By Jim Frye
Spoiler warning: The following article contains very minor spoilers to Avengers: Endgame.
From Back to the Future and Forrest Gump to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Lilo & Stitch, the Oscar®-nominated music of Alan Silvestri has threaded itself into the fabric of modern cinematic history, becoming an indelible part of our movie-going experience. At Marvel Studios, Silvestri’s heroic compositions and thrilling themes have become emotional touchpoints in films such as Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, and, most recently, Avengers: Endgame.
With galactic-sized action and heart-wrenching pathos, Avengers: Endgame proved, in Silvestri’s words, “daunting.” Here, he discusses the two most challenging scenes to score in the film, and the gargantuan task of providing the soundtrack to the biggest movie of all time.
“It was monumentally big,” says Silvestri. “[Directors] Joe and Anthony Russo were very clear that it needed to be epic, it needed to be operatic, and although they would never say ‘over the top,’ there needed to be no room left in the room… it needed to fill the theater.”
Silvestri elaborates about the difficult process of “spotting the movie,” which is when the composer and director go through the entire film—frame by frame if necessary—and together decide where a piece of music will start and where it will end. Each of those individual pieces of music are called “cues,” and, according to Silvestri, there are two very important moments in every cue. “The first one is when it starts, and the second one is when it ends.”
“It’s a challenge to figure out frame by frame tonally what’s right and what’s going to help the filmmakers tell their story,” he continues. “In Endgame, there were a couple of devastatingly challenging places. One of them was the Portals event that happens after Cap has really lost everything.” The “Portals” moment to which he’s referring occurs during the giant final battle where multiple “portals” open up, revealing many beloved characters.
“When we were looking at the film, we knew that’s when Joe and Anthony were going to show you every character, basically, in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We knew the fans were just going to love this, so you’ve got to find the right tone and the right approach. It was a big orchestra, and when we needed to move a lot of air—like in ‘The Portals’ cue—we moved a lot of air in the studio. It’s the challenge of being appropriate.”
On the other end of that spectrum, the other scene that Silvestri found challenging to score was the large gathering of characters toward the end of the film at the cabin by the lake. “It was a difficult scene—the death, then moving into a celebration of life, with this most spectacular cast. Then when Joe and Anthony pan up from the dock and we see all these movie stars, one after the next, I knew we had to get this right somehow.”