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Avengers: Infinity War
  • Composed by Alan Silvestri
  • Hollywood Records / 72m

Ten years after Iron Man started it all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe hurtles towards the end of the road for some of this batch of characters in Avengers: Infinity War.  Because they release these films more frequently than most people change their socks, it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening.  This one distinguishes itself from the others by having lots of people fight each other, loads of explosions, self-referential wit – and of course, everyone dies.  Or do they?

After getting off to the worst possible start with Ramin Djawadi, the series has built up some fine scores over the years.  When Alan Silvestri scored Captain America and then The Avengers in quick succession, lots of people (including me) assumed that finally the studio had recognised what a benefit it could be to them if they were to build up some musical continuity.  But, of course, Silvestri wasn’t to be seen again – until now.

Alan Silvestri

Lots has been said about the music in these films – and my view is, like I said, there have been some impressive musical entries (despite what that viral video would have you believe, they’re not all generic) and some excellent themes.  The problem is that those themes have tended to be self-contained within their movies.  Alan Silvestri wrote an exceptional theme for Captain America which has barely been heard again, despite there having been 6,482 films featuring Captain America since that one.  Patrick Doyle wrote a wonderfully heroic theme for Thor – then Brian Tyler wrote a completely different, but also excellent theme for him – then Mark Mothersbaugh wrote yet another.  OK, so obviously Ramin Djawadi’s music for Iron Man was an absolute load of rubbish, but then John Debney provided him with an excellent theme in his second film – and then Brian Tyler provided him with another one in his third – and even though the character’s been all over a load more movies, his themes are nowhere to be heard.

This is such a pity – just think how spine-tingling it was in The Phantom Menace when John Williams hinted at Darth Vader’s theme at the end of Anakin’s – this series just can’t do anything like that because it keeps dumping the themes.  The problem, I guess, is that they keep recycling the composers – it’s perfectly understandable if a composer of Alan Silvestri’s stature just doesn’t want to have to build themes by Brian Tyler and Michael Giacchino into his own score.  I guess this would always be a problem, unless they had thought of trying for a “house composer” from the start (maybe not on all the films – perhaps there are too many – but at least in the central series of them).  Someone like Christopher Young would probably have jumped at the chance (and done a brilliant job).

How cool could Infinity War be if that singular musical vision could reach its pinnacle here – all these characters with the iconic themes their characters should have (but don’t).  Instead, Silvestri was under instruction that he only needed to bring back his main Avengers theme – which is a great theme, don’t get me wrong – it’s just a pity that it’s the only real musical continuity here.  (The theme for Black Panther is tracked into the film from that score but that’s about the only other one here – and wasn’t incorporated into Silvestri’s music apart from by a music editor.  He doesn’t even use his own theme for Captain America, despite there being one place in particular when it would have been brilliant.)  I know the view expressed by some people that there are just too many characters in these things and it could end up a mess, trying to offer them all their own musical identity – but for a composer as skilled as Alan Silvestri I’m sure it would be more than possible.

(A little aside – when I’m reviewing the scores for the new Star Wars films, I have to be very careful to avoid giving away spoilers for the film by being too descriptive of the music, such is the strength of the thematic base and the crystal-clear dramatic architecture of John Williams’s unique brand of musical storytelling; it’s safe to say there’s nothing I could say about this score that would serve as any kind of spoiler.  You can tell from what Silvestri’s said in interviews, if you read between the lines, that that’s precisely what he was asked to bring – he would obviously be more than capable of the other way, too.)

One thing about Silvestri is that he really is a great composer of themes.  In terms of American film composers, there’s probably only one man alive who could top him (I clearly don’t need to say who) – and both of his prior Marvel scores had absolutely killer main themes.  So, for Infinity War… well, taking all the above about thematic continuity as a given (and not in any way Alan Silvestri’s fault), the new thematic material (or lack thereof) is probably the one real disappointment of this score.  There’s a theme for Thanos, the villain of the piece – it does what it needs to, but if you can remember anything about it after listening to it, well you’re doing better than I am.  It’s there right at the start of the score, in “Travel Delays” (actually the second cue on the album – there’s a very brief take on the Avengers theme to open it up) – ominous foreboding, admittedly the theme is only present very subtly.

Indeed, the first half of the album is something of a mixed bag.  There’s much suspense, not all of it very interesting but peppered through this are some moments of class.  A little violin solo in “Undying Fidelity”, some very dramatic writing for the whole orchestra in the same cue – fine music, but even there they are surrounded by some fairly generic string sustains and brass hits.  “He Won’t Come Out” offers the first glimpse of the trademark Silvestri action style – fast-paced string runs, occasional explosions of brass and percussion – he’s not quite fully getting going yet but it’s a start.  The melody that ends the cue is vintage Silvestri.

“We Both Made Promises” is quite tender – it feels like we’re taking a breather but there’s not really anything to take a breather from, yet.  (In the old days the cue would probably have been sequenced to sit between some big action moments.)  There is a nice variant on the Thanos theme to end the cue.  Then “Help Arrives” – and our heroes’ theme gets its first airing in the body of the score, a pretty full-on arrangement of it in fact, and the little fanfare from it is then extracted and used as a suspense motif through the less interesting remainder of the piece, along with a brooding take on the Thanos theme.

The opening of “Hand Means Stop” is an exciting little passage – the juxtaposition between the classy flute solos and the comic book villain material is done well.  “You Go Right” has some shrill moments of excitement appearing staccato-like in between more brooding strings – and guess what, the brooding continues into “Family Affairs”, in which frankly not a great deal happens.  “What More Could I Lose?” is better – again it’s suspenseful, but it picks up some momentum, seems to be leading somewhere now.  The tension ratchets up further in the excellent “A Small Price”, starting with a dynamic little rhythmic figure, a choir enters and the drama just builds and builds.

And then… we come to “Even For You” and Silvestri hits 88 miles per hour.  Everyone knows what happens when Alan Silvestri reaches 88 miles per hour… a full 1.21 gigawatts of awesome is released.  Suddenly there’s a genuine epic sweep to the music, the score’s finest take on the Thanos theme, the orchestra swelling, the choir joining – this is what we’ve been waiting for.  And from that moment on, the composer lets rip and all bets are off.  Straight from there we’re into exciting action in “More Power”, a thunderous take on the Avengers theme and a B-variant on it, heroic flourishes coming thick and fast.  You have to remember to breathe.

“Charge!” is what you might expect a cue by Alan Silvestri called “Charge!” to sound like – lots of frenetic action, comic book heroism and villainy, it’s just great.  When it really gets going in its final minute, you think you’re hearing what will surely turn out to be the action music highlight of 2018.  But it’s a gentle stroll in the park compared with what follows – the balls-to-the-wall “Forge” – breathlessly exciting, epic action – it’s Silvestri at his best and the score’s best cue.  We get chance to catch breath in the first half of the lengthy “Catch”, which has a sense of tragedy in some of its string writing – and all of a sudden, boom!, we’re off again and everything explodes once more.

The action continues in frenetic fashion in “Haircut and Beard”, some quite brilliant string figures playing underneath brilliantly boisterous brass.  “A Lot to Figure Out” slows things down and offers an emotional release for the briefest moment before some abrasive suspense leads into yet more brilliant action material.  That wonderful epic sweep which has been the highlight of the second half of the album is again in evidence in “The End Game”, with larger-than-life action the order of the day once more.

The score’s biggest emotional moment comes in “I Feel You”, strained strings tugging away very effectively, with an elegiac feel.  In “What Did It Cost”, things turn darker – the tragic feel is there still, slightly more oppressive now.  In the brief “Porch”, all those massive forces employed during the score are reduced to just a small ensemble, for a touching little moment – before the album comes to an end with “Infinity War”, written for the first part of the end titles, the highlight of which is the extended take on Thanos’s theme.

The first half of the album is genuinely mixed – parts are quite dull, other parts genuinely excellent.  The second half is consistently brilliant, one show-stopping action set piece following another.  All told there’s probably 50 minutes or so of really great music here and you can’t have many complaints about that.  The album is available in two forms – a long version (available both as CD and download) and an even longer version.  I bought the long one and wish it wasn’t quite so long, but it’s great to have the choice (I have wished since the dawn of digital downloads that this method was used for releasing film scores – to satisfy both those who want a tighter listening experience and those who want everything).  Yes, I wish the series had had more musical continuity (you may have gathered that from the exceptionally boring first few paragraphs of this review) but it is what it is – within the constraints he’s working, Alan Silvestri’s brilliant at these things and Infinity War is an impressive piece of work.  At this stage of his career maybe he wouldn’t want to do it, but Marvel should really drive a truck full of money to his house and try to convince him to be in charge of all of their next phase of movies (even if not personally composing them all, at least doing the most important ones and providing direction to the composers who do the others).  Wishful thinking obviously, so for the moment we can bask in the great year that this veteran composer is having.  All the kids have their favourite avenger – the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor – if only they released an action figure of my favourite avenger, Mr Alan Silvestri.

Rating: ****

See also:
The Avengers Alan Silvestri
Avengers: Age of Ultron Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman

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  1. Jules (Reply) on Sunday 29 April, 2018 at 23:37

    The score is absolutely fantastic in-movie, but unfortunately is way too action heavy and, as you mention, lacking in themes to be a solid listening experience on its own. I must admit to being a little disappointed.

    The Avengers theme is great as always though, and I really love those strings in ‘Porch’. Honestly I’d probably prefer it work in the movie over an album.

  2. Morgoth (Reply) on Sunday 29 April, 2018 at 23:50

    Love the review, but man, you seem to really hate Ramin Djawadi’s music. Which is fair enough, not everything has to work for everyone. It’s just that in my opinion he’s one of the best Zimmer’s protégés out there (certainly way better than Steve Jablonsky, Lorne Balfe or Marc Streitenfeld).
    He’s not someone of the stature of Silvestri or John Williams, of course. But not sure if he deserves such a harsh treatment. “Driving with the top down” is a lot of fun.
    Your actual Iron Man review struck me as a tad melodramatic / over the top in fact (though you concede “you’re probably too old for it”). The soundtrack is admittedly far from a masterpiece, but all the apparent ‘suffering’ from the last paragraph is kinda eyeroll worthy and not really helpful.
    That said, it’s your site and I mostly enjoy your reviews (even the ones I disagree with) and find them rather reliable. And I really appreciate that you gave good reviews to both the Pacific Rim and Music of GoT albums instead of just bashing them “because Djawadi”.
    So, thank you and keep up the excellent work.

    • Jules (Reply) on Tuesday 1 May, 2018 at 02:02

      Speaking of Balfe, did anyone see the news that he’s replaced Joe Kramer on Mission Impossible 6? I loved Rogue Nation’s score and was really keen for this one. Have to hope that Balfe goes outside his usual style, because I’m not a huge fan.

  3. Timothy Snyder (Reply) on Monday 30 April, 2018 at 17:35

    Agree with pretty much everything you said. Even while watching the movie, I started noticing the music much more than in the second half.

    And it really is a shame there’s no hints at other character’s themes. Silvestri actually did a recent interview with Heat Vision where he said:

    “”At our first meeting, we began with the question ‘Is it even possible to give each character’s musical theme a nod? We were open to it, but everyone was pretty much in agreement that it would be more of a distraction to even attempt it.””

    I get not trying to get everyone in there, but having the more prominent Captain America or Iron Man 3 theme in there, at least a little cue, feels like such a missed opportunity.

    While I’m still not sure about how synth heavy Thor 3 was, Mothersbaugh did a wonderful job at acknowledging both Thor 1 and 2.

    Maybe we’ll get something in the sequel.

    • Michael (Reply) on Tuesday 1 May, 2018 at 05:02

      What’s interesting is that according to people who saw the film, the audience cheers when the Black Panther theme playa. So themes don’t distract them.

  4. Rory (Reply) on Monday 30 April, 2018 at 18:18

    Were you thinking of the train station scene when you mentioned the missed opportunity for Cap’s theme? I know I was.

  5. -- (Reply) on Friday 4 May, 2018 at 17:30

    SPOILERS

    I wanted to point out that a subtle variation of Cap’s theme is heard during this conversation with Ross at the Avengers Facility. I can’t find it on the soundtrack, though.

  6. tiago (Reply) on Sunday 6 May, 2018 at 17:07

    Actually, there is a theme from Silvestri’s previous Marvel scores that was used here too: the Tesseract theme, introduced in Captain America – The First Avenger, but used more prominently in The Avengers. In Infinity War, it’s used (subtly) as a motif for all the six Stones, not only the Tesseract (Space Stone).

    Also, I heard people poiting out a Spider-Man heroic theme (Field Trip) and a Gamora/Thanos relationship theme (Help Arrives).

  7. MPC (Reply) on Monday 7 May, 2018 at 06:59

    The score is a mixed bag for me. It felt more scattershot and more monothematic than Silvestri’s first score. The action cues are quite good, but the first “Avengers” score feels more coherent and varied.

    Apparently, the fourth “Avengers” movie utilizes time travel (several characters go back to the pivotal 2012 attack on NYC), so maybe the Russos will let Silvestri reprise more of his themes for Natasha and Steve.

  8. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Monday 7 May, 2018 at 14:00

    I’m pretty much like you, but I’d go so far as to say this is the best score in the MCU. I think, for the most part, that we can be thankful that Henry Jackman didn’t score this movie. I liked what he did for Winter Solider, but Civil War sounded really generic and I really doubt he could have pulled this off.

  9. Isiah Konopacki (Reply) on Tuesday 8 May, 2018 at 04:24

    Nice review. I defiantly agreed that Silvestri should have incorporated more of his previous themes for Captain America, but I will say it makes sense that he didn’t, since the movie is mostly about Thanos rather than any individual avenger.

    Also you may want to check out the new God of War soundtrack by Bear McCreary if you get a chance. It is defiantly worth the listen, especially if you have played the game.

  10. JARED OTTO (Reply) on Friday 11 May, 2018 at 09:43

    Clearly you’re a critic and not a film scorer. If you were, you would say this score was beyond brilliant. You wouldn’t have even had the time to mention other film scorers in this piece. Silvestri was at his absolute best in this film. While you say, “The first half was mixed and dull”, the overall idea was to be a building moment. This was how I could tell you’ve never scored for a film. Sorry, but not sorry. The score continually gets more dramatic/intense and refers to previous films more and more as the movie goes on. THIS IS the epitome of film scoring. Silvestri perfectly masters the scenes with modal content that hints at the future while alluding to the past. Unfortunately he will not get a mention since this is a simple marvel movie, but as far as the art of scoring goes? This was an example that will be show to future film scorers for decades to come. More people need to praise what he accomplished

    • Jules (Reply) on Saturday 12 May, 2018 at 00:27

      James reviews scores as a listening experience, I’m sure he knows how well it works in-film.

  11. Helen (Reply) on Tuesday 15 May, 2018 at 12:40

    I was overall very impressed by Silvestri’s work on IW. I think it was a good choice to not include each hero’s theme because the point of the movie is to show the collaboration from character’s from across the MCU. As the “culmination” of this portion of the MCU, we need a strong theme. And the original Avengers theme provides just that (in my opinion, it’s the best superhero theme ever written, but I’ll admit my knowledge is mostly limited to Marvel).

    I do agree with your opinion that the MCU’s overall scoring is quite fragmented. However, although I would like more continuity, I do think their system works, particularly in the Thor films. I mean, can you imagine Doyle’s theme playing over Ragnarok? Motherbaugh’s score completed that film, in my opinion. I wish more composers who worked in the MCU would hint at previous themes, obviously without directly copying (like when AOU used Silvestri themes as filler material).

    However, I do not agree that the Captain America theme should have been used for Cap’s entrance. I’m imagining it in my head, and it just wouldn’t have been as powerful. To me, Silvestri’s Captain America theme reflects Steve’s virtue and naivete at the onset of the franchise. But since then, he’s experienced a lot. His facial hair and vigilante style present a character who has seen more of the world and has been changed by it. I thought the Avengers theme was the perfect choice, because, as Tony Stark said in AOU, “He’s the boss. I just pay for everything.”

    Additionally, while Silvestri didn’t explicitly utilize many themes besides the Avengers theme, I do believe that he sufficiently hinted at them. For example, in “No More Surprises,” we can hear a harpsichord in the background that clearly screams Doctor Strange. As someone who is certainly not a professional critic, I can’t explain this second example well. But in “Even for You,” when the choir joins in, I’m strongly reminded of GOTG. I’ve gone back and listened to snippets of the first soundtrack, and I’ve yet to pinpoint the exact moment. However, it may be the same “feel” as is used when the choir joins the orchestra in “Groot Cocoon.”

    I realize that was poorly explained, but I really enjoyed reading others’ takes on the score and am glad I could join in the discourse.