Home > Reviews > SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – Michael Giacchino

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – Michael Giacchino

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

With Avengers Endgame having smashed almost every box office record in existence, it was always going to be difficult for Marvel to build on that movie’s enormous success. The two-part Avengers finale was one of those rare things that is both a commercial and cultural touchstone; it also marked the end of the ‘Third Phase’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which the existential threat of Thanos was finally eliminated, and the circle of movies that began with Iron Man in 2008 ended with Iron Man’s death. Spider-Man: Far From Home, despite being officially the last part of Phase III and the 23rd Marvel film overall, is actually something of a coda, acting both as a rumination on the events of Endgame and as a bridge to the Phase IV series which is scheduled to begin in 2020; it also seems to have successfully maintained the interest that peaked with Avengers, enjoying huge box office takings and good critical reviews. The film is set 8 months after Endgame and again stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man; he is still coming to terms with Tony Stark’s death and longs just to be a normal teenager again. As such, he agrees to go on a trip to Europe with his high school classmates, including his potential girlfriend MJ (Zendaya); unfortunately, Peter can’t escape from his responsibilities even there, and is called upon by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to assist a multi-dimensional warrior named Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in saving the world from creatures that wreak havoc by controlling the power of the four elements. The film is directed by Jon Watts and has an original score by Michael Giacchino.

Far From Home is Giacchino’s third Marvel score, after Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and it’s an absolute blast. One of the main criticisms that has often been made of the Marvel Universe is the lack of musical consistency across the different films, but that criticism cannot be laid at Giacchino’s feet at all. In many ways, Far From Home feels like a direct musical continuation of Homecoming, and if you liked one you’ll like the other. In the context of the film it’s mixed big and loud, front and center, and every time Spider-Man does something even vaguely heroic there’s Giacchino’s theme, blasting away with all the energy it can muster. I have read some commentators complaining about the music, especially in terms of its volume, but I absolutely loved it; it’s still relatively rare for a mainstream action movie to smack it’s audience in the face with an enormous orchestral theme, and the fact that Giacchino does it with such disdain for subtlety and restraint is wonderful.

But this is far from a one-theme score; in addition to the main Spider-Man theme that is carried over from Homecoming there’s a brand new theme for Mysterio, a set of action variations that combine both Spider-Man’s theme and Mysterio’s theme with some progressive-sounding electronics and contemporary guitar licks, a swooning new version of the love theme for Peter and MJ that is developed out of the much more hesitant sound from Homecoming, and a set of menacing textures for the Elementals that embed themselves into much of the score’s rich and vibrant action material. There’s also a subtle variation on Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme which seems to pull double duty as a motif for Nick Fury, and probably one or two things I’ve missed – contrary to the prevailing wisdom, Giacchino’s score is packed full of thematic ideas and references, variations and progressions, all of which make the score a rewarding listen.

Most of the thematic ideas are presented in the opening “Far From Home Suite Home,” which is actually a part of the end credits. Several of the themes are presented in sequential order as the piece develops: the heroic brass led version of the Spider-Man theme as the piece opens, the jazzy and playful and inquisitive ‘Peter Parker variation’ for pizzicato strings and woodwinds beginning at 0:35, a sequence of terrific action music, and Peter and MJ’s beautiful love theme beginning at around 2:30. The stately brass variation of the Avengers/Nick Fury theme emerges at 4:00, followed by a full-on action version complete with roaring electric guitars, and then the first performance of Mysterio’s theme at 4:58, again accompanied by throbbing guitars. It all wraps up with a massive adventurous statement of Spider-Man’s theme, setting things in motion for the rest of the score.

The score can be split up into chunks, depending on where Peter is and where the action is taking place. The first chunk is set in Venice, where the Water Elemental attacks the city and Mysterio appears for the first time; after a brief statement of the love theme in “It’s Perfect,” “World’s Worst Water Feature” underscores that initial elemental encounter with moody orchestral textures and a thunderous sequence that owes a great debt to Holst’s Planets. Mysterio’s theme begins to make itself heard around two minutes in, and then once battle commences – and Spider-Man joins in the action too – there are several humongous statements of both their themes that are quite breathtaking. What I like about Mysterio’s theme is how unambiguously heroic it is; Giacchino allows the audience to see him (and hear him) as if through Peter’s eyes – a surrogate Tony Stark who is just as charismatic as Iron Man was, and can potentially fill that paternal void in Peter’s life. Even when Mysterio’s duplicity is revealed during the second half of the score, Giacchino is able to subtly shift the theme’s timbre to make the same notes sound menacing instead of heroic, nasty rather than noble, which is testament to his talent.

Mysterio’s theme is played with a little more depth and quiet dignity in “Multiple Realities” as Mysterio explains his multi-dimensional origins to Parker and Nick Fury and impresses on them the danger the elementals pose; the eerie, slightly twisted vibe Giacchino gives the music in the cue’s second half is very effective. The subsequent “Brad to the Drone” is a fun action sequence that underscores the scene where Peter inadvertently unleashes a killer drone strike on his romantic rival as they drive through the Alps from Venice to Prague. This one is played more for laughs than anything serious, and puts the Spider-Man theme through several rhythmic and energetic variations without losing its sense of mischief.

The second main action chunk takes place in Prague’s main square where the second elemental – the fire elemental – makes its appearance. “Change of Plans” is a little distant, a little sad, as Peter has to break off his romantic evening with MJ to help Mysterio instead; Mysterio’s theme, on gentle electric guitars and sonorous cellos, leads the thematic content. The two sequential action centerpieces here are “Mr. One Hundred and One” and “Prague Rocked,” which begins slowly, but gradually become quite immense. Some of the dissonant textures at the beginning of the first cue are quite overwhelming. The use of thunderous brass and percussion conveys the scale and danger of the fire elemental, while the repeated heroic statements of both Mysterio’s theme and Spider-Man’s theme again show them working well in tandem as they defeat the threat. The gargantuan brass chaos that plays at the beginning of “Prague Rocked” really is something to behold, as are the introverted and melancholy statements of both main character themes at the end of the cue as Mysterio seemingly sacrifices himself to save everyone, and Peter briefly grieves, only for it to be revealed that Mysterio has survived after all.

In the aftermath of the battle, Peter and Mysterio recover in a bar, and Peter decides to gives the special glasses that Tony Stark bequeathed to him to Mysterio instead; “Who’s Behind Those Foster Grants” is a sentimental, heartfelt version of Mysterio’s theme that is intended to convey Peter’s respect and admiration for him as the potential ‘new Iron Man’. However, in the subsequent “Power to the People,” Mysterio’s true identity is revealed – he is actually a disgruntled former employee of Stark Industries leading a group of other former employees, all wanting revenge on Stark, and using incredibly sophisticated drone and projector technology to create holograms of the elementals, which he can then ‘fight’ and ‘defeat’. In this cue, Mysterio’s theme has more a contemporary kick with heightened electronic pulses and darker, more ominous guitars. There are more explorations of the Peter and MJ love theme in “Personal Hijinks,” pianos and subtle synths underscoring their sweetly awkward and dorky romance, but then Peter and MJ inadvertently discover Mysterio’s nefarious plan, and in “Praguenosis: BAD” the Mysterio theme and the Elemental ideas come to the fore in a dark, menacing way.

The third main action chunk takes place in Berlin, where Peter travels to inform Nick Fury of Mysterio’s deception. In “A Lot of ‘Splaining to Do” the Spider-Man theme is performed with a pulsating undercurrent of energy, while the Nick Fury Avengers theme variant plays contrapuntally on throbbing electric guitars. This is the one moment in the film which I felt was a touch over-scored – the music blares away while Peter and Nick are doing nothing more energetic than casually strolling up some stairs – but this is one of the few criticisms one can level at the score as a whole. The subsequent set piece, comprising “The Magical Mysterio Tour,” “Taking the Gullible Express/Spidey Sensitive,” and “Gloom and Doom,” underscores the film’s most psychedelic and avant-garde sequence, as Mysterio attacks Peter with a series of disorienting holographic projections designed to bamboozle him, extract information, and then ultimately destroy him.

To capture the essence of the confusion, Giacchino’s music is equally dissonant, making use of a vast array of impressionistic techniques, crushing orchestral textures, explosive walls of sound, tortured versions of both main themes, and one sequence (1:48 into “The Magical Mysterio Tour”) which sounds like a musical refugee from West Side Story! Nick Fury’s theme is used as misdirection during the opening moments of “Taking the Gullible Express,” and the subsequent version of Mysterio’s theme is deeply menacing. Long-time MCU fans will be happy to recognize the brief but welcome statement of Alan Silvestri’s full Avengers theme at the end of “Spidey Sensitive,” as Tony Stark’s right-hand-man Happy Hogan comes to Peter’s aid in the company jet.

The fourth and final main action chunk takes place in London, where Mysterio is planning a major elemental attack on Tower Bridge, with the dual purpose of cementing his own reputation as a super hero, and killing Spider-Man and anyone else who knows his secret. The entire sequence, from “Gloom and Doom” through to the end of “Bridging the Trap,” is an enormous action extravaganza in which the Spider-Man theme, Mysterio’s theme, and the Elementals ideas do battle within a huge orchestral onslaught. “Gloom and Doom” is a massive exploration of Mysterio’s musical ideas as he explains his plot to his associates; the glorious, maniacal explosions of brass in the final minute or so really sell his megalomaniacal tendencies, leaving the listener in no doubt that his transformation from hero to super-villain is complete. Other moments of note include the fantastically adventurous setting of the Spider-Man theme in “High and Flighty,” the dramatic crescendo and statement of the Spider-Man theme towards the end of “Tower of Cower,” and the near-scream of the guitars at the beginning of “Bridging the Trap,” while the entire sequence benefits from the percussion rhythms and guitar licks that augment the orchestra and give it a relentless sense of movement.

MJ and Peter share their first kiss among the debris in “Bridge and Love’s Burning,” set to the strains of their love theme, and then Peter takes her on a wild spider-ride through New York City in “Swinging Set,” accompanied by an enormous, exultant statement of the Spider-Man theme. Unfortunately, Mysterio’s final act of revenge is revealed in the mid-credits sequence, accompanied by the ominous “And Now This…,” which sets up a very interesting premise for the third Spider-Man movie, whenever that may be.

After its well-documented shaky start, it’s so gratifying to see how much more satisfying the Marvel Cinematic Universe scores have become in recent years. Spider-Man: Far from Home makes for a terrific send off to their Phase III series of films, and provides a nice bridge from which they can launch Phase IV. As much as I enjoyed Homecoming, for me Far from Home is a marked improvement. The performances of the main Spider-Man theme are on the one hand bolder, but also have scope for more emotional depth; the Mysterio theme is a stronger villain theme than the Vulture theme was, and Giacchino does more with it to illustrate the character’s guile and underhandedness; the development of Peter and MJ’s love theme into something approaching Hollywood melodrama may be too cheesy for some people to handle, but I loved it; and the energy and vitality of the action music overall is mightily impressive.

Buy the Spider-Man: Far From Home soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Far From Home Suite Home (8:27)
  • It’s Perfect (0:30)
  • World’s Worst Water Feature (7:30)
  • Multiple Realities (3:32)
  • Brad to the Drone (3:32)
  • Change of Plans (2:28)
  • Night Monkey Knows How to Do It (0:19)
  • Mr. One Hundred and One (3:20)
  • Prague Rocked (3:43)
  • Who’s Behind Those Foster Grants (2:57)
  • Power to the People (3:33)
  • Personal Hijinks (3:53)
  • Praguenosis: BAD (1:08)
  • A Lot of ‘Splaining to Do (2:14)
  • The Magical Mysterio Tour (3:21)
  • Taking the Gullible Express/Spidey Sensitive (5:07)
  • Gloom and Doom (4:16)
  • High and Flighty (2:20)
  • An Internal Battle (1:50)
  • Happy Landings (2:58)
  • Tower of Cower (5:12)
  • Bridging the Trap (1:58)
  • Bridge and Love’s Burning (2:50)
  • Swinging Set (1:47)
  • And Now This… (0:58)

Running Time: 79 minutes 56 seconds

Sony Classical (2019)

Music composed by Michael Giacchino. Conducted by Marshall Bowen. Orchestrations by Jeff Kryka. Recorded and mixed by Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley. Edited by Stephen M. Davis, Tanya Noel Hill and Anele Onyekwere. Album produced by Michael Giacchino.

  1. July 17, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I think this is one of his best, I thoroughly enjoyed all the music with some really memorable themes.

  2. August 1, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    I am absolutely in love with this score and Giacchino’s use of themes and leitmotifs. Long may his “disdain for subtlety and restraint” carry on in his work. The new rendition of Spider-Man’s theme is a welcome step-up from the one in ‘Homecoming’ (which I also greatly enjoyed) that reflects the character’s own growth. The love theme as beautiful and sweet as Peter and MJ’s awkward confession of the feelings they have for one another, so I don’t care about it being too cheesy either.

    I also can’t stop gushing over the Mysterio’s theme and the ways it’s used throughout the score and the film itself. When heroic, it doesn’t sound too far off from a melancholic rendition of Doctor Strange’s theme from his film, which makes sense given how his heroic persona is represented. The shift its a more villainous rendition as the film progresses is just glorious. Ending the soundtrack with it, rather than the suite that actually follows in the credits, is a smart choice. The mid-credits scene pretty much acts as the true ending of the film, and Mysterio having got his revenge (possibly) from beyond the grave is nothing but ominous for Peter going forward.

    All in all, ‘Far from Home’ offers a great note on which to end the first major phase of the MCU. I’m so glad the MCU scores are finally going into more memorable directions and have finally snagged a great and recognizable villain theme too. I can’t wait to see what Giacchino has in store next!

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