Concerning spoilers: I avoided mentioning story plots in this review, but I have to address some concepts which you may not want to know.
Many different Marvel superhero movies have come out over the last twenty years: distinct movies for different heroes, and the most high-profile heroes have received many sequels. For most of these movies, different composers were hired and naturally they have created their own themes. Some superheroes have even seen several reboots, with different stories and actors, which is the case for the Spider-Man movies. I have fond memories of Spider-Man (2002), with a fantastic score written by Danny Elfman. He also wrote the music for the sequel Spider-Man 2 (2004). The two movies were part of a trilogy, and also a perfect example of a sequel getting music from a different composer: The music for Spider-Man 3 (2007) was composed by Christopher Young. In 2012 a reboot happened with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), with music written by James Horner. Horner did not return to the franchise for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) since that assignment was given to Hans Zimmer and ‘The Magnificent Six’.
With the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, another reboot happened, starting with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). After the sequel, Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), we have arrived at the latest Spider-Man movie in the franchise: Spider-Man: No Way Home. For the last three movies, there has not been a composer change, with Michael Giacchino having written the music for all three of them. You may be wondering why I am telling you all these trivia about the Spider-Man movies, and the reason is that I need to. Otherwise, I would not be able to tell you in this review how magnificent the score for No Way Home is.
First I want to talk about the themes Giacchino has created for this movie. We can, of course, enjoy the themes that Giacchino has created for the two previous movies. The main theme for Spider-Man is very light-hearted, perfect for the story about the superhero who is still a teen and is having adventures with his classmates. The theme can be heard for the first time in “Damage Control,” in which you can also find the Mysterio theme from Far From Home. The theme for MJ also makes its return. As far as I can tell, it only returns once in the track “Being a Spider Bites.”
For the first half of the album, the majority of the music has the same light-heartedness as its two predecessors, by integrating the familiar themes into the music, together with other themes I will be discussing later in this review. The mood becomes much darker in the second half. It is emotional and desperate, as can be heard in “Exit Through the Lobby,” in which Giacchino introduces the most important theme. The gorgeous melody, which is performed on a piano first before the orchestra joins in, reflects the consequences and the responsibility of being a hero, and signals that the high school days are over. From this point on this responsibility theme can be heard a couple of times. In “A Doom With a View,” for example, the theme brilliantly transitions into an emotional cello solo of the main theme’s melody. In “Forget Me Knots” the theme receives the full orchestra and choir treatment as a wonderful finale, in which it is merged with the main theme, to represent the new and matured Spider-Man.
I have alluded to there being more themes, which is not a surprise since the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quite big with many other characters and stories. Some of these concepts have made their way into No Way Home and one of the characters is the hero Doctor Strange. Since Giacchino has also scored the Doctor Strange movie, the theme for Doctor Strange can be heard at some instances in the score. One of my highlights is the switching between the Doctor Strange and Spider-Man themes in “Sling vs Bling.”
At the time of this writing, the new Doctor Strange movie is about to be released with music written by Danny Elfman, and not by Giacchino. I am quite curious what kind of music Elfman has written and if he has included some of Giacchino’s themes. What I do know though is that it has happened the other way around for No Way Home. If you have seen the trailer of No Way Home, you should be aware of the introduction of the Multiverse, which is an important concept in the Spider-Man stories. The idea behind the Multiverse is that there are many alternate realities with different spider heroes and villains. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they took this concept to link the older Spider-Man movies, which I have mentioned in my introduction, to No Way Home, and this also includes their music.
Most of the ‘foreign’ themes are from Danny Elfman. In “Otto Trouble” you can hear the Octavius Theme from Spider-Man 2 integrated into Giacchino’s thematic ideas. Also, the Goblin theme from Spider-Man is to be found on the score. You can find it, for example, in “Strange Bedfellows.” Other villain themes can be heard in the movie as well, but they are not present on the album. Zimmer’s Electro theme was very recognizable, and I do think I have heard Christopher Young’s Sandman theme as well. In addition to villainous themes, there are also hints of other Spider-Man themes. In “Shield of Pain” you can not only find the gorgeous theme from James Horner’s The Amazing Spider-Man, but Elfman’s Responsibility theme from Spider-Man is present as well. The use of all of these themes is perfect for the scenes in the movie, and it shows respect to the music of the other composers. If you are a fan of the other Spider-Man scores, you were probably grinning like a mad man while watching the movie – just as I did.
The music for No Way Home is terrific from start to end. Not only have all the reused themes – Giacchino’s own and from others – been perfectly integrated into the score, the transition from a high school kid to a grownup with a lot of emotional baggage can be heard very clearly as well. If you are curious about this score and want a quick introduction, Giacchino always creates a suite with many of the themes and on this album that is the track “Arachnoverture”. If you are wondering if the suite is any good: It just won the IFMCA Award for Best Musical Composition, which perfectly reflects the quality of the rest of the score.
Listen or buy
The highlights are in bold.
- Intro to Fake News (1:11)
- World’s Worst Friendly Neighbor (0:51)
- Damage Control (2:17)
- Being a Spider Bites (1:05)
- Gone in a Flash (1:52)
- All Spell Breaks Loose (3:25)
- Otto Trouble (4:19)
- Ghost Fighter in the Sky / Beach Blanket Bro Down (2:47)
- Strange Bedfellows (1:45)
- Sling vs Bling (5:00)
- Octo Gone (3:34)
- No Good Deed (5:00)
- Exit Through the Lobby (4:15)
- A Doom With a View (2:00)
- Spider Baiting (1:35)
- Liberty Parlance (1:28)
- Monster Smash (1:21)
- Arc Reactor (2:57)
- Shield of Pain (4:51)
- Goblin His Inner Demons (3:54)
- Forget Me Knots (6:49)
- Peter Parker Picked a Perilously Precarious Profession (1:31)
- Arachnoverture (10:06)
Total length: 1 hour and 14 minutes
Sony Classical (2021)