The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an absolutely spectacular score tragically let down by its astoundingly sub-par album presentation.
I absolutely adore James Horner’s score for The Amazing Spider-Man. The main theme is amazing, the action cues are spectacular and the love theme is simply sublime. With that being said, you can probably imagine my disappointment when it was announced that Hans Zimmer would be taking scoring duties for the sequel movie. James Horner is one of my favourite composers, and I was so excited to hear how he would develop his themes and stylistic ideas for the Spider-Man sequel, but alas it was not to be. Surprisingly though (for me), I actually really enjoyed Hans Zimmer’s work for the film. Much like Horner he had also crafted an excellent main theme and several stellar action setpieces, but unfortunately there was a problem. It wasn’t so much what was on Zimmer’s score album that was the issue, it’s what wasn’t – but more on that later.
First off, let’s look at the main theme. It’s track three on the album, entitled I’m Spider-Man. Intriguingly (and rather bizarrely) the cue opens with police sirens before light, upbeat electronics arrive to introduce the theme for the titular web-slinger. As I mentioned earlier I was pleasantly surprised with this motif; unlike many of Zimmer’s thematic creations it’s highly note-based and very memorable, not to mention rather fitting of Spider-Man as a character with a happy musical mixture of cheery and heroic. Sadly the track is just over a minute long which doesn’t give a lot of time for thematic development – but again, more on that later.
Speaking of themes, track one introduces the motif for the villain of the movie; Electro (hence its title I’m Electro). Much like with Spider-Man’s this also feels very character representative with loud, in-your-face and very imposing dubstep-esque electronics taking the stylistic forefront. The music literally feels electric, which naturally I feel works well with the aforementioned supervillain. Track two There He Is then plays the mysterious, fast-paced actiony electronics from the actual beginning of the movie (are you starting to see why I mentioned sub-par album presentation earlier?), adding an edge of the ominous to the already rather…different score so far. Overall, that actually is one of my favourite things about Zimmer’s score here – to its credit it is very different to any superhero score I’ve heard before.
My Enemy is an eight minute thematic and stylistic dedication to Electro. It’s here that we hear the actual notes to the character’s theme for the first time (as opposed to I’m Electro which was purely stylistic). Loud, distorted electronics form the compositional backbone for much of the track, with the occasional lighter brass and strings in the background to represent Electro’s kinder alter-ego, Max Dillon. At six minutes in however, disappointment then arrives. Zimmer’s score so far has been arranged largely in suites with actual in-movie musical moments scattered here and there, and at the six minute mark starts a truly epic one (or so you’d think). At this point in the movie, Spider-Man is battling Electro in Times Square, with the latter character endangering some innocent bystander’s lives. In typical Spidey fashion, the aforementioned hero then literally jumps in to save them in a spectacular moment in the film accompanied by a breathtakingly heroic rendition of the Spider-Man theme. In this track however, the music builds up to that moment just as it did in the movie, and then promptly stops just short of it – completely missing out that epic musical moment. I won’t lie to you, when I first heard the travesty that this part of the track is, I suddenly became very agitated. It’s literally one of the best renditions of Spider-Man’s theme in the film, and not only is it not on the album, the score almost seems to deliberately miss it out too.
The lighter electronics from Spider-Man’s theme return in Look At Me sans the actual notes from the motif, before several notes from Electro’s theme then arrive to turn the tonal tide from upbeat to rather unnerving. Again I do feel the need to point out just how well done the musical style of this score is – you can literally hear certain characters coming and going not just from the notes of their themes, but from their actual compositional styles as they arrive – light, jovial electronics for Spidey and deep, ominous dubstep-esque scoring for Electro to name the highlights. Take these subsequent tracks for instance – the Spidey style appears in a very happy and hopeful manner in You Need Me alongside some rather optimistic beats, with Electro’s then showing its sinister face at the beginning of So Much Anger. In both track-based instances no notes whatsoever from the themes are played, and yet you can tell exactly which character is being represented in each track. It’s superbly done, and truly one of the most commendable aspects of Zimmer’s score here.
The first hints of the love theme then arrive on strings and a solemn piano in I’m Moving To England, where things slow right down for the first time on the album to allow for an intimate, gentle and purely orchestral piece amongst all the superhero action. It’s a great track, though sadly not one that lasts for very long before things then get particularly dark with I’m Goblin. Low, creepy electronics slowly fade into view, creating a very eerie mood while also cementing a recognisable musical style for the Green Goblin. There’s unfortunately no real motif here, but there sure is atmosphere. Rapid and rather frantic action then takes the forefront in the back half, mixing with the Goblin style for several near horror-like few minutes. Annoyingly though, this and the subsequent Let Her Go appear in the middle of the album despite the scenes they represent occuring right near the end of the movie. Is chronological order too much to ask for? On this score it certainly seems to be.
Heroism rises again in I Need To Know, with Spider-Man’s theme soaring in for another upbeat, dramatic and annoyingly short rendition. That I have to say would be another of my biggest issues with Zimmer’s score so far (both in film and on album) – the fact that he does actually have a great theme for the wallcrawler here, but doesn’t seem to want to use it. To describe its appearances as sporadic would be putting it mildly, and when it does show, it’s usually only for a few seconds. Goblin’s theme then appears in heavy action mode towards the end of Sum Total, re-incurring that sense of dread from I’m Goblin in fast-paced, tense form. The love theme then fully blooms in We’re Best Friends, getting a full strings-based introduction to start off with before then blending rather beautifully with the main Spider-Man theme to overall create one of the softer, most enjoyable tracks on the entire album.
Electro’s theme returns in full angry dubstep form throughout the three minute Still Crazy, and credit where credit’s due, it really is one hell of a theme. Zimmer has been particularly innovative here and it shows, being easily the best motif on the score bar Spider-Man’s (when it shows up, anyway). Things then slow right back down with the solemn The Rest Of My Life, where the love theme plays rather pensively on strings and mournful electronics before then seguing seamlessly into the album’s standout cue; You’re That Spider Guy. Here the music starts similarly saddened before the orchestra then starts to rise in the background, turning sorrow into inspiring, near epic score. Just like that though the excitement then dies back down, with slow strings taking over for the next minute or so. Here hope begins to rise again with both electronics and orchestra rushing up to meet it, and the score finally unleashes its loudest, most heroic and utterly breathtaking rendition of the main Spider-Man theme. Like all of the others its a short appearance, but a great one nonetheless.
Despite it being the musical finale of the film however this is not where the album ends (non-chronological order, I curse thee). Firstly we get a couple of suites, entitled The Electro Suite and Harry’s Suite respectively. As you might have guessed, they’re both lengthy presentations of their character’s themes, with Electro’s of course being primarily dubstep and Harry’s hinting heavily towards the dark, moody electronics of the Goblin. Now you may be thinking, where’s the Spider-Man Suite? Don’t worry, I thought that too. There isn’t one. The main (and best!) theme of the score doesn’t get a nice lengthy suite to flesh out the motif, despite it being THE THEME FOR SPIDER-MAN and so arguably the one that needed said treatment the most. It does however appear briefly (again) in the subsequent electronic action setpiece Cold War in a dramatically upbeat playthrough and then alongside the love theme again briefly in the orchestral No Place Like Home, but that’s about it. The overall lack of thematic representation for the main motif really is a shame.
Overall, Hans Zimmer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a unique and truly excellent score, but its torn apart and utterly ruined by its astoundingly awful album presentation. Not only is it nowhere near chronological order (which if you’re trying to find a specific musical moment makes it a real pain) but there are several (and I would argue key) thematic appearances in the film that are just not on the album, for some bizarre reason. Annoyingly these are usually Spider-Man related, which is especially bad considering just how little his theme appears and is fleshed out on this score. Villains Electro and Goblin get their own lengthy suites at the end of the album, but the titular hero Spider-Man? Of course not. It’s such a shame as well because I really like this score, but there are just so many glaring and really irritating problems with this album that I simply don’t enjoy it. Trying to find the bits I like amongst the sea of musical mess here is just too much like hard work.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 needs a complete expansion. Really badly.
Standout Cue: 20. You’re That Spider Guy