Spider-Man has had a range of iconic and memorable musical scores accompanying his illustrious film career. His film appearances have been marked by many inventive and talented composers over the years. Everyone has their favorite piece of music from these films – those majestic sounds that audiences can’t get out of their heads or never want to stop playing.
Interestingly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider Man trilogy is the first film series featuring the wallcrawler to have the same music composer for all of its entries, with Michael Giacchino scoring all three films. In a way, it’s impressive that it took so long for this to happen, given Spider-Man’s long history in the movies. Let’s review this story, from the original by Sam Raimi Spider Man -all the way to Spider-Man: No Coming Home.
There was a lot of pressure on Danny Elfman regarding the score of Raimi’s original Spider Man. It was the character’s theatrical debut on the big screen, and everything had to be perfect. At that point, no one really knew what “cinematic” looked like for Spider-Man. Fortunately, Elfman knew that.
Title/opening credits sequences are a dying art in modern Hollywood cinema – films generally tend to dive right into the action and save the credits for last. Many movies now even save the movie title for last. However, they are a perfect opportunity to showcase the score and show off the tone. A main line star wars the film feels so empty without the fanfare that accompanies the opening crawl. A avengers the film would be wrong without those explosive notes accompanying the title card. Similarly, the opening titles defined the Raimi trilogy and allowed Elfman to provide a musical mission statement about the subject matter of these films.
Elfman’s score for Raimi’s first two films paved the way for Spider-Man’s movie career. The main titles alone are a beautiful weave of the films’ various leitmotivs, which intensify and clash in explosive fashion. One of the smartest decisions Elfman made was to compose two separate themes for the main character: one to represent Peter Parker and one for Spider-Man. And both of these themes are used masterfully throughout. The Spider-Man theme is strong and epic, but at its heart is Peter’s. It’s a quieter, more hopeful piece, almost angelic in tone, and it really highlights just how well Elfman understands the character. Spider-Man is the hero of New York, but Peter is the young man behind that hero.
Beyond the titular hero’s music, the scores of Spiderman 1 & 2 are truly spectacular. Elfman features incredible character themes for villains Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, and the train fight track during the second film is a fan favorite. However, Spiderman 2 would initially prove to be the end of the working relationship between Danny Elfman and Sam Raimi. Citing difficulties working with Raimi on the previous film, Elfman refused to return for Spiderman 3.
Christopher Young has taken charge of the scoring for the third installment of the Raimi trilogy, and the result is interesting to say the least. It provides brilliant new leitmotifs for Sandman and Venom – its theme for the symbiote being the most memorable in the film. Strangely, the score stylistically resembles a mimicry of Elfman’s score from the first two episodes, and many would be forgiven for thinking Elfman was back!
Initially, Young gave the score a unique style in keeping with his own style as a composer. His original character themes for the film were even approved by Raimi, except for the initial version of the Sandman transformation. However, the producers felt that too few themes returned from the first two films, and as a result Young had to alter most of the score very late in production to better match Elfman’s style. It’s unfortunate that Young had to sacrifice so much of his identity when scoring Spiderman 3but the result is a trilogy that feels musically complete – even if technically it isn’t.
In 2010, Sony announced that with the departure of Sam Raimi from Spiderman 4, the studio was instead going to move forward with a reboot of the property. A new series of films means a new musical identity, and The Amazing Spider-Man brought none other than James Horner, best known for his work on James Cameron Titanic. Although the film draws heavily from Christopher Nolan Black Knight movies, the music chooses to lean towards the romantic elements of the film rather than the superheroes. The melodies are lighthearted and work with the intimate moments between Peter and Gwen, as well as the majesty of Spider-Man swinging through the city. It’s a very different approach than used in the original movies, but it results in a movie with a clever score behind it. It’s the one that shines in its quieter, more intimate moments and gives space to grow in future episodes.
That’s why it’s unfortunate that James Horner couldn’t return for the sequel. The success of The Avengers led the filmmakers to change the direction of the franchise to make it look more like a glossy cinematic universe. Despite the fact that they managed to get industry legend Hans Zimmer to compose the score for The Amazing Spider-Man 2the results are interesting to say the least.
The main theme is an explosive fanfare similar to John William’s original score for 1978 Superman. However, it cannot escape the somewhat clinical feeling. This completely removes the core behind Horner’s original and ends up looking more like a breaking news bulletin. Additionally, tracks like Electro’s theme have been handled by The Magnificent Six, featuring artists like Pharrell Williams and Junkie XL – and their contributions mean Electro’s motivations are literally explained to the audience through the score. musical.
Given the precedent, it’s unlikely the third installment kept the same composers on board. Anyway, the box office disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 meant the series was scrapped and Spider-Man was brought into the MCU. Before we talk about those films, however, it’s time to briefly discuss the score behind Spider-Man’s first theatrically released animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Daniel Pemberton’s score for Into the Spider-Verse is one of the strongest designed for the Webslinger. Pemberton creates new leitmotifs for the different versions of the character that appear in the film, and each masterfully reflects the characters. Gwen’s theme puts more emphasis on percussion as she plays drums in a band; Peter has a strong orchestral feel mirroring previous film versions of the character, and Miles’ themes blend with the character’s musical tastes – with influences from hip-hop and electronic sheet music. This culminates in the film’s best scene, where Miles takes a leap of faith in an incredible mix of “What’s Up Danger” and the film’s main heroic theme. This is truly one of the musical highlights of Spider-Man’s film career.
Finally, there is the score for the Spider Man movies set in the MCU. After joining the MCU with strange doctor, composer Michael Giacchino brings a new voice to Spider-Man. What’s most impressive is how Giacchino’s score evolves in tandem with the films. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a lighthearted high school comedy, and the score naturally reflects its bouncy nature with an equally hopeful theme.
By the time No coming home occurs, the score matures to accommodate the darker tone. Giacchino even brings the choir! Plus, the movie is a love letter to previous live-action incarnations of Spider-Man. Giacchino references Elfman and Horner’s scores, tying the entire franchise together beautifully. Spider-Man’s legacy in film is rich and diverse, which is reflected in the scores made for each film. Without those brilliant musical moments, it’s unlikely these movies would have had the impact they did.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is literally six times bigger than the first movie
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