Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about their latest works.
In a relatively grim year for superhero movies, both critically and at the box office, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is blissfully bucking that trend. Building off the dizzying, kaleidoscopic animation style and storytelling of Into the Spider-Verse, Across the Spider-Verse manages to elevate what worked about the previous film and roll it into an even more exciting, heartfelt second chapter in Miles Morales’ uncertain journey toward becoming a hero.
As with the first, though, a fundamental component for keeping the film’s multiversal craziness in line is the score by Oscar-nominated composer Daniel Pemberton (who returns to the pod after talking with us about Being the Ricardos). Fitting with the film’s huge multiversal scope, Pemberton’s genre-flexible sound expands and balloons in new, inventive ways — finding a unique voice for a sequel to a film that already established a big, booming mixture of orchestral and electronic elements.
Sure, there’s Miles’ signature three-note theme, but now there’s Gwen Stacy’s riot-grrl-infused electric guitar sound, the ominous electronic screech for more fanatical Spidey Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), and so much more. Musical artistry and R&D go hand-in-hand with Pemberton’s approach here, and the sheer amount of tech knowhow that went into everything from arranging textures between universal sounds (opera, hip-hop) to building mathematical time-stretched samples.
Together, we talk about finding the sound for this film, discovering the right punk sound for Gwen Stacy (whose journey runs parallel to Miles’), and juggling familiar motifs while layering new sonic textures to allow the different universes to invade each other.
What’s more, we also chat about his intensely personal working style, the value of doing just about everything yourself, and how rare that is in a film music landscape where most big composers hire huge teams to get the work done.
You can find Daniel Pemberton at his official website.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is currently playing in select theaters. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Sony Music.