Home > Reviews > THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 – Hans Zimmer

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 – Hans Zimmer

amazingspiderman2Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

As the second movie in Sony’s “reboot” of the Spider-Man franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 sees Andrew Garfield returning as the teenage web-slinging super hero Peter Parker, still attending high school by day, while battling super-villains at night. The plot this time round sees young Peter in a healthy relationship with the lovely Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) as they prepare to graduate from Midtown Science, although he is haunted by the promise he made to Gwen’s late father to keep her safe, as well as the memory of the death of his parents several years earlier, and the mystery surrounding their work and legacy. Peter’s world is shattered further, however, with the emergence of a new threat: Electro (Jamie Foxx), a mild-mannered engineer working for the multinational conglomerate Oscorp, who develops the capacity to manipulate and control electricity – and a deep hatred of Spider-Man – following an industrial accident. Not only that, but Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to the city following the death of his father Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), the head of Oscorp, only to discover that the illness that killed his father is hereditary, and that the only cure may be inside Spider-Man’s blood. The film is again directed by the appropriately-named Marc Webb, and has an original score by Hans Zimmer, replacing the first film’s composer James Horner.

I have to start this review by offering my congratulations to Hans Zimmer, who with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has become the first composer to score the holy triumvirate of American super heroes – Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. Whatever your opinion of his actual music, you cannot help but admire the way Zimmer has become, by quite a significant margin, the most important musical voice in Hollywood, to the point that what seems like almost every major studio film is being scored by him, someone who currently works for him, or someone who used to work for him. Having been inspired by his own experiences working with composer Stanley Myers on British films in the early 1980s, Zimmer has always championed the value of collaboration in art, and the dedication he has shown throughout the years to giving young composers the chance to work on important and successful projects is commendable. Without him, the careers of John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams, Klaus Badelt, Ramin Djawadi, and others too numerous to mention would likely never have taken off in the way they did, and for that we should be grateful. In recent years, Zimmer has extended this collaborative thinking to include performers too, bringing in artists as varied as songwriter Pharrell Williams, rock guitarists Johnny Marr and Mike Einzinger, and many others, to work with him on his scores. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is perhaps the zenith of this – a truly enormous scoring venture that is officially credited to Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six, featuring Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr.

Whether you appreciate Zimmer’s approach to scoring is purely a matter of taste. It seems like the days where one composer presented his musical vision to one director is over; Zimmer’s teamwork approach, bringing in numerous co-composers, special guest musicians, conductors and orchestrators, is the standard working method that most studio music heads seem to want. Yes, the individualized musical voice of the lead composer possibly gets diminished in the process – you are never really sure exactly who writes what on these types of scores – but everything comes in on time, on budget, and with a minimum of fuss, and that’s what seems to matter the most. I have been critical of some of Team Zimmer’s scores for major blockbusters in recent years on purely musical terms, especially Man of Steel, but in the same period they have also shown a great deal of creativity, writing genuinely great music for movies such as The Lone Ranger and Rush. I put The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in this latter category; more than any score in recent memory, Zimmer seems to have really understood this movie and its lead character, and written music that fits him, and the myriad of villains that he faces.

His score is a combination of styles, several distinct musical identities which overlap and interlock as the score progresses, in true leitmotivic style. What’s interesting is the way in which Zimmer actually came up with the themes, which was to almost treat the movie as a musical. Zimmer and his comrades came up with several original songs, and then based on the melodies of the songs, wrote the score around them. The thinking was that Peter Parker as a character would likely to be listening to contemporary pop music in his personal life, and the score should reflect the musical tastes of the character. It’s an interesting way of approaching it, and of course it’s the way Broadway works all the time, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t work here too. As a result, Zimmer’s score is much more contemporary than Horner’s was, with extended sequences featuring electronica, dubstep, hip-hop influences, and hard rock, as well as a traditional symphony orchestra.

Spider-Man himself has a theme, a heroic brass fanfare which first appears in “I’m Spider-Man”, and flows through much of the rest of the score, altering its stylistics as required. Despite having a superficial similarity to Randy Newman’s The Natural – which itself was inspired in part by Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man – Spidey’s theme is a classic piece of all-American patriotism, and anchors much of the score in a warm, positive glow. Its performances in “I’m Spider-Man”, interspersed into “My Enemy” and “So Much Anger”, and during the conclusive “You’re that Spider Guy” are bold and powerful, accompanying the webbed wonder as he carries out his feats of derring-do, battling the bad guys and saving the city. Elsewhere, the theme appears on a soft solo piano in “Ground Rules”, with deconstructed intimacy in “You Need Me”, and with contemporary rock sensibilities in “We’re Best Friends”, all of which are very enjoyable, and help to cement the relationship between Peter and Gwen.

The character Electro, on the other hand, is defined more by a fascinating combination of harsh electronica and light, almost comedic woodwind scherzos, capturing the essence of the bumbling fool that Max Dillon was, as well as the near-unstoppable terror he becomes. One of the most fascinating aspects of Electro’s theme is the harsh whispering which Pharrell Williams performs on top of the music; Pharrell’s voice essentially becomes Electro’s inner monologue, the demons in his own head, his own private Gollum, pushing and prodding at his already delicate psyche until it all gives way under its own weight. In “My Enemy”, the whispering begins insistently, feverishly – can’t ignore the paranoia, something’s happening, mind is dripping, agony inside of me, my pulse is racing, mental torture – but as the cue develops to combine with the progressive electronics and increasingly powerful orchestral textures, the effect is clearly a depiction of a man on the edge. The subsequent layering of these textures against the buffoonish oboe motif plays up the dichotomy of Max’s character perfectly, until the end of the cue where Max’s paranoia becomes an all-encompassing outburst of anger and betrayal – he lied to me, he shot at me, he hates on me, he’s using me, fragility, electricity, afraid of me, he’s dead to me – where the fear is just palpable. The idea continues through cues such as “Look at Me” and the dubstep/EDM-heavy “Still Crazy”, and stands as one of the most creative, conceptually interesting ideas Zimmer has contributed to a film since the “deshi basara” chant from The Dark Knight Rises. Although I can see where some less adventurous listeners would find the aggressive electronic textures unpalatable, I personally find its contextual application brilliant and completely appropriate.

Some of the cues do bear the hallmarks of other Zimmer scores, notably the rhythmic textures of Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, as well as some of the chord progression ideas from Man of Steel, but that’s to be expected. Where the main themes are not present the score does drag just a little; the majority of cues such as “I Need to Know”, “Sum Total” and “I Chose You” are more about texture and tension than anything else, but they do have some cool crescendos, moments of action and choral accents to keep them interesting.

amazingspiderman2expandedThe Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack has two releases: a standard single-CD set of the score, as well as a special edition expanded version, which contains an additional six score cues, two long “suites” written by Zimmer, and two additional songs. Of these additional cues, most of them are fairly short, and concentrate mainly on the relationship scenes between Gwen and Peter and Peter and his Aunt May, through sentimental pieces such as “I’m Moving to England” and “You’re My Boy”, which has a lovely piano rendition of the Spider-Man fanfare. Elsewhere, there are a couple of expansions of themes heard elsewhere in the score; “Special Project” features a lot of nervous textures based on the Angels & Demons rhythmic style, combined with expanded material based on Max’s comedic theme, while one further cue, “I’m Goblin”, revisits the unnerving alarm-like siren wail heard in “Sum Total” and identifies it as a recurring leitmotif for Spidey’s true nemesis. The one exception is the ball-busting Dark Knight-influenced “Cold War”, which places the both the Spider-Man fanfare and the Max motif into a relentless action music assault that is quite breathless.

A quick word about the songs: Zimmer is credited as co-writer on two of them, “It’s On Again” performed by Alicia Keys featuring Kendrick Lamar, and “Here”, performed by Pharrell Williams. While it’s always a good thing to have the score’s composer as a part of the songwriting team, ensuring some thematic crossover between them, I personally am not really a huge fan of of Keys’s song, although it was great fun watching Zimmer re-visit his “Video Killed the Radio Star” days, conducting the orchestra and rocking the keyboards on Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live during its promotional tour. Pharrell’s song is actually pretty good, though, a soft, R&B inflected ballad that is very appealing indeed.

Whether you actually enjoy the music in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will, of course, come down to personal taste. The dubstep and electronica elements are almost guaranteed to turn more traditionally-minded score fans off instantly, and that’s fine, but one thing that cannot be overlooked here is the level of creative thought put into the score by Hans and the Gang, and to willfully do so would be do to the score a great disservice. The whispered chanting in Electro’s theme is one of the most interesting ideas I have heard in a score of this type for quite some time, and the way it plays off the more light-hearted woodwind motif for Max really gets to the heart of the character’s duality.

Buy the Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • REGULAR RELEASE
  • I’m Electro (0:46)
  • There He Is (2:54)
  • I’m Spider-Man (1:04)
  • My Enemy (8:17)
  • Ground Rules (1:11)
  • Look at Me (3:10)
  • You Need Me (3:17)
  • So Much Anger (2:12)
  • I Need to Know (5:00)
  • Sum Total (2:51)
  • I Chose You (1:34)
  • We’re Best Friends (2:17)
  • Still Crazy (2:42)
  • You’re That Spider Guy (5:29)
  • It’s On Again (written by Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, Hans Zimmer and Kendrick Lamar, performed by Alicia Keys featuring Kendrick Lamar) (3:50)
  • Song for Zula (written by Matthew Houck, performed by Phosphorescent) (6:09)
  • That’s My Man (written by Pharrell Williams, performed by Liz) (3:47)
  • Here (written by Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr and Hans Zimmer, performed by Pharrell Williams) (4:38)
  • Honest (written by Jesse James Rutherford, Zachary Abels, Jeremy Freedman and Michael Margott, performed by The Neighbourhood) (3:57)
  • Electro Remix (written by Alvin Risk, Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Tom Holkenborg, performed by Alvin Risk and Hans Zimmer) (3:27)
  • DELUXE EDITION
  • I’m Electro (0:46)
  • There He Is (2:54)
  • I’m Spider-Man (1:04)
  • My Enemy (8:18)
  • Ground Rules (1:12)
  • Look at Me (3:10)
  • Special Project (3:14)
  • You Need Me (3:17)
  • So Much Anger (2:12)
  • I’m Moving To England (1:03)
  • I’m Goblin (3:42)
  • Let Her Go (0:33)
  • You’re My Boy (2:57)
  • I Need to Know (5:00)
  • Sum Total (2:51)
  • I Chose You (1:34)
  • We’re Best Friends (2:17)
  • Still Crazy (2:42)
  • The Rest of My Life (2:28)
  • You’re That Spider Guy (5:29)
  • The Electro Suite (12:36)
  • Harry’s Suite (10:07)
  • Cold War (3:28)
  • No Place Like Home (1:53)
  • It’s On Again (written by Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, Hans Zimmer and Kendrick Lamar, performed by Alicia Keys featuring Kendrick Lamar) (3:50)
  • Song for Zula (written by Matthew Houck, performed by Phosphorescent) (6:09)
  • That’s My Man (written by Pharrell Williams, performed by Liz) (3:47)
  • Here (written by Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr and Hans Zimmer, performed by Pharrell Williams) (4:38)
  • Honest (written by Jesse James Rutherford, Zachary Abels, Jeremy Freedman and Michael Margott, performed by The Neighbourhood) (3:57)
  • Within the Web (First Day Jam) (written by Czarina Russell, Johnny Marr, Hans Zimmer, Tom Holkenborg, Pharrell Williams, Michael Einziger and Ann Marie Simpson, performed by Czarina Russell, Hans Zimmer and The Magnificent Six) (4:30)
  • The Edge (written by Jenna McDougall and Whakaio Taahi, performed by Tonight Alive) (3:03)
  • Electro Remix (written by Alvin Risk, Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Tom Holkenborg, performed by Alvin Risk and Hans Zimmer) (3:27)

Running Time (Regular Release): 66 minutes 35 seconds
Running Time (Deluxe Edition): 115 minutes 19 seconds

Columbia 88843048182 (2014) — Regular Release
Columbia 88843060812 (2014) — Deluxe Edition

Music composed by Hans Zimmer and The Magnificent Six (Michael Einziger, Tom Holkenborg, Andrew Kawczynzki and Steve Mazzaro) featuring Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr. Conducted by Nick Glennie-Smith. Orchestrations by Bruce Fowler, Walter Fowler, Kevin Kaska, Suzette Moriarty, Yvonne Moriarty and Rhea Fowler. Additional music by Arturo Sandoval, Czarina Russell, Andy Page, Adam Peters, Stephen Hilton, Dominic Lewis and Ann Marie Simpson. Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson and Daniel Kresco. Edited by Melissa Muik. Album produced by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Lipson.

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  1. May 24, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    The Electro’s Theme is one of the most ridiculous thing that I ever heard. It’s just a pathetic track, with a terrible audition. Spider-Man’s theme is great, but Horner’s and Elfman’s is best.

  2. June 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Your very positive review, and James’s, made me give this score a chance despite my misgivings. And I’m afraid I can’t be as positive: there are plenty of ideas, sure, but they don’t gel well at all into a cohesive score, and as soon as dubstep fades in popularity the score will sound as dated as the disco elements in “For Your Eyes Only.” I liked it better than Christian, but that’s not saying a whole lot. For my full discourse: http://bestoriginalscores.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/the-amazing-spider-man-2-hans-zimmer/

  3. August 19, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    There is still Spider-Man’s personal turmoil, crises of romance and loyalty, that Webb occasionally holds a few beats too long. Yet the performances ring true, with arresting chemistry where it counts.

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