Home > Reviews > AVENGERS: ENDGAME – Alan Silvestri

AVENGERS: ENDGAME – 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.

When Marvel and Paramount Pictures made and released the movie Iron Man in the spring of 2008, I doubt anyone involved had any inkling of what would occur over the course of the next 11 years. To put it bluntly, Marvel and its controlling executive Kevin Feige revolutionized the movies, not only in terms of technical advancement, but in how movies are made and released. Over the course of the next decade the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded into an interlocking series of 22 movies, most of which reference back to one another, and which follow a group of super-heroes as they defend the Earth from various threats, foreign, domestic, and inter-galactic. There have been hundreds of articles written about what this has done to the very nature of cinema, how potential ‘expanded universes’ are now designed into the development of every new franchise, and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not going to go into this here – but I will say this: I doubt I will ever see a storytelling effort more ambitious than this in my lifetime. The combined Marvel movies have grossed more than $18 billion worldwide, and this final one – Avengers: Endgame – looks poised to be the biggest of them all.

The film is set in the immediate aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War, wherein the super-villain Thanos successfully acquired the six powerful Infinity Stones he had been searching for across numerous films, and used them to instantaneously kill 50% of all living things in the universe, with nothing more than a snap of his fingers. Thanos’s justification was that he was ‘saving’ the remaining 50% from inevitable famine, war, and misery due to depleted natural resources, but in reality the universe is plunged into depression and decline. With half of the Avengers having been disintegrated, the remaining Avengers team up with Captain Marvel – who was summoned to Earth at the end of Infinity War – and track Thanos across the galaxy, intending to take back the stones and reverse his actions. However, they discover that Thanos has destroyed the stones in order to prevent this very thing; in a fit of rage, Thor kills Thanos. Five years pass, and all seems lost, until the super hero Ant-Man – who had long been presumed dead – unexpectedly re-appears, having discovered a possible way to make things right.

What transpires over the next three hours involves basically every member of the Avengers, plus every member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, as they scour the universe looking for the solution. The film stars (deep breath) Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, and Josh Brolin as Thanos, plus Chris Pratt as Star Lord, Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Tom Hiddlestone as Loki, and Danai Gurira as Okoye, while featuring extended cameos from MCU veterans such as Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, Tilda Swinton, Hayley Atwell, Marisa Tomei… the list goes on and on. This may be one of the most astonishing casts assembled in the history of cinema.

Marvel have used more than a dozen composers on their various standalone films, but for the big climaxes have always turned to Alan Silvestri to provide the score. He wrote the music for the first Captain America film in 2011, continued by writing the score for The Avengers in 2012, and came back for Avengers: Infinity War last year. In many ways, the score for Endgame is similar to Infinity War, both in tone and content, which makes sense considering that it is essentially one long movie. I liked the score for Infinity War a great deal, but the constant nagging complaint that has loomed over the music of the entire 22-movie series is the lack of thematic consistency for the various super heroes. Iron Man has three themes, Thor has three themes, Captain America has a theme which was barely used after the first movie, Hulk had a theme which vanished entirely after his standalone movie, and there are no really prominent musical identities for Black Widow, Hawkeye, or any of the minor original Avengers. To give them credit, this mishmash of musical continuity has got better over the years, with different composers having developed prominent identities for Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, but it’s still something that, with hindsight, the producers should have thought about more deeply from the outset.

Thankfully, on Endgame, like he did with Infinity War, Silvestri has been much more cognizant of this than most of his predecessors, and references multiple themes throughout the score. The most prominent – of course – is the main Avengers theme, which is broken down into its constituent elements comprising the main theme, the underlying riff, and the deconstructed version of the main theme which is often used as a fanfare. In addition to this – finally! – Silvestri revisits his wonderful Captain America theme from that film, and uses it liberally in scenes involving that character. He also makes references to Christophe Beck’s Ant-Man theme, Michael Giacchino’s Dr. Strange theme, and Pinar Toprak’s new Captain Marvel theme, but there is no room for any prominent references to any of the pre-existing music for Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Spider-Man, or the Guardians of the Galaxy. Unfortunately, none of the non-Silvestri themes heard in the film feature on the soundtrack album, which I’m sure was a legal issue to do with rights and royalties, but it’s still a touch disappointing.

Instead, we get a new theme representing the concept Families, and a fourth theme for Thor, although this time it’s not really a character-specific theme, but instead represents the Nordic community of New Asgard where the survivors of that planet’s destruction now reside. The Family Theme doesn’t represent one specific character either, but instead encompasses the emotional core of the various interpersonal relationships: Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, Tony Stark and his daughter Morgan, Thor and the memory of his mother Frigga, and finally the entire Avengers family as it mourns in the aftermath of the final battle, in remembrance of those who are lost.

Stylistically the new theme has a great deal in common with the emotional parts of scores like Contact, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away, but grows to greater heights and enjoys a much more varied orchestration, especially during the finale. Meanwhile the Nordic theme has faint but appropriate hints of Grieg in the chord progressions, and appears to use a Hardanger fiddle in the instrumental complement, similar to what Mark Mothersbaugh used in Thor Ragnarok. As for the rest of the score, it is very much rooted in Silvestri’s personal style; the action music contains echoes of everything from Back to the Future and Judge Dredd to The Mummy Returns and Ready Player One, while many of the percussion patterns hark all the way back to Predator. Interestingly, the one sound that is completely new to the Avengers world is the unexpectedly authentic jazz, which shares ideas with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but we’ll get to that later.

There is a great deal of music to like in Endgame, but it sure takes its sweet time getting there. The eye-wateringly long album from Marvel Music, which clocks in at a staggering 1 hour 57 minutes, spends a great deal of its time underscoring quiet conversations and moments of introspection. The first seven cues, which run for a combined total of 27 minutes, are perfectly adequate, but don’t do a whole lot. “Totally Fine” introduces the gentle Family Theme on warm horns; “No Trust” provides the first prominent statements of both the Captain America theme and the Avengers theme, along with some mysterious piano music that seems to stand for discovery and science. “Where Are They?” has a dark, chaotic finale as Thanos meets his ignoble end; “I Figured It Out” presents the Family theme as a delicate lullaby, as well as expanding on the ‘science and discovery’ motifs with some curious woodwinds and chimes. It’s all decent enough, but not especially exciting.

In fact, things don’t really pick up until “You Shouldn’t Be Here,” which underscores the scene where Hawkeye, having turned vigilante after the deaths of his entire family in the Snap, is rescued by Black Widow while he is assassinating a gangster in Japan. His PTSD-fuelled rage is illustrated with dark string runs, throbbing brasses, and anxiety-ridden dissonances, which eventually give way to more emotional string writing. The subsequent “The How Works” is for the scene where Ant-Man explains the concept of quantum realm time travel – which he discovered while stuck there during the events of ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ – to the disbelieving Avengers. Cleverly, Silvestri takes both the Avengers Riff and the Avengers Theme, but re-arranges them with Christophe Beck’s Ant-Man orchestrations, tom toms and jazz flutes and surf guitars. The languid jazz textures that conclude the cue strongly recall the jazz Silvestri wrote for Who Framed Roger Rabbit back in 1988, and the manner in which Silvestri takes the first 5 notes of the Avengers theme and weaves them through the cue is very effective.

Once Ant-Man has explained his theory for time travel, and convinced the Avengers that it could work, the final piece of the puzzle is to locate Thor, and bring him back into the fold. Unfortunately Thor has spent the five years since killing Thanos holed up in the Norwegian community of New Asgard, getting fat and playing video games. “Snap Out of It” offers the first performance of the wistful new Nordic theme for when Hulk and Rocket arrive in New Asgard and try to convince the depressed Thor to join them; they succeed by appealing to his better nature, and the memory of his family, and the tender statement of the Family theme speaks to that emotion.

With what’s left of the gang all finally back together, Ant-Man lays out his plan: they will split off into teams and, using the quantum realm as a conduit, travel back to different periods in time, acquire all six Infinity Stones before Thanos can get them, and bring them back to the present so they can un-do the Snap. Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Ant-Man travel to New York during the events of ‘The Avengers’ to obtain the yellow Mind Stone from inside Loki’s scepter, the green Time Stone from the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the blue Space Stone from inside the Tesseract, all of which are in the city at the same time. Thor and Rocket travel to Asgard during the events of ‘Thor: The Dark World’ to obtain the red Reality Stone from inside the blood of Jane Foster. War Machine and Nebula travel to the planet Morag during the events of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to obtain the purple Power Stone from inside the Orb before Star Lord does. And Hawkeye and Black Widow travel to the planet Vormir to obtain the orange Soul Stone.

The action jumps backwards and forwards between these four locations, and several cues stand out. “One Shot” offers some Predator-esque percussion patterns and a massively heroic finale with a stirring statement of the Avengers theme as Captain America gives his pre-mission pep talk. “So Many Stairs” relates to a funny Hulk line during the Stark Tower heist, and features more jazz rhythms within the action beats, including several cool takes on both the Avengers Riff and the Avengers Fanfare. “He Gave It Away” accompanies Hulk as he visits the Sanctum Sanctorum and has an encounter with the mysterious, enigmatic Ancient One, complete with Giacchino-style harps and sitars accompanying the orchestra. “How Do I Look?” is a brief but exciting action cue for the fight scene between Present Day Captain America and 2012 Captain America – talk about an existential crisis!

Unfortunately, things go awry when 2012 Loki escapes with the Tesseract, forcing Iron Man and Captain America to jump even further back in time, to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in the late 1960s that is storing an even earlier version of the Tesseract, where the heroes encounter a young Hank Pym, Stark’s father Howard, and Peggy Carter. “In Plain Sight” is one of the cues that underscores this adventure, and includes an action-packed statement of the Avengers Riff underpinned with light jazz rhythms, and some sultry Roger Rabbit-style solo trumpets.

Meanwhile, on Asgard, Thor reconnects with his mother Frigga earlier on the day of her death; “The Measure of a Hero” captures the emotional weight of the scene with a stirring version of the Family theme which combines with the Nordic theme in a lovely way, before building to a heroic finale as Thor re-acquires his long-lost hammer Mjolnir. Hawkeye and Black Widow arrive on Vormir and – just like Thanos was the last time we were on this planet – are told by the Red Skull that the Soul Stone can only be acquired by giving up something you truly love. “Not Good” underscores this devastating scene with a massive statement of the Sacrifice Theme that was first heard in the “One Way Trip” cue from Avengers, and again during the mirror image scene featuring Thanos and Gamora in Infinity War. After fighting over which of them will be the one to die, the music builds to a huge choral crescendo as Black Widow heroically sacrifices herself, leaving Hawkeye with the Soul Stone, alive but emotionally crushed.

As all this is going on, War Machine and Nebula easily acquire the Power Stone from Star Lord on Morag; “The Tool of a Thief” is a cool combination of action, spacey choral textures, and lilting solo cellos. War Machine returns home but, unfortunately, the present day Good Nebula somehow connects minds with the evil old version of herself, which allows Thanos – who was still alive at that point in the past – to access her memories, and learn of the plan to stop him acquiring the stones in the future. “Destiny Fulfilled” is full of tension and darkness, Thanos’s theme surrounded by brutal horn calls and resounding triplets. Thanos captures Good Nebula and sends Evil Nebula back to the present in her place; she engineers things so that Thanos can transport his ship and his minions forward in time via the quantum realm, and the final battle is set in motion.

The final battle is where Silvestri really turns on the afterburners and shines. He has always been great at action music, as scores like Back to the Future, Judge Dredd, The Mummy Returns, Ready Player One, and many others, all attest. There are stylistic echoes of all these scores, as well as all his previous Avengers and Captain America scores, in this gargantuan 20+ minute final sequence; the staccato percussion hits, the familiar chord progressions, the uniquely Silvestrian instrumental combinations, the use of choir, it’s all there in abundance, and it’s some of the most satisfying action music he’s written for quite some time. Cues like “I Was Made for This” and “Tres Amigos” set the scene, but things really explode in “Tunnel Scape,” which underscores the scene of Hawkeye running for his life through the ruins of the recently-destroyed Avengers HQ, trying to keep the Infinity Gauntlet away from Thanos’s massed minions. Silvestri uses several deconstructed snippets of the Avengers theme buried within a mass of exciting action music, which features especially notable pounding pianos.

Eventually, the gauntlet – bejeweled with the six stones – makes its way onto the arm of the Hulk, who withstands the enormous intergalactic pressure it puts on his body and snaps his fingers, hopefully bringing everyone who Thanos killed back to life. Meanwhile, outside, the battle between the Avengers and Thanos rages on, and before long it appears that hope is lost; there are simply too many of Thanos’s forces. “Portals,” one of the two best cues on the album, is where the tide turns. Just as Captain America looks ready to accept defeat, accompanied by lonely last-stand trumpets and funereal percussion, the newly-restored Dr Strange magically appears and conjures up hundreds of portals, through which all the lost Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy return – Spider-Man, Star Lord, Drax, Groot, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, the Wasp, Falcon, the Winter Soldier, and more. Black Panther brings the entire Wakandan army and the Dora Milaje, Strange brings hundreds of fellow sorcerers, and Star Lord brings the Ravager fleet, while Valkyrie brings Asgardian forces while riding on a white flying horse. The music that accompanies the scene is the textbook definition of ‘epic,’ and is filled with colossal crescendos, heroic powerful brass, anvil clangs, and several massive consecutive statements of the Avengers theme as everyone gathers for final battle. “Get This Thing Started” and “The One” are face-meltingly enormous and hugely enjoyable, although I did miss the burst of Pinar Toprak’s Captain Marvel theme that we hear as she arrives to personally take down Thanos’s flagship. The bass rumble in the finale of “The One” illustrates the pivotal moment when Tony Stark tricks Thanos, absorbs the infinity stones into his Iron Man suit, and snaps his own fingers – finally vanquishing Thanos forever, but at a massive cost.

“You Did Good” underscores Iron Man’s death; as Pepper Potts, who had also been in the battle wearing a powered exosuit of her own, cradles his head in her arms, Silvestri uses anguished string sustains and piano textures to capture the tragedy and devastation of the moment. It might have been more powerful had there been a strong and identifiable Iron Man theme to use in this moment, but we don’t get Djawadi’s, we don’t get Debney’s, and we don’t get Tyler’s, so we just get non-specific musical desolation. Instead, the true emotional peak of the score is “The Real Hero,” which underscores Tony Stark’s funeral. Here, Silvestri takes his new Family theme to emotional heights that are both epic and intimate; as the camera pans over the attendees – almost 40 MCU cast members from across all 22 movies, standing in solemn respect – Silvestri arranges the theme for solo oboe, then for glass bowls, before a truly stunning arrangement of the Family theme on strings with a variation on the Avengers theme played behind it as a noble brass countermelody. The acoustic guitar in the finale is warm, and speaks to the bonds of friendship between these intergalactic heroes.

The film’s epilogue sees Captain America going back in time to replace the stones where they were found, thus ensuring that the chronological timeline that led to the events is not broken. “Five Seconds” begins with a soft, muted statement of his theme on horns, and builds to a heroic finale… but he does not return to the present as intended. Instead, off in the distance, a now aged Steve Rogers appears, and explains that he decided to stay in the past and spend a long, loving life with Peggy Carter. In “Go Ahead” Steve passes his shield to Falcon, and entreats him to be the new Captain America. Warm brass chords, solemn and reflective, lead into an emotional final statement of the Captain America Theme, and then the end credits piece “Main on End,” which includes fulsome, stirring statements of both the Family theme and the Avengers theme as the cast signs off.

As you can tell, there is a great deal to like in Avengers: Endgame. The new Family theme is a singular triumph, one of the best original melodies Silvestri has written in years. The action music is as brilliant as Silvestri’s action music always is, and anyone who enjoyed the scores I name-checked in the prose will find much to their liking here. His treatment of the recurring main themes, especially the tri-part Avengers theme and his Captain America theme, is quite superb, and I’m happy he dropped some other thematic nuggets in there for good measure. The Nordic theme is lovely, if a little under-used, and the jazz writing is an unexpected twist that I found to be a great deal of fun. But – and it’s a big but – the gigantic length of the album is something that may put some people off. It really is a quite daunting task to sit and go through all this in one sitting. What this also means is that, for people who find themselves being overwhelmed by it all, a lot of the album could come across as generic super-hero filler, which spends too much time noodling around not doing very much in between all the good bits.

My own personal point of view, however, is that Silvestri did as much as he could with the canvas that was given to him, and that the whole thing is more or less a success. Would I have liked more thematic density in the film? Yes, but that’s a criticism that should be leveled at the MCU as a whole, and is in no way Silvestri’s fault. In the end, Avengers: Endgame is more than a worthy musical send off to this most ambitious of cinematic projects. We have Michael Giacchino and Spider-Man: Far from Home coming later in 2019, but beyond that… the sky’s the limit. Whether we return to Wakanda for more adventures with Black Panther, whether we follow Thor in his new role as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, whether Dr. Strange teaches us more mystery and magic, whether we follow Captain Marvel on her quests in the far-flung corners of the cosmos, or whether we are introduced to new heroes entirely… I’ll be there, and I look forward to the music that comes along with it.

Buy the Avengers Endgame soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Totally Fine (4:30)
  • Arrival (1:50)
  • No Trust (3:09)
  • Where Are They? (3:13)
  • Becoming Whole Again (3:48)
  • I Figured It Out (4:31)
  • Perfectly Not Confusing (4:46)
  • You Shouldn’t Be Here (3:33)
  • The How Works (3:51)
  • Snap Out of It (2:25)
  • So Many Stairs (1:52)
  • One Shot (2:04)
  • Watch Each Other’s Six (3:56)
  • I Can’t Risk This (4:49)
  • He Gave It Away (3:43)
  • The Tool of a Thief (2:59)
  • The Measure of a Hero (3:06)
  • Destiny Fulfilled (4:05)
  • In Plain Sight (3:14)
  • How Do I Look? (2:07)
  • Whatever It Takes (2:56)
  • Not Good (1:54)
  • Gotta Get Out (2:38)
  • I Was Made for This (4:38)
  • Tres Amigos (3:38)
  • Tunnel Scape (3:16)
  • Worth It (4:16)
  • Portals (3:17)
  • Get This Thing Started (4:55)
  • The One (2:09)
  • You Did Good (1:58)
  • The Real Hero (5:55)
  • Five Seconds (1:46)
  • Go Ahead (2:57)
  • Main on End (3:11)

Running Time: 116 minutes 52 seconds

Hollywood Records/Marvel Music (2019)

Music and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrations by Mark Graham. Featured musical soloists Mike Lovatt and Howard McGill. Special vocal performances by Emer McParland. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands and Peter Cobbin. Edited by Steve Durkee. Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

  1. Anthony Aguilar
    April 30, 2019 at 10:53 am

    A great, expertly written review. I couldn’t quite place the Nordic theme even after watching the film, so thanks for clearing that up.

    A physical, condensed CD album is due for release on May 24th!

  2. Tom de Ruiter
    April 30, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    The Nordic Theme you mention for Thor is actually an excisting from Ragnarok from the track ‘Twilight Of The Gods’.

    And in the track ‘The Tool Of A Thief’ you can hear the opening of the track ‘Morag’ from the 1st Guardians score halfway through the cue.

    • Anthony Aguilar
      April 30, 2019 at 7:05 pm

      That’s awesome! I didn’t catch that. Seems Silvestri put a little more thematic effort into this score, even if he kinda had to hide the references. Are there any other little nuggets in the score?

  3. Jonathanos
    May 4, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Apart from a few moments here and there, Infinity war’s didn’t really impress me too much, but damnnnn. He really pulled it out of the bag for endgame

  4. Will Thong
    May 15, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Brilliant review! Loved the film both times I saw it, and the score really elevated it. Silvestri is a boss.

    Can’t help but think some of the tracks are in the wrong order though: am I wrong in thinking ‘One Shot’ should be before ‘So Many Stairs’ (because Cap’s pep talk is necessarily before the Stark Tower heist) and ‘Snap Out Of It’ should be before ‘The How Works’ (because Thor is there to help plan the time heist?) Is it normal for OST tracks to be in the wrong order?

    • May 15, 2019 at 12:34 pm

      Yes, its very common. It all depends on the composer and their view of what makes the best listening experience.

  1. May 24, 2019 at 1:35 pm

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