our heroes start joining together, we get Performance Issues, which feature some electronics but nice touches of our main theme, and a great heroic moment at the end of the track.  (This track is greatly expanded on the Intrada version).


From this point on, the music is almost all action and the score takes off. More ostinatos and heroic moments appear in Assemble.  The last quarter of the track is cheer-worthy, as the Avengers finally appear as a group – we finally get a fuller rendition of the Avengers Theme and the music really carries that moment in the film.  I Got a Ride is in a similar vein as some of his material in The Mummy Returns (2001) and Van Helsing (2004).  Silvestri kicks into gear, and a transformed Black Widow’s theme appears in a heroic fashion.  Both A Little Help and One Way Trip work really well.  The latter features some emotional material, which fits the film nicely.  It doesn’t really sound like anything heard in the film so far, which I think is a benefit in this case.  A Promise begins with a very short featured guitar solo.  We get more reprises of the Avengers Theme as the film wraps up.  If you were to hum a melody out of the theater, this would be the one – due to its repetitiveness near the end of the film.  The end credits are featured in the track The Avengers.  We get the full blown theme, with the drum kit in certain sections.  It’s a great way to end the album, and works well with the end credit visuals.


My favorite aspect of the score is that it marries a modern film score sound with an old school feel of electronics and drum kits, and the tradition scoring techniques together.  Many Silvestri scores fit in this category, and they typically work well.  It is not overwhelmed by motifs (which it easily could have been).  Is the Avengers Theme simple yet effective?  You bet.


A lot of people say this score is a missed opportunity.  I suppose that’s valid.  But it really depends on what Joss Whedon wanted.  Yes, we come into the film hoping to get blown away, and we might not be.  It works well, and is most likely makes Silvestri fans very happy.  After all, Silvestri’s work is still better than a lot of junk that gets pumped out.  So let’s be happy with that.  

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