Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Composed by Danny Elfman, Christopher Young, and John Debney

Spider-Man 2 has been regarded by many as one of the best superhero movies, or at least was until the explosion of the genre with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d say it’s still up there as one of the greatest of all time. The film incorporates the famous “Spider-Man No More” storyline. Peter Parker’s personal life is turning into a shambles because of his duties as Spider-Man. Feeling the pressure, he gives up his superheroics, only to learn that this was the wrong decision. While this is going on Dr. Octopus, surprisingly portrayed as a sympathetic character by Alfred Molina, is trying to conduct an experiment which would tear New York apart. Unfortunately this movie destroyed director Sam Raimi and composer Danny Elfman’s long friendship. Raimi grew obsessed with the temp track and kept pressing Elfman to change some of his cues to sound like the work of another composer, Christopher Young. Elfman told him to just hire Young. Raimi actually did so, bringing in Young and also John Debney to rescore a few scenes. Elfman was so upset that he broke things off with his longtime friend.

This resulted in a unique album situation. As with the first film there was a lengthy “music from and inspired by” album with a 45-minute score album following a month later by an original score release. The first album had two edited together suites of Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus’ themes. The score album itself actually has music not from the film. These include most of “Dock Ock is Born,” “Aunt May Packs,” and “Train.” Continue reading

Spider-Man (2002)

Composed by: Danny Elfman

The superhero movie genre was still struggling to find its place at the dawn of the 21st century. The Batman series had fizzled out and X-Men, while successful, wasn’t blowing the general audience’s minds. Then Sam Raimi, a big Spider-Man fan, brought the beloved web-slinger to the big screen with smashing success. Spider-Man was established as one of the first truly great superhero movies. Some say the film hasn’t aged well. I admit it’s cheesy, but Raimi uses the cheesiness to his advantage. I just love this movie. There’s Willem Dafoe’s deliciously maniacal Green Goblin, J.K. Simmons’ flawless performance as J. Jonah Jameson, and really good supporting work from characters like Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker really gets across the character’s awkward dorkiness, though he’s distractingly too old to be a teenager (thankfully the film is quick to get him out of high school). Raimi worked with one of his long-time collaborators, composer Danny Elfman. Elfman had already established himself in the superhero genre with the Burton Batman films and Raimi’s cult classic Darkman.

Surprisingly there was controversy amongst film score fans over Spider-Man’s theme. There was a claim that he didn’t have one or that is was hard to find. It’s true that the character has several themes and motifs, but there is a main identity clearly established very early on in “Main Title.” It breaks out at heroic moments in “Revenge” and “Parade Attack” and closes out the score dramatically at the end of “Farewell.” Perhaps one cause for the confusion is that Elfman often only utilizes the first few notes before bringing in thumping action music or another motif. The fullest version of the theme also doesn’t appear that often, reserved for certain moments such as the final web-slinging sequence in “Farewell.” One of the more notable uses of the theme is in “Costume Montage.” Elfman has the theme played on electric guitar as Peter Parker draws out various designs for a cool costume. Continue reading