Every Frame a Painting continues to be one of the best online film criticism video series. Usually the channel looks at editing and composition, but this time, creator Tony Zhou turned his sights to a very difficult film question: why are modern film soundtracks so uninspiring?
Zhou puts forward a cohesive argument, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as its focus. Over the last twenty years, movie soundtracks have become background music that matches rather than sets the mood of what’s happening on-screen. That’s not inherently good or bad, but it’s less memorable than the fanfares and character themes from older blockbusters.
The video spends much of its time addressing a bigger concern, the use of “temp music” in editing. During production, films are often scored with placeholder music from other composers, frequently soundtracks from other movies. Increasingly, rather than starting from scratch, filmmakers ask composers to match the placeholder music, resulting in a soundtracks gradually sounding identical and borrowing the same generic structure and composition.
Speaking unobjectively, we hope that turns around. We understand why tone-setting scores have become popular, but Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future music is far more lovable than his work on The Avengers.