Hans Zimmer’s latest super-heroic offering, coming off the back of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight trilogy, is a soundtrack that reflects the quality of its film counter-part; a loud, somewhat tonally muddled affair, but one that offers many a moment of pleasure.
The album has plenty of promise going in to it. A new Zimmer score is always something to get excited about, but this time around he has assembled his own super-team, The Magnificent Six. The team includes David A. Stewart, Michael Einzinger, ex-Smith guitarist Johnny Marr, and that happy chappy Pharrell Williams, making it somewhat of an essential listen.
The album opens in bombastic action fashion with one of the best tracks of the album, ‘Cold War’. A mixture of a number of the main themes, Zimmer has great fun jumping back and forth from booming brass to plucky electric guitar, before moving into a synthesised sound that gives the track an 80’s action movie vibe. It’s also the first time that we hear the gloriously triumphant trumpet fanfare that’s attributed to the titular hero. The track kicks off Zimmer’s work with the type of panache we have come to expect from the German maestro.
The problem with the score is the theme it attributes to the character of Electro. As one would assume, it’s largely made up of distorted sounds, dub-step which seem designed to only alienate the listener/viewer. That is accentuated by a bizarre chant that doesn’t pay-off in quite the effect I assume both Zimmer and director Marc Webb were hoping for. It’s not a joy to listen to, and feels tonally awkward with the rest of the music on offer, particularly when driven by a clarinet melody that’s out of whack in relation to the character and the tone of the picture.
The score is much stronger in regards to themes it attributes to other characters. The aforementioned fanfare for Spidey, present to great effect in the tracks ‘I’m Spider-Man’ and ‘You’re That Spider Guy’ is strong and adds a nice sense of musical continuity following James Horner’s similarly trumpet driven theme from the first installment.
A loud, somewhat tonally muddled affair, but one that offers many a moment of pleasure
‘Harry’s Suite’ is laced with sinister menace, with long synthesised notes layered with the tragic tones that only a string section can conjure. It provides the character with a sense of a creeping burgeoning darkness beneath what is a tragic surface.
The menace established is unleashed with urgent other-worldly violins and booming cellos in Harry’s second theme, ‘I’m Goblin’. A suitably dark and threatening piece of both classical and experimental orchestration that proves to be much more successful than the themes attributed to Electro.
The themes tailored to the relationship of Peter and Gwen sway on both a piano instrumental of the main fanfare (‘Ground Rules’), demonstrating Zimmer’s compositional versatility. The main composition for the romantic pairing is a touching, goosebump-inducing melody (‘I’m Moving to England’), which aids the sense of genuine affection felt between the two characters.
Along with the score, there is a selection of original songs both inspired by the film and featured within it. ‘It’s On Again’ by Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar, which accompanies you as you leave the cinema and the credits start to roll, is an easy listen and bears the most similarity to Zimmer’s score. While other tracks simply fill out the blockbuster pop song quota, Pharrell William’s ‘Here’ and Phosphorescent’s ‘Song for Zula’ prove to be welcome additions.
Much of this soundtrack works and helps convey the films’ Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe, for better and for worse. It’s weird, energetic, yet prone to slipping into blockbuster soundtrack convention, making for a mixed listening experience. There’s joy to be had though, Zimmer displaying once again why he’s the most in demand composer working in Hollywood today.
*Author’s Note: The soundtrack used for this review was the Deluxe Edition, which contains 31 tracks.