With great power there must also come great SOUNDTRACKS!
Spider-Man’s Opening Themes
So it’s no secret I’m a huge Spider-Man fan.
I love the character, I love the stories, I love the comics, I’m a giant Spider-Man nerd, okay? But if there’s something I REALLY love about Spider-Man, it’s his Opening Themes.
🎵The itsy bitsy spider…🎵
There’s a reason I was HYPED when I went to watch Spider-Man Homecoming in the theatres and heard THAT THEME!
As I listened to it, my thoughts were along the lines of “YEAH! We’re gonna have some MEMORABLE music coming from a Marvel Studios movie!”
I was hoping the tunes would be memorable little things like Spider-Man the Animated Series or Spectacular Spider-Man where things are more lighthearted yet catchy to differentiate from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man, and I was HYPED for it! The great thing about Spider-Man is the range in genres Spider-Man can tell!
Unfortunately, in the end, as much as I enjoyed the movie, the music is just typical atmospherics. They get the job done, but it never gave me that feeling of “Yeah, I’ll be listening to this again and again.”
Mind you, I’m not saying that automatically makes something GOOD, heck, one of my favourite themes of Spider-Man is Spider-Man Unlimited.
Say what you want about the story and execution about Spider-Man ending up on a mirror planet that was filled with furries (you know, in hindsight this show WAS kinda weird, but I liked it), this is an AWESOME intro!
It gets all the backstories out of the way in very quick fashion and gets you PUMPED UP!
THIS pretty much carried the show for me, I was able to forgive most of it’s stuff BECAUSE I was riding the high from the intro.
But still, of the soundtracks in the movies, I will forever defend Danny Elfman’s themes of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies.
In my opinion the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie intros are AWESOME! And I am going to dissect each of the 3 openings. How they deviated from each other and what they represent of the movies that follow them.
🎵… climbed up the waterspout.🎵
Of course, let’s start with the very first one. Obviously the first thing I love about it is, of course, the music itself. That chorus theme which will always happen when Spider-Man did something epic, it always gave me that feeling of “HELL YEAH!”.
But what’s amazing about it is that it DOESN’T just go for epicness. It in fact goes through several different feelings one after another.
It starts out with Colombia Pictures and it goes for this slow string arrangement, pretty much saying “Listen closely… this is a tale…”
It’s almost like someone is telling a legend, and the fact that it REPLACES the music of Colombia Pictures instead of the normal music that would go with it, you KNOW you’re in for something awesome!
Then the drums happen, it’s like something’s approaching.
Is it something heroic?
Or is it a menace?
It builds up the tension.
And then we get the first piece of the opening, a line of… web? This is one of the things that will be consistent throughout all 3 movies, that first web, the differences being the background colour around it.
It creates consistency, yet there’s still some mystery to it.
More webs appear, well lines more like it, but this is when it gets more obvious that they ARE webs, and we get the actual title: Spider-Man, with the music reaching this height of power saying “Oh yeah, THIS is what you’re gonna be spending your next few hours watching, baby!”
Then something interesting happens… the music has this feeling of epicness… yet… it feels slightly dark. It’s like there’s more going on here. Are they implying a villain? Or… are they implying the darkness comes from the hero themselves?
But, as if the movie doesn’t want to admit it, it shifts back to being epic.
“Don’t worry about that! Continue being awesome! No need to worry!”
Next comes a relatively generic part where it’s like a little pause.
You still tap your fingers, but you’re waiting for something to happen.
“Things are going exactly as they should.”
But now, it gets more sincere. It’s still epic, but it’s saying “No, seriously, this is something we should contemplate, is it right to HAVE this power?”
And then it sounds like a giant conflict of epic proportions happened, you feel like this is the music you’d hear in an epic final fight, characters at the height of their development battling it out!
But then… it goes very somber.
What happened at the end of that conflict?
There was no clear winner… everybody lost something. Violence doesn’t solve everything, in the end there will always be loss on both sides. You can also interpret it as Peter thinking back on Uncle Ben, realizing that you can’t just ride your life on just victories. In the end you will always lose something, sometimes the person you loved most.
And then the music ends, not with the sadness, but with resolve.
“Yes, I lost many things I loved… but I also gained many things in return! There will always be people, things, situations that will beat you down, haunt you… but true strength is overcoming them! With great power there must also come great responsibility!”
It’s not just about power, it’s about LEARNING from that power, and THAT is what makes one a hero.
Alright, so that’s the first movie, that’s cool a rollercoaster of emotions, that’s very much the life of Peter Parker.
🎵Down came the rain…🎵
So how do they do this in the sequel?
Well it starts the same, with Colombia Pictures, the web (now with red background) and the title.
Consistency, I like it.
Oh… wait a minute… it suddenly goes in a painterly Comic style. And it retells the story of Spider-Man. This is a very stylish “Previously On” segment! But what’s great about it is the fact that… the music already set the tone! Now they just need to put the pictures of the movie to the right tone! That doubt of darkness? It gets represented by Harry Osborne, now full of vengeance against Peter Parker. But yet again it gets pushed aside to show Peter gaining his powers, very much like the music is doing.
“Yeah, your best friend is out to get your head, but DAMN IT! LOOK HOW AWESOME YOU ARE RIGHT NOW!”
Oh, but wait, something new happens.
The music shifts to Doctor Octopus’ theme!
Well, how about that…
Except… first time viewers wouldn’t KNOW this is Doc Ock’s theme yet.
If they even paid any particular attention to the music (like I have) then at most they’d just think “Huh, there’s something different about the music…” But that’s the beauty of it, it’s pretty much saying “This is NOT just the story of Peter Parker… this is someone else’s story too…”
What’s also great is that it takes the place of the little generic part of the first theme, so in the end nothing was truly lost. That little part is now the blank space for villains to add their part into the theme, and that’s great, it gives them a little moment to shine, even if they themselves aren’t visible in it.
Then the sincere part happens, it shows many pictures of Peter, Mary Jane and Aunt May, showing how they’re his motivation to keep on going. Which could be some harsh irony on the fact that for most of this movie Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is falling apart and Aunt May isn’t really doing well financially. The conflict part gets represented too, showing Norman Osborne and what not.
Then we get the “loss” part of the music… well well well, what did I just say? Conflict that ends up having both sides lose something.
Peter lost his best friend, his best friend lost his father. It’s like a “no one wins” situation, and the music sells it perfectly.
But then the resolve happens, and it is shown with Peter looking at Uncle Ben’s grave.
Now THAT is some powerful stuff.
Yes, lots of things have screwed up your life, but you’re still going to keep going! Because you are Spider-Man!
🎵… and washed the spider out.🎵
Alright cool, now for the final one.
I’d like to mention that this one is not by Danny Elfman but Christopher Young who is emulating Danny Elfman, but honestly, he stuck to the same rules, so whether you love the movie or not, I still love this opening.
So everything with Colombia Pictures and the web and title is still the same, this time with a black background (hint hint).
The uncertainty part is this time quickly glossed over to get the three main characters casted and then the Spider biting Peter. Honestly, that’s all you need, really. You know the main characters, Peter got bitten, he’s Spider-Man.
Alright, we got the basics out of the way, now for the slightly more advanced stuff. So we get a recap of Spider-Man 1, with the epic part covering Peter’s discovery of his powers.
But when the robber appears…
And we get the Venom theme.
This represents how the Symbiote LOVES that anger, that darkness of Peter.
Is it corrupting Peter? Sure, but be honest here… that corruption has ALWAYS been there… it just needs to feed. I might as well mention, MAN do I love Venom’s theme. It feels like a reversal to Spider-Man’s theme, it’s so menacing but it’s grandiose while it does it.
Spider-Man’s theme says “I must LEARN from my powers!”
Venom’s theme says “I will USE my powers!”
The greatest antithesis of Spider-Man, and right now it’s not someone Peter can beat, right now it’s INSIDE him.
Then we get a bit of a two-fer, Sandman’s theme plays now!
And, I’ll be honest this probably is a slight weakpoint as it’s just a typical “Beware of this guy” music.
Not really that much more than the little generic part of Spider-Man 1’s theme, but with a more threatening edge to it.
But then the epic part of the music starts again, represented by Peter Parker running and ripping his shirt to reveal the Spider-Man costume underneath, all while the Symbiote is now unable to influence more of the credits.
Now if that’s not a great representation of someone overcoming their darkness, I don’t know what is!
We get a little victorious moment showing the best parts of Spider-Man 2, but then we get to the “loss” part.
And… it plays over Mary Jane?
Huh… what happened? Wasn’t that a happy moment?
Well… it WOULD be, on the surface… but this follows up on
the ending of Spider-Man 2.
Yes it looked like it would end happily with Mary Jane not marrying John Jameson and choosing Peter… but when he swung back into the city to “go get ’em, tiger”, it did NOT end with Spider-Man.
It ended with Mary Jane looking out the window… and doubting about her choice.
And that’s where the opening leaves off, to continue that in this movie.
So, yeah, I love the music of the Sam Raimi movies, not just because they’re epic, but because they represent the struggles that the movies will cover.
🎵Out came the sun…🎵
Spider-Man is supposed to be a cautionary tale about Superheroes, where the hero is not a rich guy, a super soldier, and alien from a distant planet, an amazon, etc.
He’s a normal human being… one with super powers, sure, but that doesn’t make him any less a regular person. He has trouble paying rent, he has relationship problems, he gets in trouble with school and his job because of his many responsibilities. Having super powers doesn’t change that, in fact having powers actively ADD to those problems.
🎵… and dried up all the rain…🎵
Life just keeps crashing down on him. But despite being a cautionary tale, Peter Parker STILL kept going, he STILL kept fighting, because it’s the right thing to do. And THAT is what’s perfectly captured in the music.
And the addition of the villain’s music really helps as well, because the hero and villain’s stories should NOT be separate! They both link to each other, they’re in conflict, but at the same time they fight the same problems! It’s just that the hero and villain have different ways of dealing with the problems. And one method makes one a hero, and the other a villain.
🎵… and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.🎵
I think the biggest strengths of these Opening Themes is that they basically tell the story of the whole movie before it even starts. You expect a movie to have some type of 3-act structure with a beginning, middle and end. But just listen to these themes. The 3-act structure is already IN there! The music on it’s own is pretty much a story already!
When writing music for a film, don’t just have it “fit the atmosphere” and call it a day. Represent the film as a whole. It’s essence. It’s story.