Home > Reviews > AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – Alan Silvestri

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – Alan Silvestri

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

Avengers: Infinity War is, essentially, the culmination of a 10-year project overseen by producer Kevin Feige, the likes of which had never been attempted before in the history of cinema. Of course there have been long-running franchises before – Star Wars, Star Trek, James Bond, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings – but the development and growth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quite something to behold: it’s a series of 19 theatrical movies and 10 related TV shows, all of which feature the origin stories and subsequent adventures of a vast array of super heroes who come together periodically to face down an array of threats which jeopardize the future of the Earth and, in some cases, the entire galaxy. Each individual story is planned to fit within a specific timeline charting the development of each character, they all feature interlocking plot strands and cross-references, and they have all been leading to this film.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who previously helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014 and Captain America: Civil War in 2016, it’s an epic sci-fi action-adventure that finally reveals the full plans for galactic dominance from Thanos, the shadowy villain who has been lurking on the periphery of the story for years. It was Thanos who manipulated Loki into sending monsters to Earth in The Avengers in 2012. It is Thanos who is revealed to be Gamora’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. However, throughout the entirety of the series, Thanos’s end game has been the acquisition of six Infinity Stones, the wielder of which has the power to control the universe. These stones formed the basis of several plotlines of preceding films. One of them is housed inside the tesseract that first appears in Captain America, and is eventually entrusted to Thor on his home planet of Asgard. Another is housed inside the scepter that Thanos gave to Loki in The Avengers, and eventually finds its way to being embedded in the head of the android Vision after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The third is entrusted to The Collector at the end of Thor: The Dark World. The fourth is in the mysterious orb that Star Lord finds during Guardians of the Galaxy, and is eventually hidden on the planet Xandar. The fifth is guarded on Earth by the former surgeon Dr. Strange. The sixth and final stone is missing, and the quest for it forms a major part of Infinity War’s plot.

As Thanos gradually acquires all the stones one by one, his power grows, and eventually a whopping twenty (possibly more, depending on how you count them) super heroes – basically every member of the Avengers except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye, plus every member of the Guardians of the Galaxy – come together to try to stop him before he is able to achieve absolute universal dominance. The film stars (deep breath) Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Pratt as Star Lord, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Vin Diesel as Groot, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Tom Hiddlestone as Loki, and Josh Brolin as Thanos, while featuring extended cameos from MCU veterans such as Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Idris Elba, Karen Gillan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, and William Hurt, plus newcomers like Peter Dinklage.

Much has been written about the music in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve written pages and pages about it myself. From my own point of view, the one constant throughout the series has been the generally high quality of the music as heard in each film. There have been some clunkers – Ramin Djawadi’s score for the original Iron Man in 2008 was pretty risible, as were Henry Jackman’s two Captain America efforts – but discounting those, the rest of the scores have all been generally good. I’m especially fond of some of the more recent ones, especially Christophe Beck’s Ant-Man, Michael Giacchino’s Doctor Strange and Spider Man: Homecoming, Mark Mothersbaugh’s Thor Ragnarok, and Brian Tyler’s efforts on Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.

However, the one constant and recurring criticism of these scores has been the lack of thematic continuity across the franchise. Thirteen different composers have worked on the nineteen films to date, and although some composers have heroically attempted to work pre-existing themes into their new scores, notably Brian Tyler and Mark Mothersbaugh, for the most part each score has existed in its own bubble, a self-contained musical world which introduces more and more musical themes for the same characters and settings in each subsequent entry. Perhaps the only truly identifiable theme that has emerged from the franchise and into the consciousness of the general public is Alan Silvestri’s theme for the Avengers as a whole, which he introduced in The Avengers in 2012. As such, when Silvestri was announced as being the composer for Avengers: Infinity War, it was expected that this theme would form the cornerstone of the score. But what of the other themes? Considering the vast array of super heroes present in Infinity War, it offered the perfect opportunity for Silvestri to finally set to rest the lingering public criticism of the Marvel scores.

Of course, finding a way to incorporate all these themes would be hard, but it’s not without precedent. John Williams has a huge array of themes for characters and situations in the Star Wars universe, and continues to revisit and rework them into even his most recent scores. Similarly, there was barely a moment in Howard Shore’s six Lord of the Rings films were a particular theme or motif was not playing. Alan Silvestri is a massively talented composer who is more than capable of rising to this challenge. The one major difference is that, unlike Williams and Shore, and with a couple of exceptions, the individual MCU character themes are not Silvestri’s own creations, and as such it would take a great deal of ego-suppressing from Silvestri for him to play around with other composer’s creations. Not only that, there would also be potential issues to do with copyright, credit attribution, and royalties, but these things are certainly not insurmountable.

However, Silvestri, the Russos, and Feige made the collective decision not to do that. Silvestri said in an interview with the website Heat Vision that, at their first meeting, they began with the question “is it even possible to give each character’s musical theme a nod?”, and claims that everyone was open to it, but that everyone ultimately decided that it would be more of a distraction to even attempt it. In the end, there are only three recurring themes heard in the film – two relating to the collective Avengers, and one for Thanos – plus a brief nod to Ludwig Göransson’s theme from Black Panther which is heard prominently in the film, but is not on the commercial soundtrack album. Personally, I think that this is a massive missed opportunity. Think of all the potential for thematic greatness this score has. How cool would it have been to hear Silvestri’s own Captain America march when that character returns from exile? To have Tyler’s Iron Man theme juxtaposed with the Indian influences of Giacchino’s Dr. Strange theme during their fight with Thanos’s minions? To hear Doyle’s Thor theme – or even Tyler’s second Thor theme, or Mothersbaugh’s third Thor theme – performed with triumphant grandeur as his new axe is forged. To have Giacchino’s Spider-Man theme join in during the fight with Thanos on Titan – possibly contrapuntally with Silvestri’s new Thanos theme? The opportunities are endless, and well within Silvestri’s skill set as a composer. It’s so, so frustrating.

Instead, Avengers: Infinity Wars is a fun, enjoyable, fully orchestral action score that suffers from a terrible case of super hero genericness. I usually hate the word generic, because it’s a cop out, a dull descriptor, and is often used as a lazy synonym for bad. To be clear, Avengers: Infinity Wars is in no way a bad score – the compositional quality is good, and the emotional content is appropriate in context – but the whole thing does come off as the dictionary description of generic: ‘having no particularly distinctive quality or application’. With the exception of the few moments where one of the two Avengers themes are playing, everything else in the score feels curiously anonymous, lacking any real personality. It’s like super hero composing by the numbers, hitting all the right spots, being energetic and action-packed when it needs to be, scary when it needs to be, and emotional when it needs to be, but doing so without ever generating any semblance of individuality or distinctiveness. This is exactly the sort of music that the infamous Every Frame a Painting Youtube video was criticizing. Instead of addressing the issue, as Mark Mothersbaugh tried to do with Thor Ragnarok, it’s almost as if they went back to square one and adhered to every cliché they could find. In the end, though, you have to review the score it is, not the score you wanted it to be, so here it is.

Broadly, the score can be split into three types: action, emotion, and suspense. Much of the first part of the score deals with the suspense, building up through several sequences of ominous foreboding as the key players are moved into position and primed for the final battle. “Travel Delays” introduces the first performance of Thanos’s Theme, a mass of foreboding brass set against rumbling percussion and string sustains. It’s appropriately ominous and intimidating, and becomes quite powerful towards the end of the cue, even incorporating a choir. In the subsequent “Undying Fidelity” Thanos – having already found the Power Stone on the planet Xandar – proves he means business by murdering both Loki and Heimdahl and decimating what was left of Asgardian society, while acquiring the Space Stone from Thor in the process. This sequence is underpinned with tragic solo violin and trumpet ideas that convey Loki’s sacrifice.

Silvestri intentionally decided to make Thanos’s Theme an all-encompassing identity for Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and his Black Order minions, which meant that there was scope for several other prominent performances of this idea. For example, “We Both Made Promises” is low key, with little piano motifs, string sustains, and moments of romance that underscore the Edinburgh-set relationship between Vision and Scarlet Witch, before everything is upended and a variation on Thanos’s Theme heralds the arrival of two Black Order minions, Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive, who want the stone embedded in Vision’s head. Later, in “Family Affairs,” the theme is buried under a great deal of occasionally quite brutal dissonance, but also enlivened by some surprisingly light flute and harp textures, which accompany the scene where Thanos tortures his other daughter, Nebula, into revealing the location of the Soul Stone.

Possibly the most important performance of Thanos’s Theme comes in “Even for You,” which underscores the scene where Thanos and Gamora travel to the planet Vormir, the location of the Soul Stone. In this devastating sequence Silvestri arranges the theme with epic orchestral and choral majesty and enormous emotional power, resulting in a piece of music that is very reminiscent of the ‘Pandora’s Box’ finale from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life. It’s one of the highlights of the entire score, and in dramatic terms in the context of the film adds a great deal of depth and gravitas to Thanos himself, turning him from a one-dimensional villain into a much more fleshed out character. It also underlines why Alan Silvestri has always been one of the most reliable composers in Hollywood when it comes to this sort of writing.

Most of the rest of the score is action-based. Stylistically, Silvestri returns to the fruitful well that inspired many of his most enjoyable action scores of the past – Back to the Future, Predator, Judge Dredd, The Mummy Returns, parts of The Polar Express – as well as his own previous Captain America and Avengers scores. The chord progressions, instrumental combinations, and rhythmic ideas are all vintage Silvestri, and will appeal to anyone who has had any sort of long-standing affinity for his action writing. Unfortunately, this also tends to be where the score gets a little bogged down. With the exception of a few moments where the two Avengers themes receive prominent statements, this is where the aforementioned ‘super hero genericness’ really kicks in. The music is never less than enjoyable, and sometimes it’s actually quite thrilling, but it has a curious lack of distinct personality, and comes across instead as a very good impression of Silvestri’s best action music, but without the addition of any sort of real specificity.

For much of the film the Avengers are scattered across the universe in little groups, doing things on their own, and several cues speak to these mini-quests. After the initial scene where Thor encounters the Guardians of the Galaxy, they break off into two even smaller pairings. Thor, Rocket, and Groot travel together to Nidavellir, the dwarf stronghold, where they encounter the dwarf king Eitri and ask him to make a new weapon for Thor to replace his destroyed war hammer. This sequence features two outstanding action cues – “More Power” and “Forge” – which are filled with enormous orchestral forces, thunderous choral outbursts, imposing melodrama from the brass section, and several massively satisfying statements of the Avengers Theme. Meanwhile, Star Lord and the rest of the Guardians travel to the mysterious ‘Knowhere,’ home of The Collector, where they mean to stop Thanos from acquiring the Reality Stone. The two cues that underscore this sequence – “Hand Means Stop” and “You Go Right” – are similarly action packed, and feature more enormous writing for orchestra and chorus.

Back in Edinburgh, “Help Arrives” heralds the appearance of Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon, who come to rescue Vision and Wanda from the Black Order. The huge initial statement of the Avengers theme eventually gives way to the rumbly and ominous Thanos motif, and finally a set of emotional strings that speak more deeply of the relationship between Wanda and Vision. The subsequent “A Small Price” is intense and urgent, filled with rapid cello figures and brass accents, capturing Vision’s state of mind as he seriously suggests sacrificing himself so that Thanos cannot acquire his stone.

Over in New York, the two other members of Thanos’s Black Order – Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian – are attacking the Sanctum and trying to wrest the Time Stone from Doctor Strange and Wong, who call on Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk for help. “He Won’t Come Out” underscores their initial fight sequence with some really fun action writing, including a cool little fanfare at 0:37, and some classic Predator-style staccato writing for muted brasses and xylophone runs, although as I mentioned before the lack of an Indian inflection to reference Doctor Strange is disappointing – how hard would it have been to incorporate a sitar into the orchestra just to give it a little color? Eventually Iron Man, Spider-Man, Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy converge on Thanos’s home world of Titan, and more action ensues. “Catch” begins with a sense of drama and intrigue, featuring some prominent harp writing, hints of tragedy in the strings, and numerous melancholy woodwind textures, but builds to a rousing action finale featuring several more statements of the Avengers Theme. “The End Game” is the culmination of their battle, and the cue is clearly building to a climax, increasing in intensity as it progresses. The cue concludes with Thanos severely injuring Iron Man, and acquiring the Time Stone from Strange, who offers it willingly in order to save Iron Man’s life.

Back on Earth, Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and Vision have travelled to Wakanda in the hope that their advanced technology can remove the Mind Stone from Vision’s head without killing him; there they reunite with Hulk, Black Panther, War Machine, the Winter Soldier (who has been recuperating there), and eventually Thor, Rocket, and Groot. However, having now obtained five of the six stones and wanting the last one, the Black Order arrives too, and a pitched battle ensues, pitting Thanos’s alien horde against the group of Avengers and the entire Wakandan army. “Charge,” “Haircut and Beard,” and “A Lot to Figure Out” all underscore the ensuing fight sequence with breathless excitement and pulsating drama. There’s an especially thunderous sequence beginning at 2:40 in “Charge,” while in “A Lot to Figure Out” the action is juxtaposed against some unexpectedly emotional writing for harp and solo violin, as well as some more dissonant and abstract textures, and several statements of Thanos’s Theme. Although, as was the case with the Doctor Strange sitars, the complete lack of Wakandan tribal drums in the action writing for the sequences set there feels like a missed opportunity.

The climax of the story comes in “I Feel You,” a moment of unimaginable emotional tragedy that accompanies the scene where Wanda desperately sacrifices Vision to stop Thanos from acquiring the Mind Stone – only for Thanos to ‘reverse time,’ undo everything, kill Vision himself, and complete his gauntlet of stones anyway. Silvestri’s chord progressions and gut-wrenching string writing is quite devastating. The subsequent “What Did It Cost?” captures the desperate sequence wherein Thanos successfully completes his terrible plan and half the cast simply turns to dust in the wind at the click of his fingers. The music here is filled with brooding menace, and overwhelming tragedy, attained through choral dissonance, metallic textures, and dark crescendos. A moment of respite in “Porch” underscores a thoughtful Thanos pondering the consequences and repercussions of his overwhelming victory, before the conclusive “Infinity War” offers a dark, intense, fully orchestral statement of Thanos’s theme, before a final, deconstructed, sentimental statement of the Avengers Theme on solo piano.

This review concentrates on the regular commercial release of the score. The deluxe edition of the soundtrack offers expanded versions of several cues, plus a number of additional tracks not heard on the regular release. Several of these are worth investigating. “No More Surprises” is a brief bit of playful romance for the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, and is the one cue which does briefly incorporate some Doctor Strange Indian ragas. “Field Trip” is an action sequence which underscores the scene where Peter Parker leaps off his school bust to join Iron Man in the fight against the Black Order (and which features the score’s one and only brief allusion to the Captain America March during the final seconds); this leads into another action sequence featuring Iron Man and Spider-Man in “One Way Ticket”. “Get That Arm,” which fits into the sequence on Titan, is unusual and notable for featuring some eerie whispering and several guttural brass phrases. As a bonus, “Old Tech” is a brief sequence full of dissonance and tension for the post-credits scene involving Nick Fury that sets up Captain Marvel – and offers hope for the next Avengers movie scheduled for 2019.

I appreciate that people reading this review might be confused as to my final opinion about Avengers: Infinity War. I realize that I spent the first half of the review talking about missed opportunities and lack of themes and over-reliance on generic super-hero music, but then in the second half I’m talking about all the great action music and the powerful emotional content, the awesome statements of the Avengers theme and the clever use of Thanos’s theme. But, really, that’s exactly what Avengers: Infinity War is, in a nutshell. The action music is great, exciting and filled with all the things that has always made Alan Silvestri’s action music so appealing. The emotional parts of the score are moving, especially the sequence on Vormir, and Vision’s death scene. However, despite this, I still can’t shake that nagging notion that there is still something missing from the score, that somehow Silvestri could have written music like this in his sleep, and that there was so much scope for it to be even better than it is, especially in terms of thematic cohesion with the rest of the MCU. Perhaps my expectations are too high. Perhaps I’m asking too much, especially considering the state of the Hollywood film music world as it exists today. Perhaps I should just be happy, and enjoy the great music that is in this score, and be satisfied that Silvestri was at least allowed to do what he does best – after all, this could very easily have been as bad as the score for Winter Soldier. Perhaps… but, if only…

Buy the Avengers: Infinity War soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • REGULAR RELEASE
  • The Avengers (0:25)
  • Travel Delays (2:43)
  • Undying Fidelity (5:05)
  • He Won’t Come Out (2:31)
  • We Both Made Promises (2:22)
  • Help Arrives (4:21)
  • Hand Means Stop (2:37)
  • You Go Right (4:26)
  • Family Affairs (3:51)
  • What More Could I Lose? (3:36)
  • A Small Price (3:17)
  • Even for You (2:14)
  • More Power (4:07)
  • Charge! (3:28)
  • Forge (4:22)
  • Catch (6:04)
  • Haircut and Beard (3:02)
  • A Lot to Figure Out (2:01)
  • The End Game (2:17)
  • I Feel You (2:48)
  • What Did It Cost? (2:25)
  • Porch (0:59)
  • Infinity War (2:35)
  • EXTENDED DELUXE EDITION
  • The Avengers (0:25)
  • Travel Delays (Extended) (4:45)
  • Undying Fidelity (5:05)
  • No More Surprises (4:04)
  • He Won’t Come Out (Extended) (3:39)
  • Field Trip (3:36)
  • Wake Him Up (4:04)
  • We Both Made Promises (Extended) (4:27)
  • Help Arrives (Extended) (5:38)
  • Hand Means Stop/You Go Right (Extended) (7:18)
  • One Way Ticket (3:27)
  • Family Affairs (Extended) (5:37)
  • What More Could I Lose? (Extended) (5:07)
  • A Small Price (3:17)
  • Even for You (2:15)
  • Morning After (2:08)
  • Is He Always Like This? (3:23)
  • More Power (4:07)
  • Charge! (3:28)
  • Forge (4:22)
  • Catch (6:04)
  • Haircut and Beard (Extended) (3:51)
  • A Lot to Figure Out (Extended) (3:08)
  • The End Game (Extended) (2:34)
  • Get That Arm/I Feel You (Extended) (4:45)
  • What Did It Cost? (Extended) (3:35)
  • Porch (0:59)
  • Infinity War (2:35)
  • Old Tech (1:06)
  • End Credits (7:31)

Running Time: 71 minutes 36 seconds (Regular)
Running Time: 116 minutes 18 seconds (Deluxe)

Hollywood Records/Marvel Music (2018)

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrations by Mark Graham and Andrew Kinney. Recorded and mixed by Peter Cobbin and Dennis Sands. Edited by Steve Durkee and Kirsty Whalley. Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

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  1. May 18, 2018 at 11:02 am

    It’s like you read my mind. In my review, I pretty much had the exact same opinion. I was also dissapointed in the lack of thematic continuity, but the overall quality of the music is just classic Silvestri and very solid. Not bad at all, but I also expected more. Clearly, his heart was way more involved with Ready Player One.

  2. May 20, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I agree with you on this. It was a missed opportunity to give the MCU some musical coherence. Even a little nod to some of the other themes (like Giacchino’s Spider-Man or Doctor Strange, any of Thor’s themes or Tyler’s Iron Man) or even his own themes would have make this an almost perfect score, but at least it’s not bad like it is. Thanos theme is great.

    And I agree with Lasse Vogt that he put more care and heart into Ready Player One.

  3. Rich
    May 23, 2018 at 5:59 am

    I think you are WAY off with your assessment of Civil War. I think it is possible one of the most lush, well orchestrated, mature scores of the MCU. A complete 180 from Winter Soldier. There are dozens of themes utilized throughout. I wish they had gone the Jackman direction because I think his stable of musical ideas would have evolved better.

    Give it another listen.

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