Avengers: Endgame has tied up much of the sprawling Infinity Saga, but the film also fixes the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s longstanding inconsistency with music. Over eleven years and twenty-two movies, the MCU has become an immersive – and immensely popular – saga filled with recurring quips, themes and lovable characters. But the franchise is not without its flaws. Along with its underwhelming villains (which began to improve, thanks to Iron Man 3) fans have also lambasted Marvel for their poor representation of gender and color. Plus, critics have also recognized that, outside Alan Silvestri’s main theme for The Avengers, the MCU has largely shunned recurring, orchestral motifs in each of its movies.
That isn’t to say that the franchise has never produced any good soundtracks though. Moreover, Patrick Doyle’s work on Thor is held in high esteem, as is Ludwig Göransson’s Black Panther soundtrack which won Best Original Score at the 2019 Academy Awards. Plus, James Gunn’s song choices continue to emphasize the idiosyncratic style of the Guardians of the Galaxy. But until recently, there were few, strong, original melodies that followed their characters from movie to movie. Silvestri's soundtrack choices in Avengers: Endgame changes this though.
Endgame’s official soundtrack release doesn’t include them but, across its runtime, the film features several identifiable character tracks from earlier Marvel films. Silvestri’s Captain America theme (which he wrote for The First Avenger) can be heard at several poignant moments for the Star-Spangled Man (Chris Evans), along with Christophe Beck’s upbeat tune for Ant-Man, which is present when Scott (Paul Rudd) re-emerges from the Quantum Realm. Furthermore, strains from Michael Giacchino and Pinar Toprak’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel albums also play when each character appears and enters the battle deep in the movie’s story.
It must be noted that Avengers: Endgame isn’t the first Marvel film to borrow music from its predecessors. In crafting Thor: Ragnarok’s score, Mark Mothersbaugh used several strains from Doctor Strange, along with Asgard’s Theme from Thor when the God of Thunder finally becomes king. Similarly, Avengers: Infinity War borrowed from Göransson’s score for Wakanda’s first scenes. But Endgame evidently contains the most character melodies, and thus signals a welcome and much-needed change for Marvel movies. Indeed, color and cinematography are obviously crucial ways of crafting meaning and emotion in the visual medium of film. But scores, which are often overlooked by moviegoers, are just as important. Certainly, many major movie series owe a great deal to their composers since their accompaniments not only heighten the emotion or excitement of a scene; they also stress certain places, characters and relationships in a memorable way. It’s very easy to recall images of the Shire and of Darth Vader just by listening to Howard Shore’s "Concerning Hobbits" or John Williams’ "The Imperial March" in isolation. These tracks are so evocative – and ingrained in the movies – that they have each become a signature motif for their respective series.
Conversely, it’s much harder to recall many Marvel themes because there has never been a consistent approach to the franchise’s aural language. Nowhere is this more evident than their standout character, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) who was granted three separate composers for his solo movies, resulting in three distinct tunes that were never repeated in his subsequent adventures as either an Avenger or mentor in Spider-Man: Homecoming. As such, Iron Man's musical presence is rather nebulous, despite the fact that he's a huge figure in modern pop-culture like Batman and Superman, who both have iconic themes.
It’s especially odd that the MCU, which prides itself on interconnected narratives, characters and places, has not been supported by a portfolio of strong, interwoven music like Star Wars, or the The Lord of the Rings. This may be due to the sheer number of composers that they have used, and the rights issues that may ensue. But fans will no doubt be pleased by the recent reuse of Doctor Strange and Captain America’s main themes in Endgame. After all, tracks like these emphasize what we love about the characters and thus heightens our excitement whenever it plays in the film. In this way, Avengers: Endgame is a very good sign that Marvel are working to improve the longstanding issue with the MCU’s music – even though it has taken some time for them to do so.