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The Amazing Spider-Man
Album Cover Art
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated by:
J.A.C. Redford
Jon Kull
Steve Bernstein
Peter Boyer
Carl Johnson
Randy Kerber

Co-Produced by:
Simon Rhodes

Solo Vocal Performances by:
Dhafer Youssef
Lisbeth Scott
Luca Lupino-Franglen
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Sony Classical
(July 3rd, 2012)
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Regular U.S. release.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you have lost patience with the post-2000 method of scoring action blockbuster movies with all brawn and no nuance, James Horner dusting off his techniques of the 1990's to remind audiences that superhero scores can still be organically dynamic and dramatically intimate.

Avoid it... if you have little tolerance for the enduring trademarks of Horner's career, for he revises the style of his established sound for this occasion without ever really abandoning his comfort zone.
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WRITTEN 7/14/12
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The Amazing Spider-Man: (James Horner) What do you do when one of your star movie franchises stalls because of creative differences that leave its respected director and crew dissatisfied? Reboot! Despite the success of Sam Raimi's trilogy of Spider-Man films that debuted from 2002 to 2007, disappointing scripts left the production of Spider-Man 4 in limbo, and when Raimi refused to sacrifice the integrity of the concept by rushing the fourth film to production by 2011, Sony Pictures pulled the plug and immediately shifted its focus onto a hasty reimagining of the franchise. Many of the ideas explored for Spider-Man 4 (and the two additional Raimi sequels planned after that) were transferred to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, including the use of the Lizard as the film's villain. The origin story of Peter Parker is shifted to a period earlier in his life and concentrates on the role of his parents in his destiny, though there are numerous redundancies in the other plot points when comparing the reboot to the original 2002 film in the franchise. While collective groans initially greeted the news of production on The Amazing Spider-Man, the film was ultimately praised for its own strengths and earned significant profits in line with the Raimi endeavors. Some critics even placed the 2012 entry as superior to the heralded Spider-Man 2 of 2004. Regardless of how redundant this reboot may be (in its own universe and amongst the endless reboots of other franchises), the project at least gave the Spider-Man franchise another opportunity to consolidate its musical identity. Danny Elfman had conjured a very effective and entertaining score for the original Spider-Man and his themes endured in the Raimi trilogy despite an extremely messy composing situation that saw Christopher Young, John Debney, and others contribute to the franchise. Young's involvement, starting bizarrely with his reprise of Hellraiser music in Spider-Man 2, eventually solidified into a surprisingly good score for Spider-Man 3 that remains a fan-favorite long unreleased on album. Still, Elfman's memorable title theme for the titular character accurately expresses his high-flying capabilities in its structures and instrumentation, and it's difficult to completely jettison that identity for the reboot.

The very brief filmography of new director Marc Webb led to much speculation about who would compose the music for The Amazing Spider-Man, some of which implicating Mychael Danna as an interesting possibility for the assignment. When James Horner became attached to the project, however, there was a range of responses from head-scratching curiosity to a "too good to be true" sense of excitement. The composer had not tackled the genre of comic book-related heroism since The Rocketeer in 1991 and had seemingly divested himself from the blockbuster scene (aside from Avatar) over the course of the 2000's in an effort to seek more obscure assignments that pique his artistic sensibilities. Although the spirit of his fabulous scores in the franchise of The Mask of Zorro are an exception, you have rarely heard Horner explode with heroic superhero music of enthusiastic and extroverted emotional expression since the days of Willow and The Rocketeer. Did he still have that side of rambunctious fun in his repertoire? Futhermore, would that sound even be acceptable to studio and test audience ears in an era of melodramatic droning for troubled superheroes as defined by Hans Zimmer and his clone production factory? How much would Horner have to adapt his instrumentation and structures to even be relevant in this age of darker superhero scores? Fortunately, he seems to have taken the same approach to the evolving genre that Patrick Doyle chose for Thor in 2011, refusing to abandon his stylistic comfort zone but extending his capabilities into a more modern instrumental environment. For better or for worse, there are few moments in his score for The Amazing Spider-Man that do not remind of his established sound. You encounter a significant dose of his 1990's mannerisms, in fact, saturating his chord progressions, instrumental and vocal tones, and singular techniques. Thankfully, his most tired and obnoxious trademarks, including the venerable but ridiculed "four-note danger motif," are absent, the composer tending toward reprising ideas from his lesser known dramatic scores instead. Webb stated, "I wanted him to create a score that felt massive and huge but also intimate and small," and the composer obliged with a work that is heroic when necessary but unexpectedly dramatic in is character-centric passages.

Horner's approach to The Amazing Spider-Man, regardless of the tools he uses to accomplish his goals, is remarkably intelligent. He applies a very wide range of those building blocks to enhance a thematic narrative that is more complex than necessary for this context. His major themes have intellectually appropriate variations that transform into their own somewhat autonomous entities in consistent fashion. The coloration of these ideas remains identifiable throughout the score, foreshadowing and reminding of events where applicable and supplementing the structures with individual usage of voice or instrument that can alone suggest a connection without the need of a larger motif. The base for this endeavor is similar to Elfman's, featuring a full orchestra with choral and electronic accompaniment. The piano is clearly the heart of the score, following Parker's relationships in their tender and mysterious turns. For a film about a family's cloudy but loving past, the instrument seems logical, though Horner's tendency to prefer his own performances of the piano in a leading role for such situations is awfully convenient as well. The most interesting observation to make about this music is the de-emphasis of the lower strings; the celli and basses do not chop in the ostinatos so prevalent in this generation and are never even tasked with affording the mix a heavy melodramatic presence. Rather, you hear Horner revisit the playful tuba solos of his late 1980's and early 1990's scores in several cues ("Playing Basketball" and "The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway") and light, tingling metallic percussion from Avatar in "Metamorphosis." The composer's usual rumbling chords of ensemble broadness on measure to denote gravity are present but restrained. The only nod to modern orchestral usage for blockbuster action that becomes obvious in the work is the slapping percussion in "Saving New York," which emulates Doyle's Thor in some ways. Uniquely notable instrumental techniques in The Amazing Spider-Man include finger-snapping for comedic effect in "Playing Basketball," moderated shakuhachi flute as a tool of quietly descending wails ("The Equation" and "Peter's Suspicions") that avoid the puffing or shrieking of other Horner scores, and atonal solo piano strikes in middle of "Saving New York" that resurrect David Shire suspense of the 1970's. If you seek a few minutes of prototypically pure Horner innocence from the era of The Spitfire Grill, look no further than "The Ganali Device."

The use of vocal talent in The Amazing Spider-Man ranges significantly in effectiveness. Rather than rely upon the dynamic scope of a lively adult choir in the methodology of Elfman, Horner is content to revisit his child-like and processed ensemble applications most famously heard in Titanic, even down to the same puffing techniques in "Saving New York." This synthetic-sounding accompaniment is the most grating aspect of Horner's stock usage here; the better enunciated and more mature tone of the voices in Willow would have been better welcomed. Conversely, the composer's mix of solo voices is much more entertaining musically even if they don't always make sense. Horner reunites with Dhafer Youssef from Black Gold for a Middle-Eastern hint in the identity of the Lizard, a striking choice in terms of foreign-sounding alienation but one that has nothing ethnically related with the plot. More warranted is the use of English boy soprano Luca Lupino-Franglen, plucked from a Christian chorister school to convey an important connection between "Main Title - Young Peter" and "Saving New York." Film score veteran Lisbeth Scott, with whom Horner had collaborated for Avatar, returns for a pretty, albeit intentionally haunting cameo in the middle of "The Bridge." Equally important to Horner's soundscape is his employment of electronics in ways that suggest that these contributions are meant as the bulk of his effort to bring his superhero style up to date. Ticking, pulsating effects denote movement in "Becoming Spider-Man," at times switching off with the piano in an equivalent duty. Quietly processed electronic guitar also figures later in that cue and in "Lizard at School!" For fight sequences late in "The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway" and "Ben's Death," Horner mixes in more pop-like, slapping percussion and pulses akin to James Newton Howard's recent work. The most interesting layering of electronics in the score comes in "Making a Silk Trap," which uses the foundation of organ and Blaster Beam-like sounds reprised with choir directly from the "Winter/Battle" sequence in The New World (though pounding drum hits here do keep it fresh). This cue, among others, proves that you can indeed rock the floor with resounding bass while still using harp, violins, and choir to occupy the treble with feelings of awe. Horner's mix of the electronic elements into the major ensemble cues is tastefully handled in every case, especially in the initial statement of the main theme in "Main Title - Young Peter."

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Average: 3.88 Stars
***** 435 5 Stars
**** 298 4 Stars
*** 133 3 Stars
** 109 2 Stars
* 68 1 Stars
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Hero Horner
ShinjiGumballKodai - May 8, 2017, at 4:10 p.m.
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Mitchell Kyler Martin - December 31, 2015, at 1:16 p.m.
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Alternate Review at Best Original Scores
orion_mk3 - June 21, 2014, at 3:43 p.m.
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Is Horner intellectual?
Hyun21K - July 17, 2012, at 9:16 a.m.
1 comment  (2386 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 76:53
• 1. Main Title - Young Peter (4:55)
• 2. Becoming Spider-Man (4:16)
• 3. Playing Basketball (1:22)
• 4. Hunting for Information (2:07)
• 5. The Briefcase (3:14)
• 6. The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway (3:20)
• 7. Secrets (2:30)
• 8. The Equation (4:22)
• 9. The Ganali Device (2:28)
• 10. Ben's Death (5:41)
• 11. Metamorphosis (3:04)
• 12. Rooftop Kiss (2:34)
• 13. The Bridge (5:15)
• 14. Peter's Suspicions (3:01)
• 15. Making a Silk Trap (2:52)
• 16. Lizard at School! (2:57)
• 17. Saving New York (7:52)
• 18. Oscorp Tower (3:22)
• 19. I Can't See You Anymore (6:50)
• 20. Promises - Spider-Man End Titles (4:53)

Notes Icon
The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. It contains no actual photography from the film, either.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Amazing Spider-Man are Copyright © 2012, Sony Classical and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/14/12 (and not updated significantly since).
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