Before he was a superhero, Captain America was a prop. Trotted out as a way to shore up money and morale in the thick of war, Steve Rogers’ first weeks on the job were not exactly what he had in mind — until the opportunity came up to save his best friend (and future Winter Soldier) Bucky Barnes.
As it turns out, Cap’s first act of superheroism — going toe-to-shield against HYDRA — has a very specific thing in common with his last act of superheroism: going hammer-and-shield against Thanos. Here’s the key way that Cap’s past connects to his most crowd-pleasing moment in Avengers: Endgame, making the best scene of that movie even better.
One of the shared elements between both movies is Alan Silvestri as composer. And in the two movies, Silvestri uses a specific musical cue at two different moments. “These are the only two times the sound clip is played in every movie,” explains @marveleastereggs in the TikTok video.
In The First Avenger, Silvestri uses the cue when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) makes a leap of faith across a wide gap to reach his pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan). In Avengers: Endgame, Silvestri uses the cue again when Steve lifts Mjolnir in the fight against Thanos.
What It Means — Both moments are defining instances of bravery and faith for Steve Rogers, especially in his new identity of Captain America. Both times, Steve takes a huge gamble at a potentially dire cost: potentially falling to his death, and potentially getting his ass beat by a purple alien warlord.
Both times, regardless of the outcome, Steve takes the risk, each time relying on his innate bravery and guts to make it through.
Recall one of the first things Steve ever said in the MCU: “I don’t like bullies.” Steve may be physically short pre-serum, but he ain’t small.
Drop the Brass — It’s not uncommon for Hollywood composers to recycle music, even if it’s theirs or not. (It’s actually a way bigger issue and is said to be the bane of a film composer’s existence.) Less controversially, composers often recycle their own work on different projects.
In 1973, composer Nino Rota was disqualified for an Oscar for his now-iconic music for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather because it contained Rota’s own reused music he wrote for the 1958 film Fortunella nearly 15 years earlier. (Rota later won the Oscar for The Godfather Part II.)
But in the case of Silvestri, the “recycling” of his brass-heavy music helps tell the story of one singular character, Captain America, across eight long years. In fact, Silvestri has previously explained what the brass (predominantly heard in the cue) means and sounds to him as it relates to the Marvel superheroes.
He told Assignment X in 2011:
“There’s a kind of grandeur that comes with the brass. There are also some very simple logistical and sonic reasons. In a film, everybody is fighting for real estate sonically. You have to have the dialogue clear and intelligible. And sound effects have a huge presence in action films in order to create a sense of reality. So you have to find a sound that will live in this sonic environment, which brass often allows. Take for instance the middle of Captain America’s motorcycle chase, when engines are screaming and there’s all kinds of gunfire. Brass is something that can complete sonically and give the music some kind of presence where it might not have any.”
In 2019, Silvestri was the first guest in the official Disney podcast For Scores hosted by Jon Burlingame. When asked about revisiting character themes for Avengers: Endgame, Silvestri said:
“We didn’t do it often, but we did it. That being said, again, early on, we had a very kind of interesting dialogue about themes being general for both Infinity War and Endgame. We talked about the number of ways this could go. You could have leitmotifs for every character ... In Infinity War, it would have been completely insane.”
The Inverse Analysis — In the mid-2010s, YouTubers like Every Frame a Painting had viral video essays that argued that Marvel’s “symphonic universe” was lacking compared to the likes of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and James Bond. Since then, Marvel has made repeated use of Silvestri’s legitimately great Avengers theme to retroactively “fix” one of its biggest criticisms.
These days, you can’t think of the Avengers without thinking of the work of Alan Silvestri. This latest example shows just how important music is not only for branding purposes, but to tell a story. And unlike other film series, Marvel is arguably more flexible to tell specific stories about its specific characters. The result is something fans are still discovering today — in this case, the fact that the best moment of Avengers: Endgame, Cap taking Mjolnir to war, is so much more layered than they ever knew.
Avengers: Endgame and Captain America: The First Avenger are both streaming on Disney+.