Alan Silvestri composed one of the greatest superhero themes of all time with his score to the first Avengers movie. This however had something of a negative effect on the rest of the album, as the theme far overshadowed everything else.
Avengers Assemble as a movie is beyond iconic. It was at the time the culmination of years of build up in terms of characters and locations as well as a standalone representation of an entire cinematic universe. It was essentially “the big fish”, and had it failed it would likely have been the end of Marvel movies as we know them. It of course goes without saying that a lot was riding on this film, and so everything had to be damn near perfect – which is probably why they then hired composer Alan Silvestri.
Silvestri is a king amongst themes. At the time, he was (well, still is honestly) most famous for composing the incredibly well known scores to the Back To The Future series, as well as other films such as The Mummy Returns, Night At The Museum and The Polar Express. In a similar manner to John Williams, Silvestri’s best work is usually in his themes, as he is particularly good at both making them sound great and be instantly recognisable.
He then of course hit it out of the park with Avengers Assemble. With some rather lackluster scores under it’s belt (Iron Man for example, while solidly OK as a score overall it lacked a memorable theme for the character) what the Marvel Cinematic Universe really needed at the time was an iconic and memorable theme for it’s front runner team up, and boy did they get it.
Let’s start with that then, track nineteen; The Avengers. It is by far the standout cue of the score, and for good reason. The track opens with rapid strings that are swiftly then surpassed by loud, heroic brass and somewhat unusual but great sounding percussion. The brass then gets a section of its own, sounding out slow, short sections of the Avengers theme before the percussion then kicks in once again and the theme is played out in its bold, glorious entirety. The track overall is epic, memorable and in my personal opinion represents one of the best superhero themes ever composed (second only to John Williams’ Superman). It was unfortunately then butchered by Danny Elfman in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but Silvestri was thankfully rehired afterwards and we got to hear the theme in it’s rightful form once again in Infinity War, which was easily one of the highlights of the entire film.
The rest of the score to Avengers Assemble however, is not quite so good. In short, the main problem with it is that Silvestri created such an iconic theme for the Avengers themselves that it unfortunately then overshadowed the rest of the album. I do also think that Silvestri probably knew that, as the remainder of the score sounds like he just phoned in with his typical Silvestri musical style rather than attempting to reach any more high points. From a critical standpoint, it seems like he spent the time creating the theme and then just rested on his laurels for everything else.
A big part of this is the near complete lack of thematic material for anything other than the titular team. Take Tunnel Chase for example. It opens with some rather ominous sounding strings before brass then bursts in with short, rapid bursts. The music then speeds up and that classic Silvestri percussion joins in. We then get two minutes of frantic action score before the brass then takes over once again for a few seconds of very villainous sounding notes. However, while the music does sound like it’s representing a bad guy, there is no coherent theme here (an ever present issue which as I’ve said continues for much of the album). The track then draws to a close with the triumphant opening logos rendition of the Avengers Theme, which is easily the only really memorable thing about the track overall.
We do thankfully then get another recognisable theme in Helicarrier for the organisation S.H.I.E.L.D., though one could argue that it’s just an offset of the Avengers Theme, given how similar the two sound. It is however enjoyable nonetheless, being a rather upbeat and epic piece that also does actually make an appearance or two in future movies.
Don’t Take My Stuff and Assault continue with the same Silvestri-style introduced in Tunnel Chase, namely more nothing brass heavy action music. It’s not bad in the way of orchestration, but in terms of thematic material or indeed anything memorable note-wise both of these tracks have nothing. I listened to them both several times and honestly couldn’t remember much about them even just a few minutes afterwards. It is a real shame, given how great certain other music is on this album.
Salvation then somewhat arrives with Assemble, the best action cue on the score. As soon as it starts you know something is different about this one. The frantic brass begins immediately, but just before you start to tune out we get a lovely rendition of Silvestri’s theme for Captain America from The First Avenger, which massively reignites the action. The classic percussion then makes a brief appearance before the music then slows back down, and rather dark and dramatic strings sound out a presumably problematic moment in the movie. The track then goes a little quiet, with solemn strings working away in the background. We know what’s coming next. The brass starts to build, the percussion starts to come back and we are then treated to a gloriously heroic rendition of the Avengers Theme. It’s been absent for a good twenty minutes now album-wise, and so the return here is most welcome, especially in this incredibly epic style.
We then get a rather dark and percussion heavy action cue in One Way Trip. It’s enjoyable for the two minutes or so, being of a similarl style to Assemble before then sadly dropping into the mindless action habit that much of the score has. The track is then somewhat salvaged in the final minute with a rather hopeful heavily strings-based Avengers Theme. A Promise then continues this mood with some sombre strings and percussion that then switch up into rather optimistic brass. Hints are made towards the main theme, and we even get a short, dramatic section of it before the brass fades and the strings return. We know Silvestri better than that though, as the brass then rapidly builds back up and we get a loud and victorious presentation of the Avengers Theme.
All-in, Alan Silvestri’s Avengers Assemble is a bit of a mixed bag. The main theme he composed for the titular team is nothing short of breathtaking, but that’s pretty much all he has to offer here. Other than the odd interesting action cue the album is mostly typical orchestral action nothingness, and the moments where the action is actually good is usually when the main theme appears. Silvestri relies heavily on it throughout the album, and makes no real attempt at any other thematic material, which is a massive shame given how good we know he is at creating them.
Still, if nothing else we got an amazing and truly iconic theme for the Avengers, and that alone deserves extremely high praise. Well done, Mr. Silvestri.
Standout Cue: 19. The Avengers