Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad’s score for Thor: Love And Thunder sports a memorable, heroic and lovingly electric guitar-focused main theme for the two Thors, and… that’s it really. Where the main theme appears the score is great, but otherwise it’s rather lacking in terms of standout moments and overall you can’t help but wonder – especially given Giacchino’s busy soundtrack schedule this year – if this one actually received the compositional attention that it deserved.
Let’s just say the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor has had his fair share of film scores and themes. Back when his very first movie (directed by Kenneth Branagh) released in 2011, Patrick Doyle composed a gorgeously orchestrated, gently noble main theme; one that really dove into the Asgardian, Norse-esque aspect of the title character. For sequel Thor: The Dark World however, Doyle was replaced by Brian Tyler, who leaned much more heavily into loud, unapologetically epic and grandiose orchestra and delivered what is in all honesty a pretty damned solid new main theme for Thor, at the solemn cost though of Doyle’s original and rather masterful motif. For the Taika Waititi-directed third movie Ragnarok though the composer was switched up yet again, with Mark Mothersbaugh now taking the stage. Given the much more upbeat nature of this sequel, Mothersbaugh chose to lean more into 80s-esque synth and beats, though still retained some of the mighty orchestra for when Thor’s now third new main theme took to the stage. Mothersbaugh also did something Tyler did not with his sequel score; an attempt to tie the various thematic identities of Thor back together with a rather exquisite reprisal of Doyle’s original main theme right at the end of the Ragnarok score, bringing both the album and Thor’s first trilogy full thematic circle.
With the groundwork laid then, more new composers have stepped onto the compositional stage for the fourth film in the series; Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad. Now while I must admit I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t bring Mothersbaugh back for the sequel, I’ve also been quite intrigued to hear how Giacchino in particular would approach Thor: Love And Thunder. Especially given the composer’s decent history with tying together old thematic identities (see Star Trek). So with the score finally in our hands, the question can now be answered; how well has the new compositional duo integrated essentially three movies worth of thematic content into the sequel score? The answer? Sadly, they haven’t.
Instead, the score is centred around two brand new primary themes… and that’s all. Both are showcased in full form in end credits cue “The Ballad Of Love And Thunder”, and as those who’ve read any of my soundtrack reviews before will know; I do like me a gold old Michael Giacchino end credits suite. Suites are a rare occurrence in film music nowadays, and I’m very glad that Giacchino and a few others are helping to keep that excellent soundtrack tradition alive. End credits suites are the ultimate chance in film music for the composer to really show off their work uninterrupted by the film itself, and so it should come as no real surprise that “The Ballad Of Love And Thunder” features the best renditions of the two main themes on the album. The track opens with some rather Ragnarok-esque electronic beats, but it isn’t long before the traditional Giacchino-y dramatically upbeat brass and orchestra erupts in typically grandiose form, this time accompanied by a pretty sweet-sounding and brilliantly epic electric guitar that altogether provides a loud, unapologetically heroic and very memorable introduction for the new Thor theme.
This new theme is a little different from the previous ones though, not just in terms of obviously being an entirely new motif but also because it actually represents two Thors this time around; both Thor Odinson himself, and Jane Foster’s Mighty Thor. It’s a curious musical decision by the composers, and whether it was a deliberate decision to have only one main theme for the two main characters, or maybe they were simply tight for time, I can’t help being a little bit disappointed that the Thors don’t have their own individual themes. Especially given that the original Thor already has several just ready to go at a moments notice (none of which reprise on this new album by the way). That being said though, the new Thors theme is pretty fantastic, so I can’t complain too much there.
Once the dramatically upbeat Thors theme finishes up, foreboding vocals and increasingly frenetic strings start to build in the background until loudly malevolent brass bursts into the fray, introducing the other new main theme for Love And Thunder; an ominously aggressive motif for the film’s villain Gorr, played by Christian Bale. The music for the character here is also interesting, as it acts much more like a soundscape for the villain than an actual theme. Don’t get me wrong, there is a theme present here (a five note one) but it’s buried so far under loudly dramatic, malevolent orchestra that I certainly struggled to pick out its specific notes during both during this suite and the score itself, though I could certainly hear when the character arrived due to the dramatic stylistic change to moody vocals and villainous brass. It’s another curious musical decision by the composers (even more so for Giacchino, who’s villain themes are often very standout & memorable note-wise) and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure it was the right one either, given that it doesn’t exactly stick in your head after hearing it. With the somewhat underwhelming villain theme fading away then, the suite brings the main Thors theme back into the fray; playing quietly at first on sombre strings before then building into loud, dramatic melancholy with emphatic brass and additional strings, bringing the cue altogether to a curiously solemn end a few minutes later. Overall, again I’ll be honest it’s not my favourite end credits suite from Giacchino, and I’m struck by the fact that there’s only two main themes, and that Gorr’s isn’t very interesting at all, but it’s got to be said that all of the above is nearly entirely made up for by the main Thors theme. It’s the absolute highlight of both the suite and the score, as it’s just sublime. That electric guitar is *chefs kiss*.
Where the aforementioned end credits suite closes out the album, six minute cue “Mama’s Got A Brand New Hammer” actually opens it; as you can probably guess from its title, the track wastes no time in introducing the new main Thors theme, playing quietly on solemn strings and vocals at first before the aforementioned Ragnarok-esque electronic beats then start to play, and the theme builds itself right back up into loudly grandiose form. The thematic rendition it then bursts into is much like the main-on-ends playthrough at the beginning of “The Ballad Of Love And Thunder” but happily even longer, with the unapologetically epic electric guitar once again being the absolute star of the instrumental show. With the main theme well and truly established, “Just Desert” then quietens things down with solemn, almost mournful strings, playing in gentle melancholy for much of the two minute cue until Gorr’s theme is very quietly hinted toward in the final few seconds of the piece. The score then starts to pick up the pace in “Indigarr With The Diva”, with rapid strings and the occasional crash of percussion building the mood up until a rather hopeful rendition of the Thors theme breaks out on heroic brass and upbeat vocals. This then leads into the score embracing a much more Norse-esque musical tone at the start of “The Not Ready For New Asgard Players”, with grandiose instrumentation and hopeful vocals playing to emphasize the proud new Asgardian realm.
Gorr’s moody motif signals a call to action with building, increasingly aggressive brass in “Distressed Out”, which then builds into full-on freneticism in the subsequent “Gorr Animals” as loud, dramatic brass and imposing percussion take centre stage. It isn’t long before the electric guitar appears as well, with the new Thors theme then riding in on unusually worrisome form. With the second part of this action duo (A Gorr Phobia) on the horizon, the former cue then closes out with a new mini-motif; a hopeful, vocal-centric piece for the newly restored Mjolnir. This theme doesn’t really appear again after this (hence “mini-motif”) but its appearance both on album and in film is noticeable enough to be noteworthy all the same. A Gorr Phobia then leans much more heavily into the villainous side of things with increasingly worried strings and crashes of angry brass bringing the action to a closing crescendo at the two minute mark. Gorr’s moodily malevolent motif then plays quietly and ominously in Show Intel, with low-pitched and rather nervous strings helping to paint an increasingly frightening musical picture of the character for much of the two and a half minute cue. Grand, thunderous brass then announces the arrival of a certain Russell Crowe-played God in “The Zeus Fanfares”; a cue that plays in a manner very much as its title suggests, loudly and dramatically fanfaring the Greek God as emphatically and indeed enjoyably as possible on a great deal of triumphant brass. Seriously, the only problem I have with this rather standout track is that it should have been longer, ninety seconds is just far too short.
The brass-heavy fanfaring does also appear (though very sporadically) in the subsequent “I Was In The Pool”, but it isn’t long before action then re-takes the stage in “Saving Face”; loud, ferocious vocals, frenetic beats and an enthusiastic electric guitar take the stage here for four minutes of dramatically upbeat action score, making overall for one of the better action cues on the entire album. The Gorr and Thors themes then lock horns musically in the short “Utter Lunarcy”, with increasingly worrisome vocals and bursts of aggravated brass elevating the action until a thunderous crescendo is reached at just over a minute in. Gorr’s motif then emerges somewhat victoriously in “Temple-itis”, playing quietly and forebodingly at first on low brass and vocals before then slowly building until a dramatically imposing, villainous crescendo is reached right as the track closes out. A burst of frightened brass however kicks off the action again at the start of “The Power Of Thor Propels You”, with the orchestra then building quietly for much of the track’s ninety second runtime until a loudly triumphant Thors theme practically erupts into play right before the cue then comes to a powerful orchestral close.
This musical inspiration in turn kicks off the action finale of the score, with Gorr’s typically malevolent motif opening “Foster? I Barely Know Her!” on foreboding vocals, followed swiftly by a worried Thors theme that rises up to meet it on emphatic brass. The two motifs then engage in musical battle for much of the track’s three minute runtime, with the opening minute of “Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing” then briefly giving Gorr’s theme the upper hand on moodily ominous vocals before moving into an initially quietly morose Thors theme on higher-pitched vocals and gentle strings. This then swells into a powerfully melancholic orchestral crescendo right toward the end of the cue. “All’s Fair In Love And Thor” then harkens stylistically back to “Just Desert” from the beginning of the album, bringing Gorr’s thematic journey ful circle with one final reprisal of his theme on downtrodden strings. With the score overall starting to draw to a close, “The Kids Are Alright” plays a gently upbeat, hopeful rendition of the Thors theme on guitar before the album then segues into the prior mentioned end credits cue The Ballad Of Love And Thunder, and the rest is history.
Overall then, while I do like much of Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad’s score for Thor: Love And Thunder, I also can’t help but feel that a bit more could have done with it. I don’t know whether the composers were pressed for time given all the other scores Giacchino has out this year, or that perhaps this score was not prioritised as much because of the large volume of songs director Taika Waititi uses instead of score in the actual film, but overall… honestly there just isn’t a whole lot here. Don’t get me wrong, the main theme for the two Thors (Odinson and Foster) is genuinely fantastic (especially with the superb electric guitar front and centre), but why is there only one theme for both these characters? Surely this would’ve been a great opportunity to bring back some of the other Thor themes for Odinson, or at least give him another new one. Giacchino’s new theme works very well for Jane Foster, but for Odinson as well? It feels lazy, but then that could just be me. Gorr’s theme also isn’t the best memorability-wise, it took me a good while to actually pick it out from the sea of moody, ominous orchestra representing him throughout the album, and then… that’s it really. Two new themes for an entire new score, and a small handful of decent action cues and suites as a result. The orchestral style is good too of course, but other than the electric guitar it’s no more standout than usual for the main composer.
I don’t know, I guess I was just expecting more from a Thor score with Michael Giacchino involved. It’s not great and it’s not terrible, it’s just kind of… there.
Standout Cue: 28. The Ballad Of Love And Thunder
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