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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 by Hans Zimmer & The Magnificent Six (Review)

posted Apr 22, 2014, 10:47 PM by Kaya Savas

Spider-Man is one of those superheros who had a nice streak with Danny Elfman. Elfman’s music wasn’t pushy or showy, but somehow seemed to fit exactly right. In the two movies he scored, the music was really fleshing out the character. After a falling out with director Sam Raimi it was Christopher Young who stepped in, and he did an admirable job for a mostly dumpster worthy movie. The studio hit the reset button and we were given one of James Horner’s freshest scores in years. Now it seems like Hans Zimmer was always director Marc Webb’s first choice, and with a gap in his schedule he was now able to commit. Hans has always been an innovator and has always been the most influential composer in in the industry. He’s a driving force for genres and drives other composers crazy when editors flock to his music to temp track every movie in development. And that’s probably the most admirable thing about the post 2005 Hans Zimmer, is his desire to evolve. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gave him an opportunity to flock some of his most cherished friends and collaborators together. They were dubbed The Magnificent Six and include Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Michael Einziger, Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. So how did this band experiment work out? Extremely well surprisingly, but not without a little bumps along the way.

Hans Zimmer is known for working through collaboration, and this isn’t the first time he’s co-composed with a group of people in band form. One of his most underrated scores is Barry Levinson’s An Everlasting Piece, which was composed by Hans Zimmer & The Jigs (a band comprised of frequent collaborators and named for the film). For Black Hawk Down they were simply referred to as the “BHD Band”. So this isn’t a new idea, but the talent involved here makes it one. Musically, the score is indeed a fresh and unique sound. Hans Zimmer is the band leader, and with that you can tell that the basic structure of the score is his voice. But he really did allow a lot of input from the rest, and as much of a Zimmer sounding score this is it’s also unmistakably not Zimmer in places.

The music takes different forms and structures that craft a modern, pulsing adventure that fills negative space with driving force. If you break this score apart you will find lots of moments of great innovation in musical storytelling. Electro’s theme is a brilliant result of experimenting with electronic sounds and audible lyrics (in English). The operatic style of it breathes life into the character, and Pharrell Williams’ voice will send chills instead of sooth you with the rhythmic lyrics that help describe Electro. Electro's theme in fact is maybe one of the most original ideas for a character theme, and definitely follows suit with past Zimmer villain themes. As for Peter’s theme, it’s a full-force fanfare that echoes a brightness and an energy found in that character. Peter Parker is a high school student with smarts, agility and vulnerability. That theme is his heroic theme, the “save the day” theme. And it works. I think Hans built the theme to not be completely unfamiliar to what James Horner did before. The theme even feels like something Horner would write with that repeating descending fashion towards the end. It does feel part of the whole soundscape that Zimmer and company built though. The rest of the character is fleshed out in the rest of the body of the score.

I do think there was a trade-off here though, and it’s hard for me to believe I’m going to say this about a Hans score. There seems to be an emotional disconnect, and I think it happened in the midst of crafting the unique soundscape. There’s so much talent involved here, and together they managed to create one seamlessly invigorating soundscape. However, in the end of it all I didn’t feel much in terms of an emotional connection. The flow seems disrupted and nowhere near what Hans has accomplished in the past. I hear the score working and know what it’s doing, but I’m not feeling that emotional state I'm used to. The second half of the score is much stronger in developing dramatic builds. I finally found some music I could grasp onto and get lost in. Hans utilized his recognizable “sirens” from Crysis 2 to build uneasiness, while Johnny Marr’s familiar style is reminiscent of his playing on Inception. That strong auteurism does peek up now and then, which is a welcome reminder.

Overall, this is a more than functional score with lots of great moments. The talent involved help drive the sound to new places. Electro’s theme is the highlight as it’s the piece of music that really pushes the narrative and allows the listener into the character. It truly is one of the most unique character themes I've heard. The rest of the score does its job, but it never finds that magic that resonates. The magic comes from hearing a bold soundscape materialize through collaboration. What’s missing is an emotional connection to the story. We can connect to the characters, but it’s hard to connect to their journey. That echoes how well the score works in certain areas, but also slightly disconnected as a whole. The score is fast, it's light, it's fun and it has some fantastic standout moments. In terms of a superbly built summer distraction, it doesn’t get much better.  As a wholly lasting and emotionally engaging narrative maybe not so much. The 2-disc special edition has some great stuff including the original "The Electro Suite" sketch and should be chosen over the standard release.