No Way Home Fixed The MCU's Oldest Superhero Identity Problem

Spider-Man: No Way Home finally fixed Marvel's oldest superhero identity issue, and future films must learn from it. The rewatchable MCU movies have historically ignored musical continuity across all twenty-seven films. Some composers had implemented other artists' individual superhero themes, such as Danny Elfman, who sampled Brian Tyler's Iron Man 3 theme in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the vast majority of MCU composers ignored existing character motifs, even when composing for a direct sequel. For example, Mark Mothersbaugh ignored Brian Tyler's Thor: The Dark World music when composing for Thor: Ragnarok. The worst offenders were Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, which largely failed to use notable character themes, despite featuring almost every hero in the MCU. The only exception was Alan Silvestri's Avengers theme, which was constantly sampled across films ranging from Spider-Man: Homecoming to Ant-Man.

Spider-Man: No Way Home featured a packed cast including fellow superhero Doctor Strange as well as legacy villains like the Green Goblin and Doc Ock. However, it also brought back Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire from the Amazing Spider-Man duology and Spider-Man trilogy respectively. Composer Michael Giacchino took the initiative to sample music from Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and James Horner, who had previously scored these Spider-Man projects. Returning characters such as Electro and Doc Ock were accompanied by their specific musical motifs, while Elfman's "responsibility" theme was heavily sampled in scenes featuring Maguire's Peter Parker.

Related: Tobey Maguire's "My Back" Meme Is Deeper Than You Realize

Michael Giacchino solved the MCU's musical continuity issue by finally implementing existing individual character themes. By re-using Elfman, Zimmer, and Horner's scores, Giacchino made the return of these beloved characters far more impactful and cemented their musical themes as an essential part of their on-screen identity. He respected the work of composers before him and sampled themes that meant a lot to longtime Spider-Man fans, making the return of Doc Ock, Green Goblin, and the Spider-Men so much more poignant. Moments that used Elfman's "responsibility" theme like when Maguire's Peter cured the Sandman or reconciled with Doc Ock demonstrated that the composer knew the value of fan nostalgia for music. Maguire and Garfield's return to the franchise was always going to be infused with nostalgia, but Giacchino ensured that their characters remained consistent on a musical level by bringing their familiar melodies with them, across the multiverse.

Giacchino set the precedent, but it is important that future MCU film composers take note and start reusing individual superhero themes in upcoming projects. Avengers 5, whatever it is and whatever it may look like, must recognize the value of music as part of a character's on-screen identity. The fan nostalgia for the Avengers theme was real in Infinity War and Endgame, but the added value of employing the Guardians of the Galaxy theme or Doctor Strange theme could have made those characters' returns so much more impactful.

People associated early superhero films with their iconic music. John Williams' Superman and Danny Elfman's Batman and Spider-Man scores were notable examples of music that became intrinsically tied to a superhero's on-screen identity. Marvel Studios could do the same with characters like Thor, but instead, their characters have had a different musical theme in each film they're in. However, Spider-Man: No Home proved that the MCU was capable of this level of attention to detail when it comes to a consistent superhero identity.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was a major success for Marvel and Sony, but it was its attention to detail with regard to its soundscape that truly set it apart from other MCU projects. Michael Giacchino proved the power of returning music as a tool to cement a character's identity, and Spider-Man: No Way Home benefitted from his skill as a composer. The character identity of all three Spider-Men was stronger than ever in the film, and their return was perfectly executed across the board. Giacchino will return to compose Thor: Love and Thunder in 2022. Hopefully, future composers will learn from him before then and recognize the value of musical continuity in their MCU projects.

Next: Avengers 5 Line-Up: Phase 4's Confirmed Team So Far



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