James Horner? Who's that? For many, many years before my interest in film scores was spurred, I've been a huge fan of Horner's work. This iconic and legendary composer elevated great movies into masterworks of visual, aural, and downright visceral experiences, and continues to do so to this day. From Project X to Batteries Not Included, Aliens to Krull, and most notably Wrath of Khan to The Search For Spock (Star Trek II and III, respectively), Horner's music has grabbed my soul and never let go. Few composers can drive grown men to tears, and Braveheart in particular is absolutely unforgettable in that respect. Well, with The Amazing Spider-Man, Horner continues his irrefutable streak as one of the best film composers of all time, and delivers an eccentric, enigmatic, and truly awesome score.
I haven't heard any of Danny Elfman's scores for the previous iteration of the Spider-Man films, but I was coincidentally struck at how similar opening track "Main Title - Young Peter" is to Elfman's work on Edward Scissorhands; the onset of the album yields twinkling piano notes, accentuated by light electronics and most notably female choral-style vocals. As the next several tracks progress, the music shifts to and fro between triumphant and grandiose numbers (reminiscent of Tyler Bates' Watchmen and John Ottman's X2: X-Men United) and engaging yet soft sequences (reminding of John Williams' work on the first three Harry Potter scores). Horner's score, while initially generating a subdued, delicately beautiful, and mysterious vibe, also includes tiny forays into ethnic and tribal-type sounds, eerily capturing moments a la James Newton Howard's Signs and Blood Diamond all wrapped into one. Once the thirteenth track, "The Bridge," kicks in, Horner's surging and empathetic work on Apollo 13 becomes apparent, before "Making a Silk Trap" reintroduces the female chorus and ever-so-slight electronics and then powerfully combines all the elements of the score thus far and funnels into "Lizard At School!" and changes the pace completely. On that track and the next two, I'm greeted by a thrilling entrance into the non-stop excitement and chilling zenith leading up to the closing of the album. The second-to-last song, "I Can't See You Anymore," is where Horner really shines, with wavering strings snapping into a piano tune of heartbreaking beauty that brings to mind Mark Isham's delicate work on Life As A House. The final track, "Promises - Spider-Man End Titles," then begins with soulful piano that dredges up the score's theme and closes the album with casual aplomb.
Admittedly, I haven't seen The Amazing Spider-Man film yet, but given the strength of Horner's score, I'm very excited to see how it's applied in various scenes and how its weight will carry the current movie and undoubtedly others to come. Rest assured, Horner's created a near-perfect score here, emotionally arresting and thrilling and uplifting all the while, indeed one of the best scores thus far in 2012 next to Marc Streitenfeld's brilliant work on Prometheus and The Grey. This score is highly recommended to all fans "superhero movies," Horner's legacy works, and film score fans everywhere. Fantastic!