Avengers: Endgame hit theaters around seven months ago, but being honest with yourself, has there really been a day since then you haven’t thought about the moment Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) radios in, “On your left“? The climax of the Russo Brothers‘ grand MCU finale in which our dearly-departed dusted returned from their Infinity War fate is one of the decade’s most goosebumps-worthy movie moments, and so much of that has to do with “Portals“, the slow-burn music that carries it all the way to Captain America (Chris Evans) delivering one last “Avengers, Assemble”. So needless to say, I jumped at the chance to chat with Alan Silvestri, the Oscar-nominee who scored Endgame, as well as Infinity War, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers. (He’s also the mind behind the Back to the Future theme, legitimately one of the all-time greats.)
According to Silvestri, the big third-act return almost sounded a lot different. Instead of a single, unifying theme, Silvestri and the creative team toyed with the idea of the music changing as each hero arrived, similar to the entrance themes used by professional wrestlers.
“We tried a number of things. I think the “Portals” event was clearly this challenge to Joe and Anthony about this, ‘We’ve got to really get this right.’ And the material that we ultimately used for that was new material in Endgame. There are all these events going on. There’s Cap, then the Wakandans come in, then Dr. Strange appears…there was a temptation, and we actually explored it, to be making moves [with the music]. With, ‘And here! And here!'”
More specifically, Silvestri noted that the idea wasn’t to mash together individual character themes—the “Wakanda” theme just smashing up against, like, the operatic-as-hell “Doctor Strange” does not work—as much as it was to make a much bigger sonic deal out of every single portal opening.
“It’s not even so much as separate themes as just marking these entrances. They’re so big, but they never stop. I mean, they go, go, go. And so, where we wound up with was an approach that really, I think the sensibility was that it was anthemic. Cap, of course, was down and out, he was done for. So, that theme somehow had to be almost celebratory in a certain way.
It’s like, ‘Oh my God, everyone is coming.’ It’s like the joke, ‘Is this everyone?’…It’s like, ‘You want more?’ There are no more, basically. That was the approach we wound up with. And then, of course, the way they constructed it was just so great for music, because it’s building, it’s building. Then, of course, Cap’s line when he says, ‘Assemble,’ the music is out, and then we come back in with our Avengers theme.”
Silvestri says the decision for “Portals” to transition back into the main “Avengers” theme—which has been around since Joss Whedon‘s 2012 team-up—was the moment that developed the most.
“That was something that really evolved. It was tried with other choreography, if you will. What are the beats, what are the big moments? But that ultimately wound up to be the spot where everyone felt like this is the perfect spot. And it’s interesting because it’s a very kinetic moment. I mean, everyone’s running, right? And it’s now it’s just this big theme playing. We catch up to all of that action musically a little later. But for this point, we’re just saying pure Avengers. ‘We’re back, we’re all here. You’re in a lot of trouble now, pal.'”
Check out exactly what Silvestri had to say in the player above. For more on Avengers: Endgame, check out what we learned from the film’s editor about alternate versions of Tony Stark’s last words and the late addition of Rhodey’s Baby Thanos question.