Mick and Marvel’s Infinity Playlist: A Guide to the Music of the MCU (Part 3 of 3)

This is Part 3 of my MCU aural history-slash-Infinity War soundtrack wishlist. For the first two installments, which go into more detail on earlier entries on the list, click here or here.

#1 — THE AVENGERS’ THEME

#2 — THE CAPTAIN AMERICA MARCH

#3 — ONE OR BOTH OF THOR’S THEMES

#4 — AN IRON MAN THEME

#5 — THE GUARDIANS’ THEME

Did you even know that the Guardians have a theme? Because they do. And don’t say “Yes, it’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling,'” because it’s not. It’s this:

It’s actually a decent theme, all things considered. It sounds a bit too much like both the Avengers theme and Brian Tyler’s Thor theme, but it’s got some personality to it, or at least the potential for personality. You may recognize it better in its remixed form, “Guardians Inferno.”

For the first time on this list since The Avengers, we’re looking at theme that HAS been used consistently, appearing in both Guardians films and even their new theme park attraction at Disney California Adventure. (This is undoubtedly because Tyler Bates is the only Marvel composer to date who has worked on every entry of a single MCU franchise.1 ) Moreover, the theme is utilized well, accompanying some very notable moments in both films, such as the Kiln escape and the fight against Ego. In fact, in the first film, Bates goes so far as to play it at the exact moment that Quill says “We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”

That’s how you build an association right there.

Of course, the execution still isn’t perfect. This shot from the sequel — basically aping the circle shot from The Avengers — is inexplicably scored with a completely different piece of music, because we can’t have nice things.

But again, it’s fine. It’s indisputably the Guardians’ theme, and when it isn’t being entirely overshadowed by the films’ soundtracks (arguably a feature, not a bug), it lives up to those criteria.

WILL WE HEAR IT IN INFINITY WAR?

I really hope so. The degree of difficulty is low — the theme can work, and has worked, in a variety of different scenarios. If it’s just going to be played outright, I have no doubt the Guardians will make some sort of entrance at some point in the movie, so Silvestri can throw it in there with no trouble. But honestly, I’d still call it a coin flip, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if it ends up being absent.

#6 — THE STRANGE/SPIDEY/PANTHER THEMES

I’m going to do these as a group, because I have pretty much identical things to say about them. (And also because we’re 3000 WORDS IN BAY-BAY!! WOO!)

Here’s Doctor Strange’s theme:

And here’s Spider-Man’s new theme:

Both are by Michael Giacchino.

really like that Doctor Strange theme. It fits him beautifully, and playing it on a harpsichord does a lot to make it stand out from the pack.2 This sort of conceptual boldness is what Marvel should want going forward.

Spidey’s theme is just okay. It’s versatile (as even that three-minute video demonstrates), and it’s enjoyable as a piece of music, but it doesn’t immediately scream Spider-Man to me. What it does have going for it is repetition. I am not joking when I say that a good 30% of the score in Homecoming is just variations on this theme. Once you wrap your ear around it, and have a handle on what to listen for,3 it only takes one rewatch to have the thing down pat. And that, too, is what Marvel should want going forward.

For Black Panther, Ludwig Göransson chose a different tack, and gave T’Challa a signature instrument — the talking drum. It’s somewhat difficult to realize this in the context of Black Panther itself, given that virtually the entire score is looking to capture that same African sound, but again, it’s the conceptual uniqueness that makes it exciting, and that decision should really pay dividends in the future.

As far as I can tell, T’Challa does also get a short little theme, which you can hear in the first part this track:

(I won’t tell anyone that it’s “Take On Me” if you won’t.)

These three themes are particularly important because these three characters are still in the early stages of their MCU existence. There’s still time for them to become inextricably linked to these particular themes. Doctor Strange has only made one appearance plus a cameo,4 and Spider-Man has only made a cameo plus one appearance.5 T’Challa’s role in Civil War was clearly a supporting one, and he did get his own leitmotif in that score. But like I said… we’re 3000 words in. The point is, if Marvel commits to these themes going forward, they could be the ones who finally get it right.

WILL WE HEAR THEM IN INFINITY WAR?

Pretty please, with sugar on top. We know that key scenes of the film will take place in the Sanctum Sanctorum, so if we can’t at least get a few bars of Strange’s theme played over an establishing shot, that’s pretty sad. Wakanda is going to be the other major setting, so if we can’t get something reminiscent of the Black Panther score, that’s even sadder. And as for Spidey, it’s likely that he too will get some solo moments, leaving plenty of opportunities for his theme to sneak in there.

If they don’t turn up, it’s not the end of the world, but it will mean some lost momentum, and could be an indication that Marvel hasn’t learned from its mistakes after all.

#7 — A WORD ON ANT-MAN’S THEME

I genuinely don’t think Ant-Man is going to be in Infinity War, but I might as well complete the set. So, written by Christophe Beck, here it is:

This is another one that I like for its uniqueness. It genuinely does feel like it represents something small and stealthy, but at the same time, you can also go real big with it.

I see no need to change anything about it, and I certainly hope it’s in his next movie. (Beck is returning, which is a good sign.) If Scott DOES turn up for Infinity War… then just play it. It’s not rocket science.

Beck also did a surf rock version. You know, for funsies.

Mmkay.

POST CREDITS

I’ll leave you with one final anecdote that I feel demonstrates the value of a good character theme:

When I listened to the Civil War soundtrack for this writeup, the one thing I knew I wanted to listen for was the airport fight. I figured that it would be impossible to miss, being, essentially, the centerpiece scene of the entire film. So I waited, and listened, and waited some more. Until something about the music struck my ear, and I clicked over to discover that I was listening to the end credits. The airport fight had come and gone, and its music didn’t so much as catch my attention.

I went back and listened to those specific tracks a second time. They sound perfectly fine, and to place a bit of the fault on my own shoulders, it does sound like an action scene. But a fight like that, featuring so many of the MCU’s most pivotal characters, should sound like more than just ‘an action scene.’ I should be able to listen to that track with my eyes closed and picture EXACTLY what is happening. If nothing else, it should have featured a big-ass version of that Ant-Man theme so you can say: “Well, that’s Giant Man at least.”

The MCU is pretty darn great. I like to think that I wouldn’t dedicate 3500 words to a topic as stupid as its music if I didn’t believe that. But it can also improve. And paying more attention to its stupid music is one of the simplest, easiest ways that it can do so. Ten years into this experiment, Infinity War, in many ways, represents an end. But it also has the chance to represent a new beginning. And I for one hope it does.