Elfman Zone Home

Spider-Man Themes 101
Analysis by Duncan Bohannon

First off, why did I want to do this? Because I just love Danny Elfman's Spider-Man scores so much (they are my favorite film scores of all time, and I can't wait for Spider-Man 3). But for some reason I've heard many people say that their enjoyment of the Spider-Man scores is limited because there are "no themes," and that it is a "rehash" of Batman. Boy, they couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm not going to get into the "rehash" comment here, but this is for everyone who says Spider-Man has no themes. I beg to differ.
I've provided MIDIs for you, dear reader, to listen to, so you can listen to the soundtracks with a better understanding of exactly what each theme consists of. I sincerely hope you find this whole analysis helpful.
Let's start off with the really obvious themes.
Spidey's theme (spideytheme1.MID) can be heard in full in S-M1[Main Title, 1:45] or S-M2[Spider-Man 2 Main Title, 1:40]. However, much of the time, usually within action sequences, Elfman will only state the first three, four, or five notes in the theme. Additionally, there is a four-note motif (spideytheme2.MID) that occurs when it "needs to". What I mean by that is that there is really no specific place it is stated in Spidey's theme, rather when something really triumphant is needed, or his theme needs to be closed for the moment. Here are examples: S-M1[Main Title, 1:15] or S-M2[Spider-Man 2 Main Title, 1:14], as well as this stellar moment S-M2[The Bank/Saving May, 3:38].
Elfman composed separate themes for Spider-Man and Peter Parker [parkertheme1.MID]. It is a simple, chorale-like theme that is usually preceded by this five-note motif (parkertheme2.MID). These can be heard in S-M1[Main Title, 2:35] or S-M2[Spider-Man 2 Main Title, 2:27].
One issue here is vagueness of what this theme really belongs to. Is it Parker's? Or "Responsibility's"? Or maybe even Uncle Ben's? Honestly, to give you a straight answer, I don't know. But for now, I'm sticking with Peter Parker's theme because Elfman himself says on the special music featurette on the first Spider-Man DVD that he wrote one theme "for Spider-Man and one for Peter Parker."
Now for the bad guys.
The Goblin's theme (goblin.MID), while sounding evil and sinister, is so disjunct, it really refers more to the fact that he's so demented and schizophrenic, with Norman Osborne and his "formula" inside the same head. It can be heard throughout S-M1[Specter of the Goblin] and S-M2[The Goblin Returns, 0:54] with various slight pitch changes in the theme.
This guy...he has, I think, more themes and motifs centered around him than around any other single person. The first four notes of his main theme (docock1.MID) basically say, "I'm the bad guy," while the next seven are woeful and make you feel sorry for him. The rest of the theme is rather sinister. A good example of this theme is in S-M2[Angry Arms/Rebuilding, 1:28]. The second one (docock2.MID) you'll hear in action sequences. It could be a severe alteration by Elfman on his main theme, but I don't know. I believe that this theme centers around his eight limbs, the first four, slower notes signifying his lumbering mechanicle limbs, the second his lighter, meaty limbs. Try S-M2[The Bank/Saving May, 0:35] for a good example.
Phew, ok, more Doc Ock. There are some other motifs that I haven't quite figured out their significance yet. One of them (docock3.MID) occurs only during S-M2[Angry Arms/Rebuilding, 0:26] in the high-register violins. Could it be the theme for the ARMS themselves? Dunno yet. Additionally, two other, smaller motifs occur in association with Doc Ock, and again, I have no clue what they mean. They both only happen twice, at least on CD. This one (docock4.MID) in S-M2[Doc Ock Is Born, 1:59] and S-M2[Doc Ock's Machine, 1:26]. The other (docock5.MID) in S-M2[Doc Ock's Machine, 0:58] and S-M2[Train/Appreciation, 0:12].
The theme (lovetheme2.MID) for Peter's relationship with Mary-Jane can sometimes be well hidden beneath this motif (lovetheme1.MID) that appears often because of the latter's similarity to the Spider-Man theme. You can hear it throughout in S-M1[Revelation].
I never really thought about it until now, but I guess this has a theme too. (Part one (auntmay1.MID); part two (auntmay2.MID).) You can hear it throughout in S-M[Alone], and the first halves of S-M2[Aunt May Packs] and S-M2[The Mugging/Peter's Turmoil].