John Paesano’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales score sports an epic main theme and many an action setpiece, though it sadly comes in a bit underwhelming when compared to its Spider-Man PS4 predecessor.
Composer John Paesano has returned to score Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a spin-off sequel game to the original Spider-Man PS4 that released back in 2018. He also scored that one, and with it came a truly spectacular main theme that more than lived up to the titular character’s iconic soundtrack history – Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, James Horner to name a few – and undoubtedly Paesano’s theme is up there with the greats. And naturally of course, when new music comes out for old characters there’s inevitable comparisons, with Peter Parker it was with the composers listed above, but with Miles there’s only really one other; Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, by Daniel Pemberton.
It isn’t particularly difficult to draw comparisons between that score and this one either, in fact at points Paesano’s work here sounds very much influenced by it. Take track New York’s Only Spider-Man for example – it’s the album’s first proper rendition of the main theme for Miles after being introduced briefly in the brass-heavy, heroic Don’t Give Up (cue numero uno on the score) and then, just a few seconds into the cue, there they are; the hip-hop beats. They were a key musical element to Pemberton’s score for Spider-Verse, and now it seems they are a key musical element for Miles himself – which is rather interesting. In this particular cue the beats are fairly prominent at first before then being pushed gently to the background as brass arrives to play Miles’ theme on loud, epic brass, giving the motif several proudly upbeat playthroughs to flesh it out over the course of three minutes before the track then ends. All-in it’s not a bad theme – it’s quite memorable and naturally heroic, though notably not quite as good as Paesano’s Parker theme from the first game (though that’s to be expected, I suppose). Stylistically you can as I mentioned certainly hear the Spider-Verse influence, which can be good or bad really depending on how much you liked that score (I very much did).
A fast pace then kicks off Rhino Rampage, the score’s first action setpiece. Rapid, frantic strings and ominous bursts of brass make for quite a tense opening minute, with some particularly dramatic vocals then playing quite a villainous motif presumably for Rhino. Miles’s upbeat theme then leaps into the fray at about ninety seconds in, playing firstly in rather worrisome form before then slowly gaining confidence through a number of renditions as the cue continues. To finish off the action Miles’ motif then plays semi-victoriously though with an edge of tension before brass then crashes in to close the cue. The brisk pace is then kept through Spider-Training, with rapid percussion and frantic strings accompanied by fleeting brass playing some nervously heroic notes from Miles’ motif interspersed through the action. Best Friends then slows down almost completely, opening with gentle strings and some rather atmospheric electronics with a rather pensive Miles’ theme then playing on quiet brass. Things then ramp up in the cue’s back half, with loud strings and imposing brass entering some rather villainous musical territory before the track then ends. Be Yourself then returns the score to a more hopeful tone, with a few confident, heroic renditions of Miles’ theme on vocals and brass with the hip-hop Spider-Verse-y percussion also making a return to the background.
Mystery is the tonal focus of the first half of Confession, with slow, suspenseful strings and quiet electronics establishing atmosphere over a two and a half minute period. After this though things then start to kick into gear, with rapid percussion and brass entering the fray for a rather action-centric back half. The tension from earlier in the cue then returns in The Underground, with the same mysterious-sounding electronics and creepy strings starting things off before low-pitched brass notes and ominous vocals then arrive alongside some backing beats to overall create one of the darkest pieces of atmospheric music so far on the album. Melancholic strings then occupy the majority of the similarly atmospheric Thicker Than Water, with some rather hopeful electronics and brass then fading in gently for the cue’s final minute. Low-pitched hip-hop beats form the musical backbone of On The Case, accompanied by some quietly ominous strings and brass for another three minutes of suspenseful moody score. Happily though the action then returns in All In, with a rather optimistic rendition of Miles’ theme opening the cue before dramatic punches of brass and worrisome backing beats then take over for a minute of tense action score. Miles’ theme then returns for a particularly poignant rendition on heroically loud brass and uplifting vocals before electronics then join the fray, building tension into a loud crescendo that then ends the cue.
So far though I must admit I am finding this score a little dull. There are as I’ve described some rather large segments of moody, uninteresting “atmospheric” score, and you just spend those simply waiting for the epic heroic action music to come back. Then when it does, we get a couple of upbeat renditions of Miles’ theme and that’s just sort of it. There aren’t any recognisable villain motifs for Miles to clash against (that I can hear, anyway) and the action style itself isn’t all that interesting. I keep waiting for the score to have its epic defining moment but so far…no such luck.
The action then continues in Trying To Protect You, with loud electronic surges pulsing rapidly throughout the cue alongside imposing, dramatic percussion and frequent bursts of tense brass. The pace then slows but continues its action form in the three minute We’re Here For You, with the percussive beats from earlier cues returning and playing together with some particularly villainous-sounding brass. The tension then picks up considerably in Worst Enemies, a cue where that epic, defining musical moment I talked about earlier very nearly arrives. Brass becomes rather frantic for the first minute or so before Miles’ theme then enters the fray on some proudly heroic vocals. Here the instrumentation then begins to build, becoming louder and more epic with Miles’ theme becoming more and more prominent with each rendition until the cue then simply (and annoyingly) fades out. Some particularly mournful strings turn the tone solemn in Make It Right, with a few notes from Miles’ theme playing firstly pensively and then increasingly hopeful until the score then reaches a powerful thematic crescendo. Won’t Give Up then features Miles’ theme in all its heroic glory, complete with the hip-hop beats and loudly heroic brass, closing the score on a particularly triumphant note.
Overall, John Paesano’s score for Spider-Man: Miles Morales is decent, if not a bit underwhelming. His main theme for Miles is good and it ticks all the boxes that a superhero theme should tick – heroic, memorable and versatile – though it sadly doesn’t quite reach the same epic heights as Peter’s theme (from Spider-Man PS4). The theme’s use throughout the album is also good though it can be a little…dull at times. Its various renditions don’t quite pack the emotional punches that Peter’s did (bar one below), especially in the action which at times can be rather uninteresting. There’s also a lot of suspensful, atmospheric cues on the album that are just kind of mood-setting, nothing music – and there aren’t really any recognisable motifs on the score other than Miles’. The album does have its moments though – a particularly poignant rendition of Miles’ theme towards the end of Worst Enemies very nearly makes the score worthwhile. Very nearly. New York’s Only Spider-Man is also pretty great. I just wish that the album had…a little more to give.
All-in, it’s an enjoyable score…just not a particularly amazing one. Especially when inevitably compared to Paesano’s Spider-Man PS4.
Standout Cue: 3. New York’s Only Spider-Man