Ant-Man and the Wasp

Continuing a recent trend in Marvel cinematic universe trailers, Ant-Man and the Wasp draws upon an all-original score by series composer Christophe Beck. While not quite as catchy as the rollicking 7/4 (irregular time) beat of the main theme from the original, Beck’s score is clearly made-to-spec for the frenetic action of this sequel. Tonally, Beck is clearly aiming for a super-hero theme in a classic sense, comfortable in its own slightly ridiculous plot circumstances, with (ahem) smaller stakes, and more notable humour.

The trailer begins, as so many action trailers do, with a thundering percussive strike, revealing a steady cam shot of the city skyline; shortly after, bits of dialogue alluding to the broader Avengers story arc alternate between continuing epic percussion in a slightly off-beat manner, just enough to keep the audioviewer guessing. At the ten second mark we’re introduced to the eponymous Wasp (Hope van Dyne), and the percussion quickens and climaxes.

At 0:17 we see the Marvel Studios card in a vaguely insect-like, honeycomb motif, and a wailing electric guitar brings the theme: a fairly repetitive melody riff featuring a bluesy flat-five scale degree. One interesting facet of this trailer’s music is the fact that there is effectively only one minor chord played throughout — the rest is covered by melodic embellishment and percussion elements.

At 0:22 we hear a return to the dialogue and percussion dynamic, and then the electric guitar enters without warning at 0:27, not unlike the accompanying sudden drawing of weapons by what looks like an FBI SWAT team. At 0:32 we get our first sight gag as an entire building in shrunk to the size of a suitcase, and a man accordingly, in non-sequitur fashion, pulls out a handle and wheels it away. The fact that the music doesn’t shift in tone at this point provides an effective dramatic counterpoint to what we see, effectively intensifying the comedic relief.

At 0:48, a third of the way through the trailer, we get the card for the release date (July), and the percussion moves to a steadier, pulsing rhythm. At 0:45 the guitar enters again and it is now obvious that the music has settled into a 6/8 compound meter groove. At 0:52 it stops only to use a flying car’s horn as a sort of accent for the music. Around 1:04 we experience an action sequence with hits cued to the beat; likewise, at 1:08 a particularly arresting sequence feature a miniature Wasp dodging thrown knives in a bullet time sequence; the sound of the knives slicing through the air is almost palpable.

At 1:17 the music finally stops for a punchline, more in line with a typical comedic trailer, and does so again between brief snippets of action and high energy music featuring Wasp.

At 1:26 the main title comes into view, accented by the same electric guitar motif described earlier. There is one more sight gag, though that shouldn’t be spoiled, but it does again lean on a disconnect between the comedic visuals and the more serious, action-oriented music.

This first trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp, then, is an interesting study in musically blending action and comedy trailer conventions such that one complements the other. Allowing the action music to stand in counterpoint to the sight gags makes the comedy more effective, and likewise, the consistency of the tone of the music helps give a sort of emotional grounding to the zany world of Ant-Man.

– Curtis Perry