Friday, October 30, 2015

The Superhero Theme Project: Ant-Man.....and the End?

In the most recent chapter of the Superhero Theme Project, I added an “expansion pack” to the playlist inspired by four of the Little One’s favorite characters on Marvel’s Superhero Squad animated series. Although one was handpicked from a new source, for the most part I adopted these themes from personal favorites from my own past. Even though all of these characters have appeared on screen, I did not adopt music from their respective franchises. This last theme was different.

As those with nerdly interests are aware, the Ant-Man movie was in development for several years before its release this summer. I have been anticipating its release from its earliest stages. When it finally saw a release date, I convinced my wife to go out and see it. Although it was hardly a perfect film, it generally did not disappoint. Certainly, any fan of Ant-Man should not be terribly displeased that the movie was even made, much less made well.

Although he is not a regular character on the show, Ant-Man is featured in a Superhero Squad episode in which he shrinks down several other squaddies and narrowly avoids becoming cooked into a batch of “Quesada Joe” (“…’s extra cheesy!”). Although the Little One did not specifically cite Ant-Man as a favorite, she was really into this episode around the same time that I saw the movie. Christophe Young’s soundtrack for the film caught my attention, so I took the liberty of slipping the theme into the playlist along with the others.

I feared that if I played the compositions associated with her favorites first, this theme would be relegated to the background, so I led the whole expansion with Ant-Man. She took to it immediately. It took her nearly five plays to move on, and then it was only after some persuading.

I ended up purchasing the full soundtrack, and although Ant-Man may not represent the pinnacle of Marvel movies (we’ll relegate that title for The Winter Soldier), I think that its score might be the finest that the MCU has offered up yet.  It is varied in style, but conceptually cohesive, and it does an outstanding job of acknowledging what Ant-Man, both the character and the movie, is about.

The movie centers on Scott Lang, who is more recent, but Ant-Man has a long and complicated history that can be traced back to the very foundations of the Marvel Universe. Hank Pym, who plays a role in the film, was original Ant-Man in the 60s. Christophe Young’s score has a decidedly contemporary feel, but there is also the sense that it references this era of cinema. It carries the distinctive flavor of 60s themes like Mission: Impossible and I Spy. This sensation of espionage and intrigue is particularly effective because the movie is, at its core, a heist movie, which is only a slight genre shift from the spy film. As a result, a cold war aura hangs over the entire score, and is often so subtle that it might not seem intentional. Young shows his hand, however on the track Tales to Astonish.

Superficially, this is a bit of a stylistic gag in which the Ant-Man theme gets a surf-rock treatment.  It does not by any means represent the rest of the soundtrack, but it reveals something about Young's inspiration for the character.  The title refers to the comic book that debuted Ant-Man in 1962, around the time when Dick Dale and Duane Eddy pushed this style of instrumental rock into the mainstream. In a way, Tales to Astonish would be as relevant for Hank Pym as Fanfare for the Common Man might have been to Steve Rogers.

I know that I have said this before, but for several reasons, I feel pretty sure that this recent expansion will be the last. At 29 songs, the Superhero Theme Project playlist is as big as it needs to be (anyone interested in a master list?). We periodically go back and put it on shuffle and enjoy it, but generally she has moved on to other musical interests. I think that the seeds we have planted here have already taken root and are showing themselves through these interests in indirect ways.

Besides, Star Wars is coming…….and that’s a whole other ball game.

To see the previous post in this series, click HERE
To see how it all started out, click HERE

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