Wednesday, August 11, 2004

REVIEW: Spider-man 2 (Danny Elfman)

Spider-man 2, as a film and as a score, has managed to top it's amazing original. However, while scoring Spider-man 2, Danny Elfman seems to have gotten shafted. It is quite clear that director Sam Raimi wanted Danny to adhere closely to the temp track, as evidenced by many similarities between tracks and many omissions and edits to Danny's score for the film.

Because of this, Danny Elfman didn't make any grand, sweeping changes while scoring Spider-man 2. Instead, he seemed to take what worked best from the first score and tweak it, making the recently released score album especially pleasant. I believe that, due to the improvements, Spider-man 2 is a vast improvement on its predecessor. The heroic bits, especially in "M.J.'s New Life/Spidus Interruptus," "Train/Appreciation," and the end of "At Long Last, Love" soar to new heights, and the tender moments in tracks such as "Aunt May Packs" and "Armageddon/A Really Big Web" are infinitely more touching than the former score. In addition to these sequences, there are brand new motifs (I hesitate to say themes) for the series' newest villain, Doctor Octopus. I don't believe Doc Ock's music fits him quite as well as the Green Goblin's theme (which makes a wonderful, very disturbing appearance here) fit its villain. In fact, the Doc Ock motifs actually remind me a bit of the Penguin's theme from Batman Returns, but it's not terrible and is not distracting in the grand scheme of things. Overall, this album is probably the best listening experience we've had from Danny Elfman since 1999's Sleepy Hollow.

Unfortunately, the score does not translate well in the film, due in part to the filmmakers' tracking of music not written for the various scenes. I haven't seen this level of musical hacking and cutting outside of George Lucas's Star Wars prequels. In the film, instead of using Danny's excellent new material (or, as it may be, his slightly tweaked recordings), the film is littered with cues reused from the first Spider-man score, and entire cues were dropped. Two of the best cues on the album are "Aunt May Packs," a delicate and moving bit of score that was dropped completely from the film, and "Train/Appreciation," which was replaced in the final cut. "Aunt May Packs" begins with the slow strum of an acoustic guitar, with slowly building strings behind it. "Train/Appreciation" involves an improved version of the "Revenge" track from the original Spider-man score followed by what may be Danny's best action writing since 1989's Batman. The track concludes with choirs mourning the supposed "death" of our hero along with the people he just saved (and the viewers of the film). This hauntingly beautiful music would have suited the film better than what eventually ended up in the film.

The inclusion of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" is a baffling choice on this album. It definitely doesn't fit the mood on the album, and was used as a gag in the film. Thankfully, it was not placed chronologically. It is easily omitted at the end of the album.

With the treatment of his excellent score in the film, I would understand if Danny were uninterested in scoring the third Spider-man film. It's a massive insult to a composer to hack up their carefully composed work and place it where it doesn't belong. The score is wonderful, but in the film it is nothing short of distracting.

Score rating: **
CD rating: ****

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