As a massive fan of the titular web-slinger, I always welcome a brand new score for him – especially if it’s by somebody new. Overall, John Paesano’s music here is absolutely fantastic, but only at certain points.
On this site, I have already reviewed Horner’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Giacchino’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the others are most definitely on their way (namely Zimmer and Elfman). After much thought and a lot of listening to Paesano’s score (both in-game and out of it) I have the ranking down. This is my own opinion of course (and just a bit of fun, really), so take it with a pinch of salt:
From worst to best:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man
Yeah, shoot me. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Elfman’s score. I think the theme is kind of bland, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Horner’s, Paesano’s or Giacchino’s. The action is also dull, and overall I just don’t enjoy listening to his scores as much as the others. Don’t get me wrong, Elfman’s music is good, it’s just not as good as the rest. But anyway, this review isn’t about him.
Paesano’s theme for Spider-Man is by far the best thing about his score. It’s introduced immediately in the first track of the album; Spider-Man. The piece starts slowly at first, with brass creeping in after a few seconds to quietly play out a slow, gradual rendition of the theme. After that, dramatic vocals take their place onstage before strings then start to play out a rapid series of repeating notes clearly inspired by Elfman’s original theme. The music builds up fast until brass then makes its comeback, this time with a percussion-backed epic playthrough of that amazing theme. This unfortunately doesn’t last long as the fast pace fades as quickly as it arrived into a piano version of the theme before the track then ends. Not including minor changes here and there, the motif overall is only five notes long, which is impressive given how fantastic it is. It also competes pretty well with its movie rivals, coming in just before The Amazing Spider-Man’s and Spider-Man: Homecoming’s (themes only, the ranking earlier was for the entire scores) but definitely beating Elfman’s and Zimmer’s for sheer epic-ery.
Thankfully, Paesano’s theme gets another few tracks in Golden Age and City Of Hope, which are both very heroic and dramatic pieces that play when you are swinging through New York in-game. The music here is very vocal and brass heavy (exactly how a superhero score should be really) with a rapid pace that does a spectacular job of showing off just how great Paesano’s theme is. It’s job is to represent an older, more experienced Spider-Man in this game and it pulls this off incredibly well. Where Giacchino’s in Homecoming was more upbeat and child-like, Paesano’s is grown-up and dramatic, and if we pretend for a moment that the two themes belong to the same Spider-Man (one for younger and one for older) they actually work really well together, which is really cool.
We get our first villain theme in A Shocking Turn Of Events, which introduces a synth-based motif for The Shocker. It’s a very dark and particularly creepy piece, and I definitely hear some influence from the opening of The Dark Knight’s score in places. When put up against the theme for the titular character Shocker’s theme doesn’t hold a candle, but I don’t think it’s meant to considering what other villains are a part of this game. Shocker is meant to be an easy fight for Spider-Man near the start of the game, and it definitely shows thematically here.
One of the two main villains then gets his own theme in The Man He Was which is then fleshed out pretty thoroughly in The Demon He Became. The piece is mainly strings based, being primarily a series of rapidly repeating notes that incrementally get lower in pitch. Given it’s simplicity it is surprisingly effective (not unlike Spider-Man’s) at being rather creepy and obviously very villainous in that dark definitely-a-bad-guy musical way. The Demon He Became then shows the music off in a much more action-based environment, with backing percussion and brass. Overall Mr. Negative’s tracks are very good, beaten only thematically by the bigger villain of the story.
The synth returns in The Sinister Six, introducing yet another theme (I’m using that word so much today), this time for the six villains that come together towards the end of the game to battle Spider-Man. Musically this piece is very similar to Shocker’s, using the same instruments and thematic ideas. It is however a little more interesting as it sounds a lot more menacing than his. Considering however that this is supposed to represent the Six as a whole, this theme isn’t anywhere near as good as Mr. Negative’s or indeed Dr. Octopus'(s?). The standout villain track is definitely his, being introduced to us in The Mastermind. This theme is incredibly dramatic, being mainly played out by vocals and loud backing brass. It’s a very scary piece of music, and listening to it you can almost see Dr. Octopus towering over you as he does many times in the game itself. Here finally, we have a theme to rival Spider-Man’s.
The main action setpiece of the score then begins in Renewed Rivalries, continues through Destroying Your Own Creation and finishes up in The Final Lesson. Here Paesano uses plenty of strings and brass in a fast paced, exciting ten minute long battle between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus. You can really feel the tension between the two characters in the music here, and I really have to applaud Paesano for that feat. The main themes for the two character’s also appear multiple times, which is the icing on top of the action cake here as they are both sensational motifs. The score then draws to a slow, inspirational close in Behind The Mask, playing out that glorious main theme one last time in a dramatic staring-at-a-sunset fashion.
Overall, John Paesano’s score to Spider-Man is simply sublime. The main themes for the titular character and his villains (particularly Mr. Negative and Dr. Octopus) are amazing, and they work incredibly well when they are put together. Spider-Man’s theme specifically is great, and it can definitely be put up there with its movie counterparts in terms of just how great it is. The action music on the album is also great, but this is also a bit of a shame as there is a lot from the game that is missing here – for example that fantastic helicopter chase music that had a spectacularly epic rendition of Spider-Man’s theme. It is an odd omission, considering that it was also the music for the original trailer for the game which is what generated a lot of hype for Paesano’s score in the first place. There is also a lot of bland and uninteresting music on the album in addition to the great tracks, and so some of it could definitely have been replaced with that trailer music.
Still, despite its shortcomings Paesano’s score here is wonderful, and well worthy of Spider-Man. Well done, sir.
Standout Cue: 1. Spider-Man