When Hans Zimmer was announced as a replacement for James Horner for scoring duties of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, I announced a complete boycott for this film and its soundtrack. The new composer has become somewhat of a synonym of what many older fans dislike most about modern film music. And while he might have been director’s Marc Webb’s first choice in the first place, things looked gloomy indeed.
Zimmer, perhaps unsurprisingly, took a very different route to Horner’s more traditional way of scoring. Both efforts are filled with synths, vocal elements and offer a heroic theme for Spider-Man, but otherwise they couldn’t be more different from each other. The ominous prophecy of endless ostinato in the lower registers didn’t come to pass, and the music is colourful, imaginative and… intelligent. The composer invited numerous artists to the project (Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams, among others), many of whom he worked with before, and encouraged an experimentation with different genres - ranging from rap, pop, electronica and classical - to create a truly eclectic collection of sounds. And while that might cause many listeners to scratch their heads with befuddlement, one has to agree it’s a completely appropriate accompaniment for an urban youthful hero.
The principal Spider-Man theme is a Copland-esque fanfare. A simple but effective device to provide an almost mythical spin for main character’s heroics (‘I’m Spider-Man’). It is sparingly used throughout the album, but always to a good effect. While not necessarily the most original thing in the world, it is rare enough to hear Hans employing a trumpet fanfare. Might be a first, actually.
The most striking element is the Electro material. Employing a processed speech pattern effect, wicked electronics and some sparingly used orchestral acoustic elements (like woodwinds), they probably offer the most impressive creating from Zimmer studio in quite a while. The lengthy track ‘My Enemy’ is the ultimate highlight of this soundtrack album. The more textural Green Goblin material is more elusive, but serves its character’s both ominous and conflicted nature quite well (‘I’m Goblin’ and ‘Harry’s Suite’).
The album, similarly to James Horner’s original score, is also filled with numerous tender and quiet moments. Zimmer decided to take a more Thomas Newman-like drama approach for those, with piano being a prominent feature along with some welcome appearances of woodwind section (‘You’re My Boy’). But what’s really surprising is that, while most of the music is very eclectic, its intimate moments harken back to a more traditional idiom, with emotional strings and piano taking over (‘We’re Best Friends’).
The score then moves to its brief action climax, as presented on in ‘Still Crazy’, in which Zimmer brings together most of the thematic material for principal characters in a very satisfying fashion. After that, two emotional cues close the main album programme, with the obligatory reprise of the Spider-Man theme serving as a coda. The Deluxe edition offers some additional suite remixes of different ideas, as well as songs by different popular artists like Alicia Keys or Pharelll-Williams (who was also involved in scoring the film). Normally, these kind of additions serve very little purpose, other than making people spend more money, but I beg to differ. There are some really interesting ideas presented in that very section.
Zimmer seems to be most creative and interesting when he’s not trying to apply conventional techniques and nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. The orchestral elements are still there, most prominently associated with the beforementioned Spider-Man theme. But they mostly play a background role this time and allow the modern genre elements to take over, to a great effect.
As I stated previously, the album is available in two formats - one disc standard edition and the expanded deluxe one. A practice that nowadays seems common practice with bigger score releases. There’s absolutely no point of comparing this to James Horners efforts for previous entry. If you’re bothered by stylistic continuity, then Zimmer’s score will disappoint you. But, armed with some good will and open ears, you might be in for a treat. The score is a definite surprise and a reminder that Hans Zimmer can still surprise us. It all bodes well for INTERSTELLAR..
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is released on April 14th by RCA Records