Henry Jackman’s score for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is an excellent thematic and tonal continuation of his music for the latter two Captain America movies, though at times it does get a little bogged down in moody atmosphere.
Thematic continuity is something that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) appears to be getting better and better at recently, which is why it came as a pleasant not-quite-surprise that Henry Jackman, the composer for both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, was returning to the MCU to score The Falcon And The Winter Soldier – and with it reprising his excellent motifs for the two titular characters as well as a few choice others. Ever since the first episode of the show aired I’ve been waiting for the soundtrack, and now – like with season two of the The Mandalorian – Disney are releasing the score for the show in two parts; one album for the first three episodes, and a second releasing in a few weeks time to cover the final three. As such, like with my reviews for The Mandalorian I’ll be updating this page accordingly, starting now with the first release and then adding another section later down the line for album number two, so stay tuned. For now though, let’s check out the first.
It begins with Louisana Hero, the two minute end credits piece for the show. Within a few seconds of it starting, Jackman has already brought back the epic orchestral style and mood of his Winter Soldier and Civil War scores, firmly grounding the music in the MCU while also kicking the heroism up a notch. An electric guitar followed by increasingly triumphant brass then play the theme for Falcon, reprising his rather short motif from Winter Soldier and expanding on it considerably, building it up into a fully fledged theme and then practically shouting it from the rooftops as the orchestra swells and rises. The music then reaches a particularly emphatic crescendo as the track reaches its final few seconds, playing Falcon’s theme one last loudly dramatic time before fading out. Overall, not a bad start, though the heroism is dampened somewhat as solemnity takes over in the short Tough Act To Follow, with slow, quiet strings setting a rather pensive tone for the first minute or so before Falcon’s motif then reprises briefly on loud brass just as the track ends. This then segues into lengthy action setpiece and standout cue Airborne Operation; the track I’ve spent the past few weeks waiting for. It plays over the opening rescue scene from the first episode, and Falcon’s theme naturally appears fairly substantially over the course of six fast-paced and rather frantic minutes, first on quiet, withdrawn brass but then building up and becoming louder and bolder as the music continues, with the orchestra slowly rallying behind it and making for some particularly compelling action score until the theme then practically bursts towards the end of the track with its loudest and most triumphantly heroic rendition yet.
The short and solemn Smithsonian Tribute quietly alludes to Alan Silvestri’s Captain America theme in tone, before deep, pulsing electronics then cut through in Nightmares, delivering a particularly horror-like cue with moody hints towards Jackman’s eerie Winter Soldier theme. Things then settle down a little for the primarily piano-based Pluck Up The Nerve, with slow strings and melancholic electronics gradually fading in until the cue closes out a short while later. New Agitators then dives deep into distorted, villain-esque electronics territory, with crashes of percussion and electronic bursts making for a very imposing and in-your-face piece of music overall. Jackman’s dramatic Captain America theme from The Winter Soldier then returns in The Wrong Guy, playing loudly but worrisomely on its usual loud brass. This is then followed by several atmospheric semi-action cues, including the lighthearted No Parachute and the quietly stealthy Stakeout, until the action then fully kicks back into gear with Outmatched. Here, rapid percussion sets a particularly frenetic pace before Jackman’s main theme from Captain America: Civil War then makes a brief heroic appearance on loud brass, followed swiftly by Falcon’s motif before the music then annoyingly, abruptly finishes just as it seemed to get going. Gentler cues like Someone You Should Meet and Overlooked For Promotion then follow, returning the score to slower, more sombre territory with pensive brass and quiet strings. So far, I must say – while I am very much enjoying the return of Jackman’s various MCU themes, their short cameo usage (bar Falcon’s extensive playthroughs in the first couple of cues) and the generally short 1-2 minute tracks across the album so far are becoming a little… tiresome. The music ending seemingly right as it gets interesting is a repeating characteristic, and not one I’m a particular fan of.
Still, onward – a slow, solemn Captain America theme reprisal from The Winter Soldier plays on strings in Fraying Edges, staying just long enough to set a particularly melancholic tone before then quietly fading away. The pulsing electronics then return in Take One For The Team, playing loud and getting properly in your face for ninety seconds of dramatic build-up before then crescendoing emphatically in the final moments of the cue. A ticking clock opens Prison Break, with light percussion performing the “ticking” alongside pensive electronics that then turn sinister a little later on as the composer brings back yet another of his MCU motifs; the one for Baron Zemo. Brass then arrives just as the track begins to close, ending the thematic reprise on a loudly ominous note. Quiet, moody atmosphere then takes over in A Pure Heart and Low Town, before the Winter Soldier theme makes another short yet creepily electronic appearance alongside Zemo’s in Attack, Soldier. From here on the action starts to kick back into gear, with worrisome percussion starting things off in Bad Science before Masked Man then heads fully into fast-paced territory, complete with tense bursts of brass and a heroic-sounding electric guitar. Henry Jackman’s side of things then ends rather ominously with Radicalized, a short yet rather eerie piece that closes the score on a menacing crescendo. The album however has one final treat in store before the end – a brand new, fully instrumental rendition of Alan Menken’s Star Spangled Man from Captain America: The First Avenger. I always enjoyed that song, and it’s great to hear it again in slightly more modern form here.
Overall, Henry Jackman’s score for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is pretty good, if not a little dull in the middle. The composer reaches some serious highs with his reprisals of various themes from the MCU, with the absolute star of the show being his expanded Falcon motif from The Winter Soldier. Hearing that and the Captain America, Zemo and Winter Soldier themes was absolutely great, and the way they’re weaved throughout the score (some more than others though) firmly places it in excellent thematic continuity for the MCU. For all the good tracks though there’s still a lot of dull, empty atmospheric pieces, and they do start to get a little wearing as the album continues. It opens with some fantastic setpieces – see standout cues Louisiana Hero and Airborne Operation – but then annoyingly gets less and less interesting as you wade through the ambient mood setting for the next standout piece. I would have also perhaps liked a couple of longer performances from the Winter Soldier and Civil War themes, but perhaps we’ll get those in the next album. Jackman does deliver some stellar cues with this one though, and I for one am certainly looking forward to hearing the next in a few weeks time.
A Few Weeks Later…
Now that volume two of Henry Jackman’s The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is finally out, I can safely say – it’s essentially just more of the same sort of score from the first volume. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on what you’re looking for out of these albums, but for me it’s a (fairly) good thing. The second volume opens with Louisiana Hero (Reprise) which, as you might expect, is a lengthy reprise of the original Louisiana Hero from volume one, and is in essence a big, triumphant brass-based playthrough of Falcon’s now thoroughly fleshed out superhero theme. This particular iteration does contain some nice strings work at the start to differ it from the original track, but once it then gets going it is basically the same end credits piece as the first. Still, I’ve got to hand it to Jackman – it is pretty damned good. A lot of the album thereafter consists of the same moody, atmospheric style setpieces that featured prominently in the first volume, with some brief thematic reprisals (such as a short appearance from the Winter Soldier theme in You’re Free for example) though there also are some pretty interesting ones too – Melee A Trois for example utilises Ludwig Göransson’s unique and rather epic percussion from his Black Panther score to great action effect, making overall for a dramatic though sadly short piece of MCU thematic continuity.
As the album starts to reach the final few episodes of the show, Jackman does turn it up a notch, particularly in spectacular action setpiece Leading The Charge, which feature Falcon’s motif pretty prominently in several loudly, emphatically heroic renditions. It’s a pretty breathtaking piece of action score, however – spoilers ahead – I actually kind of disagree with the thematic choices that Jackman has made for the titular character here, particularly as he completes his journey towards becoming Captain America. The composer uses the Falcon motif prominently as the suit is finally donned and heroism ensues, but I think in those moments he should’ve actually used his Captain America theme to represent this change instead. After all – it is the theme for Captain America, right? He’s not Falcon anymore, and I think a big, triumphant rendition of said theme for Sam’s first appearance in the new suit would’ve been far musically powerful than the same old Falcon theme rendition that we ended up with. That’s just how I feel though.
Tensions mount in ensuing action setpieces Flag Smasher Fight and Fall From Grace, where loud, frantic percussion, emphatic brass and sinister electronics establish a particularly worrisome tone, with some small interspersed moments of musical heroism also dotted here and there. Things then slow down considerably for Captain America, where slow, solemn strings and tender brass notes play a decidedly pensive performance that is then continued into subsequent cues Making Amends and Never Forget – melancholy is certainly the chosen mood for these pieces, as the aforementioned instrumentation accompanied by quiet piano notes take the foreground for the majority of the tracks. Things do perk up a bit at the end though, with Epilogue opening with gently optimistic brass before then becoming louder and bolder and playing a triumphant final rendition of Falcon’s theme to close the score. Overall, volume two is, as I’ve said, just more of volume one really, with the standout Leading The Charge being of particular highlight as it features Falcon’s motif in several fist-pumpingly epic presentations. It was a bit of a shame that composer Jackman opted not to use his Captain America theme for Sam’s big character-changing moment, but I suppose it is what it is. That also doesn’t stop the music from being brilliantly epic at times either.
Standout Cues: 3. Airborne Operation/ 16. Leading The Charge
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