Pinar Toprak’s score to Captain Marvel has everything you could want from a cosmic superhero’s soundtrack; a decent main theme, solid action tracks and an orchestral style that sounds like a near-perfect and rather wonderful blend of Star Wars and The Avengers.
Ever since they announced that Pinar Toprak would be scoring it, I have held a quiet optimism for the music to Captain Marvel. When I first read her name alongside the film many months ago, I must admit that my initial reaction was; who?, but I made an effort to try and not let that sway me. Too often there is bias against relatively unknown composers in comparison to familiar ones, and in quite a few instances I’ve found that the more unknown ones produce work that is just as good as if not better than most. Recent examples that come to mind are Daniel Pemberton’s Into The Spider-Verse and Ludwig Goransson’s Black Panther; both are somewhat lesser-known composers, and yet I would rate their work for these two projects above a great many scores that have come out in recent years. So, when I got my hands on the score this week, I sat down to listen to Captain Marvel with a pretty open mind.
The soundtrack begins with Captain Marvel, the main theme track for the score. Loud and rather dramatic percussion leads the musical charge initially, with rapid and heroic strings then taking the forefront for a few seconds before the brass kicks in. Then rather oddly, the momentum ceases, and the music stops for a second. The instrumentation then starts up again, and is different enough stylistically that it almost sounds like a brand new track – an odd compositional choice, I must say. After this, some very cool-sounding electronics then flare up in the background, and grandiose brass then finally sounds out the opening notes of the main theme. Considering this is a main theme track, I do find it kind of odd that said motif doesn’t actually appear until halfway through, but still; it is a solid theme, being very heroic and quite fitting for the character of Captain Marvel. It also has a decently hummable quality about it, which is something of a rarity with superhero scores nowadays, so props to Toprak for that.
Like with most superhero scores nowadays, the strength of Toprak’s Captain Marvel lies with its action tracks. They actually show up quite quickly after the score begins, with the first major action sequence opening with Let’s Bring Him Home, an electronics and brass-heavy piece that sets a particularly epic tone for the next few cues. Entering Enemy Territory then follows, a piece that consists primarily of fast and frantic strings coupled with tense percussion, and one that also introduces Captain Marvel’s main action “sound”, an orchestral style that at points sounds interestingly similar to the works of Alan Silvestri, in particular his scores for the Avengers movies. This choice makes a lot of sense given Captain Marvel’s surely-soon-to-be membership, and I must admit it pleased me greatly; I am a rather big fan of Mr. Silvestri (particularly for his action tracks) and so you can imagine the smile on my face when I first heard elements of him here. This orchestral sound is also just close enough to be recognisable as inspired by Silvestri, but not so much that you feel it’s just ripping it off, which is great.
Hot Pursuit was very nearly the standout cue of the score, beaten only by a soon-to-be-revealed later track. It opens with fast-paced and dramatic percussion, before rather intriguingly introducing a very 90s-sounding electric guitar, which I now know (having read the Variety interview with Toprak) is meant to represent the character of Nick Fury. It most certainly suits him, and as a musical choice it works really well with the surrounding orchestra, so more props to the composer for that stylistic choice. This then combined with the Silvestri-esque action and several superb appearances from the main theme makes Hot Pursuit one of the best action tracks on the score, and a highly enjoyable piece of music just on its own.
The main theme gets a particularly epic rendition towards the end of Escaping The Basement, which brings up a rather interesting point about the score as a whole; the main theme is ironically enough at its worst in the Captain Marvel track. It is showcased in far more dramatic, heroic and orchestrally-pleasing statements throughout the score, with notable ones being in this track, Hot Pursuit and This Isn’t Goodbye. This is an unusual occurence in a superhero score, but in all honesty I’m just glad the theme gets chances to shine, because when it does, it does.
The standout cue award goes to More Problems, a spectacular eight-minute-long action setpiece that is simply a true joy to listen to. A frantic tone opens the piece, with rapid strings and edge-of-your-seat percussion diving straight into the heroic action score that we’ve been waiting for. Brass then kicks in swiftly afterwards, this time in an orchestral style clearly inspired by John Williams’ music for Star Wars. Like with Silvestri though this choice works extremely well, lifting up the already incredibly epic score to another level entirely. We are then treated to another breathtaking rendition of the main theme, followed by a good two minutes of tense yet very grandiose battle music. Then, as if the track wasn’t amazing enough already, we get a very finale-esque, brass-based and epic appearance of the main theme to close it out.
The score overall then draws to a close with two final tracks; You Could Use A Jump and This Isn’t Goodbye. The former is mostly a slow and strings-based victory piece, but with a percussion-heavy and dramatic main theme rendition to finish up. The latter then opens with a somewhat somber strings and piano notes combination, before continuing in a similar manner to the previous track with a loud and heroic send-off of the main theme. As a finale to the score these two pieces of music work great together, providing a particularly satisfying ending to the album overall.
All-in, Pinar Toprak’s score to Captain Marvel is very good. The main theme is well-crafted and quite memorable, although I would say that it is best showcased in its various heroic appearances throughout the score, rather than in the unfortunately sub-par main theme track. Like with a great many superhero scores, the album’s strength lies in its action cues, with the best examples being the frantic Hot Pursuit and grandiose standout cue More Problems. Orchestrally sounding like a mix of Star Wars and The Avengers, Captain Marvel is a superb soundtrack, and one that I will be listening to for a long time to come.
A fantastic job, Ms. Toprak.
Standout Cue: 21. More Problems