Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a huge movie in scope, packed with more details than the human brain can process in a single viewing. In fact, here’s a tiny one you might not have noticed: The signature buh-BAH-BAHHH! notes of Miles Morales’ theme? They deliberately scan to the words “Spider-Man!”, should you want to sing along.
“Once you hear that, it’s a bit of a nightmare,” composer Daniel Pemberton says over Zoom, laughing. “You can never un-hear it. Someone made a joke, which I thought was quite funny, about the Miguel sound — they were like, ‘Has he written it so you can sing Miguel O’Hara! to it?’ and no, I didn’t. You can have the scoop: I did not write Miguel’s theme so you can sing to it.”
That’s a rare oversight, though, because pretty much every component of Pemberton’s score for the film is extremely intentional, as he explains to Consequence via Zoom. While the film, Pemberton says, “was only finished about four weeks before it came out,” it speaks to the intense dedication of the entire production team, which worked hard to create one of the year’s best films so far.
Following the Oscar-winning Into the Spider-Verse, Across the Spider-Verse brings the next chapter of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore)’s story to the screen, as Miles reunites with his fellow Spider-People from different realities, only to learn that his role in the titular ‘verse is far more complicated than theirs. It’s a story to be concluded in 2024’s Beyond the Spider-Verse… which, at the time of our conversation, isn’t something Pemberton’s eager to discuss, something that’s true of his collaborators as well.
“No one will talk about Beyond at the moment because we’re all very exhausted from doing Across. It was such a huge undertaking that there’s a sort of informal pact for everyone to just slightly not talk about Beyond,” he says. “It’s like running like, like four marathons in a row and you finished and you’ve got like the greatest time for running four marathons in a row ever. And someone goes, ‘So, you doing those other marathons tomorrow?’ And you’re like, ‘I don’t want to hear about it right now.'”
The effort shows, though, as Pemberton discusses how “there are bits in this film which might last three seconds — there has been so much work put into those three seconds, and then it’s gone.” Below, we break down what went into crafting the score for Across the Spider-Verse, including some of his specific inspirations for tracks like “Vulture Meets Culture” and Pavitr Prabhakar’s themes. We also explore why he’s interested in blurring the line between live performance and electronic samples, and Pemberton reveals which Spider-Verse character he voiced briefly (before being replaced by an Oscar-winning actor).
[Editor’s note: The following contains mild spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.]