Commentary on “The Marvel Symphonic Universe”

I really enjoyed watching this video essay entitled “The Marvel Symphonic Universe” by Tony Zhou. The title alone got me hooked, since I am a huge fan of the Marvel franchise and, as the video shows, many others are, too. What is so interesting about this video is that the simple questions he poses: “Could you sing any music from Star Wars… Harry Potter… a Marvel Film?” yield such different answers. He asks people on the street to sing the familiar scores off the top of their heads and they easily come up with classic music from the first two, but for the Marvel movies? Zilch. Crickets. Everyone is embarrassed because they say they love the movies so much, but they can’t think of anything that makes their music distinct. Tony goes on to give examples of music in scenes from marvel movies, playing around with it in a fascinating way; he takes the music out, then listens to the music without dialogue, then even replaces the it from music assigned to an entirely different scene. The process of experimentation and discovery was amazing for me to watch. Tony critiques Marvel’s “safe” decision-making around scoring their films without outright saying they’re doing something wrong, simply suggesting better options to tug on the heart-strings or convey a stronger idea. It is heartening to see that a mega-corporation like Marvel with so many successful films under its belt can be taken down a level by a video essayist on Vimeo. The video’s clear format paired with well-executed evidence and some humor mixed in makes the video successful and illuminating. Now I can see that Marvel doesn’t do everything right, they play it safe by creating scores that fade into the background so much so that they’re forgettable.

1 Comment

  1. Jason Mittell

    Good engagement with Zhou’s ideas & arguments. Try to think more about his specific strategies as a videographic critic – how does he convey his ideas most effectively, and how would it differ in writing (or audio)?

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