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Soundtrack review: Avengers: Infinity war (Alan Slivestri – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Avengers: Infinity war (Alan Slivestri – 2018)

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“Avengers: Infinity War” is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is intended to be the sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with a screenplay by the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and features an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, and Chris Pratt. Two years after the Avengers were torn apart during the events of Captain America: Civil War, Thanos arrives on Earth to collect the Infinity Stones for a gauntlet that will allow him to bend reality to his will. The Avengers must join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him before his onslaught of destruction puts an end to half the universe.

I am a big fan of the MCU and it’s superhero movies. No matter what people might say or how hey might complain I am getting my dose of heroic, epic, bombastic from these movies and I haven’t missed any of them. I am up to date with the chronology, characters, I have my favourites and I am emotionally connected with this franchise. I view this as a series and the last chapter, “Civil war” worked very well as the equivalent of a season finale on TV. In fact I was thinking that when this phase of MCU is done they could release a box set with the stories set chronologically and divided in hours, like TV eps. That would work perfectly as well. But I digress.

Musically speaking, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a more mixed and hit and miss evolution. If at the beginning there was sort of a consistent sound when Brian Tyler used to write the scores and pour memorable themes something changed when the Russo brothers took over and brought Henry Jackman on as a composer. I am a huge fan of Jackman’s low profile body of work but when he gets a blockbuster I feel his creative choices are limited or imposed by the producers and his scores for the Captain America movies have been generic and bland for me and this meant that even if the movies were undeniably better and more entertaining, the MCU scores were much less enjoyable than the DC ones. Luckily with the most recent couple of productions, “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black panther” Marvel gave the composers more creative freedom and we got two of the most unusual and special superhero scores that brought the musical franchise back afloat.

Within this cinematic universe the “Avengers” ensemble movies hold a special place, as the bookmarks, the gala movies, the all in moments and “Infinity war” is the biggest of them all as it serves as a culmination and conclusion of everything that ever was during these past 10 years. Luckily they share a narrative thread musically as well as their sound hasn’t been altered or mixed. Alan Silvestri wrote the first score and the original “Avengers” theme that still gives me goosebumps after all these years. His theme embodies everything that I love about these heroes and their might. Silvestri was gone for “Age of Ultron” and Brian Tyler who was reigning over the Marvel sound at the time was supposed to write the score. Something happened between him and the producers and Danny Elfman was brought in as a co composer and he delivered a theme that for me was even better than the original; he used Alan Silvestri’s main motif and wrote something that was even more powerful and memorable. I consider “New avengers” as one of the best themes in the past 10 years.

Now Alan Silvestri is back for “Infinity war” and I couldn’t be happier. He warmed up at the beginning of 2018 with Spielberg’s “Ready player one” where he tuned his action mojo. It’s nice, isn’t it? It’s like we are back in the 80s or 90s when Silvestri was churning action blockbuster after action blockbuster. There are two editions of this score and I am reviewing the deluxe one which is almost two hours long and I applaud the decision to release so much music from a movie like this. I am always for long scores and long, suite like cues, and I like getting them when the movie comes out not years later when LLL or Intrada picks up the right.

Let’s first get this out of the away, if there was any doubt: “Avengers: Infinity war” is a spectacular and captivating full orchestral epic super hero score. It’s Alan Silvestri and all the misgivings of previous Russo brothers MCU movie scores are forgotten because this is what film music is all about; no matter if it’s quiet or loud, emotional or thunderous the music is a symphonic celebration, beautiful and rich and with a feeling of golden age of film music over it; I get that unmistakable nostalgia and gratitude that a sound like this always evokes. It’s Alan Silvestri and he stays true to his orchestral legend from start to finish so any doubts you might have had given the MCU musical universe should be cast aside right from the start.

Length is not the only thing score and movie have in common; Alan Silvestri’s music follows closely the narrative and mood of the movie. If I hadn’t seen the movie I might have been a little disappointed by the slow and dark first half of the score but it makes total sense in context. Before going into the theatre my expectations was of a balls out action movie where the avengers relentlessly fight their mighty and cruel unidimensional foe and I expected a score to match, all out epic action. I was wrong. The Russo brothers surprised me and everyone else by writing the most complex and compelling villain in the MCU so far and by making the movie about Thanos; this is why the music is quiet for long passages, this is why more than half of the score is veiled in a thick darkness with a sense of impending doom looming in almost every cue. Thanos the mad titan is larger than life and with a clear plan to wipe out half of the universe and the fatality of it al, the sense that he and this destruction cannot be stopped is ever present in Alan Silvestri’s score. Whether it’s Thanos or one of his Black Order adoptive children, it doesn’t matter. The darkness is the same, their presence is what defines the world of “Infinity war” and the music echoes that. Also most of the movie takes place in dark settings, often empty and ravaged, where everything is broken in pieces and Alan Silvestri captures all that with deep horn and brass sections which echo a different age of film music. The use of brass instruments is one of my favourite elements in “Infinity war”.

On the other had there are the warmer, more emotional moments which are rare in this score; there is little hope and few reasons for joy in this movie so the composer rarely lets a bit of light brea through in his score. There aren’t even full cues written like that, free of the doom, but mere passages inside cues like “A lot to figure out” or “We both made promises”.

The first half of the movie is constructed from separate scenes, smaller in scale, where various groups of avengers fight their enemies, often in the dark, in the shadows, often after sharing moments between each other and that’s why the music feels more intimate during the first half of the score; there is barely any spectacular action piece up until (and it’s no spoiler here since the scene is in the trailer) Captain America shows up from the shadows and the score is suddenly alive with the already legendary Silvestri Avengers theme that signifies the wake up call for both movie and album in “Help arrives”. It’s one of the three instances when the Avengers motif is isolated and given centre stage in the movie.

There is a scene in this movie, my favourite one, that defines Thanos and his character, one of the most emotional scenes in the MCU so far; you’ll know it when you see the movie. That’s when the genius and unique craft of Alan Silvestri shines even more with one of his best cues ever, I am not afraid to say it. As I was watching the movie I was sure it was going to be a long, epic suite but the composer managed to just concentrate all that emotion, all the heartbreak of that magnificent scene in a two minute long piece, “Even for you” (after the setup in “A small price”, a wonderfully split title) that is truly something stunning. The build up, the epic, larger than life, splendid combination of sorrow and determination, of heartbreak and doom, the out of this world choral section, it’s an epic anthem that only a composer like Alan Silvestri could have written like this and which does justice to the amazing character it was written for. I just can’t stop listening to it and I know there’s more coming.

The beauty of such a complex and long score is that it gives the composer time and space to truly highlight the most poignant and emotional moments of the movie; he doesn’t waste his epic motifs and doesn’t turn up the choral engines unless the scene is memorable and I can isolate in the score the most heroic actions of each of the characters, like “More power” or “Forge” in Thor’s case or the one cue that rivals “Even for you”, “Get That Arm/I Feel You” which dominates the end of the movie. Silvestri also cleverly uses his Avengers theme only in precise, rare moments as if he was trying to motivate the heroes himself. The more I listen to this score the more I feel it will become a classic in years to come, “Star Wars” style.

And then comes the conclusion, the final section of the movie when it’s all about fighting. Like I said before the score follows the narrative of the movie and the final few cues are everything you’ve been waiting for, everything you could ask for from a superhero score of this magnitude; Alan Silvestri hasn’t been writing action and adventure scores for over 30 years for nothing. He just turns on the jets and fires on all engines for the final battles. There is also something else that’s brilliant in the music, the moments when it quiets down as it seems to disintegrate and turn to dust. These short passages might seem strange when you are listening to the score but they make sense in the context of the movie.

With “Avengers: Infinity war” and Alan Silvestri’s comeback to the franchise we finally get back that sense of a musical identity for this universe; it’s not about the individual characters as Thanos and his dark and dense sound drowns everything else but it’s about the fanfare, the heroic march sound that we used to get in early MCU films before things started to get messy. Alan Silvestri is back to his usual, spectacular, limitless self when it comes to action film music while also understanding the musical needs of this particular story and how his score fits the directors’ vision. The score is perfectly balanced in all its moments and if you listen to it you pretty much know how you will feel about the movie. I also appreciate how Alan Silvestri understood the magnitude of Thanos and didn’t just write a single theme for him at it would have been useless and underwhelming; instead he bled the essence of this character into the entire score as the sense of unavoidable destruction that comes from him dominates the album. Your hearts might sink a few times as you are listening to this score but trust me, it’s well worth it.

There is nothing more I could ask from an epic, heroic film score. It satisfied me both emotionally and intellectually and I can see myself retuning to it quite often on the future; for me the extended deluxe version worked perfectly but it’s ok to start with the regular release. I hope Alan Silvestri returns for next year’s sequel as well as now, for me, the MCU musical universe is finally back on track.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Highlights:
The Avengers
Travel Delays (Extended)
He Won’t Come Out (Extended)
Field Trip
Help Arrives (Extended)
Hand Means Stop/You Go Right (Extended)
What More Could I Lose? (Extended)
A Small Price
Even for You
More Power
Charge!
Forge
Catch
Haircut and Beard (Extended)
A Lot to Figure Out (Extended)
The End Game (Extended)
Get That Arm/I Feel You (Extended)
What Did It Cost? (Extended)
Porch
Infinity War
Old Tech
End Credits

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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