Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only one of the best movies of the year, it is also a strong contender for the best score of the year.
Composer Daniel Pemberton brings us one of the years standout scores, blending electronica with flavours of hiphop right alongside more classic instruments and themes to bring us a soundtrack that works perfectly within the confines of the film, but also stands proudly as a piece of music worth owning in its own right.
Before moving on, please make sure to purchase the correct version of the soundtrack as there are two. This review is of ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Original Score’ which should not be confused with ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Soundtrack From & Inspired by the Motion Picture)’ as this latter soundtrack is instead a compilation of artists such as Jaden Smith, Nicki Minaj and Thutmose to name a few.
Focusing instead on the score rather than the soundtrack, for those who purchase digitally the album is 44 tracks long. On CD it’s only 41, though the tracks that are dropped – “Gwen enters the Spider-Verse”, “The Team Leaves” and “MJ in the Restaurant” – are not a massive loss. It was a curious decision to track 1 on the CD release rather than replace it with one of these other tracks, given that track 1 is little more than noise rather than music.
Due to the sheer number of tracks, and the fact there are two different versions, rather than go through every track individually we will highlight the truly stand-out ones, and there are a lot of those, the entire album a delight to listen to from beginning to end. Well, almost from the beginning.
Please skip straight over track 1 – “Into the Spider-Verse”. This particular piece plays over the opening credits for the film and as such is little more than a harsh, jarring jumble of electronic noise when listened to in isolation. This soundtrack *really* starts at track 2 – “Only One Spider-Man” which is a gloriously triumphant, swelling piece of strings and horns with its thunderous backbone provided by the blaring horn section.
Track 3 “Visions Brooklyn 1,2,3” is an odd, jazzy little number accompanied by a soft, simple whistling that’s quite downtempo compared to the previous track before the tempo suddenly picks up and becomes harsher, electronic distortion twisting it into something more threatening.
Skipping past a couple of tracks, track 6 is “Green Goblin Fight” and from an ominous, Sergio Leone-esque opening it suddenly morphs into a glorious cacophony of shrill strings, thundering drums and those blaring horns as everything kicks off on screen. This track also features the first appearance of what will become the “hero theme” of this particular incarnation of Spider Man.
Track 7 “The Amazing Spider-Man” introduces the audience to one of the recurring themes of the soundtrack, the harsh, electronic wail of The Prowler who becomes our primary antagonist for much of the film. This musical sting returns in track 10 “Escape the Subway”, quickly being joined by a swift, uptempo beat, layering on the instruments and the threat, the Prowler’s signature theme becoming muted to suggest he’s falling behind in this chase.
Track 18 “Catch the S Train” is another upbeat, quirky electro-jazz piece with a thumping bassline and plenty of record scratching.
Skipping over another handful of tracks, the next truly stand-out piece is track 24 “Take the Computer and Run”, introducing another infamous villain from the Spider Man pantheon of bad guys. The opening few seconds bring up comparisons to tracks from the Crysis 2 soundtrack before it spins off into an another fast-paced, electronica heavy melange of instruments, building one on the other to a crescendo.
Track 27 “Kingpin Clicks” is a more thoughtful, mournful piece of minor notes and sad strings, all underlaid with the aforementioned rhythmic clicking.
Track 29 “The Prowler” sees the return of both the villain and his theme. An ominous, discordant track that mingles that electronic siren-like wail with more ominous, muted notes before exploding into a glorious flurry of strings that mingles with that harsh siren before spinning off into something much more fast paced and electronic beat heavy. If any one track could sum up an entire album, it would be this one with its meshing of styles and tempos.
Tracks 30 and 31 “Breakdown the House…” & “…and Tear off the Roof” blend smoothly into one another as more of our villains join the party and things grow increasingly more desperate. The Prowler’s now-familiar snarling electronic wail is a constantly threatening presence throughout both tracks.
Track 38 “Miles Morales Returns” is the return of not only the hero theme, but it is the final big battle scene, the chance for every character to have their moment in the sun and so we get not only Miles themes, but the others showing up as well, with the track veering off into something that wouldn’t be out of place in Looney Tunes as Spider Ham gets to show off his skills.
In the closing minutes of the soundtrack the last piece worth of particular mention is “Shoulder Touch” which is a slow building piece, not as openly bombastic as some of the others, tinged with melancholy and loss, a victory of necessity as much as anything else.
A brilliant soundtrack to accompany a brilliant movie, Daniel Pemberton has absolutely knocked this one out of the park. A recommended purchase for every movie fan without reservation or qualification. Buy it, stream it, borrow it from a friend, watch the movie ten times in a row so you can appreciate the music. You owe it to yourself to listen to this soundtrack.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Original Score is now available from Sony Music Masterworks.