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Thor: The Dark World
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • Hollywood Records / 2013 / 78m

The seemingly unstoppable Marvel money-making machine at the cinema continues in 2013 with Thor: The Dark World, the latest instalment in the Avengers franchise, with Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as the housewives’ favourite.  This time round, there’s lots of buildings being blown up, a few fights and some witty banter – the creativity that goes into these things is continually astonishing.  No Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair this time round, though, duties falling instead to Alan Taylor, who has previously worked mostly in television, including a lot of big HBO shows.

Taylor’s original choice of composer was Carter Burwell who didn’t seem the most natural of choices, so it wasn’t entirely a surprise when he departed the project (seemingly not the director’s choice, but the studio’s); a very capable replacement was hired in the form of Brian Tyler, who also scored the previous film in the franchise, Iron Man 3, and just maybe he will become the “house composer” for this series, which has so far failed to establish any kind of distinctive musical identity.  Some might say that it didn’t have much musical quality at all until Alan Silvestri came on board for Captain America and The Avengers, both of which were entertaining scores with very memorable themes that perhaps seemed to shine a little brighter just by virtue of being better than the pretty mediocre scores that had accompanied many of the films in the series beforehand.

Brian Tyler

Brian Tyler

The good news is that Thor: The Dark World is a hugely satisfying score, one of the most entertaining of Tyler’s career and in my opinion at least the most entertaining music written for this universe of characters so far.  It opens with a full-length presentation of its muscular, punchy, main theme, which has already divided opinion – I’m surprised by how many comments I’ve read about it being too simplistic – I love it!  Then in the second cue, “Lokasenna”, a secondary theme is heard – there’s a wailing woman, but don’t worry, it’s better than any written description would make it sound.  I’ll observe again that Tyler’s music essentially comes across as a high-class, brilliantly-orchestrated version of the Remote Control sound – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  It’s got massive entertainment value.

The real star is the action music, which unsurprisingly dominates.  A lot of it is based on the main theme, and maybe you’ll get a little tired of hearing it by the end of the very long album, but I don’t really think it’s a problem here – it’s a malleable enough melody that it can be used in many different ways.  There are numerous highlights – “Escaping the Realm” is breathless, appropriately thunderous, dare I say quite epic in scope.  And there are plenty of others like it.  There are hints at times of Howard Shore’s Middle Earth music – of course there’s not the thematic depth here (and it’s more fun!) but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that was the kind of sound Tyler was aiming at.  And, despite the proliferation of action, it doesn’t ever feel too much – it doesn’t suffer from the pitfall of exaggerating the importance of moments so often that there’s ultimately no importance anywhere.

When things do slow down and take a breath for a while, the music remains interesting – there’s always something going on.  And I know some people think it’s a bit of a predictable theme, but it’s great to actually have an identifiable theme for the lead character, something which you might think would be a basic requirement in a film like this.  Above anything else, this is pure entertainment; while the album could probably be a bit better with a bit of trimming, even at its CD-filling length it doesn’t outstay its welcome.  It’s great!

Rating: ****

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  1. RCC on Thursday 7 November, 2013 at 20:25

    “One of the best of his career”. Really? So, what you’re saying is, this Hans Zimmer/Remote Control sounding score that sounds like every other score released in the last 2 years is better than all the original, unique sounding music Tyler has done throughout his career?

  2. Edmund Meinerts on Thursday 7 November, 2013 at 20:25

    “…it’s great to actually have an identifiable theme for the lead character, something which you might think would be a basic requirement in a film like this.”

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but with the exception of Djawadi’s dreadful first Iron Man score, doesn’t every single one of the Marvel scores thus far feature very strong and memorable main themes? Debney’s for Iron Man 2 was horribly underused, true, but the theme itself is quite strong. Craig Armstrong’s octave-hopping Hulk theme is a masterstroke. Doyle’s theme for the original Thor is heroic when loud and emotional when soft, but always appealing. Silvestri’s fanfares for Captain America and The Avengers are, as you say, memorable and tuneful. Tyler’s own theme for Iron Man 3 is one of this year’s best.

    Which makes me wonder why the admittedly fun, but EXTREMELY derivative main theme for Thor: The Dark World is singled out by you as a thematic highlight of the franchise; in my opinion it’s anything but. Doyle’s for the original was much stronger. Tyler’s own theme for Loki in this very score is much stronger. I thought the main theme was one of The Dark World’s weakest aspects, actually.

  3. James Southall on Thursday 7 November, 2013 at 20:34

    RCC – “one of his best”, not “his best”, but in general, yes.

    Edmund – that’s fair enough but those themes didn’t really stick with me at all.

  4. Marc Bennett on Thursday 7 November, 2013 at 21:39

    Definitely agree. This is a magnificent score. Rousing themes with an amazing sound. Beautiful.

  5. spielboy on Thursday 7 November, 2013 at 21:57

    Better than his IRON MAN 3? (I see you didnt review that yet, James)

  6. Chris Avis on Friday 8 November, 2013 at 02:22

    You know I agree with probably 90% of your reviews, James, but it seems like the 10% I disagree on are typically those with a remote control-inspired sound. I really don’t think there’s anything particularly new here… this is a 2.5 star effort at best.

    When Brian Tyler first burst on to the scene, I was incredibly impressed with his early efforts: Timeline, The Hunted and Children of Dune. Since then though, sadly, nothing he’s done has really caught my ear. It’s certainly not horrendous, like some of Zimmer and Jablonsky’s recent stuff, but it doesn’t really offer much either.

    Chris

  7. ed on Friday 8 November, 2013 at 13:20

    I’m finding the work of Brian Tyler dull as dishwater lately. Still, one hopes for the future. This whole “Zimmer Sound” thing is starting to impede on composers entering the world of Marvel. Patrick Doyle was met with the same fate on the original.

  8. orion_mk3 on Sunday 17 November, 2013 at 03:59

    In the theater, I noticed that there was a brief blast of Alan Silvestri’s Caprain America theme. Did that make it to the album?

  9. mastadge on Sunday 17 November, 2013 at 14:12

    Yes, in the cue “An Unlikely Alliance”.

  10. Richard on Sunday 8 December, 2013 at 05:53

    The ‘wailing woman’ you speak of is none other that Azam Ali, a renowned vocalist who has appeared on many scores and on dozens of solo and other project albums.

    You can see her discography here: http://www.azamalimusic.com

  11. Lars Pettersson on Monday 16 December, 2013 at 23:37

    So… when can we expect reviews from ‘Iron Man 3′, ‘Standing Up’ (most preferrably for my indulgement) and ‘Now You See Me’? All courtesy this composer of course, why would i otherwise ask here? :)

  12. Lucas on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 02:24

    I still prefer Doyle’s take on this story. His themes were much better IMHO. Sadly, Marvel agains prefers to cut off preexistent material afecting therefore the continuity

  13. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. on Thursday 23 January, 2014 at 19:35

    I’ve just received my copy of this epic score with that memorable heroic theme…it’s music that has both emotional & impressionistic content…it stimulates visualisation and its harmonically beautiful in its various incarnations. Your incisive critique, James, exactly emulates my viewpoint. I also enjoyed TYLER’s ‘Terra Nova’ > a Sci Fi score with symphonic thematic content that devotees of ‘Thor’ will appreciate.