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The Marvel Symphonic Universe


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I agree; music in AAA games seems to be experiencing a parallel phenomenon to that of blockbuster movies. And it's something indie filmmakers are doing now too; out of the few films I've gotten to score, almost all of them came with a temp track.

However, I've found that the problem is not having a temp track, but rather the director getting "married" to it. Luckily, the few directors I've worked with were very open to straying from the temp and embracing a new direction. Most often it was: "wow, that's not what I had in mind at all, but I like it better!"

On the other hand, blockbusters are often overseen by a committee-like group of executives who don't allow that sort of risk. Safe equals money and that's the big game over art.

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I'll quote music theory professor Frank Lehman here, who after noting that the YT channel this comes from is excellent, notes:

"...they bizarrely gloss over the most glaring issue with these franchises -- the lack of firmly defined or hummable themes. (Exceptions, IMHO, w/ Capt. America leitmotif and maybe the Avengers theme--not accidentally both from Silvestri). And they further claim that the music is not evoking an emotional response, when that's pretty much all it's doing: pure affect"

That pretty much sums up my thoughts.  Get Silvestri to do more, haha :P

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This has always been a huge issue for me with regards to superhero themes. As a huge comic book fan, specifically the DC superhero variety, it's so important to me that heroes have memorable themes. Williams's Superman theme from the old movies is so iconic, but Shirley Walker's animated series theme for Superman was also a wonderfully strong melody. I honestly can't recall Superman's theme from Man of Steel. I remember people liking the music, but it's so forgettable to me.

Batman's also got such a long history of theme music, from the old 60s show's wild mod-rock theme to Danny Elfman's instantly iconic film theme, which Shirley Walker cemented into every 90s kid's brain with her animated series arrangement. And then she goes and writes the new theme in Mask of the Phantasm which was arguably even better than Elfman's movie theme. Batman Begins had good music, but Batman didn't really have a theme, did he? It was mostly just the two blaring notes. Worked in the movie, but what do kids sing when they're running around in the backyard with capes on?

One property that is getting it right is DC's Supergirl TV show. She's got such a wonderfully hopeful and instantly recognizable melodic theme. Really beautiful.

 

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I caught up on this after my week vacation. It's a very interesting video. However, I'm not totally agreeing on the fact the MCU music is forgettable. Themes from Iron Man 3, The Avengers, Ant-Man, Age of Ultron, and Guardians of the Galaxy sounds as memorable as other films' to me (like Star Wars of Harry Potter). Older movies' music was played during concerts or on compilations or used on several movies (as a saga). The MCU is more recent than all those movies and only has two trilogies completed by now – Iron Man and Captain America (ended this year with Civil War): it's not set in people's mind.

Of course, there's the problem that there are several composers contributing and not using previous scores (for instance, Elfman had to rework Tyler's score for AoU and added Silvestri's "Avengers Theme" which Tyler didn't use at all). On the other hand, when a composer returns (Tyler, Jackman), the ten dto reuse themes from a previous movie. Give time to the MCU, it's still growing and I'm sure its music will start growing on people (Bates, Silvestri, Beck are all returning for sequels and people like Giacchino are introduced in the MCU, which sounds very promising).

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6 hours ago, Chernabogue said:

Older movies' music was played during concerts or on compilations or used on several movies (as a saga). The MCU is more recent than all those movies and only has two trilogies completed by now – Iron Man and Captain America (ended this year with Civil War): it's not set in people's mind.

I don't really agree with the whole "it needs time to set in people's minds, and then it will be as iconic" argument.

I remember when The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, me and all my friends were humming "Duel of the Fates" out of the theater. I had Frodo's Theme and The Ring theme stuck in my head for weeks after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time. More recently, I was humming "Rey's Theme" after my first and only viewing of The Force Awakens, and that isn't even close to one of Williams' best or most iconic themes. And Fellowship wasn't even a saga yet, and while Star Wars was, those particular themes were completely new.

Also, this has been mentioned by someone else on another forum regarding the same video, but composers don't really seem to be into developing thematic material anymore. That doesn't mean there aren't themes, and it also doesn't mean that you don't hear the themes come up multiple times in the movie/series. But look at the Force Theme from A New Hope: you first hear it in a lonely, intimate sort of way as Luke stares out over his bleak existence, hopeful for something more. Then, throughout the original trilogy, you hear it grow and develop with Luke, almost as if it's maturing with him.

In today's films, it seems very much that "incidental" music is the norm. "That track fits this scene, this next track fits this scene, moving on." It's very much A to B and that's it. If you do hear a theme reappear later, it's often just copy and pasted from before instead of changing and maturing with the story. Or it's some piano version to impart "intimate", or a string ostinati version to impart "heroic".

Also, it seems that with the ADHD attention spans that movies are catering to, there's just so much action that there's hardly any time for developing thematic material. It's just gut-pounding action cue from wall to wall, with very little time devoted to developing characters and focusing on real emotion, much less the themes to go with them.

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7 hours ago, DarkeSword said:

This has always been a huge issue for me with regards to superhero themes. As a huge comic book fan, specifically the DC superhero variety, it's so important to me that heroes have memorable themes. Williams's Superman theme from the old movies is so iconic, but Shirley Walker's animated series theme for Superman was also a wonderfully strong melody. I honestly can't recall Superman's theme from Man of Steel. I remember people liking the music, but it's so forgettable to me.

Batman's also got such a long history of theme music, from the old 60s show's wild mod-rock theme to Danny Elfman's instantly iconic film theme, which Shirley Walker cemented into every 90s kid's brain with her animated series arrangement. And then she goes and writes the new theme in Mask of the Phantasm which was arguably even better than Elfman's movie theme. Batman Begins had good music, but Batman didn't really have a theme, did he? It was mostly just the two blaring notes. Worked in the movie, but what do kids sing when they're running around in the backyard with capes on?

One property that is getting it right is DC's Supergirl TV show. She's got such a wonderfully hopeful and instantly recognizable melodic theme. Really beautiful.

 

Blake Neely is knocking the entire CW-verse out of the park, and I agree that Supergirl represents his best work thus far.  It's hard to sound as uplifting as Williams, and somehow he manages it without sounding like a weak impression.

The Flash Main Theme, while not as hummable, is great as well, with both the two-chord choral intro and the ostinato serving as powerful things for the audience to latch onto.  Reminds me of much of Hans Zimmer's work where one small kernel can carry an entire scene (think of the four chords that form the final cue to Inception, for instance).  See Frank Lehman's chapter in the new Routledge book "Music in Epic Film: Listening to Spectacle" for more: https://books.google.com/books/about/Music_in_Epic_Film.html?id=JVH0DAAAQBAJ

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I think Bleck's right, in that I think this has to do with entertainment industry in general slowly approaching a state of (unjustly) hyper-optimized being. Everything is more efficient, easier, faster, more productive; as a result, patience is thrown out the window, we cut to temp scores; taking risks is subconsciously considered inefficient, and therefore something that needs to be cut out of the process.

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Many film and game scores just sound the same these days, especially in action genres.  The Zimmer Remote Control style has become so trendy that it has permeated basically everything, and the thought process seems to be that simply adding pounding percussion and power anthem styled themes automatically makes something good.  Many of the newer composers are products of this mentality.  And it's fine in context and works well in certain titles, but there should not be a "default sound" for any spectrum of media.

Basically, it's seems like many modern soundtracks are just back-to-back cues for action movie trailers.  It's become the new four-chord pop music phenomenon.

Sometimes it feels like creativity across the board is becoming bottlenecked, with re-hashed writing and endless reboots, visual effects and cinematography is almost indistinguishable among whatever summer tentpole films are playing, and you can basically inter-change all of their soundtracks and not really tell much of a difference.  Art in general is becoming homogenized for the sake of studios being able to mass-produce titles and franchises on auto pilot.  It's almost shocking when something truly unique is released these days... now I am laughing at the irony of the Blair Witch reboot trailer playing as I write this.

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