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Captain America: Civil War by Henry Jackman (Review)

posted May 10, 2016, 4:51 PM by Kaya Savas

Captain America: Civil War continues the Marvel train giving us one blockbuster after another. Henry Jackman returning to score Civil War is pretty significant simply because he is the first composer to actually compose a sequel score to a direct predecessor he also scored in the Marvel series. Up till this point Marvel has kept the composer seat a rotating set of musical chairs, and has given the job to the composer who was willing to do it for the lowest amount of money. And honestly, the only composer who has gotten an opportunity to create any sense of musical continuity is Brian Tyler who got to bring his own character themes into Avengers: Age Of Ultron despite both the film and score being a bit of a messy jumble. Alan Silvestri as well when he followed up Captain America with his The Avengers score. But they were not direct sequels (technically).

For Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Henry Jackman seemingly got away with giving Marvel the most unique and high-octane score in the entirety of its film slate. The super synthy action scoring created an incredible amount of tension and raised the stakes immensely. The chilling “winter soldier” wail sent tingles down your spine and announced his terrifying presence. Captain America’s new theme was bolder, and added more emotion while keeping the heroism aspect that Silvestri’s theme accomplished. In a sense, it was a near-perfect action superhero score. So what happened in Civil War? Well the score is still pretty damn good, but Marvel seems to have gotten their way and watered down the style to match everything else in the Marvel canon.

What you’ll immediately notice about Civil War is that the film is much more somber and melancholic. The film did a great job of making all the innocent lives lost throughout the destruction of the past Marvel movies a key plot point. While the score is stylistically much more orchestral, the tone stays pretty dark. The main conflict is that half of the Avengers think they need government restrictions, the other half thinks they need to be their own private group. There are no colorful melodies or flourishes, and it keeps with the Russo brothers’ attempt at grounding these fanciful comic book escapisms into a bit of reality. The film does feel like an extension of The Winter Solider, and Henry keeps glimpses of his Captain America theme as well as that haunting Winter Solider wail in this score. Instead of repeating the jumbled mess of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Jackman gave the entire main conflict between these characters its own theme. The result is that we don’t have thematic overkill, and instead have this very simple descending 4-note motif that echoes the tragedy of the situation. It works very well in the final act of the narrative even if the motif itself seems overly simple. New characters like Black Panther get little motif's too, but they never detract and take center stage. The whole package is a great score even if it feels a bit watered down.

Captain America: Civil War is a somber and melancholic action score that echoes hints of tragedy while still bringing in flavors of old school government conspiracy thrillers. Marvel seemingly reeled Jackman back in after his stunning Winter Solider score, and forced him to make the music feel cut of the same cloth as the others. The result is a score that feels a bit watered down, and all too familiar stylistically even if Jackman and the Russo brothers were able to get away with a very dark-toned story. With so many characters and themes floating around in the previous installments, we avoid thematic overkill by getting one distinct motif for the central conflict as a whole with minor thematic quoting from Winter Soldier. All in all, this is a solid score that is born from darker and tragic thematic ideas even though I bet it could have been as unique as Winter Soldier was if Marvel actually let its creative talent speak from their own creative voices.