Sunday, 12 May 2013

Iron Man's iPod

It's been a couple of weeks since I saw Iron Man 3, and I've wanted to write a few things about it ever since. Unfortunately, writing that huge, depressing Doctor Who thing ate up all my blogging time (speaking of which, the new episode was pretty good but it just reinforced everything I dislike about Clara). Now that that's finally out of the way, I can write about cheerful happy things again - like the music in Iron Man 3.
Please understand that I know barely anything about music. I'm writing this post completely as a layman; which means I'll be talking even more bollocks than usual. I'm calling 'em as I see 'em. Or hear 'em.

I said in my review that it's weird to see an Iron Man film with no AC/DC on the soundtrack. That band has been inseparable from this series since the first shot of the first trailer for the first film. So much so that Tony Stark himself diegetically uses Shoot to Thrill to announce his arrival in both the second film and The Avengers.
But dropping AC/DC from its soundtrack gives Iron Man 3 an opportunity to have something the other two films were missing: a real honest-to-gods theme-tune!

All the Marvel films have decent scores (Thor is a personal favourite) but until now they've not really had clear central themes associated with the characters. The first Iron Man came close, but the theme was underused and swallowed by the well-known-rock soundtrack. They could have built that theme into something stronger for the second film - but they strangely opted for a totally different theme that I barely even recognise.
That's a really odd move, actually. Batman Begins' theme is not very strong at all, but Warner Bros. stuck with it throughout the series and two films later The Dark Knight Rises had a recognisable (if minimalist) theme for Batman. Likewise, Sony's Spider-Man theme is one we all know (or knew at the time, at least) because it was used throughout the trilogy. Iron Man, on the other hand, has three different films with three very different soundtracks.

I actually prefer the first Iron Man theme to the third (it's got a more industrial, electric, metal feel that really fits with the character) but, of the two, the new theme is definitely much easier to hum.
The humming's important because it's not about the actual quality of the music (though that obviously helps); it's about being memorable and, if done right, iconic. Thor and Captain America both have great music, but you can't identify any real character theme. Iron Man and Iron Man 3 are the only Marvel themes that really pass the test.

What's interesting is how well this new theme fits with the theme from The Avengers (which was also pretty hummable). It's almost as though they're intended to blend into one-another in some future movie, but I can't imagine what.
We'll see later this year if Thor: The Dark World does something similar. If it does - and I really hope it does - then The Avengers 2 may bring Marvel's various theme-tunes together alongside its characters. Imagine that amazing swooping shot from the first Avengers, but with each character's iconic theme playing as that character does their bit. I just got chills.

Why theme-music is important, as opposed to just having a great score in general, I'm not sure. I just know that being able to hum the Iron Man 3 theme from memory makes it a little more special for me. I want to have that with their other heroes, too.
Marvel still have a long way to go if they want to compete with the gold standard of the form, though.