Can you hum the theme for any Marvel movie the way you can immediately come up with Star Wars or Harry Potter? For all that the Marvel Cinematic Universe promises continuity between its movies and television series, it’s baffling that the same ethos is dropped when it comes to the films’ soundtracks. We’ve been saying so for over a year, and now the folks at Every Frame a Painting have put together a comprehensive video building on this same theory, complete with some unsettling insights into generic Hollywood film scores.
When it comes to scoring their myriad films, the MCU producers play it safe: They go with incredibly on-the-nose music that dictates how you, the audience, should feel in every single scene, while simultaneously being so forgettable that it doesn’t stick with you by the time the next music cue rolls around. Which means that there’s no real emotional resonance to Tony Stark falling to Earth after carrying the nuke through the portal, or Thor being reunited with fellow Asgardians, or Steve Rogers standing in a modern-day museum tribute to Captain America. Well, that last example does twinge the heartstrings just right… or, it would if there weren’t some distracting narration laid over the swelling score.
But the real issue, the creators of this video attest, is with temp music. That’s when directors have a film edited to certain music from other films (anything from classics to one of the Transformers sequels) to match the mood they’re going for, then have composers make up scores that are only a degree removed from that preexisting music. If Hollywood remaking the same properties over and over weren’t depressing enough, you get this:
If you’ve become as morbidly fascinated by the use of temp music as I have, you can watch this supplementary video from Every Frame a Painting. Each example will chip away at your faith in original compositions, like knowing that Transformers was imitating Inception (not the braaahm, surprisingly), or that Guardians of the Galaxy ribbed the score for a key moment from The Avengers’ theme. (Which is less galling considering that that movie has an incredible soundtrack, despite being more of a mixtape than anything else.)
And as a consolation, here are the best music (that is, non-score) moments in the MCU.