Composer Alan Silvestri looks at tying the giant film together through music and explains “Thanos’ toughest decision isn’t a strategic one; it’s an emotional one.”
Avengers: Infinity War is a homecoming for Alan Silvestri.
The Oscar-nominated composer set the tone for Avengers leading man Captain America with that character’s first solo film in 2011 and scored the team’s first movie, The Avengers, released a year later. After sitting out Avengers: Age of Ultron, he’s returned in time to give Thanos (Josh Brolin) the attention a powerful tyrant like him deserves. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige sat down with Silvestri very early in the process on Infinity War.
“At our first meeting, we began with the question ‘Is it even possible to give each character’s musical theme a nod?'” Silvestri tells Heat Vision. “We were open to it, but everyone was pretty much in agreement that it would be more of a distraction to even attempt it.”
But Silvestri notes that he gave a nod to composer Ludwig Goransson’s Black Panther theme when the Avengers head to Wakanda. The Infinity War score is purely orchestral, which is what the Russos wanted. Silvestri had never worked with a directing duo prior to this film, and admits he had reservations about the process.
“I was very skeptical at first because being the director, it’s a very subjective job,” he says. “That person, whether it’s a man or woman, is the captain on the ship. If someone needs a definitive answer on something, they go ask the captain.”
Silvestri’s fears were quickly allayed after their first meeting. “It is truly incredible the way the brothers work together,” he says. “They never both start talking at the same time. They instinctively know what the division of labor is within this entity known as ‘The Russo Brothers.’ It really was like working with one person.”
Silvestri confirms that the focus of this Avengers film is on Thanos.
“Thanos didn’t just get his own musical theme; he got his own sensibility. He clearly deserved that if for no other reason than the sheer amount of cinematic real estate he occupies in the film,” says Silvestri.
For the film’s other antagonists — the four Children of Thanos known as the Black Order — Silvestri wanted to establish a musical link.
“Thanos and his crew were all treated like Thanos. They have his musical stamp because it’s his vision that they’re executing,” says Silvestri.
The Infinity Stones are heavily featured in the film, but Silvestri decided against giving them their own musical signature.
“In the first Captain America, I did some things with the Tesseract [one of the Infinity Stones] that had to do with voices and some harp,” shares Silvestri. “The music for the Infinity Stones is actually built around Thanos’ reaction. Every time he got one, that moment was always significant and often times emotional.”
When asked if he had to score any deaths in the film, Silvestri had to answer carefully.
“You don’t get a lot of Marvel deaths, not at this level,” admits Silvestri. “When a character that’s been around for multiple films dies, you want the audience to feel that emotionally. … If they don’t, then the narrative doesn’t work and you’ve failed. So, I have to do that moment justice, but then, the very next scene could be on the battlefield with something humorous occurring. So it was a real tight rope musically.”
The most challenging scene to score was laced with spoilers regarding Thanos. Silvestri chose his words carefully when describing the particular moment with his favorite character.
“This is a hard one to answer… the scene deals with Thanos. He’s a very powerful being who does bad things, but he’s also a thoughtful character with a very human side to him thanks to Joe and Anthony and the writers. I will say that Thanos’ toughest decision isn’t a strategic one; it’s an emotional one,” he notes.
Silverstri jokes that Thanos is hard at work during the two-and-a-half hour runtime.
“Thanos needed to accomplish a certain amount of work before the end of the film, and that leaves things in a very interesting place for the fourth Avengers,” says Silvestri.
Looking back at Age of Ultron, Silvestri notes that score continuity is a powerful tool for composers, and Danny Elfman made use of Silvestri’s Avengers theme for the sequel. A rather gloomy, emotional version of the theme was also used in the first trailer for Infinity War.
“There is a certain power associated with hearing thematic material associated with specific characters, especially in brands. John Williams showed us that power with Star Wars,” says Silvestri. “When done right, the music becomes another character in the property.”
Avengers: Infinity War opens Friday.