Beginning from the very first Captain Marvel reactions (including from yours truly), those who have seen the MCU movie have noted the unabashedly ’90s soundtrack that accompanies what is technically a period Marvel movie (yes, the 90s are already “period”).
Captain Marvel, which is largely set in 1995, does for ’90s tunes nostalgia what Guardians of the Galaxy did for ’70s and ’80s tune nostalgia. Speaking at the Captain Marvel press conference that took place in Beverly Hills in February, Captain Marvel co-director Ryan Fleck commented on the process of putting together the movie’s soundtrack.
“We made like a big playlist at the beginning of the movie and we shared it with the crew and some of the cast and some of those songs are in the movie,” said Fleck, when asked when the music came into the storytelling process. “But it was really just… in post[-production], we put the scenes together and just threw songs in and see what stuck.”
Fleck continued: “It was very much a collaboration with Kevin [Feige, President of Marvel Studios] and the whole team at Marvel, to figure out which songs really worked the best.”
Mission accomplished. The music cues in this film are top notch—sometimes, incredibly on-the-nose (in the best possible way), but always utilized to further the story in some way. The soundtrack in Captain Marvel serves not only to create a sense of time and place (and, yes, potentially nostalgia for those viewers who are old enough to remember the 90s), but also as a tie for Carol Danvers to this person she used to be.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe really started upping its soundtrack game with Guardians of the Galaxy. The film released two soundtracks: Guardians of the Galaxy (Original Score), featuring an original score composed by Tyler Bates, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1, which, with its mix of 70s and 80s hits, would reach number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and become the first soundtrack album in history consisting entirely of previously released songs to top the chart.
More importantly, the music was integral to the storytelling. James Gunn told IGN in 2014 of the soundtrack…
Those [songs] are cultural reference points. I knew that when we were making a movie that’s in outer space, you want to have it be this big grand adventure, but you also want to ground people in something that’s real, that seems familiar. It’s striking the balance throughout the whole movie, through something that is very unique, but also something that is easily accessible to people at the same time. The music and the Earth stuff is one of those touchstones that we have to remind us that, yeah, this is a real person from planet Earth who’s just like you and me. Except that he’s in this big outer space adventure.
The MCU continued its tradition of absolutely nailing the film soundtrack with Black Panther, which, in addition to an Oscar-winning original soundtrack score from composer Ludwig Göransson released as Black Panther (Original Score), includes original songs produced for the film by Kendrick Lamar, who agreed to produce several songs for the film after seeing an early version of it.
Lamar’s soundtrack was released as Black Panther: The Album, and would go on to top the Billboard 200 chart. Coogler told FactMag that he was inspired by 1990s film tie-in albums, on which “artists would take themes and make music inspired by the themes.”
Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1, Black Panther: The Album is very much grounded in the here and now.
“I think it’s only right,” Sounwave, who produced the album, told NPR. “The movie’s not set in 1910, or the 1960s when Black Panther first came out — it’s set in today. There’s ‘today’ moments happening in the movie, so we want the whole soundtrack to sound like that too.”
The Captain Marvel soundtrack is definitely much closer to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack model than the Black Panther one, as the film highlights already-existing hit songs from a bygone era, but, in general, it continues the MCU’s tradition of making its soundtracks an integral part of the Marvel storytelling experience—both within the world of the film and beyond.
Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8th. Find out more about the film here.