Ramin Djawadi’s Eternals score sparkles somewhat with an enjoyable main theme and a rather exquisite compositional style, but sadly also flounders with a lack of action music and thematic progression, compounding a general inability to stand above the crowd in the increasingly populous superhero score genre, which overall makes for a disappointingly forgettable listening experience.
Ramin Djawadi returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after a thirteen year absence with Eternals; 2008 marked his last appearance, where he musically introduced the world to Tony Stark with the first Iron Man score, and now Djawadi has finally made his return for another character debut as a new team of Marvel heroes now takes the stage. To give them a proper musical welcome into the MCU then the score album opens with Eternals Theme, where some rather upbeat organ notes and increasingly dramatic percussion set a rather rousing mood in the opening few seconds before powerful brass then rises into view, introducing a new twelve note motif for the titular superhero team in a heroic and happily lengthy debut rendition. The theme then circles round a few further times in this section of the track, becoming louder and more powerful with each playthrough until the music then quietens, and a shorter “B-section” of the motif then starts to play on quiet, thoughtful strings. It isn’t long though before the main section of the motif then soars back into the fray, taking prominence once again for a loudly emphatic final minute before the orchestra then builds to a grandiose crescendo finish. All-in, Djawadi has established quite a decent theme for the Eternals here; the orchestral style sounds great and the motif itself is pretty well-crafted, and it does tend to stick in your head after a few listens. Immediate comparisons of course can be drawn to the similarly new superhero theme for Shang-Chi composed by Joel P. West just a few weeks ago, and while I would say I personally preferred Shang-Chi’s (mainly for it’s rather unique style), Djawadi’s Eternals theme here is nothing to be sniffed at either, and certainly makes for an entertaining start to the score.
The score continues with It Is Time, a piece that opens with some rather ominous-sounding, ghostly electronics before hope then starts to emerge at about a minute in, as gently optimistic brass starts to play alongside some rather ethereal vocals. An almost mournful piano then opens Mission, pushing the tone into quiet, wistful territory which is then amplified by the introduction of solemn vocals and slow, pensive strings a few seconds later. As the track continues, the instrumentation and vocals then rise both in volume and intensity, slowly elevating and building the somewhat-sorrowful mood until a powerful crescendo is reached with brass notes held high. The short Somewhere In Time then switches things up a bit with strings leading a slightly more optimistic tone, that then leads into a brief but also prominent rendition of the main Eternals motif which plays right up to the end of the cue. A rumble of sinister electronics then opens The Domo, before upbeat organ notes then start to seep into the music and the main theme plays on loud, heroic brass and chanting vocals. This doesn’t last for long either though as the rather mournful motif from Mission then makes a brief and rather downtrodden appearance before the track then draws to a gentle close. Ethereal woodwinds then take centre stage in Joie De Vivre, setting quite an Asian-esque musical tone that then slowly builds over the course of the sadly short two minute cue alongside rising strings and gentle percussion.
Slow, hopeful strings and melancholic vocals introduce another theme to the mix in Celestials; much like with Mission, this track starts off quietly and almost morosely before then slowly building over the course of a few minutes with the instrumentation and vocals rising in intensity, becoming more and more confident and dramatic until the music then steps off the beaten track completely as everything suddenly quietens at the three minute mark. Here some rather downbeat percussion joins the fray and the music turns quite foreboding, with loud, imposing, almost malevolent-sounding brass taking over for the final two minutes of the piece. The rather ominous tone then continues somewhat into Life before rising organ notes slowly fade into the music at around two and a half minutes in, gently injecting elements of hope back into the score until the orchestra then practically explodes at the four minute mark with a loudly dramatic and rather heroic crescendo. Action then kicks into gear with Not Worth Saving – loud, malevolent bursts of brass open the piece, followed swiftly by tense strings and a few Iron Man-esque musical hints as an electric guitar lurks in the background. The tension then starts to build as the cue continues, with the instrumentation becoming louder and almost frightening until reaching a loudly villainous finale at three minutes in. Remember then slows things right back down, with the gentle motif from Mission reprising on slow, pensive strings. This change in mood is then emphasized by morose piano notes and some rather mournful vocals which segue quite seamlessly into subsequent track Across The Oceans Of Time. Here the vocals take centre stage, for a similarly morose but also rather powerful four minute cue which (like many before it) slowly builds over the course of its runtime, with the backing orchestra hitting its stride at around the three minute mark which in turn encourages the music to just go, resulting in a truly spectacular-sounding orchestral finish.
The action returns in This Is Your Fight Now, a cue that opens with some rather sinister-sounding electronics setting quite a tense mood overall. This is then amplified by the arrival of loud percussion and oppressive brass, which slowly build the increasingly aggressive tone until the main Eternals theme arrives, pulling the mood back up into hopeful, heroic territory in its wake. The motif then appears in several short, sporadic playthroughs through the remainder of the cue before everything then comes to a crashing percussive close. The Celestials motif makes a return in Audience With Arishem, with slow, sombre strings and wistful vocals taking centre stage in the opening minute before loud, foreboding brass then completely takes over the track, pulling the music overall down into decidedly villainous territory. Isn’t It Beautiful then slows things down a tad, as gently serene strings once again reprise the motif from Mission with hopeful organ notes also hinting toward the main Eternals theme. This solemnity then builds to a loudly emphatic crescendo at the three minute mark with the Mission motif held unusually and heroically high.
I Have Been Waiting For This then kicks the pace back up, with pounding brass and tense percussion leading the charge for the first minute or so before ominous strings turn the tone rather worrisome in the back half of the cue, and a rather reluctant Eternals motif makes a brief appearance. The action then descends into villainy with Emergence Sea, as crashing percussion and dramatic, imposing brass cause the music to pretty much lose all hope – a musical move that is then completely compounded by Eternal Loss. Here slow, funeral-esque strings play a gently morose rendition of the Eternals theme, pulling the score way down into a sorrowful, melancholic mood together alongside several quietly pensive piano notes. The solemnity then continues into A Wish, with the established strings and piano playing the theme from Mission once again for the opening minute or so, before hopeful brass then starts to push through towards the end of the piece. Final cue Earth Is Just One Planet then opens on a curiously ominous note, with foreboding electronics and worrisome strings continuing this tone right up until just before the end of the sub-two minute piece, where organ notes subtly hint toward the main theme before the score then fades to black.
Overall, Ramin Djawadi’s score for Eternals makes for a fairly entertaining listening experience, though sadly not a particularly memorable one. The album annoyingly suffers from a similar problem to that of Joel P West’s Shang-Chi score; the main theme is pretty solid but it doesn’t really get used, and the album falters as a result. Standout cue Eternals Theme spends a good four minutes establishing a heroic and recognisable motif for the titular characters at the start of the score, which then goes on to appear briefly and sporadically across a few more cues on the album but never really as a driving thematic force, which is a bit of a shame given that the motif is actually quite good. The album also doesn’t really have a whole lot action music to it (certainly nothing all that standout), which while likely as a result of the structure of the movie itself, really doesn’t help with the lack of main theme – basically, there aren’t really any loudly heroic moments for this superhero theme to truly shine in, which hurts the score overall as a result. On the other hand though, some good things – other themes are established quite well (the Celestials and Mission motifs for instance) and are given fair fleshings out across multiple cues. The orchestral style of the score is also very good, with Djawadi’s excellent use of vocals in tracks such as Across The Oceans Of Time and Mission being of particular highlight. As I’ve said before too, the main theme is also well-composed and quite enjoyable.
All-in though, while there are a few solid elements weaved through Eternals here, it’s a bit of a shame that, much like with Shang-Chi, it just doesn’t use or progress with them all that much. Among the increasingly crowded superhero music genre these days as well, this unfortunately makes the score overall feel sadly unremarkable, at least when compared to others.
Standout Cue: 1. Eternals Theme
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