The scoring of Spider-Man 2 was surrounded by some controversy - Danny Elfman was hired to score the picture and completed a full score for the film, but somewhere during post-production it was decided that some of Elfman’s pieces did not fit, and John Debney and Christopher Young was brought in to rescore some scenes. On album though, it is Danny Elfman’s score we get, even for the rescored scenes, and while it does not really feel as inspired as the first Spider-Man score, this is still a great, exciting score with well-done thematic work and rousing orchestrations. Much like the first score, actually.
It all begins with the now familiar Spider-Man main title cue, but now in a slightly altered orchestration, among other things incorporating a choir. The main title also introduces the new villain theme, for Doc Ock. This theme is nice enough and captures the harshness of the Doc Ock character very well. The multitude of themes introduced in the first film is richly featured in the sequel as well - the Spider-Man theme, the love theme and the responsibility theme as well as the Green Goblin theme all gets notable presentations in the score. And in addition, there is also a very good secondary motif for Doc Ock presented in “The Bank/Saving May”. This is a very mechanical, metallic, brassy motif that wonderfully presents the machine-like appearance of Doc Ock with his four robotic arms. This motif is the best new addition to the Spider-Man thematic universe, as I see it, since I find the main Doc Ock theme to actually be a little bit too similar to the Green Goblin theme. Both are connected harmonically to the Spider-Man theme, and I guess there were just not that many more possibilities to vary on that harmonic base. Green Goblin’s theme though was more sinister, often performed on strings and woodwinds, while the main Doc Ock theme has a very violent sound with heavy brass. Of the two themes for Doc Ock, the main one is the most represented in the score, but I must say that it was the secondary, mechanical motif that stayed in my memory the longest.
It is great that Elfman choose to carry so much of the thematic material with him to the second score - it gives the films a strong sense of unity which they should have, since they are so closely related as a series. More than that, he carries with him the overall style of the first score. The orchestral style is largely the same - a lot of percussion-driven music, a lot of brass and some religious-sounding choirs. Sometimes though it feels like Elfman is on automatic, like he did not put as much heart in this score as in the first. I must say that I would have liked him to add at least something entirely new to the style of the music, apart from the new themes, to add another dimension to the sequel score - just to give it the spice that would have made it rise to the same heights as the original. But as the listening experience is concerned, Spider-Man 2 is overall a similarly entertaining score as Spider-Man. Most of the score contains the same beautiful and powerful thematic use Elfman displayed in the first score; and mostly, the action music is very exciting and thematically driven, as in the album highlights “Train/Appreciation” and “Armageddon/A Really Big Web!”. These tracks also include some of the softer thematic moments, especially the romantic conclusion of the latter track, with sweeping strings and choir. This leads into a sinister cue where the Green Goblin theme is revisited, before the quite magnificent finale of “At Long Last, Love”, a finale that even rivals that of the first score in terms of power and emotion.
In the end, Spider-Man 2 is essentially more of Spider-Man. Not much is added that was not in the first score, except the new thematic material. Thanks to the fact that this new material is good (especially the secondary Doc Ock motif) it stays interesting throughout, and the recognition of familiar themes is nice, very nice even, and grounds the feeling of this score being a part of a bigger whole. It is not necessarily bad just because it was similarly done before – especially not when it is a sequel that follows the first film closely as a part of a longer series. Spider-Man 2 is a good, sometimes even great score, but one that sometimes lacks the inspiration that made the first one such a wonderful score. But the thematic work is still great, both in the action music and the more calm moments (“M.J.’s New Life/Spidus Interruptus”, “Aunt May Packs”). It is mainly when faced with the comparison with the fantastic first score, a comparison that all sequel scores inevitably must face, that this score fails somewhat. But if you liked the first score, you should definitely get this one as well. If you didn’t like the first score, well, don’t expect this one to break any new horizons.