The Marvel franchise has become the most lucrative in film history, surpassing previous juggernauts like Star Wars, James Bond, and Harry Potter. But all those other movies have something Marvel films don’t: a memorable musical score.
Tony Zhou, film buff and creator of the YouTube channel Every Frame a Painting, breaks down why that is in his latest video essay.
Zhou opens the video by asking random people to hum the theme songs from popular film franchises, but when he asks the same for Marvel, they’re stuck. No one can utter a single note from Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, etc., which begs the question of what’s missing from the musical scores from the most popular film franchise of all time?
Zhou posits it’s a mix of unnecessary background music that doesn’t hit on an emotional level, sweeping scores that could be memorable but get covered up with narration, and predictable music that doesn’t challenge the audience, i.e. funny, sad, or suspenseful scenes get funny, sad, or suspenseful music. But what Zhou really hones in on is the issue with “temp music,” music from another film or score that is slotted in during the early stages of editing that’s supposed to be replaced but often winds up in the final film. Clips from The Hollywood Reporter’s 2012 and 2015 film composer roundtables back-up Zhou’s thesis that Marvel scores aren’t memorable because, ultimately, they don’t take any risks.
Zhou has also posted a supplemental supercut juxtaposing what’s believed to be the temp track to a series of films and what was used in the final version.
Also, watch The Hollywood Reporter’s film composer roundtables below.