Quick Reviews: Thor / Captain America

Here are two different scores from the Marvel franchise and the scores couldn’t be more different.  It will be interesting to see what happens when all characters mix in The Avengers next year and what composer will helm the score.  For now here is Thor and Captain America.

Music composed by Patrick Doyle
Orchestrated by: James Shearman, Patrick Doyle
Conducted by: James Shearman
Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded at: Air Lyndhurst Studios, London
Album time: 72 minutes
Available on Buena Vista Records

With Kenneth Branagh directing, he naturally turned to Patrick Doyle for the music.  They had previously collaborated together at least seven films, notably Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.   Patrick started as more of a classical-influenced composer, using those talents on many period films.  His past adventure scores for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Eragon have been incredibly enjoyable. 

His score for Thor seemed divided into two worlds.  The film itself has the same issue.  We have the mystical Asgard and all that takes place there, and there is the part of the film on Earth.  Doyle seems like a great choice for the Asgard sections, but the Earth parts are too reminiscent of a typical action score.  I can understand if that is what Marvel had in mind with the character.  Just look at the terrible Ramin Djawadi score to Iron Man.  If that is what the case was, Doyle did his best at duplicating the formula of the Remote Control Productions crew – rather than bring out the type of music Doyle does best. 

Doyle does give us some great heroic themes, notably in Sons of Odin and other times on the soundtrack.  Doyle has always been able to bring out the emotions of the scenes without getting in the way.  The score features a lot of those quiet moments, which work both on film and on the album.  His action material in Frost Giant Battle and The Compound are some of the best of the album.    
His melodies shine through on the tracks Ride to Observatory and Banishment.  The horns and ostinato strings (like many other Doyle scores) are featured prominently throughout the score, especially in Thor Kills the Destroyer.  His percussion is booming but not overpowering on the album.  But like so many other recent films, the film mix is incredibly bass heavy (including sound effects).  The score ends with some really beautifully emotional music, like in Can You See Jane?       
The score does bridge between the two styles, but it's clear which one just works better for Doyle.  Branagh really knows how to set a scene, and really gives Doyle plenty of moments for his score to shine through.  Overall, his action and dramatic moments work fine in the film and on the album.  The score doesn't fix the film's problems, but it adds to the epic nature and the seriousness of the project.  It’s nice to see another serious symphonic score for a blockbuster.

Sons of Odin
Ride to Observatory
Hammer Found
The Compound
Thor Kills the Destroyer
Can You See Jane?

Captain America
Music composed by Alan Silvestri
Orchestrated by: John Ashton Thomas, Mark Graham, Dave Metzger, Alan Silvestri
Conducted by: Alan Silvestri
Recorded at Air Studios, London
Album time: 74 minutes
Available on Buena Vista Records

From the beginning of Captain America, you can tell this film is different than the rest of the Marvel films.  This of course has to do with Joe Johnston directing, and how much of the film felt like an action adventure film during a typical superhero origin story.  The World War II setting alone sets it apart.  Many people compare the film with Johnston’s 1991 film The Rocketeer, which features a great James Horner score.  Here, we’re given a theme that is fit for such a patriotic superhero.  It fits extremely well with the World War II setting and in a way a throwback to the action scores of Silvestri and Goldsmith and Williams. 

The score begins slowly with ominous underscoring.  Silvestri works well with the suspense here.  We’re given a melodramatic villain’s theme, which is effective throughout the score.  There is a moment in Farewell to Bucky that reminds me of Night at the Museum (also by Silvestri).  The heroics really begin as the character of Captain America emerges.  There are several solid action cues – prime Silvestri material.  Cues like Captain America "We Did It" and Triumphant Return and Captain America feature the Captain America theme prominently.  In “This Is My Choice”, we’re given transformation of the theme.  Later in the album we get such great action tracks as Howling Commando's Montage and Hydra Train, the latter reoccurring in the end credits.  These scenes are really moved well by the music and propel the story well.  Overall, we get a solid score with tons of great moments.  The score is a great listen.    

In case you listen to the score without seeing the movie, one thing sticks out - the song Star Spangled Man.  The song (Music: Alan Menken, Lyrics: David Zippel) works surprisingly well in the film and gives the film a bit of campy fun.  The song is reminiscent of a song that would fit in the period. 

I can’t recommend enough getting the fantastic concert version on iTunes only, Captain America March.  It's the music first heard in the credits.  You’ll be instantly transported to both Captain America and to John Williams’ old concert marches of Raiders and Superman.  (And that’s not a bad thing at all.)

I would have to rank this one of my favorite scores of 2011 so far.  I hope should they make another World War II story of Captain America, or whoever composes The Avengers keep the score quality of this film.         

Training the Supersoldier
Captain America “We Did It”
Howling Commando's Montage
Hydra Train
Motorcycle Mayhem
Captain America March (iTunes bonus)

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  1. Composer Silvestri "He Did It!"

  2. I was just revisiting Patrick Doyle's score to Frankenstein. The Creation would fit very nicely if it was inserted into the Thor score. Worth a listen.

  3. Do you have an idea which music is behind the part when the painter paints the red head? A famous classical music!

  4. I haven't seen the film since it was in theaters, and couldn't find the answer online - so as of now, I have no clue!

  5. Der Ring des Nibelungen