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The Amazing Spider-Man
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
James Horner

Co-Orchestrated by:
J.A.C. Redford
Jon Kull
Steve Bernstein
Peter Boyer
Carl Johnson
Randy Kerber

Co-Produced by:
Simon Rhodes

Solo Vocal Performances by:
Dhafer Youssef
Lisbeth Scott
Luca Lupino-Franglen

Sony Classical

Release Date:
July 3rd, 2012

Also See:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2
The Rocketeer
The New World

Audio Clips:
1. Main Title - Young Peter (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

15. Making a Silk Trap (0:30):
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Real Audio (179K)

17. Saving New York (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. I Can't See You Anymore (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


The Amazing Spider-Man
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Buy it... if you have lost patience with the post-2000 method of scoring action blockbuster movies with all brawn and no nuance, James Horner dusting off his techniques of the 1990's to remind audiences that superhero scores can still be organically dynamic and dramatically intimate.

Avoid it... if you have little tolerance for the enduring trademarks of Horner's career, for he revises the style of his established sound for this occasion without ever really abandoning his comfort zone.

The Amazing Spider-Man: (James Horner) What do you do when one of your star movie franchises stalls because of creative differences that leave its respected director and crew dissatisfied? Reboot! Despite the success of Sam Raimi's trilogy of Spider-Man films that debuted from 2002 to 2007, disappointing scripts left the production of Spider-Man 4 in limbo, and when Raimi refused to sacrifice the integrity of the concept by rushing the fourth film to production by 2011, Sony Pictures pulled the plug and immediately shifted its focus onto a hasty reimagining of the franchise. Many of the ideas explored for Spider-Man 4 (and the two additional Raimi sequels planned after that) were transferred to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, including the use of the Lizard as the film's villain. The origin story of Peter Parker is shifted to a period earlier in his life and concentrates on the role of his parents in his destiny, though there are numerous redundancies in the other plot points when comparing the reboot to the original 2002 film in the franchise. While collective groans initially greeted the news of production on The Amazing Spider-Man, the film was ultimately praised for its own strengths and earned significant profits in line with the Raimi endeavors. Some critics even placed the 2012 entry as superior to the heralded Spider-Man 2 of 2004. Regardless of how redundant this reboot may be (in its own universe and amongst the endless reboots of other franchises), the project at least gave the Spider-Man franchise another opportunity to consolidate its musical identity. Danny Elfman had conjured a very effective and entertaining score for the original Spider-Man and his themes endured in the Raimi trilogy despite an extremely messy composing situation that saw Christopher Young, John Debney, and others contribute to the franchise. Young's involvement, starting bizarrely with his reprise of Hellraiser music in Spider-Man 2, eventually solidified into a surprisingly good score for Spider-Man 3 that remains a fan-favorite long unreleased on album. Still, Elfman's memorable title theme for the titular character accurately expresses his high-flying capabilities in its structures and instrumentation, and it's difficult to completely jettison that identity for the reboot.

The very brief filmography of new director Marc Webb led to much speculation about who would compose the music for The Amazing Spider-Man, some of which implicating Mychael Danna as an interesting possibility for the assignment. When James Horner became attached to the project, however, there was a range of responses from head-scratching curiosity to a "too good to be true" sense of excitement. The composer had not tackled the genre of comic book-related heroism since The Rocketeer in 1991 and had seemingly divested himself from the blockbuster scene (aside from Avatar) over the course of the 2000's in an effort to seek more obscure assignments that pique his artistic sensibilities. Although the spirit of his fabulous scores in the franchise of The Mask of Zorro are an exception, you have rarely heard Horner explode with heroic superhero music of enthusiastic and extroverted emotional expression since the days of Willow and The Rocketeer. Did he still have that side of rambunctious fun in his repertoire? Futhermore, would that sound even be acceptable to studio and test audience ears in an era of melodramatic droning for troubled superheroes as defined by Hans Zimmer and his clone production factory? How much would Horner have to adapt his instrumentation and structures to even be relevant in this age of darker superhero scores? Fortunately, he seems to have taken the same approach to the evolving genre that Patrick Doyle chose for Thor in 2011, refusing to abandon his stylistic comfort zone but extending his capabilities into a more modern instrumental environment. For better or for worse, there are few moments in his score for The Amazing Spider-Man that do not remind of his established sound. You encounter a significant dose of his 1990's mannerisms, in fact, saturating his chord progressions, instrumental and vocal tones, and singular techniques. Thankfully, his most tired and obnoxious trademarks, including the venerable but ridiculed "four-note danger motif," are absent, the composer tending toward reprising ideas from his lesser known dramatic scores instead. Webb stated, "I wanted him to create a score that felt massive and huge but also intimate and small," and the composer obliged with a work that is heroic when necessary but unexpectedly dramatic in is character-centric passages.

Horner's approach to The Amazing Spider-Man, regardless of the tools he uses to accomplish his goals, is remarkably intelligent. He applies a very wide range of those building blocks to enhance a thematic narrative that is more complex than necessary for this context. His major themes have intellectually appropriate variations that transform into their own somewhat autonomous entities in consistent fashion. The coloration of these ideas remains identifiable throughout the score, foreshadowing and reminding of events where applicable and supplementing the structures with individual usage of voice or instrument that can alone suggest a connection without the need of a larger motif. The base for this endeavor is similar to Elfman's, featuring a full orchestra with choral and electronic accompaniment. The piano is clearly the heart of the score, following Parker's relationships in their tender and mysterious turns. For a film about a family's cloudy but loving past, the instrument seems logical, though Horner's tendency to prefer his own performances of the piano in a leading role for such situations is awfully convenient as well. The most interesting observation to make about this music is the de-emphasis of the lower strings; the celli and basses do not chop in the ostinatos so prevalent in this generation and are never even tasked with affording the mix a heavy melodramatic presence. Rather, you hear Horner revisit the playful tuba solos of his late 1980's and early 1990's scores in several cues ("Playing Basketball" and "The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway") and light, tingling metallic percussion from Avatar in "Metamorphosis." The composer's usual rumbling chords of ensemble broadness on measure to denote gravity are present but restrained. The only nod to modern orchestral usage for blockbuster action that becomes obvious in the work is the slapping percussion in "Saving New York," which emulates Doyle's Thor in some ways. Uniquely notable instrumental techniques in The Amazing Spider-Man include finger-snapping for comedic effect in "Playing Basketball," moderated shakuhachi flute as a tool of quietly descending wails ("The Equation" and "Peter's Suspicions") that avoid the puffing or shrieking of other Horner scores, and atonal solo piano strikes in middle of "Saving New York" that resurrect David Shire suspense of the 1970's. If you seek a few minutes of prototypically pure Horner innocence from the era of The Spitfire Grill, look no further than "The Ganali Device."

The use of vocal talent in The Amazing Spider-Man ranges significantly in effectiveness. Rather than rely upon the dynamic scope of a lively adult choir in the methodology of Elfman, Horner is content to revisit his child-like and processed ensemble applications most famously heard in Titanic, even down to the same puffing techniques in "Saving New York." This synthetic-sounding accompaniment is the most grating aspect of Horner's stock usage here; the better enunciated and more mature tone of the voices in Willow would have been better welcomed. Conversely, the composer's mix of solo voices is much more entertaining musically even if they don't always make sense. Horner reunites with Dhafer Youssef from Black Gold for a Middle-Eastern hint in the identity of the Lizard, a striking choice in terms of foreign-sounding alienation but one that has nothing ethnically related with the plot. More warranted is the use of English boy soprano Luca Lupino-Franglen, plucked from a Christian chorister school to convey an important connection between "Main Title - Young Peter" and "Saving New York." Film score veteran Lisbeth Scott, with whom Horner had collaborated for Avatar, returns for a pretty, albeit intentionally haunting cameo in the middle of "The Bridge." Equally important to Horner's soundscape is his employment of electronics in ways that suggest that these contributions are meant as the bulk of his effort to bring his superhero style up to date. Ticking, pulsating effects denote movement in "Becoming Spider-Man," at times switching off with the piano in an equivalent duty. Quietly processed electronic guitar also figures later in that cue and in "Lizard at School!" For fight sequences late in "The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway" and "Ben's Death," Horner mixes in more pop-like, slapping percussion and pulses akin to James Newton Howard's recent work. The most interesting layering of electronics in the score comes in "Making a Silk Trap," which uses the foundation of organ and Blaster Beam-like sounds reprised with choir directly from the "Winter/Battle" sequence in The New World (though pounding drum hits here do keep it fresh). This cue, among others, proves that you can indeed rock the floor with resounding bass while still using harp, violins, and choir to occupy the treble with feelings of awe. Horner's mix of the electronic elements into the major ensemble cues is tastefully handled in every case, especially in the initial statement of the main theme in "Main Title - Young Peter."

Thematically, Horner provides The Amazing Spider-Man with the necessary identities to hold the score together, including some extremely impressive manipulations of his main themes for multiple uses, though he also misses a few opportunities as well. It's difficult to qualitatively compare the main theme by Horner to the equivalent by Elfman; Horner's is more structurally straight-forward that Elfman's, though neither is the kind of walloping identity that reaches out and immediately grabs you. Elfman's theme was intentionally elastic and thus somewhat elusive in the memory. Horner sticks with his preference for quickly enunciated, four-note phrases in his themes, and his heroic identity for Spider-Man here is at least a bit more malleable. Its initial four-note phrase is repackaged in innumerous ways in the score, sometimes truncated to three notes. It's an odd merging of Jerry Goldsmith's "friendship" motif from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: First Contact with Carlo Siliotto's main theme from The Punisher. Its initial performance in "Main Title - Young Peter" is a highlight of entire score, its trumpets over electronics a dynamic range of tones. In "Becoming Spider-Man," the theme receives somewhat playful treatment before a statement of string and choral grandeur at 1:29. During "Playing Basketball," Horner humorously transfers the theme to solo tuba in The Land Before Time mode. By "The Bridge" and "Lizard at School!," the idea matures into its strong action variant, and "Saving New York," "Ocsorp Tower," and "Promises - Spider-Man End Credits" all feature rousing heroic brass renditions that cement the theme's place in the franchise. Countering this melody is Horner's answer for the intimate portions of the story, his love theme. This pretty and unassuming piano identity will remind you of several early 1990's small drama scores by Horner, leading up to its fuller variants in Deep Impact and others. This quietly sensitive idea, performed often by Horner on piano without much accompaniment, dominates two cues: "Rooftop Kiss" and "I Can't See You Anymore." While the theme is technically introduced in the opening cue and is heard in short snippets throughout the score, it doesn't really congeal until "Rooftop Kiss," in which the piano is joined by solo oboe with lovely, nostalgic results. Fuller string performances exist in the lengthy "I Can't See You Anymore," bracketing gorgeous piano renditions in its middle and latter half.

Outside of Horner's two main themes is where the score becomes shrouded in mystery, because there's an extensive mix of variations and singular motifs that aren't as well defined in terms of their purpose. The Lizard's theme and its associated ethnicity is the score's greatest disappointment. The actual melody consists of a descending series of notes, often in groups of three and brutally conveyed in the bass region. You can logically hear this identity in "The Bridge," "Lizard at School!," and "Oscorp Tower," though usually as quick interludes to surrounding action. Supplementing this theme is the assignment of the Middle-Eastern vocals by Youssef to the Lizard, a completely nonsensical application unless such tones are meant to simply "sound foreign" and thus relay untrustworthiness. These vocals exist at the start of the "Main Title" and are reprised in "Peter's Suspicions" and "Making a Silk Trap," the latter a memorable electronic manipulation of the voice to make it sound like a crying animal. Horner at least once implicates the electric guitar as a possible calling card for the character's evil side, especially in his contrast to the acoustic guitar in "The Equation," but he neglects to flesh out this possible connection. More integral to the remainder of the score is Horner's seemingly intentional handling of his primary two themes to give them alternate identities of their own. The love theme is twisted into what could be called Horner's "Craig Armstrong tribute" several times during suspenseful or mysterious moments. Although there are definite threads of the love theme in this rising motif, the connections are not refined or explicit. A very slight suggestion of this motif late in "The Briefcase" is revealed as its own identity at 2:45 into "The Equation." This crescendo format really emulates the popular Armstrong technique (heard as recently as In Time) near the end of "Peter's Suspicions," even down to the combination of string melodrama, slapping percussion, and electronics. One has to wonder if Plunkett and Macleane, a staple of trailers for decades, wasn't temp-tracked into one or more of these sequences. Armstrong's languishing string preference for statements of this motif exist at the conclusions of "Saving New York" and "Promises - Spider-Man End Credits," a definite precursor of plot elements to come (perhaps as a motif to represent Parker's parents?). The use of fragments of the love theme in a few of the performances of this motif represents another dimension of potential turmoil for a character that still has plenty of discovery ahead of him.

The final recurring motif in the score is a downsizing of the main theme to most likely accompany Parker in his non-superhero endeavors. It's anchored by the first four-note phrase of the primary theme, repeated significantly as Horner shifts into his deliberately plodding "progressive flow" mechanisms that have become his general representation of "genius" going back to Sneakers and most famously earning recognition in A Beautiful Mind. This definite "Hornerism" is either a love it or hate it type of proposition, though at the very least the mechanism allows the composer to once again shift through satisfyingly pretty chord progressions and keys with fluidity on piano. The boy soprano sequence in the middle of "Main Title - Young Peter" offers a beautiful reintroduction to this usage, followed by an accelerated version to open and close "Becoming Spider-Man" (where the four-note rhythm really begins to take hold). Echoes of this motif ramble through "The Briefcase" before merging with the suspense/mystery alternative. Deep thumping and choir accompanies the motif for a minute in "The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway" (before the latter half of the cue abruptly cuts it off). The motif is transferred to acoustic guitar early in "The Equation" and, after hints in "Ben's Death," returns to the vocalizations of the initial cue in the middle of "The Bridge." As Horner channels the aforementioned cue from The New World in the first half of "Making a Silk Trap," the motif turns nasty in a cool sense through the use of pounding percussion and synthesizers under choir. The boy soprano version of the idea is reprised briefly in "Saving New York" and the motif is not heard from again. Other motifs exist in The Amazing Spider-Man, including some outstanding individual ideas. An increasingly urgent searching motif consists of ethereal ambience over quickly rising piano runs in "Hunting for Information" and "Secrets." Out of the highlight in "Secrets" builds a separate magical motif at the heart of "Metamorphosis" as well. The most unique idea in the score is the theme that occupies the entirety of "The Ganali Device," a moment of unashamed Horner tradition that builds its structures around Charlotte Church's counterpoint lines from A Beautiful Mind before launching into an exuberant variant of the brighter material from Casper. This cue will be a singular delight for veteran Horner enthusiasts and it's something a shame that its material doesn't extend into the rest of the score.

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Overall, there is much to praise about Horner's handling of The Amazing Spider-Man. Few superhero scores of the 2000's and 2010's are allowed to be so expressive and genuinely heartfelt. Horner takes the cliches of the industry and the trademarks of his own career and packages them into a refreshingly organic, character-centered score that is cool and ballsy when necessary. He, just as John Williams demonstrated in the prior year, has chosen not to compromise his principles despite movement within the industry to treat topics with more brawn than nuance. The result is a throwback sound for The Amazing Spider-Man that proves its continued viability, reminding listeners that the music produced by Horner and others in the early 1990's can still function well twenty years later. The composer's own piano performances, while not extraordinary, require some moderate acclaim as well. Some of his fans will assign this score a rating at or near their highest capability, though while the work certainly stands above what passes for blockbuster superhero music at this time (one listen to Hans Zimmer's The Dark Knight Rises will confirm this opinion for many veteran film score collectors), there are faults to The Amazing Spider-Man that place it behind its peers in Horner's own career. Regardless of the many merits of its parts, this score fails to muster the intangible feeling of greatness that prevails in the more crystal clear personalities of his prior triumphs. Detractors will continue to be bothered by the composer's reliance upon familiar phrases, most notably the two crescendos in "Becoming Spider-Man," the latter of which hails all the way back to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The theme for the villain is poorly enunciated and makes little sense. The singular motifs in between the major statements of theme don't amount to a cohesive whole. The length and constancy of the score has been criticized, and the 76-minute album will indeed tire your senses. Finally, something has to be said for scores that use their love themes as the explicit interlude sequence within a hero's theme, and Horner missed that opportunity in his end titles arrangement. All of that said, the composer deserves much admiration for this entertaining and intelligent work. Although The Amazing Spider-Man may not achieve the highest rating at Filmtracks, it's about as strong a four-star score as one can be, and nobody should be ostracized for forgiving its relatively minor faults and awarding it the highest rating possible. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.19 (in 187,899 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.76 Stars
Smart Average: 3.6 Stars*
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   Alternate Review at Best Original Scores
  orion_mk3 -- 6/21/14 (4:43 p.m.)
   Re: Horner is yesterday. Zimmer is now.
  Trevor -- 8/6/12 (11:28 a.m.)
   Jamaal is yesterday, B. Ross is now.
  kazam -- 8/2/12 (8:41 p.m.)
   Re: Horner is yesterday. Zimmer is now.
  Scorehound -- 7/28/12 (7:35 a.m.)
   Re: Horner is yesterday. Zimmer is now.
  JunYah Da 7694 -- 7/26/12 (10:18 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 76:53

• 1. Main Title - Young Peter (4:55)
• 2. Becoming Spider-Man (4:16)
• 3. Playing Basketball (1:22)
• 4. Hunting for Information (2:07)
• 5. The Briefcase (3:14)
• 6. The Spider Room - Rumble in the Subway (3:20)
• 7. Secrets (2:30)
• 8. The Equation (4:22)
• 9. The Ganali Device (2:28)
• 10. Ben's Death (5:41)
• 11. Metamorphosis (3:04)
• 12. Rooftop Kiss (2:34)
• 13. The Bridge (5:15)
• 14. Peter's Suspicions (3:01)
• 15. Making a Silk Trap (2:52)
• 16. Lizard at School! (2:57)
• 17. Saving New York (7:52)
• 18. Oscorp Tower (3:22)
• 19. I Can't See You Anymore (6:50)
• 20. Promises - Spider-Man End Titles (4:53)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. It contains no actual photography from the film, either.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Amazing Spider-Man are Copyright © 2012, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/14/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.