Man of Steel Soundtrack - Deluxe Edition Soundtrack Review
There are two different editions of Hans Zimmer's score for Man of Steel available. In a marketing strategy that is becoming all too common for tent-pole releases, although at least the German composer hasn't spewed-out a plethora of bonus tracks all over the net as he has done in the past, we have a Standard and a Deluxe version to choose from. The standard is a single-disc affair that covers a fair chunk of material, but the double-disc deluxe edition features a wealth of extra music on the second disc, an illustrated booklet and an option to download an app that will enable you to hear the full 24-track score in DTS Headphone: X, with Zimmer, himself, informing you of the speaker positions around you.
Naturally, I am reviewing the lengthier Deluxe Edition, which is definitely the one to get hold of.
Regular readers will know of my ongoing love/hate affair with Zimmer. But just about every time I declare his wallpaper droning mush to be the final straw, he delivers something that completely turns that opinion inside-out. And his epic score for Man of Steel has done just that, despite not deviating at all from the pattern of bass-drowned excess that has had me groaning, ridiculing and lambasting many times in the past. I will freely admit that when I first saw his name attached to this project I despaired. Of all the big name action composers at work today, he was the most blindingly obvious to have selected ... but the least imaginative. Most score fans, whether they admired Zimmer’s work or not, would have known immediately how this score would sound even before he began to formulate any ideas, himself. A deep, brooding orchestra that sounds almost exactly like a droning synthesiser; a juggernaut of pounding percussion; a wall of sound sans colour, finesse, beauty, flair, humanity or melody. Just pulverising monotony in other words.
Now, you can call me crazy, paranoid or just plain biased ... but I wasn’t wrong.
And yet, folks ... Hans Zimmer’s score for Man of Steel is profoundly addictive, incredibly powerful, achingly moving and frequently breathtaking. He hasn’t broken free of the things that so many of us complain about but, somehow, he has made them all work this time out. With stunning results.
I thought I could have written this review in my sleep ... even a year before actually hearing the music. And this is the splendid thing about musical scores and their creators – more than the visuals they accompany, they have the innate ability to get inside you, occupy your imagination, take flight with your soul in-tow and to tell emotional stories of their own. Everyone is different and music affects people in many varied ways, but the basic principle of stirring passion within, exciting and thrilling and moving the listener is the fundamental talent that every composer must strive for. Well, I may be surprised to be saying this after suffering so many botched jobs, but I am also elated to concede that Hans Zimmer has managed to do just that with what has to be one of the biggest and most hotly anticipated projects of his career so far.
I won’t award this score top marks, however, as we shall see. But, rest assured, this is a massive success that took me several listening to fully appreciate, and a couple of viewings of the movie. But it has been worth it. I am not going fervently track-by-track with this review ... I will just write as the music plays, picking up on elements and issues and themes as and when they appear. It’s on a constant loop, so there’s no chance of missing anything crucial.
First, though ... the film, itself.
Zack Snyder’s film is a glorious rejuvenation of DC’s most iconic poster-boy. In the duel for franchise dominance between them and Marvel, Stan Lee’s vast armada clearly has the upper hand. Even with the tremendous Dark Knight trilogy under its utility belt, DC has a long, long way to go, but bringing back Superman and making him relevant and exciting for modern audiences, for whom costumed heroes are now so plentiful that they can barely enter a theatre without one swooping out at them, is perhaps the biggest, boldest and the best step they can take. To be honest, even with all the pre-release vitriol that the Chris Nolan produced, David Goyer written reboot courted from the forums, there was never any doubt in my mind that the result would be awesome. Nolan knows how to re-engineer cult icons to suit the times, and Snyder is a magnificently visual and visceral director with a proven track record in adapting comic-book sagas (300, Watchmen). A great cast was assembled, with the guys playing the Els – Henry Cavill bringing heart, innocence and dignity to the fledgling big boy scout and Russell Crowe delivering nobility and surprising dynamism as his natural father - stealing the show with honours. Amy Adams is cute and believable as the punchy Lois Lane, though the pace of the film doesn’t really allow there to be a great deal of authentic chemistry between her and Cavill’s ceaseless saviour. Their romance seems forced and we really only accept it because we know it is part and parcel of the whole super-shebang. Although the great gargoyle-faced Michael Shannon’s General Zod winds-up as simply another typically obsessed and ruthless bogeyman, Kevin Costner brings enormous compassion and pride to Pa Kent, turning schmaltz and cliché into unforgettable moments of heart-clasping poignancy. So much so that I wish we could have spent more time down on the farm with his sensitive and believably protective performance. Even if Laurence Fishbourne doesn’t get to do much huffing ‘n’ puffing as Daily Planet editor Perry White, he’s still allowed to participate in some desperate, though shoehorned-in derring-do, and Antje Traue well and truly reinforces the belief that the female is deadlier than the male as Zod’s brutal henchwoman and all-round Kryptonian bad-girl, Faora.
Wisely ditching the camp and the comedy from the now vintage ’78 adaptation (the Donner/Reeve classic remains a masterpiece, but it was definitely time to move on), the new version brings out the brooding alienation that Kal-El suffers from a world that is not his own and that simply isn’t yet ready to accept, or understand him. After thirty-three years of struggling to find his own identity and to learn the purpose of his unique existence, it all becomes suddenly crystal clear when the outlawed General Zod and his motley crew of rebels discover that he, the son of their sworn enemy Jor-El, is languishing upon Earth and come to pay him a deadly visit. War is waged and Metropolis is brought crashing to the ground in a spectacular super-battle that makes Chris Reeve going toe-to-toe with Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack Halloran in Superman II look like a toddler’s strop in a bouncy castle. Hardly without fault – the supporting army goons are quite embarrassing, and the extended scrap-happy finale goes on for so long that it almost loses momentum - the film is still magnificent entertainment and definitely provides us with the Man of Steel that we’ve longed to see with the sort of hyper-kinetic action that was once purely the province of the animated shows and the comic-books.
Although extremely fast-paced and full of action, the film never loses sight of the emotional impact of Clark/Kal-El’s odyssey, the intimate moments stinging with intensity and the rousing stuff wildly thrilling and euphoric. I will say that the cavalier attitude to collateral damage is somewhat shocking, but then you can’t battle super-fiends without breaking a few buildings. The balance between savagery and delicacy, however, is rendered with a deft hand. And if the quality of a Superman movie is defined by the giddy sense of escapist pride and the irresistible urge to just blast yourself up, up and away, then Man of Steel comes titanium-plated and sealed with a patriotic bow.
So, does the score soar?
It is tempting to label his score as being Dark Knight-lite but, love or loathe him, Hans Zimmer now has an established sound that filmmakers surely want. A true artist, in this case the film’s director, who clearly has a distinct vision of how he/she intends their production to look and sound, would not simply go with such a powerhouse and unmistakably self-generic composer just because he appears to be the go-to guy for tent-pole blockbusters. Whilst Zimmer has a longstanding collaborative relationship with Chris Nolan (the Dark Knight films and Inception) Zack Snyder also relishes the same bludgeoning sort of style, as having Tyler Bates wreak mighty, grinding bass-intensive scores for 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch. So nobody who was familiar with the back-catalogue of these guys was really surprised to find that Zimmer had been recruited to help kick-start Superman. With the music to some of the biggest motion pictures of the past twenty years to his credit, it should still have come as something of a high water mark for him to get to compose for the Man of Steel, debatably the most cherished superhero of all time, and whilst many of us grimaced at the thought of what he’d come up with, we shouldn’t underestimate the challenge that faced him. The shadow of John Williams must have loomed unfeasibly large over the task and, to be fair, it is only right that he didn’t attempt any form of emulation of what has gone before. Besides, with the tone and the direction of the new take, nothing from that traditional approach would have worked. So, as I say, Zimmer was picked for a reason.
They wanted his sound for Man of Steel.
And he brought drums. A lot of them. In fact, he formed an unorthodox drum orchestra for the gig – something that I know will strike fear into the hearts of many score fans and traditionalists. Terrible memories of Dead Man’s Chest are no doubt rearing-up. But you may find that his profoundly percussive approach to Superman is actually in-context and, indeed, complimentary to the primal battling that will ensue.
A rather neat examination of the creative process that went into the score, and an excellent addition that is available on both versions of the album, is the whopping 28-minute track that plays through a continuous belt of initial ideas for themes and motifs in Man of Steel (Hans’ Original Sketchbook). Performed entirely by Zimmer, what is here are architectural building-blocks for the various ingredients of the score, and the track comes across as a thunderous suite rather like a highlights compendium. Some variations between the motifs heard here and their final incarnations can be gleaned, but this epic track acts as a fascinating run-through, a veritable tour of Man of Steel. Pretentious? I’d love to say yes ... but the truth is that the colossal track is actually great, and really adds some depth and texture to how we perceive the final score.
The main theme. Oh God (no, Zod) ... the main theme.
WOW seems like the most appropriate way of summing it up.
The two-note main theme for our new Superman is a strange little beast - beautiful and powerful, yet so small and seemingly fragile. The film is pretty much anchored by the heartfelt earnestness that carries it aloft. We heard it during that incredible third trailer, of course …and the piece became something of an overnight sensation with anticipatory fans who adored its sympathy, its warmth and its gradually swelling sense of awe. Its foundation rests with just those two little notes that can be either long and slow, or quick and light, or heavy and portentous. When this develops into full swing, or full flight if you like, with rolling snares and gleaming percussion it swaggers with energy and verve, yet still veers far from the traditional fanfare that many would have expected to accompany the last son of Krypton. In fact, it is as far removed from the triumphant statement that John Williams composed back in his glory days as it is possible to get in terms of musicality, melody or muscle, and yet it conveys so much emotion, and such a deep sense of pride and honour, and is malleable enough to snake through a variety of permutations throughout the course of the story, gaining strength yet never sacrificing any heart or emotion, that is surely destined to become a classic in its own right.
At the time of writing this, I have not yet seen the film with my son. I cannot wait until we do, because as sugary as this will sound, the film and Zimmer’s graceful theme totally get what that special bond between a father and a son really is. I know I’ll sit there, choked-up in the dark with dreams of his future dancing beyond the images of both Russell Crowe looking on at child he is sending very far away, and Kevin Costner battling with the ethics of right and wrong, and both extolling the unbreakable love and pride of such a relationship ... and I know that he’d just regard me with utter disdain and embarrassment if he clocked me baring emotions like a sissy. It is a film about fatherhood as much as it is about responsibility. Zimmer’s theme totally understands this. Don’t be fooled into thinking that such a minimalist approach lacks integrity or intelligence. Zimmer often takes a stark, but heavily-burdened stance, but in this case, for sure, he is moving intuitively into the timeless realm of emotional grandeur. By hardly saying anything, he seems to be saying it all. I don’t think that this is something you could just concoct on a whim. I’ve taken pot-shots at the composer many times, but he’s delivered something here that I will be eternally grateful for.
This is precisely the sort of cue that you will hear playing over an inspirational sports montage, or over a televised look-back at the life of someone incredibly special, or as an ode to brave fire-fighters, say. This noble sense of selfless sacrifice and duty is what Zimmer was aiming for, and the cadence of this phrase is almost a primal calling card that is guaranteed to unlock that part of you that yearns for glory.
We hear it a lot throughout the score. The first track, as young Kal-El is born to the doomed planet of Krypton, Look to the Stars, introduces the cradled, two-note stretch from out of a pensive, slowly swirling background ether. The bass picks it up first, before we even realise that this will evolve into the main theme that we will be humming for ages afterwards. Female voices serenade the growing theme, actually singing the vowels “A,E,I,O,U” in German. This phrase is repeated elsewhere too. A slow, sustained clash shimmers and leads into jittery strings, providing the sense of jeopardy that threatens this little angelic peal of fragile harmony.
In Tornado, after a bout of savage drums whip up a metaphorical tempest, Zimmer drops out of the chaos and finds the eye of the storm to be quiet, still and swathed in heartbreaking destiny. As Jonathan Kent makes the ultimate sacrifice to the angry heavens, imploring his surrogate son not to expose his powers in an effort to save him from the swirling clutches of a Kansas twister, the simple two-note refrain appears in stripped-down and gentlest form, soul laid bare.
The theme returns in This is Clark Kent, this time a variation simply played on the piano with a lot of subtlety whilst the ghostly presence of strings whisper in the background. As the track goes on, the theme gains slightly more strength, the keyboard gathering an echo. In Flight the reprise is much more familiar, driving and in earnest. Newfound powers are being tested, the bass pedal guitars scoring out the potential of such a gift. The track turns more plaintiff in its second phase, the theme eclipsed by drums and a more seriously intonated surge of exhilaration.
The most soaring, searing and downright inspiring incarnation of the theme comes in the brilliantly phrased What Are You Going To Do When You’re Not Saving The World? As Clark and Snyder take us out of the movie on a high, euphoric moment, cleverly inverting Christopher Reeve’s outer-atmosphere grin to something more Planet-based as another staple component of the mythology dons geeky glasses and takes a first tentative step into a wider world, the full theme serenades the coming-of-age of Superman, the Man of Steel. If this theme is one of the best to come along in quite a while, then this track is its definitive statement. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve played it now. Never boring, never losing a single aspect of its venerable heroism ... it demands that you hit repeat, over and over. Whether you pound the beat as a police officer or the doorsteps as a postman; whether you fly an army helicopter or ride the train to the office; whether you play football on the pitch or just on the Xbox – I defy you not to feel a surge of pride. Of course John Williams’ fanfare will be remembered until the end of time – and rightly so – but this less exuberant, somehow more realistic theme is more tangible to the everyman. As fundamentally American in style as it is, it still speaks to us all. And it will make you feel bigger and better about yourself whenever you hear it.
Ambient textures abound as well. These parts are another trait of Zimmer’s that tend to come under the title of Underscore. Whereas John Carpenter used to use tones and synth plateaus to successfully add mood and atmosphere, Zimmer can go to town on them and seemingly fall asleep at the mixing desk, just letting them meander on and on. Normally, I don’t like them as they can all-too often dominate his scores. His work on The Thin Red Line, however, proved how adept he could be when structuring such mood-pieces. Here, in the likes of Are You Listening, Clark? they gleam and float like spectral debris drifting through the ether, ghostly and alien, and then Zimmer smashes these flitting sounds, muses and abstractions into juddering waves of sudden hullabaloo. Sampled voices hush and whisper, something that sounds like a cosmic whale sings, and then, to reel us back in from the celestial hypnotism of a young Clark locking himself away from a world of sensations that he cannot control, that gentle main theme intro, the two-note refrain on piano as Martha Kent (Diane Lane) soothes his terrors away. Something very similar occurs in Sent Here For A Reason. Voices and electronic tones hover in some formless void, piano notes gently mark time. Shaped wedges of tonal shimmer coalesce. These gentle dreams, like bittersweet reverie, reflect the memories that Clark has of his upbringing, and the advice and love that he gets from his earthbound father. I didn’t care too much for these cues at first, but they have certainly grown on me. DNA carries on with this transcendent quality until a point when it all turns ugly and aggressive, with bullish bass, distant, wordless vocals, drums and discord. Though this, too, will slip into an otherworldly passage of gelling mysterioso which stays until the cue closes.
Wistful, rustic soft-rock Americana weaves through the beautiful Earth. Very gentle and gorgeously languid, this is World Music that just implores you to close your eyes and sail away with it. Trance-inducing and dream-conjuring with slow, easygoing tones. Blissful with watery chimes that sussurate in the middle-distance. The two notes from the main them make elemental passes, like treasured memories. An electric guitar strikes up against reed-rods and a fluid-drop, Cliff Martinez-like cycle of organic plip-plopping. This is a remarkable track that is possibly the most unusual and atypical that I have ever heard in the soundtrack to a superhero movie. But then this superhero movie is about the discovery of identity and self-awareness from out of a turbulent vortex of disharmony and emotional dislocation just as much as it is about punching the next bad guy through a dozen skyscrapers. Thus, such hypnotic passages are valid and, indeed, can serve as a necessary antidote to the headlong, bone-shuddering longeurs of high-intensity shockwave assault that is, arguably, more Zimmer’s forte.
Ambience is shrouded in vague melancholy and insidious advances of threat in I Have So Many Questions. Zimmer works with tones, glancing strikes from glacial electronic amid the soothing female voices of the choir. These ambient moments of underscore could easily drift into simple sludge-paced melange, as they did with wallpaper effect in the Dark Knight and Pirates movies but, here, he suggests greater resonance with mild effects and glistening, semi-tragic undulations. I think the fact that their unusually delicate and ethereal appeal took me by surprise. I like these passages a lot, as a consequence. In the film, it is within these fractured spaces that the new vision of Superman properly takes nourishment.
The Stradivarius cello of Anne-Marie Calhoun makes a wonderful contribution to the yearning beginning of Krypton’s Last, once again, imploring solace and contentment against a tide of deceitful fate. As if in reply to such a request, the track then erupts into a squall of furious drumming, fuzzy electronica and seesawing strings. It all keeps you on your toes, the score playing tit for tat with good and bad spheres being hurled back and forth.
Beauty and menace go hand-in-hand in the ominous, yet ambient You Led Us Here. A bell chimes with fateful tidings. The choir mourns. Drums rattle. The piano makes desperate, bleating cries. Instead of grave upset and emotional turmoil, Jor-El says Goodbye My Son to a cue that is flavoured with star-spun optimism and spiritual justification, though the pain of having to commit such an act runs its cold fingers through the cue like the first breezy hint of a coming storm.
The big bad.
Shannon’s General Zod gets a lengthy cue with his name on it.
Zimmer goes for epic with this, and takes a very typical sort of approach, telling a musical story of duty, betrayal, dishonour, rage and revenge. The driving rhythm for strings is straight out of Batman’s war on Gotham crime, growing with each pass, aided by sizzling warbles from the pedal steel guitars and sweltering swipes from bass. His haunted plight, warped code of honour and galactic sense of pride are given a wonderfully moving second section of yearning bitterness that genuinely feels cold, lonely and aggrieved. Zimmer has the strings linger for a beautiful passage of sunken heroism. Zod was a man with a motive and an unimpeachable belief that he was doing the right thing for the betterment of the people of Krypton. In the film, Michael Shannon supplies plenty of fire and brimstone, but he doesn’t elicit much in the way of the sympathy that the screenplay wants to us feel for him. Zimmer fills in all the psychological blanks because this theme does the job for him. In spades.
It returns in Arcadia where it is allowed to gather even more steam and venom. Lashing scythes of electronic lend fuzz and fur, turning the theme more animalistic, yet more techno at the same time. Each side-swipe from these smothering paw-strikes of the pedal guitars has a slight whistle-past echo that moves across you like a spray of acid rain, adding a greater degree of immediacy and danger.
So you want some action?
Much of the score, however, is generic action mulch with the emphasis placed firmly upon bass and percussion and soul-trembling chords of doom. Despite the fact that I actually love this score, there are some undeniable truths that hold it back from being a true class act. Barring the main theme, you could surely lift the score out of Man of Steel and place it on top of almost any other large-scale, rubble-strewn adventure that has come along in the last few years. It shares the same cacophonous, over-produced and densely weighted signature as the middle two Pirates of the Caribbean entries, the Dark Knight trilogy, the second Sherlock Holmes and any of the Transformers.
Drums – and Zimmer has amassed a formidable battery of ten kits, including rock, tympani and field drums – are the backbone of the pugilistic portions of the score. They chop and clatter through If You Love These People, elbowing aside the bass and strings, jockeying with the choir and twanging electric guitar for supremacy. They go a little easier in Launch, brilliantly accentuated by string-fed yelps and gilded by a sizzling shriek from the electric guitar. But they come back with a vengeance in Ignition, accompanied by driving strings and brass and a swarmingbelch of deep flatulence from the pedal steel guitars – he’s ranked eight of these alongside titanium sculptures to create the many strange and bellicose electronic utterances.
But then we come to the barnstorming track Terraforming which runs for a giddy nine minutes of driving, intense, pell-mell insanity as General Zod commences with his Genesis/Genocide plan to reshape the Earth into a new Krypton, two seismic, environment changing energy drills cutting through our world from two opposite points on the globe. As the maelstrom gathers energy, elements reminiscent of Broken Arrow bully their way in, huge wallops of almost darkly satirical diabolism, stoked by cutting striations from the strings. A slower, quieter and more menacing passage uses sampled voices to murmur against angular bulkheads of metal-accented percussion. A four-note shovel of heavy Moog-laced brass reminds of the macho blistering main theme from Trevor Jones’ synthesised Runaway Train. There is also something of Pirates’ Davy Jones at work here in this glowering totem to destruction. The final section brings gently climbing strings, rising tones, mixed, more angelic voices and a fabulous sense of both hope and despair – quite an achievement, that – as the stakes are raised and Superman is forced to go on the globally offensive to halt Zod’s geological weapon. The finale of this is incredibly potent and almost terrifyingly moving. One of the most anguished, knife-edged musical laments is Barber’s Adagio for Strings – heard often, of course, but perhaps most acutely in Oliver Stones’ Platoon – and this gasping, cloud-piercing lament could almost be Hans Zimmer’s version. The track is epic, and awesomely constructed, carrying you through various emotional vantage points and leaving you, breathless, upon a pinnacle that could well be poised above the churning soup of the apocalypse.
Zimmer has spoken about how little he utilised his banks of synth for all this. How he brought in ten batteries of drums and how he sought out Ann-Marie Calhoun for her exquisite relationship with the cello. But, and I’ve made this point numerous times over the last few years with regards to his style of composing and scoring development, what is the point of such endeavour when the resulting mix only makes it all sound so intensely synthetic? It’s like buying a red sports car because you fell in love with its unique shade and then spraying it blue. I’ll ask the question again … what’s the point?
Meanwhile, back to those drums ...
That intense array of drums … all ten salvos of artillery … they blur into one amalgamation of pounding brutality that, as cool as such hyper tribalism is (and I love this sort of thing), kind of nullifies the extent of such a gathering. The same bludgeoning impact could have been gained from just five, if all you are then going to do with the furious beat is mix it all into one super-duper fusillade and extend the bass levels even further. This rhythmic battering is exactly the sort of thing that you from those ethnic drummers in a street carnival – the grandstanding stomp that gets your feet tapping along with it. Zimmer created the perfect depiction of chaotic, primal adrenalized percussion with his aggravated theme for Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. That, folks, was utterly fantastic. Here, in the likes of Oil Rig and This is Madness it can’t help but sound like a less impactful imitation of such ferocity. For the former, the drifting Clark takes time out from deep sea trawling to save a platform full of bedraggled survivors from a raging inferno aboard an oil rig, holding back some of the blazing superstructure so that a rescue chopper can lift them out to safety. In the second, Jor-El fights a running battle with Zod’s shock-troops as he escapes and evades back home in time to send his son off into space. This is Madness, especially, creates a repetitive spasmic jolt that builds and charges and builds some more, yet goes nowhere. Fast. Against my better judgement I can appreciate the rolling, remorseless rush that barrels along, but I can also totally understand how it can leave some listeners resolutely out in the cold. It isn’t special. It is just an army of entranced, fired-up percussionists battering drums for a few minutes.
We can hear thunder in the clouds at the start of You Die or I Do. Drums rattle somewhere in a distant valley and then suddenly seem to erupt right beside us. Warbling synth buzzes to and fro like a huge wasp trapped in a wind-tunnel. Demonic anvil-heavy pounding takes place, fuzzy and raucous. Imposing clarion flurries like electro-shocked trumpets add weight and panic, the track shredding nerves as it roars to an abrupt conclusion. Similarly brutish is the unmerciful I Will Find Him, heard when the Zod-squad are captured after their Kryptonian coup fails and they are sentenced to frozen exile in the Phantom Zone. The General declares several times and with steadily rising vehemence to baby Supes’ mummy, Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer), that no matter how he is imprisoned he will seek out and destroy Jor-El’s son and heir. The pace and drive of the growing fury is thematically familiar, subjugating Zod’s theme with wrathful justice that will be short-lived. Does Zimmer develop these alarming ostinatos? Well, no, not really. A lot of these bellowing tracks simply charge with unyielding military mania ... but then this is the character of Zod. He is unbreakable and non-negotiable. Zimmer is merely giving him musical sustenance for his animosity.
Now we come to the crux of why Hans Zimmer is such a divisive composer. Some score-fans would even take umbrage with me for calling the Hans Zimmer we have working in movies today a composer, so damn sampled, samey-same and utterly engulfed in lower frequencies is his material. He churns out massively A-list scores with exactly the same dirge-like drone right across the board. Admittedly, I love some of these – the first Sherlock Holmes was outstanding, I thought – and I hate others with a passion – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was loathsome. The plain and simple, yet implacable purpose of a film score is to fit and complement the film it is wrapped around. Does Hans Zimmer’s audience-splitting work on Man of Steel do this? In short, yes. It sits perfectly in-tandem with Snyder’s epic adventure and totally embodies the core emotions and dynamics of the story and the character of Kal-El as he awakens to his true potential.
I didn’t expect to ... but I love the score. It is far from perfect, and plenty of the more aggressive action could have been scooped-up out any other huge action adventure, but it still suits the movie. Plus, the album and the score get the balance between the lyricism and the violence absolutely spot on. For every kicking that we get, there is a period of calm. For every timber-rattling barrage from the drums, we get that lilting, ever-delightful main theme to help us regroup and gain confidence.
The action is downright bruising, but this is a score that will be remembered for its softer, more heartfelt passages. Those who claim to hear no themes in this are clearly listening to it with their fingers in their ears. His main theme is not a fanfare in the John Williams mould, and nor should it be. This telling of the story does not require one. It is an anthem. An American anthem, for sure, but then Superman is the colourful embodiment of Truth, Justice and the American Way, and this apple-pie ideal is perfectly reflected in a simple, plaintiff ode to finding the courage within oneself.
The score, and this exhausting expanded version of it, comes highly recommended. I have some issues that knock a couple of points off but, overall, this gets a very strong 8 out of 10 from me. I'm resisting the urge to grant it 10 just for that main theme!
You'll believe a Zimmer can fly!
Full Track Listing for 2-disc Deluxe Edition
1. Look to the Stars
2. Oil Rig
3. Sent here for a Reason
5. Goodbye My Son
6. If You Love These People
7. Krypton's Last
10. You Die or I Do
13. I Will Find Him
14. This is Clark Kent
15. I Have So Many Questions
17. What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?
1. Man of Steel (Hans' Original Sketchbook)
2. Are You Listening, Clark?
3. General Zod
4. You Led Us Here
5. This Is Madness!
Drums, drums and more drums. Yet Hans Zimmer, defying all expectations, steadfastly sticks to his fan-dividing style and still comes up with a work that is blistering, beautiful, bold and, I have to say it, brilliant.
Drums, then ... and whole lotta heart, too.
His naysayers, of which I am a part-time member, may not be convinced that this mammoth score is anything better, nor indeed, anything different from any number he has come up with since Gladiator. But I, for one, am extremely pleased to celebrate and applaud his efforts to help make a new Man of Steel fly.
With an extraordinary amount of dreamy, delicate ambience, Zimmer has not simply bashed out another nonstop dirge. Memories of The Dark Knight are unavoidable, but this is much lighter and far more lyrical. In many ways, far more affecting. The composer’s hallmarks are all present and correct, and there are elements that fall short, certainly, but this is a grand affair that genuinely goes the distance. My thoughts when I first heard the full score were that it lacked colour, variety and a true character of its own, but these early impressions were actually way off the mark. Within his soundscape, Zimmer has fashioned euphoria and tragedy, rage and pathos, might and dignity. His main theme for Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman is a thing of undeniable bliss and, once heard, will linger in the mind and the soul for a long, long time. Simple, minimalist, earnest and yet so rousing.
Snyder, Nolan and Goyer may have endeavoured to bring Superman down to earth, so to speak, with grit, angst and as much realism as is possible for an indestructible alien champion with laser-beam eyes, but Zimmer has kept the magic and the heart of the character gleaming with celestial pride.
A fabulous score and a terrific release.
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