When a new enemy and a love interest come knocking at the door
"I refuse". These two words will seal Curtis Connors’s fate when he decides to go up against the Oscorp board of directors and move right on to human experiments. These two words mark the start of Saving New York’s first 47 seconds, creating an atmosphere not unlike John Powell’s Alexander Platz (The Bourne Supremacy). Doctor Connors’s fate is now a decidedly gloomy one.
James Horner follows suit with string writing in the vein of Avatar’s Pure Spirits Of The Forest. Distressed and desperate, Connors decides to inject himself (2’45) and is immediately plunged into increasingly unbearable suffering. James Horner responds in kind, with harsh electronic and brass colors which play until the doctor passes out (3’10). The scene shifts to the peaceful surroundings of a family dinner Gwen’s parents have invited Peter to. James Horner scores this scene for soft piano but stops short of presenting the emotional theme, because Gwen and Peter have only begun to know each other.
As Curtis Connors regains conscience, James Horner presents the first part of Metamorphosis, a variation of Nash’s four-note motif from A Beautiful Mind. He sees his right arm fully restored (0’35) and James Horner greets his enthusiasm with an emotional surge resembling The Grinch’s A Change Of Heart, itself a transformation scene. However, events take a turn for the worse at 1’10. Monstrously disfigured, Connors decides to go after the Oscorp executive who has the formula, then takes the Williamsbrug Bridge to Brooklyn. A danse macabre in the string section cranks up the tension as the side effects of the injection start kicking in and the scientist turns into a hideous monster.
Right around the same time, Peter Parker and NYPD chief George Stacy get into a heated argument about the merits of the mysterious webslinger, after which Gwen and Peter find themselves isolated on the building’s rooftop. This is where James Horner brings in the delicate piano strains of The New World’s An Apparition In The Fields. Peter uses his webslinging to draw Gwen very near, unafraid to reveal his alter ego. Understandably, this is where the emotional theme matures fully, with an oboe melody (1’36) doubled by strings (2’00) to comment on the lovers’ first kiss. However, the album’s twelfth cue ends on a somber note as the romantic interlude is cut short by police sirens. Peter’s sixth sense tells him to hurry over to the bridge…
Roaring trombones start off The Bridge, where the Lizard creates havoc. James Horner uses anguished strings and Dhafer Youssef’s pained vocals as car drivers get stuck above the East River. Spider-Man’s arrival is heralded by a triumphant statement of the main theme (0’36) but immediately drops into an aggressive mêlée of electronic percussion, shrieking brass and wild electric guitar as the giant reptile smashes up car after car, looking for the vehicle of one Oscorp exec. In the wake of the Lizard’s onslaught, Spider-Man suspends falling cars into mid-air and engages the reptile head-on, aided by a short fanfare at 1’18. Overall, the wailing of the Tunisian soloist and the percussive material echoing Titanic’s Hard To Starboard point to the turmoil of the scene.
When a father sees his son stuck in a dangling car, he cries out for help. Any superhero might have raced to an easy rescue but the car catches fire and Spider-Man draws on his last resources, loses his cool, fully conscious of the weight his human actions now carry. This is about saving a human life, and it is do-or-die time. Spider-Man faces his humanistic responsibilities and this major step in the character’s psychological evolution is predictably and superbly highlighted by James Horner’s music. Count on James Horner to elevate action music as he focuses on the psychological impact of every scene, especially where the action threatens to drown out subtle but crucial psychological nuances.
As Spider-Man saves the young boy (1’42), James Horner presents triumphant horns followed by a Lisbeth Scott vocal solo and the angelic voice of Luca Franglen, reprising material heard during the album’s opening cue, as the young boy puts on Peter’s mask and tries to escape the raging fire. Finally, the emotional theme returns when the boy is reunited with his father. The emotional theme is particularly appropriate since it reminds Peter of the love his own parents lavished on him and helps him realize that he is there to help his fellow man.
At 4’02 the music calls the battle in Spider-Man’s favor. The bizarre monster, hurt and weakened, retreats into the darkness of the sewer system. James Horner goes out of his way to humanize the lonely villain, carefully setting up a twist during the movie’s finale : he supplies an oboe lament and even throws in Dhafer Youssef’s voice and the piano motif as the Lizard realizes his new arm is now gone, the injection having failed miserably.
A clarinet solo plays the main theme as Peter’s Suspicions are aroused and Parker tries to convince Gwen that his vigilante actions are necessary. The lovers embrace to dreamlike chimes, piano and strings.
As often in James Horner’s work, the horn serves as a bridge to the next scene. Parker finds a way into Connors’ abandoned laboratory hoping to ask the doctor about the Lizard. The dark menace hovering over the discovery of the "regression rate algorhythm" returns here for nearly two anguished minutes. So do the piano motif and the schizophrenic string writing of A Beautiful Mind. At 1’08, an electronic Shakuhachi-like flute and an obsessively repeated piano note herald the return of Doctor Connors. His cold and detached demeanor alerts Peter to the dangerous changes which have taken place. Near the end of the cue, starting at 2’32, James Horner brings in electronic strings and percussion, the cold electronic environment becoming the perfect antithesis to the organically conceived orchestral beauty of the Metamorphosis cue. James Horner clearly states that we have now decidedly crossed over to the dark side of the Force. Connors clearly states that he no longer cares for Peter’s presence, but on his way out, Parker can’t help but notice a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong: a half-mouse, half-lizard is gnawing away at another mouse. The orchestra responds with alarmed chaos not unlike the end of Strange New Clothes (The Boy In The Striped Pajamas). The first mask has fallen.
Peter hurries to the police office to alert chief Stacy, only to see his concerns made light of. He sets out to find photographic evidence of the Lizard.
Guided by his intuition, Parker descends into the sewers and goes about Making A Silk Trap. This cue follows both Spider-Man and Connors. The choir comments on Peter’s attempts to weave a web that will signal the presence of the villain, while electronic material plays under the bits where the Lizard conducts further experiments and prepares for a new injection. Dhafer Youssef’s lament underscores this second metamorphosis (1’41).
The silk trap warns Peter of the Lizard’s approach as the tension between vocal and electronic material leads to a confrontation. The Lizard’s claws sear Spider-Man’s flesh and the webslinger flees the scene. However, he leaves behind a camera marked "property of Peter Parker".
The second mask has fallen.
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