From horror films such as Frailty, Darkness Falls and Bubba Ho-tep, to big budget tent pole movies like both “Expendables” films and four of the “Fast & Furious” movies, composer Brian Tyler has really put his mark on film scores and after his double tap of Marvel films this year with Iron Man 3 and the newly-released Thor: The Dark World, Tyler’s music has been heard a lot lately. We spoke with Tyler recently about Thor: The Dark World, including where he started with it, his process, and the projects he’s got coming up including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Fast & Furious 7.
SuperHeroHype: I’ve got to say I really love the main title theme for this movie, is that where you start when you’re working on these?
Brian Tyler: Yeah, you know right off the bat the Thor theme was what I went for. It’s the same thing with the Iron Man 3 theme. It’s like sitting down and just trying to find that melody that fits the character. The cool thing about Thor and Iron Man 3, having scored both of those movies right in a row, is that to me they’re both in the Marvel universe together and they’re both Avengers, but they’re both at opposite ends of the superhero spectrum. Iron Man 3, the process of starting the score was tricky, because Marvel wanted something to identify Tony Stark/Iron Man as a post-Avengers superhero, but of course he is a superhero by invention, he’s not born with magical powers, he’s not from Krypton or Asgard or somewhere from outer space, he’s a really smart guy that built this technology. He’s a self made superhero in a sense, but giving him the music that would have any “super power” type of sound just wouldn’t fit.
Then way at the other end you have Thor who is not only born with special powers but technically he’s a god, or near god-like, he’s also from outer space, he’s regal, he’s heir to the throne of Odin, and all these things. You have people like ‘Wow you’re doing all these super hero movies’ and I say ‘Yeah I love it, but actually they couldn’t be more different.’ So the approach for both was really different, but the thing that ties them together is sitting down and writing melodies that you hope will connect with them. The Thor: The Dark World theme, that’s Thor’s theme is the first thing that I wrote.
SHH: Since you’ve talked about the first thing you did, can you talk more about your process for scoring a film? Do you do it linearly or out of order?
Tyler: Yeah, it is out of order. I go to different parts and then connect the dots and then I fill it in. It’s something that doesn’t mirror every movie,but that’s certainly the case of Thor. Going through and trying to find plot points that made sense, that was definitely a drive of trying to find my bearings.
Tyler: Going back to The Avengers, and you’ve worked on the first two Marvel movies afterwards, did you listen to what Alan Silvestri did on that film and use it as a springboard for what you wanted to do or did you say “I’m gonna do my own thing?”
Tyler: Certainly there’s always the sense of doing your own thing, because I don’t know how to write in any other way except how I write, but the driving force behind these movies is the team of, from top to bottom at Marvel, film fans and film people all around and they each have a creative side to them. Then certainly with Alan (Taylor) the director it’s gathering around and saying “What do we want from this film?” and them telling me “This is what we’re trying to achieve with this film” and I felt the same way. It’s really trying to capture what this incarnation of Thor on the screen is. Also, of course, this went hand and hand with Marvel Studios fanfare which is now going to start off these Marvel films, and that was more looking at Marvel as a whole not just the films but the comics, and going all the way back from The Human Torch through. I think there is a bit of a communal aspect to Marvel that I think is unique amongst studios because every movie they make is within in a contained universe that has rules, realities, and a tangible world that you need to adhere to what makes sense. Creatively that’s what I want to do and that’s not constraining at all it’s more freeing in a way because you’re committed to trying to make music that makes sense to a character from throughout the ages, and with Thor going back to the early ’60s. From the Marvel version of Thor all the way up to the movies now and that’s what I was trying to do, just get that long history in there and that’s what the people at Marvel wanted as well.
SHH: What would you say was different about the writing or recording of this score over all the other projects you’ve done?
Tyler: The difference for me is I grew up a fan of both the movies, superhero and sci-fi alike, and the cool thing with this is I get to play in that sandbox and I never had. It allowed me to write themes that I do like, it’s why I got into it in the first place. If you combine all the elements of movies that I gew up loving: Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Lord of the Rings. With Thor you can kind of see a big of all of those things, it’s in space, it has spaceships, it’s on another planet, it’s Asgard, you have the superhero element like Superman, you have a swashbuckling kind of thing going on with the “Raiders” vibe of the movie, and then you have sci-fi meets swords and battle axes in these echoes of Lord of the Rings stylistically, though Thor pre-dates all that really. It’s interesting to see how all the things that I grew up watching and loving as movies and now I’m doing a movie that throws all those things together. At least as a movie fan that plays to what I dig in the first play, so Thor was different in that sense, also it was different in the sense that it’s the only time I’ve written for a character that lives to about 5,000 years old. There’s no boundaries to how epic you can go with a character like that because he can handle it. He can handle the most epic music you throw at him, try anything and throw it at him and he can handle it. Which is really a huge part of my job is finding how far can I push it this way or this way before people notice, “Hey that’s music and it’s manipulating you!” Of course it’s manipulating you, but you don’t want the audience to know consciously that it’s manipulating them so with Thor you can kind of go balls-to-the-wall and really do it up.
SHH: What was your time frame like on this job, from getting hired to having the score done? Was it very quick?
Tyler: Yeah, it was pretty quick. I finished not too long ago and I started in early summer, it wasn’t super super fast by any means, but it’s a lot of music. I was kept busy that’s for sure, and it was coming on the heels of Now You See Me and Iron Man 3.
SHH: Now with every job in the world, there’s something that people worry about unnecessarily. What’s the thing you worry about unnecessarily when working on a score?
Tyler: That I’ll be able to write another theme, have I written my last theme? It’s always a bit daunting. But I love it and that’s the cool thing about my job, it’s not really going in having a blank canvas like doing an album out of the blue, which I love doing as well, but it changes the landscape every time so it keeps it fresh. Or it should be by definition.
SHH: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of doing a score, and considering it’s going to be a widely seen movie like a Marvel film and then it’s your second Marvel film?
Tyler: Well being that I am a movie fan, kind of a comic guy, a Trekker, a big Star Wars fan, the target audience for this movie is me. So I know how hard we are on like message boards and things ’cause that’s part of where I’m from, and fans really love film but we also really pay attention to it and I know this is one of those films. At the heart of it, I’m writing music for the film how I would like it to be written and that way I know it’s going to be communicating one way or another not only to the general audience but also to the people who really pay attention. Those are kind of my people, I hope that they like the score and I hope people walk away feeling that music for film is foraging forward and it’s like a legitimate way of musical expression, and hopefully people get enhanced by the experience enough that they like the film because that’s ultimately what the music’s there to do.
SHH: Do you have any idea if Marvel’s planning on bringing you back for one more?
Tyler: Those are always things that Marvel decides, they have their own thing going, but I would love to work with them again, they’re awesome, and that definitely is in my wheelhouse. It’s something that, I love these films in the first place, and I feel very personally connected to them.
SHH: I know you’re also doing the score for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. How’s that coming along?
Tyler: Oh that’s cool. It is a huge challenge, there’s no question about it, but it’s kind of the same type of thing, I was always into Turtles. So for me there are a few things I’ve worked on that are like “Wow, this is so bizarre that I’m working on this.” This is one of those moments, it was like when I worked on the Star Trek show, it was totally trippy, and the same with Marvel, all these things are trippy. It’s just utterly bizarre. I’m loving it, I can’t wait for it to come out because I think people are going to really dig it.
SHH: Is that what you’re currently working on or do you have something else on your plate?
Tyler: Yeah there’s a movie called Into the Storm that I’m just finishing up actually and then I’m going into Turtles and then I have Fast 7.
SHH: In addition to Fast 7, you have The Expendables 3 coming out, what’s the time frame on that like?
Tyler: You know I don’t even know on Expendables 3, that’s one of those things I kind of see on IMDb that I don’t even know what’s going on. I’ve always loved that series and loved Sly and we’ve done so many movies together. It’s a different director and Simon (West) directed the last one, and it’s a different director on this one too. But it looks like it’s going to be big, like always it’s like “Wow, they have everyone in that movie!”
SHH: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag also just came out and you did the score for that one as well. Do you think you’ll be taking on more video game work or was this a one and done kind of thing?
Tyler: It kind of comes up periodically with a game that seems really great to do and that was certainly one of them. The kind of score that they wanted was really right place, right time. I don’t really know what one I’m going to do next, but there’s been talks.
Thor: The Dark World is now playing worldwide, and you can buy a copy of Brian’s score by clicking here.