Quick Review: Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World

Music composed by Brian Tyler
Music conducted by Brian Tyler, Allan Wilson
Score performed by the The London Philharmonia Orchestra and The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Score recorded at Abbey Road Studios
Album time: 78 minutes
Available on Hollywood Records/Intrada Records

Following his score to Iron Man 3, composer Brian Tyler seems to be the young, hip voice the Marvel Cinematic Universe was looking for.  I enjoyed the musical world created by Patrick Doyle for Thor (2011), with a rousing theme and strong heroic material.  I was a bit confused with the original announcement of composer Carter Burwell at the helm, but thankfully Tyler stepped in around June.  Here's a rundown of the newest Marvel score.

No spoilers ahead, and track names don't spoil much.   

The album begins with Thor: The Dark World, a charging track with a bombastic theme complete with choir.  This serves as the main theme for the film.  This track sets up the score on the rest of the album, and for Tyler's composing style.  Lokasenna features a lamenting solo voice (sung by Azam Ali), with a slower variation of the main theme with a gentle orchestral accompaniment.  Those familiar with Tyler's score to Rambo (2008) will find this technique familiar, but that isn't obtrusive.  Asgard sets up another main theme, certainly cut from the same cloth as the main Thor theme.  The pounding rhythm motif appears throughout the score as it relates to the onscreen action.  The swirling strings and anthemic horns are a holdover from Doyle's Thor (or just about any epic film score in the last decade).

Battle of Vanaheim contains more choir with a nice reprise of the Thor theme. Origins represents the villain Malekith and features the low brass and strong percussion. The motif features a bit of electronics and hints at an ethnic sound.  While not entirely defined, this motif appears through other action cues later in the score.  The Trial of Loki begins with a minor lullaby-like theme in the celeste and harp before being passed to the low strings.  This mysterious motif serves as Loki's theme.  It reminds me a bit of Michael Giacchino's John Carter theme.  Into Eternity begins with the vocal solo heard in Lokasenna, this time more developed and expanded.  Escaping the Realm starts right off with the Thor theme and fits well in this action setting.

A Universe from Nothing is a more dramatic track, mainly focusing on strings.  Untouchable brings back the electronics and ethnic percussion for Malekith and Dark Elves.  This track brings the ostinato and brass work of Hans Zimmer to mind, certainly moments from The Dark Knight (2008).  Thor, Son of Odin naturally features Thor's theme over heavy percussion with subtle variation from the last.  Shadows of Loki begins with a great horn motif before reprising Loki's mysterious theme for most of the track with some rising changing.  Just because it hasn't been heard in a few minutes, Thor's theme comes back charging in with Sword and Council.  Much like Doyle's theme, each iteration makes the theme more memorable and identifiable within the score.  

Invasion of Asgard features more of the villain music with the brass showing off and adding dissonance to the score.  Electric guitars show up more and more feature dramatic choir moments near the end.  Betrayal contains some nice dramatic string and choir writing with Loki's theme within the orchestral layers.  The orchestra then crescendos to a brief snippet of Thor's theme.  A slightly slower version of Thor's theme starts Journey to Asgard before the louder rendition enters.  As the orchestra drops out, the vocal solo takes over.  I don't remember hearing the Thor theme so much in the film, but you certainly get your money's worth within each track.  

Uprising is more percussion-led action with low strings with an appearance of Loki's theme and a burst of Thor's theme.  Vortex fits between the sweet and menacing sound before the orchestra rises for a brief lovely moment.  An Unlikely Alliance plugs Loki's theme a bit more in more mysterious settings, with some low strings plodding.  About halfway through, the theme is put in more of military style before Alan Silvestri's Captain America theme appears for a brief cameo.  It doesn't last long, but it's nice to see a bit of musical consistency in the Marvel Universe.      

Convergence begins with a lovely horn theme, backed with the strings before turning a bit more nasty and combining the Malekith material, bits of Loki's material, and Thor's theme with orchestral and percussion outbursts.  Beginning of the End slowly simmers until the dissonant strings and brass enter.  The electric guitar of Malekith is split by a reference to Thor's theme.  The string ostinato of modern film scores appears and the action keeps moving, but rarely goes over the top.  Deliverance is a moving track, utilizing the slower Thor variation and the vocal soloist.  

Battle Between Worlds is the action cue that begins with a bang.  The momentum of the music keeps the track alive, with pounding percussion as the brass crescendos.  There are some brief moments of breathing space before it jumps back in.  The orchestra rises to the finish.  As the Hammer Falls builds to another version of the Thor theme.

Legacy features more slower-moving strings, reminding me of some of Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings music.  Thor's theme appears as the music seems uplifting before a reprise of Loki's theme in it's most majestic (if villainous) rendition.  Thor's theme gets the ultimate reprise with swirling strings and the choir as the album ends.  Basically a bonus track, the Marvel Studios Fanfare is brief logo music composed by Tyler, and used for the first time on this film.  It'll be nice to see (and hear) this updated logo for the upcoming Marvel films.  

Similar to Iron Man 3, the track titles seem fairly vague and don't give much away to the film.  Just like most Tyler albums, the album track order doesn't fit the film order, but doesn't change the overall flow.  I'm sure more adept listeners will be diligently putting the soundtrack in film order, so have fun.  If you enjoyed the main themes for this film, Tyler's Children of Dune (2003) might be on your mind as well.  Even the vocal soloist, Azam Ali, sang on that film.     

Tyler's Thor score is a nice followup to Doyle's score to Thor, while not embodying his themes or specific style.  If you had trouble keeping the similarly written themes apart, that doesn't change the listening experience.  The main theme is stronger than Tyler's for Iron Man 3 and certainly fits with the many heroic moments in the film.  There are many standout moments in the score and worth listening to if you aren't the ardent Tyler listener. 

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  1. The horn solo at the beginning of Asgard caught my attention because it's a lower register than we hear from most film-score solos. But for the life of me I can't pin down what instrument that is. Is it a euphonium?

  2. Some of the themes sounded a bit like James Newton Howard's "The Hunger Games"