Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Score Review

The Amazing Spider-Man
2
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Check it out... if you enjoy Zimmer's style in general, yet want to see him exploring different techniques and sounds to that of which he has never touched before, all executed sublimely.

Skip it... if your love for James Horner's 2012 score is too great to be bested by a more synthetic and energetic effort for the Spider-Man character.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Undoubtedly, the hottest composer in Hollywood right now is the great Hans Zimmer; for some, a revolutionary who creates dazzling music, and has been paving the way for the next generation of brilliant composers, whilst for others, a boring, uninspired and repetitive man who is only paving the way for lackluster wannabes, who try to recreate the success and formula that Zimmer implements in his work. It's not with many composers that I can say I can understand both sides of the argument. I personally believe in the former suggestion, and consider him a strong, inventive man who is perfect in heralding in the age of the inevitable electronic scores. And whilst you may argue that orchestral scores will still be in high demand, and will continue to be popular among score fanatics like myself, and most likely yourself, you can't deny the fact that the synthetic approach to film music nowadays is only going to grow more intoxicating and broad, encompassing a vast majority of the scores we see year after year. I think we can expect this rapid expansion and development to occur and complete within the next few decades, which is a sad number of years for a good portion of the scoring community. Nonetheless, abusing and denying the inevitable isn't going to change anything, so I've set my mind to appreciating what is coming our way. Introduce Hans Zimmer, a man whose pushing the synthetic appeal to film, television and video game scoring. This man is the face of film music in this day and age, and I do quite enjoy the vast majority of his work; I do have to admit that he has done some tremendously bad scores, including one of my most detested scores of all time, that being Black Hawk Down, an electronic, groaning piece of crap, as well as less than appetizing efforts including the much acclaimed Inception, Batman Begins, and even his score for Sherlock Holmes. Nonetheless, Zimmer has established himself as one of my favourite of composers, and his upcoming projects are always on the top of the scoring calender for myself. Zimmer has already had two releases this year, the first of which was Winter's Tale, a beautiful, but less than fantastic score, as well as his television-to-film adaption, that being Son of God; I didn't enjoy the television version, The Bible, so I didn't even bother checking this one out. Now, though, one of my more anticipated Zimmer scores of the year, as well as most anticipated in general, is his sequel to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, composed by James Horner. 

Many herald James Horner's score as one of the best superhero scores of the past few years, or in general. I can understand where this opinion draws from, especially when you compare the score as a whole to the rest of the superhero film score catalog. You'll find The Amazing Spider-Man as something different to all the rest; calm, emotional, and with a fleshed out love theme. The Spider-Man theme is also explored much deeper and with more complexity than any other theme in all of the superhero genre. It's a credit to James Horner that he could create such an original and inspired score. I still have never finished the score though, unfortunately; it's never caught me in it's web, and entranced me enough to keep me holding on for the ride. For reasons unbeknownst to myself, James Horner has departed for the sequel, and who better than Hans Zimmer to replace him; a man who, in my case at least, has provided two franchises with some brilliant material, both in the case of The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel. Whilst heavily loathed by the majority of the collective scoring community and fan base, a good amount of people, including myself, enjoyed his takes on both these superhero franchises, and his simplistic, often synthetic approach to themes and main motifs. So his taking of the mantle for the Spider-Man franchise not only seemed somewhat inevitable, but much more in taste with what Zimmer has been providing for superhero films for the past near 10 years. When taking interviews and giving statements on what he was providing and working on for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Zimmer often provided us with the information that he was attempting a more energetic score than what he provided for Superman and Batman, and that he was looking at the dubstep genre for inspiration; he wanted to create music that fit the young character of Peter Parker, who is still not out of high school yet. He wanted to create music which a character of that age would listen to, the kind of music that is very hip and now. Zimmer's exploration into dubstep is a noticeable and interesting concept, but what had the internet talking was more Zimmer's collaborators; he had assembled a team of incredible musicians, whom he dubbed The Magnificent Six. This team included Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Michael Einziger, Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski, and Steve Mazzaroritten, all incredibly talented musicians. With his musical team assembled, his ideas in focus, and his soundboard at the ready, Zimmer took to writing an original and complex album which I appreciate greatly.

Some listeners will call for Zimmer's head, after his disassembling and near replacing the entirety of Horner's album, but I feel like that's what the entire project required, and no matter the complaints, the album is still damn awesome. With multiple new themes that all stand out on their own as strong and impressive, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 moves past the shadow of it's predecessor, and stands strong as it's own individual installment into this franchise, no matter how well you viewed Horner's effort. What Zimmer stated in interviews and meetings was indeed true; he has established an energetic, exciting and youth-styled score, that very much reflects the atmosphere I expect from the film. If you disapproved of Man of Steel or The Dark Knight trilogy and what Zimmer instilled in those scores, than I recommend you take a look into what we have here; it may just swing you on Zimmer as a composer. If it was the slow, brooding mood of Zimmer's previous ventures into the genre, then have no fear, as we have more pace to be found, and a lot more upbeat themes and tone in general. Don't be mistaken, we do have our dark, gloomy moments, filled with heavy electronic material, but for the vast majority of the score, excitement and pace levels are at a maximum, and the score often doesn't slow down for extended periods of time. Was it the lackluster themes about the former scores that turned you off from the projects; The Dark Knight trilogy with it's 2 note progression, leading to a single 1 note highlight, and Man of Steel's multiple themes, all with separate progressions, all of which replicated a slow and distant pace. Well, have no fear, my friends, as rapid and quick progressions pay off in shorter forms than what we received in those prior scores, all with greater effect. On a purely thematic level, I can certainly commend Zimmer's efforts here, as all the themes showcased are incredibly fleshed out, and all interesting. Spider-Man's theme is an almost newsreel sounding melody, that carries the hope and uplifting tone that Spider-Man requires. Electro's showcase of a piece, My Enemy, is the easy stand out on the card, and has his theme included; multiple 4 note progressions, before an outstanding dubstep climax, highlighted by an electric guitar. The electric guitar riffs really work well with the overall dubsteppish tone of the rest of the score, so it's inclusion is welcome and appreciated. The love theme, introduced in the piece You Need Me, highlighted by a soft spoken piano and an intelligent electric guitar melody, is actually quite sweet and contemporary, which is a huge contrast to the dubstep introduced heavily in Electro's theme. That's what a lot of this score is; contrast between various themes, and even themes making their presence known in character specific pieces, which are representing different thematic material. The Spider-Man theme popping up as a contrast to a villain theme in one of their individual, sole pieces makes for an interesting battle of styles. The Goblin theme is one of more peril and suspense than the priors that I've already mentioned, and has Zimmer exploring with a range of instruments and sounds, such as sirens, synthetic percussion, and some small use of brass. It's one of my favourite themes in the entire score, surprisingly, and makes for a damn near perfect 4 minute piece. What I'm trying to summarise, basically, is that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a score fit with strong thematic material, that may exceed your expectations from a Zimmer score; they certainly did mine. 

A wide array of instrumentation is used within The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that will surprise the majority of the listening audience. Zimmer's use of woodwind will certainly come as a surprise, especially his unexpected use of the oboe during My Enemy, and hopefully a pleasantry, as was the case with me. Again, the contrast between the contemporary orchestral music, and the electronic and synthetic is such a brilliant thing to behold, and something not so commonly seen in a Zimmer score. And it truly feels like a full orchestra performing here, not individual parts, like in Man of Steel and The Dark Knight trilogy. Whilst I enjoyed the individual aspects coming together in those scores, it's certainly refreshing to see the entire orchestra coming together to perform as a whole. Zimmer's also managed to improve his skill of seemingly drifting in and out of contemporary music, to arrive at the more synthetic material. It could often feel clunky in previous scores, but here, he manages to weave both aspects in and out of each other in perfect harmony and time. It makes for a much better flowing score than what could have been, which leads towards a better listening experience. I've come across those who dislike the score for one reason, and one reason only, the dubstep aspect. For some, it will be utterly impossible to move past that approach that Zimmer has taken to implementing in heavy hand, and understandably so. I myself am not a huge fan of dubstep; I despise "musicians" like Skrillex and Flux Pavilion (although, I do enjoy his song I Can't Stop!), and would rather listen to the entirety of the Battlefield 3 album than listen to an entire dubstep album. Despite this fact, though, Zimmer does use the musical concept to it's best effect, certainly better than we've ever seen in a film scoring context. I do think before you turn this score off, give it an opportunity to show you what it can do; you may very well be surprised with the results. 

There are some very short pieces, which aren't remarkable in most of a sense of the word, and for these, I do have to downgrade the score for the album, unfortunately. It's not as if they're necessarily poorly composed; it's just their effect on me is substantially less so than other pieces involved in this score. Cues like Let Her Go, and Ground Rules are much too short to really appreciate, and don't add anything to the overall score. Just a small, but noticeable negative on the account of the score as a whole. Whilst I'm on the subject of rating, I think it best to talk about exactly what I'm rating. I'm only rating what Zimmer and his group The Magnificent Six have concocted, not the additional tracks on the Deluxe album, which you can in fact find on streaming sites such as Spotify. Tracks on this Deluxe album include Pharrell Williams' Here, a very lackluster and boring song, Alicia Keys' It's On Again, with the only highlight being that of Kendrick Lamar's verse, of course, among various other tracks from artists including The Neighbourhood, Liz and Phosphorescent. These tracks aren't anything of real importance, so I can't recommend buying this Deluxe album for their sake; only for Zimmer's promos. Zimmer has done an entire 12 minute long thematic piece for Electro, as well as a 10 minute long Goblin track, all released on the Deluxe album. These cues alone deserves your attention and money; both are exemplary pieces, that I wish I could nominate for Best Piece at the end of the year. Alas, I can't, seeing as they're primarily for promotional features. Nonetheless, my rating of this album shall include the Deluxe tracks, but only the orchestral cues credited with efforts from Zimmer, The Magnificent Six, and Alvin Risk, who worked on the Electro Remix at the end of the album, which isn't that pleasant to be honest. Talking about these tracks only, this score excels on numerous levels; thematically, tone-wise, and on a compositional level. This is some of Zimmer's most exciting and well produced music in the past few years; whilst not as memorable overall as Man of Steel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a marvel of various experimental techniques that deserve critical acclaim. Find this one, listen to it, enjoy it. You can purchase The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Amazon here.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Highlights:
CD1
1. I'm Electro
2. There He Is
3. I'm Spider-Man*
4. My Enemy*
6. Look At Me
7. Special Project
8. You Need Me*
10. I'm Moving To England
11. I'm Goblin
12. Let Her Go
13. You're My Boy
14. I Need To Know
16. I Chose You
17. We're Best Friends
18. Still Crazy
19. The Rest Of My Life
20. You're That Spider Guy*
CD2
1. Electro Suite*
2. Harry's Suite
3. Cold War
4. No Place Like Home


Junkie Score: 93.98
Buy or Stream? Buy

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