Comic book movies utilizing music isn’t new. The scores for comic book movies have become legendary pieces that are instantly recognizable. Superman’s 1979 theme and Batman’s 1989 theme have become iconic. But in recent years, comic book movie makers have begun utilizing contemporary music to accent their movies. When done correctly, these pieces can hype a trailer, amp up a fight scene, or add emotion and depth to an intense series of scenes. Here’s a list of 6 songs that Hollywood used to perfect effect.
The car chase in Black Panther was fun in every sense of the word. Action packed, awesome shots of Black Panther being Black Panther, lots of humor from Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia. Even Klaw’s “Put some music on, what do you think this is, a funeral?” made you grin. And the line was the perfect set up for Opps by Vince Staples and Yugen Blackrok. The fast pace and thumping beat drove the scene along and brought out key moments where needed. Every good car ride needs the right tunes, and Black Panther delivered.
Some love it, some hate it, but no one can deny that scene from Thor: Ragnarok was cool as hell. The scene alone was pretty damn awesome, seeing Thor knock his sister down a peg (even if it was one peg), then seeing him land on top a mound of Hela’s undead army was cinematic gold. Add Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song on top of that, and it drew you to the edge of your seat. That slo-mo descent of Thor, Jimmy Page’s guitar has you nodding your head along with the music, the moment he hits the Bifrost, knocking everyone back, it’s hard not to join Robert Plant’s “AH-AAAAAAAHHHH!” as one of the best scenes through the entire movie commences.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 focuses heavily on the music in the first place. Gunn and company had a large order to fill trying to match the success of their first film. The music plays a big part in that. The opening scene gives us an epic fight scene as the backdrop to the cute Groot dance scene. Groot rocking out to Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra reintroduces us to the wacky galaxy the Guardians inhabit and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Though brief, the scene remains one of the most memorable moments of the movie, long after you’ve left the theater or turned off your Blu-Ray.
1989’s Batman brought us the caped crusader like we’d never seen him before. Not just live-action, but a darker version of the dark knight. And with him came a more dangerous version of The Joker. Jack Nicholson and Prince might sound like an odd combination, but the movie made it work. From the scene of him and his goons waltzing through the gallery, destroying priceless art after priceless art, to The Joker parading down the middle of Gotham with a giant balloon, tossing huge handfuls of money to the crowd. It’d be hard to imagine Heath Ledger’s Joker hopping about to Prince, but Nicholson’s Joker owned it.
Come Together is an all around great rock song, an original by The Beatles and covered by countless others. Gary Clark Jr. comes in with a rendition of the song that is chunky, rough, and foot-stomping while giving a funky, smooth, bluesy guitar. Used for the Justice League trailer as well as an original music video, Come Together gets your blood pumping. The title of the song hints at the theme of the movie – coming together. The trailer alone gets you pumped for what was sure to be an action-packed superhero romp. And boy did it deliver on that promise.
Luke Cage Season 2 released a few days prior to this post, so this will remain spoiler friendly while touching on overall plot points. It’s not a movie, but is comic book movie adjacent and fits well with the others on the list. One of the best parts of Luke Cage is the music, and Episode 2 uses Gary Clark Jr. and two of his songs to highlight the emotion of the ending scenes. Towards the end of episode 2, Gary Clark Jr. plays in Harlem’s Paradise, Mariah and Shade’s nightclub. While the couple talks about setbacks and cash flow issues, Clark croons his If Trouble Was Money. The song accents the troubles the couple is facing while breaking the tension to watch Clark perform.
The two songs used are separated by Reverend James Lucas retelling an old Cherokee fable about a grandfather discussing with his grandson the downside of seeking vengeance; how we all have two wolves living inside us, one that fights only when it is right to do so, the other choosing to fight no matter the reason. Which ones wins? asks the grandson. The one you feed, replies the grandfather. The next scene picks up with Luke Cage choosing the feed the wrong wolf, while Gary Clark Jr. plays Bright Lights in the background. “You gonna know my name by the end of the night” highlights a repeating theme in the first couple of episodes, and accents the actions Luke chooses at the end of the episode. The music is almost another character throughout the scenes, almost like a narrator, drifting over everything else and giving the audience a glimpse into the minds of the characters.
Original scores aren’t to be belittled or left out, Wonder Woman’s 2017 theme stands on its own next to Superman and Batman. But using popular radio-friendly music can be an art form within itself. Was your favorite use of a song left off the list? Did Deadpool kicking ass to Dolly Parton in Deadpool 2 work for you better than anything mentioned here? Leave us a comment below or hit us up on FB and tell us what your favorite use of a song in a comic book franchise is!