The Avengers: Endgame

Although it is framed as a teaser ten days out from its theatrical release, Marvel has really released a two and a half minute trailer that looks forward to the culmination of its cinematic universe ideas much as it provides a sweeping retrospective of its successful 11-year (thus far) run in film production. 

The first fifteen seconds introduces a broad thematic scope, with the narrator musing as to just what heroism means, and its relevance in contemporary society. At the 15 second mark there is a synch point between the music and the closing of Iron Man’s helmet; this seamlessly segues to a segment focusing on Captain America. The style of narration, given an AM radio treatment, with stoic brass presents a marked shift in tone befitting Cap. At 0:24 the soundscape changes yet again, to a much more reverberant and epic, Wagnerian style suited for the introduction of Thor. 

This idea of a seamlessly shifting soundscape for each character is abandoned in favour of continuity by the time the Guardians of the Galaxy appear, perhaps because the musical genres associated with it (such as 70s rock) would be too much of a shift from the overall palette of the underscore. In addition, the characters receive less and less screen time; Dr. Strange only receives a few seconds of on-screen time before moving on to Ant Man, and then a scant second or two with Peter Parker. At 0:51 there’s a clever synch point with the diegetic drums of Black Panther’s Wakanda people arriving at the same time the epic percussion enters the non-diegetic score in full force.

The second half of the trailer is simple and arguably indulgent, but impactful because it deliberately cashes in on all of the nostalgia and goodwill filmgoers have for all of the previous titles in the MCU. Each note in this ascending scale motif coincides with epic percussion and the original title card for the MCU films, in mostly chronological order. 

First we have an ascending scale in E minor (E-F#-G-A) for Iron man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor. Then, we have F#-G-A-B for Captain America, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Thor: The Dark World, with a small hint of the C note before then moving on to B, C, D, and D#. 

Then, we are back at E for three measures with the harmony continuing to move around it, with F# for the fourth measure. That F# is sustained as part of an unexpectedly long extension of the dominant, then moving up to G and back down to F# before Thanos’ now-iconic, population-halving snap. 

More important than the particular notes, however, is this sense of world-building and cohesion that comes with presenting the films like this. There is a sense of inevitability that comes with the presentation of these films in rapid and consistent succession alongside an incrementally rising scale. Moreover, it gives a sense of narrative segmentation to the films; we can intuitively understand that the later films that are accompanied by a repeating note are less “core” to the main Avengers narrative, instead filling out other corners of the MCU. At 1:55, of course, we get one reprise of Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme. 

The seamlessly shifting soundscapes of the first half of the trailer, lending a sense of individuality to the characters, gives way to an integrated and deceptively simple musical score, effectively achieving the difficult task of conveying both the depth and breadth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the span of two and a half minutes. The studio / trailer house’s decision in taking a mostly straightforward approach to the music speaks to a confidence in letting the fully imagined worlds of the MCU and its characters speak for themselves.

— Curtis Perry