Daniel Pemberton’s unique take on Spider-Man is something else; a fantastic blend of hip-hop and traditional superhero that all-in makes for one hell of a film score.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse looks like an amazing movie. The animation is unique and incredibly pretty, and the story actually looks quite interesting. Right from the first promotional images hype began building for this film, but it wasn’t until that first trailer dropped that I started getting excited. The tone, the visual style and of course the music all pointed towards Spider-Verse being a movie that nobody would be in a rush to forget. One thing that particularly intrigued me about it right off the bat though was the score.
After Daniel Pemberton was announced as composer, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. On the one hand I was not familiar in the slightest with Mr. Pemberton, and having a relatively unknown (at least for me) composer handling my favourite superhero worried me somewhat. On the other hand though, Spider-Verse looked unique in more ways than one, and I knew that would allow for some serious creative freedom with the score. With this in mind, I told myself; wait and see. Don’t judge the score before you’ve even heard a note.
A few months afterwards, I got my wish. A clip from the movie was released online, and with it I got a good few minutes of score (released as Are You Ready To Swing? on the album). The first thing I noticed was that it was different. Incredibly different in fact, to any superhero music I had ever heard before. The music was an intriguing blend of two wildly divergent genres; traditional, action orchestra and loud, fast-paced hip-hop. Now, I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the latter genre, but here…I loved it. The two musical styles worked astonishingly well together, and having now listened to the entire album, I can safely say that they make for a fantastic and truly unique film score.
Into The Spider-Verse opens the soundtrack, and the electronics appear pretty much immediately. There’s not much in the way of actual thematic content here, as the music is just a series of notes; rising in pitch, frequency and intensity. What it does do however is give you an immediate sense of impending doom i.e. something’s coming. The track then ends almost as quickly as it began, leaving you with far more questions than answers. Right off the bat, you can tell this is not going to be your average film score.
The next cue Only One Spider-Man then really begins the album. The hip-hop beats start instantly as the track opens, and after a good thirty seconds of this we are then rewarded with a rather orchestral introduction to the main theme. It’s a rather simple three-note motif, but despite this it’s everything you’d want in a superhero theme; being upbeat, heroic and rather inspiring (not to mention memorable). Comic Book then continues where Only One ends, this time increasing the volume of the hip-hop beats and adding more brass and strings to the main theme until the track finishes up with a rather rousing finale.
Escape The Subway then introduces what I assume (having not seen the movie yet) is the main theme for the villain, a motif that is then fleshed out a great deal more in The Prowler. Unlike the main theme, this piece is purely electronic. It’s also less a coherent series of notes and the conveying of a mood; a very eerie and frightening one. The track is also proof however that you don’t always need a theme to be a memorable motif, as this piece gets the villainous feeling across very well (despite me not being able to hum it).
Spider-Training then continues the upbeat hip-hop superhero style introduced in Only One, and towards the end we get just a hint of a far more epic rendition of the main theme before the track then ends. That I would have to say is my biggest criticism so far of this score; the tracks are all far too short, being only one or two minutes each. They also tend to spend much of the two minutes building up, meaning we only get thirty seconds or so of really interesting music.
We get another theme in My Name Is…Peter B. Parker; this time a mainly orchestral, rousing strings-based piece that after about thirty seconds then slots in rather well with the main theme of the score. Since most of the characters that get a theme are different versions of Spider-Man, it makes a lot of sense that their themes can work in tandem, so props to Pemberton for that.
The main theme then finally gets a good fleshing out in Are You Ready To Swing?, in a rather frantic and indeed dramatic fashion as this is one of the major action cues of the score. Things then switch up from fast and heroic to slow and grandiose in Aunt May And The Spider-Shed, where the main theme appears in rather awe-inspiring and mostly orchestral form. The real treat though comes in Miles Morales Returns, a four minute epic rendition of the theme, this time in all its hip-hop/superhero glory. The music moves at breakneck speed, making for a rather intense but highly enjoyable action track overall.
The orchestral side of the score returns in full form with Shoulder Touch, a loud and rather bold piece that begins by playing the main theme in its most dramatic rendition so far. The hip-hop beats are not far behind, taking up much of the back half of the track in a fairly victorious “We Did It” fashion. Just before the album then ends, we are treated to the real gem of the score, the standout cue Spider-Man Loves You. Here Pemberton goes all out; chucking in multiple layers of hip-hop beats and using a fast and very heroic orchestral version of the main theme in what presumably is the “final swing” of the movie. The entire score feels like it has been building up to this moment, and what a moment it is.
All-in, Daniel Pemberton’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is just brilliant. It is an incredibly different take on the character of Spider-Man to anything we have heard before, and that’s what makes it so good. The composer’s truly unique blend of hip-hop and traditional orchestra works astonishingly well (considering they are two very different genres), shining the brightest in the fast-paced frantic action tracks. The main theme is great, being memorable and very Miles Morales (upbeat and hopeful with many a heroic hint) and it’s used just enough that it feels fleshed out without becoming tired. My main criticism would be that the album presentation itself isn’t great; forty four tracks that are only a minute or so each doesn’t make for a great listening experience, and interestingly its usually the longer tracks here that are the best ones (Spider-Man Loves You, Miles Morales Returns etc.) but maybe that’s just me being nitpicky.
Overall, Into The Spider-Verse is nothing short of amazing. Well done, Mr. Pemberton.
Standout Cue: 44. Spider-Man Loves You