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].
PETER PARKER'S THEME
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
Now for the bad guys.
THE GREEN GOBLIN'S THEME
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
DOCTOR OCTOPUS (AKA DOC OCK)
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
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].
RELATIONSHIP WITH MARY-JANE
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].
RELATIONSHIP WITH AUNT MAY(?)
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].