The Amazing Spider-Man

By Casey Tourangeau

Mailed on July 06, 2012

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Dear James Horner

Dear James,

I've followed your career for a long time, and felt a need to write to you after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man. I'm aware of the charges (not without merit) that have been leveled against you, the most common being that that you often plagiarize your own music. So when the closing credits rolled, I was honestly shocked to see your name appear. Not because this score sounded nothing like your previous work, but because it sounded so … uninspired. I'll give credit where it's due: your score certainly captured the film's essence.

Film scoring is a tough gig. Music is usually left until the last few weeks of postproduction, and with deadlines looming, reaching into a familiar bag of tricks can be the only recourse. But when you stop recycling your own compositions, and instead pillage the same library of tricks used by every hack composer of the last century, there's something else going on.

And to be clear, the movie itself does the same thing. All the expected bits are there in the plot: nerdy high school student Peter Parker (a twitchy Andrew Garfield) is bitten by form of super-spider, gains said super powers, falls in love with the girl (Emma Stone, representing the possible acme of nerd dreamgirls), and fights a super-villain (Rhys Ifans being the boring sort of British). Some of the names have been changed, but it was all there in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man back in 2002. Raimi brought a lively pop zing to his telling, though, which is what happens when a story is being told fresh, and not simply retold.

Even the 'new' elements added to the story feel old. Opening with the back-story of Peter's parents feels a little too much like Batman Begins. Ditto on the 'edgier, darker' tone (quotes added because I'm pretty sure some Sony executive said those exact words). Unlike Christopher Nolan's interpretation of dark, director Marc Webb give us more of a very light gray. This is not a Peter Parker that teeters on losing himself to violent or hateful impulses. No, this is a Peter Parker that has a skateboard. I wracked my brain to remember the last time a skateboard was associated with edgy, and all I could come up with is Poochie. (I'd also have offered Marty McFly as an example, but he actually was cool.)

In this light, I could chalk up the fact that you didn't reuse Danny Elfman's original _Spider-Man _score as some sort of artistic triumph. But instead, did you really have to rip off a host of tired genre cliches? To be fair, if I was asked to create music for something so obviously written by a (very out of touch--I still can't get past that skateboard) committee, I'd probably use the same generic horror movie stings, somber boy-sopranos, and randomly-placed crescendos you did *. This is a score so familiar, one could be forgiven for not noticing it. I might not have even known this film had music if the credits weren't so insistent in telling me you scored it.

But maybe I can give you a pass here. If the rest of the creative powers involved weren't trying very hard, why should you?

Uninspired, obligatory, and most of all unnecessary: your score really does capture all of these; and since that so closely matches my feeling about the film, I guess … success?

With great responsibility,


\Which were also strangely somber. I never thought swinging though the skyline of New York could feel like such a drag.*

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