Captain America: The First Avenger Soundtrack CD | MP3
Walt Disney Records
Release Date: July 19, 2011
This summer movie season has brought us the now customary overpowering glut of blockbuster superhero epics, and with them some interesting but ultimately unmemorable orchestral scores. It’s disappointing when esteemed composers like Patrick Doyle and James Newton Howard are put to work on movies such as Thor and Green Lantern and they can’t even be moved to create good music for them. Neither musical score packed even the slightest amount of the mystery, tension, and high adventure all classic action-movie scores bring to their accompanying films, although to be fair Doyle’s Thor soundtrack had its share of moments worthy of the God of Thunder. If the music doesn’t care about the characters and the on-screen action, then why should we? Most composers tend to fall back on the same musical motifs that do little to stand out as nothing more than the components of a standard soundtrack. It all sounds nice, but you won’t be humming the themes for hours or days after you see the movie or purchase the soundtrack CD.
I’m not a musician or film composer so I don’t pretend to believe that it can’t be too hard to write a memorable score for a superhero movie or anything close to that genre, which can be action or science-fiction not affiliated with comic books. But when I was a kid and my friends used to imagine we were characters like Superman or Spider-Man out to save the world from the latest villainous threat, I guarantee you we could come up with better heroic theme music in the span of a few seconds than these overpaid and often overrated Hollywood composers get millions of dollars and lots of time could produce. That’s not ego talking, that’s the power of the imagination. Granted most of the music my friends would come up with were often variations on movie music we had heard countless times before only filtered through our hyperactive memories, but it still meant something to us. This was the music of our dreams, the soundtrack to futures filled with adventure and wonder and endless possibilities.
That’s why it saddens me when I listen to the music for Iron Man 2, Thor, and Green Lantern. It’s all rote. This is the kind of music people hum to themselves out of boredom waiting in an elevator that gets stuck between floors and they fear talking to any of the people standing around them. So far the only one of the big-budget comic book epics released this year to get a great musical score has been Henry Jackman’s excellent soundtrack for X-Men: First Class, but Jackman gets outclassed by veteran film composer Alan Silvestri and his swashbuckling return to form on the score for Captain America: The First Avenger.
Silvestri is the man best known for the classic soundtracks to films such as the first two Predator movies and James Cameron’s The Abyss. He’s also been director Robert Zemeckis’ composer of choice since the two of them first collaborated on Romancing the Stone back in 1984 and extended to such brilliant works as the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump (for which Silvestri was nominated for an Academy Award). Much like the late Jerry Goldsmith, Silvestri has a talent for experimenting with his film score composition work and adapting it to reflect current trends in movie music. It’s been an uphill battle for him to stay fresh, innovative, and most importantly relevant in this day and age. Silvestri’s score for Captain America finds the composer taking a step back into the past and merging the signature sounds of great composers like Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Dimitri Tiomkin with his own evolving musical motifs. The result is a stirring and exciting soundtrack and the finest work Silvestri has done in years.
It doesn’t get said enough, but I honestly believe that Alan Silvestri is one of our best modern composers. For the scores he composed for the movies I mentioned in the previous paragraph he should be counted among the greats like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Danny Elfman. I also think that the better a movie the greater its soundtrack will be, something that’s always been true in Silvestri’s case. From what I’ve seen so far Captain America looks to be one of the best movies of the summer and could possibly go in the top 5 best superhero movies of all time. So when I listen to Silvestri’s music my hopes rise even more. This is the music score of a true cinematic adventure; even without the movie to put the music in proper context I can still paint a vivid picture of the epic action that director Joe Johnston has brought to the big screen.
Creating militaristic themes erupting with bombast and swooping emotion has always been one of Silvestri’s strongest suits as a composer, so a movie like Captain America would be like his ultimate musical playground. There are plenty of opportunities for him to employ such broad motifs on tracks like the main title theme and the “We Did It” track, the latter even having a touch of the late Basil Poledouris’ score for Starship Troopers. Slower cues like “Schmidt’s Treasure” and “VitaRays” drip with mystery and atmosphere. But there’s plenty of old school action music cues as only Silvestri could do on “Kruger Chase” and “Hydra Train.” Towards the end of the CD, the composer piles on the hard-driving themes as the climatic action scenes build furious momentum, and this is where Silvestri truly shines. The disc closes out with “Star Spangled Man,” a peppy tune written and performed in the vein of World War II-era U.S.O. musical numbers made famous by songwriters such as Irving Berlin. The song was written by Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe-winning film and stage composer Alan Menken, whose credits range from the successful off-Broadway musical adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors that was made into a feature film in 1986 to many animated Disney films.
On the basis of his score for Captain America: The First Avenger I sincerely hope that Joss Whedon hires Alan Silvestri to compose the soundtrack for next year’s eagerly-anticipated The Avengers. There’s such a great time to be had listening to his work on Captain America that my excitement for the movie has just increased exponentially. It takes a special kind of movie to bring out the best in a great composer. Judging by the fun and endlessly listenable music Silvestri has cooked up for the latest big-screen incarnation of Marvel Comics’ Sentinel of Liberty I can tell we’re in for a great time at the movies.