In Tony Zhou’s video essay “The Marvel Symphonic Universe,” he explores why audiences don’t associate or remember the musical aspects of Marvel films, despite the fact that the Marvel universe is the highest grossing franchise in cinematic history. Zhou explains that a majority of the music used in the films does not evoke emotional responses from viewers, but is simply used as background noise that can be tuned out. He also says that the music used in Marvel films is used very predictably, “so that what you see is what you get.” Funny music accompanies funny scenes, sad music accompanies sad scenes, etc., which Zhou describes as “safe” ways to score films, because the music is expected. Because the music used in these films do not challenge the expectations of viewers, it’s forgettable. Furthermore, Zhou says that powerful music is sometimes used, but often with a distraction that subtracts from the music.
Zhou says that music in films is subjective, but modern filmmakers believe that music in films shouldn’t be noticed. He also explores the use of temp music in films and why the use of temp music is a problem. He uses various examples from blockbuster films with similar music, and says that the use of temp music has become systemic, and that composers are not to blame. I think one of Zhou’s most important points is that director’s do not pick music because it’s the right choice for their films, but because they’ve heard it many times and they feel it fits with scenes that should evoke certain emotions. This use of temp music has created a lowest common denominator that gets used in many films because it has worked before. All of the factors that go into Marvel universe choices for music can be attributed to the desire to keep things safe, keeping the music bland and inoffensive. Marvel sacrifices emotional richness in its films for safe choices, which results in forgettable music. In this essay, Zhou uses various clips from movies multiple times to highlight the importance of music in particular scenes, and demonstrate how different sounds affect the audience. His use of multiple playbacks of scenes with different scores in each is effective in getting his points across. Zhou also hooks viewers with humorous and informational interviews, and plenty of evidence and experimentation. After watching the film, I realize that Marvel does tend to play it safe with music choices and I’m curious to see if this same problem exists in other movie genres/franchises.
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