I can think of no worse movie to write original music for than Spider-Man 3. In its overblown big-budget attack, it beckons bands to mimic — with emotion and emphasis as well as glitzy studio production — the same special effects and larger-than-life qualities of the blockbuster film. So perhaps pairing esteemed indie label Record Collection with the Spidey franchise was an attempt to curb the trend of movie soundtracks full of overblown, pompous, savoir-style rock, or maybe it was director Sam Raimi’s plea to get the trendy kids to like his little film. Either way, it doesn’t work.
There are some big names on this soundtrack (the Killers, Wolfmother, the Flaming Lips), but not one of them is named U2 or Aerosmith, which are the only two bands that immediately come to mind when people think summer blockbuster. Their giant music is for stadiums, and Spider-Man 3 didn’t exactly premiere at your local art-house theater.
Which is why “Red River” by the Walkmen strikes me as a little off-putting. It’s a strong song, focused and subtly cathartic. But still, unless there’s a scene where Tobey Maguire staggers through some New York alley at 3 a.m. with a bottle of booze, it’s hard to see the connection between this and such a huge plot. The same goes for Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Sealings,” a fine song on its own, but what is it doing here?
The soundtrack gets tricky as well when it becomes evident that a band wrote a song specifically for the film. Simon Dawes, who put out my absolute favorite album of 2006, Carnivore, veer into fireworks rock-ballad territory with “Scared of Myself,” and even Snow Patrol, which, despite a naturally soaring style, sound as if they are trying too hard to accommodate a widescreen vision, aiming too hard for that big-screen moment.
My dissatisfaction is not a case of selfishness or wanting to keep the mainstream out of the indie pot. It’s just that the movie and what it represents doesn’t sync with the songs on its soundtrack. It just feels wrong, absurd almost, to have some of these songs (Rogue Wave’s gorgeous, subtle “Sightlines,” and Coconut Records’ sweet “Summer Day” as final examples) associated with a film of style and size but no substance.