While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is undoubtedly popular, there are two areas in which almost all of their films get criticized: flat cinematography and forgettable scores. The cinematography issue is something that Black Panther DP Rachel Morrison hopes to address in that film, and the scores are actually starting to get better thanks to terrific work this year from Michael Giacchino on Spider-Man: Homecoming and Mark Mothersbaugh on Thor: Ragnarok.
The latter was particularly notable, offering up an ambitious and incredibly diverse score for the wildly popular Thor sequel. And in a new interview, Mothersbaugh admits that his approach to scoring the film was directly influenced by criticism of Marvel scores. Speaking with THR (via The Playlist), Mothersbaugh says an excellent video essay by the Every Frame a Painting folks called “The Marvel Symphonic Universe” was something he and others on Thor: Ragnarok watched before they set about crafting the score:
“We were looking at that, going ‘Wow, OK.’ That helps explain some things that I kind of felt myself… Marvel is so successful, and it seems like it’s because the people that are at the top of the food chain are very integrated into the creative process, which I hadn’t expected. You don’t always see that. A lot of the executives, their big concerns are marketing, and investments, they don’t have time — music is way down at the bottom of the list. Even the directors, sometimes, you are working with them and they are like, ‘Cobbler, cobble me some music.’ And you are kind of treated like that.”
The conclusion that video essay comes to is that Marvel Studios needs to take more risks, and that seems to be exactly what Mothersbaugh and Taika Waititi did on Thor: Ragnarok—to terrific results. Check out the full video essay on Marvel movie scores yourself below, which offers some insight into why a lot of blockbusters these days lack recognizable themes.