Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A BRIEF HISTORY OF BATMAN AND SUPERMAN IN FILM MUSIC PT.2

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Editor's note: the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the website as a whole. In other words, Callum likes Man of Steel. 
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1995 Atlantic Records release
Batman Forever (1995) – Elliot Goldenthal

Following a diminished box office intake for Batman Returns and some backlash from parents regarding the aggressively dark tone, Warner Bros. made a concerted effort to make the Caped Crusader’s next adventure more child-friendly. Burton, sick of making Batman films at that point anyway, was relegated to the executive producer role, with Joel Schumacher taking over directing duties. Michael Keaton chose to set aside the cape and cowl, and the role of Bruce Wayne was granted to Val Kilmer, best known then and arguably now for his role as Iceman in the 80s classic Top Gun. A whole host of supporting characters were added as well, including Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, and Jim Carrey. The big names and the tonal changes paid off, as audiences flocked to the theater and made Batman Forever the 2nd highest grossing film of 1995. This, despite critical disgust, an asinine plot, and, most infamously, the introduction of nipples on the Bat-suit.

By this point, Danny Elfman’s career was flourishing, and Burton’s departure influenced Elfman into leaving the franchise. Stepping into his shoes was Elliot Goldenthal, who was in a similar position as Elfman was when he began Batman; young, talented, and with a distinctive style. Goldenthal had already snagged an Academy Award nomination for Interview with the Vampire, and was slowly entering the mainstream with scores for Alien 3 and Demolition Man, the latter of which might be one of the most intelligent action scores ever written for one of the dumbest action films ever produced. In each of his projects, Goldenthal’s avant-garde style would garner praise from some corners, with others expressing less enthusiasm for his intelligent, yet often difficult and occasionally unlistenable dissonance.

Although Batman Forever nominally takes place in the same world as Burton’s films, Schumacher instructed Goldenthal to not use Elfman’s iconic themes. While Goldenthal complied, his main theme still captures the essence of Batman’s duality, and you can hear the ghost of Elfman’s original theme. In the end, much like in Elfman’s original, the score settles on the heroic side in the mighty “Batterdammerung” (I always love a good Wagner pun). Goldenthal applies this theme well and in plenty of variations throughout the score, but it’s sadly one of the few things he gets right. Kidman’s love interest is treated with a sultry solo trumpet that is completely over the top in its sleaziness, heard in “Chase Noir.” (What is it with these superhero scores falling back on this corny technique once the franchise goes off the rails?) There’s a motif comprised of painfully shrill brass and overbearingly pounding percussion for Jones’s Two-Face character, which shifts from lumbering and somewhat menacing to a campy waltzing rhythm in “Two-Face Three-Step.” Whether this is an actual cue used in the film or just a suite for the character is difficult to tell, because I haven’t seen the film. However, if Jim Carrey’s Riddler is anything like the music Goldenthal wrote for him, I’m certain my time is better spent on less painful endeavors. The Riddler is characterized by a string of frenetic rhythms and the same sharp brass. Swirling strings, wind glissandi, and an endless onslaught in the percussion combine to make this one highly unpleasant listening experience. A Theremin even joins the fray in “Nygma Variations (An Ode to Science),” only escalating the campy nature of the film. The two minute mark of the same track introduces even more eclectic instrumentation, as hyperactive as the little children Warner hoped to lure into the theater with this film.

I can appreciate the clever orchestrations and the intelligent writing Goldenthal applied to this score. Perhaps it works well in the film. But I’m certainly not going to suggest you watch Batman Forever, and brilliant writing doesn’t always translate into an enjoyable listening experience. The moments of heroic grandeur are solid, but, just like Batman himself in all of his movies, it gets overshadowed and undercut by the utter nuttiness of the villains’ themes. On album, the tonal shifts are too schizophrenic and headache-inducing to recommend. If you do seek it out, the original release from Atlantic Records contains about 45 minutes of the score, but the La-La Land Records complete set (which has nearly the same cover for some reason) packages the full 100+ minutes of original score. I cannot speak to the quality of the complete release, as I have no desire to visit this score in an expanded version.
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Batman and Robin (1997) – Elliot Goldenthal

Batman Forever’s financial success led to an immediately greenlit sequel, and Schumacher and co. doubled down on the campy tone for the next entry. Kilmer “sort of quit” and was “sort of fired” from playing Bruce Wayne, and stepping up to the plate was George Clooney, then the red-hot star of TV’s E.R. and slowly emerging as a leading man in film. I could go into greater detail about the behind the scenes and how the film performed, but you all know what happened. If you don’t, just search “Mr. Freeze puns,” watch a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger in blue paint deliver line after line of cringeworthy ice jokes, and you will understand how this film was critically panned and sunk the franchise. In the comics, Bane may have broken Batman’s back, but in the movie theater, Batman and Robin actually killed Batman. In fact, many parallels could be drawn between this and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. One minor, but notable similarity is just like Courage’s score for The Quest for Peace, Goldenthal’s second crack at Batman never received an official release alongside the film. However, bootlegs of the score (possibly ripped straight from the movie’s audio track) are floating around the internet, and they reveal a score that, while still carrying many of Goldenthal’s mannerisms and trademarks, is distinctly more in the mold of a generic action/adventure score. After the hyperactive mess that was Batman Forever, I mean that as a compliment.


Goldenthal brings back his Batman theme, as grand and heroic as ever, and augments it with a sufficiently Gothic tone for the Dynamic Duo’s heroics. For Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), Goldenthal blends the erotic with the exotic, balancing another sultry saxophone with jungle rhythms and atmosphere. Mr. Freeze gets percussive and synthetic barrages for his action moments, occasionally nearing the abrasive levels of the Riddler material from the previous score, but he also receives some powerful choral support to underscore his personal tragedy. There’s not really too much else to say. Batman and Robin is a solid blend of Goldenthal’s ideas from Forever and the brawny action of Elfman’s Batman. If that sounds appealing, it’s worth a listen, but be aware that the bootleg is two hours long and interspersed with songs placed in the film, as well as one performed by Mr. Freeze’s band (you read that correctly). It’s likely that at some point, La-La Land Records will get a hold of this score and give Goldenthal’s final Bat-score an official release.
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2005 Warner Brothers Records release
Batman Begins (2005) – Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard

Although Batman and Robin was bad enough to prevent development of a fifth film, the Caped Crusader was too enticing of a cash cow to ignore. Encouraged by the success of franchises for Marvel characters Blade, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, Warner Bros. pushed forward in reviving Batman, hiring director Christopher Nolan, who had wowed audiences and critics alike with Memento, and writer David S. Goyer (the Blade trilogy) to develop a film chronicling Bruce Wayne’s youth and his transformation into the Dark Knight. Many have described Nolan’s Bat-films as “dark, gritty, and realistic,” and the third adjective is somewhat ridiculous. Don’t act like a guy who dresses as a rodent to bring down the mob and an Illuminati-esque group intent on destroying a city with a powerful hallucinogen is “realistic.” What Nolan, aided by a truly all-star cast, accomplished was transforming Gotham City and the Batman concept into a hard-boiled crime thriller, surpassing its predecessors in narrative intelligence and character depth.

Nolan offered compositional duties to Hans Zimmer, who had spent the better part of the past decade redefining the sound of the testosterone-fueled action blockbuster. Unwilling to tackle the project alone, Zimmer enlisted the help of James Newton Howard, another of Hollywood’s most prolific composers, as well as a few understudies from Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions studio. The end product is a surprisingly homogeneous blend of both Zimmer and Howard’s mannerisms, with the scales tipped a little bit in Zimmer’s favor. One can hear Howard’s unique voice in the emotionally weight cues and Zimmer’s leading the charge in the action sequences.

Following Nolan’s lead, Zimmer and Howard forge a different path for the music of Batman, emphasizing textures, sound design, and a heavy bass and synthetic presence while eschewing grand statements of heroism, orchestral might, and treble power. The opening cue of the soundtrack album epitomizes this approach right off the bat (pun shamelessly intended), with a thumping sound effect that resembles flapping wings, before a faint choir ushers in a string ostinato and we hear two long notes on brass, a D to F progression that serves as one of Batman’s primary identities. The flapping effect frequently hints at Batman’s presence before his eventual appearance. Aggressive dissonance, occasionally resembling the screeching of bats in the string section, appears in “Artebeus” and “Tadaria,” accompanying the more horror-inspired sequences in the film.

That’s not to say that Batman Begins is bereft of themes; rather, there are several melodic motifs that appear, but defining each one is rather difficult for several reasons. The haphazard placement of cues in the film blurs the line of what theme defines which idea or character. Combine that with the facts that many of these themes are similar in key and progression to each other and that the album has its tracks arranged in suites (and titled by different bat species), and you’re left with a messy soup of melodies, several of which could be this film’s “Batman theme.” The lead contenders for this title are the two-note horn blast, a string of four-note clusters (and their underlying chords) on display in “Antrozous,” or perhaps the muscular brass anthem with the synthetic percussion that comes in the same track at the 2:00 minute mark and forms the backbone of “Molossus.” Maybe it’s just the underlying ostinati that propel every action sequence. If you take Batman Begins in context of the entire trilogy, however, your most likely candidate becomes a nascent theme that appears midway through “Eptesicus,” building with trepidation as Bruce trains with the League of Shadows.

Howard handles lament repeatedly using either a boy soprano, a soft piano, or a cello. Bruce’s pain is repeatedly addressed with the soprano’s singing a slow tempo, high pitch tune, then translated by a piano into the four-note cluster. This motif receives a more noble variation when Christian Bale finally utters the iconic catchphrase “I’m Batman,” as well as at the end of the film, when he flies into the night (man, my Bat-puns are Bat-tacular!). Easily the most attractive theme in the film is one that develops and blossoms into a beautiful violin adagio in “Macrotus” and “Corynohinus.” At first, it suggests the bittersweet majesty of Gotham, underscoring the reveal of Wayne Tower and the monorail, only to reappear when Rachel kisses Bruce. In the sequel, it becomes part of Harvey Dent’s theme, so who really knows?


And that’s arguably the biggest problem with Batman Begins. Plenty of good ideas are introduced, particularly Howard’s beautiful theme, Zimmer’s action motifs, and the synthetic wing-flapping rumble. Yet none of them are given the same kind of development and maturation that Nolan gives his characters over the course of the film, particularly Bruce Wayne’s character. While the music has many attractive moments, never quite coalesce into a complete musical narrative. Another issue for many Bat-fans is the fact that Zimmer and Howard never really pay due respect to Elfman’s original, or even attempt to echo the Gothic atmosphere or grandeur that has become synonymous with the Caped Crusader. If this disregard for precedence, emphasis on the synthetic, and inconsistent thematic development don’t bother you too much, I can give you a lukewarm recommendation to check out the music from Batman Begins. Otherwise, I suggest you just watch the terrific film.
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Vikram's Recommendation: 2013 La-La Land Records release
Superman Returns (2006) – John Ottman

Following the disastrous Superman IV, ideas of resurrecting the Man of Steel flitted in and out of Warner Bros.’ headquarters, most notably Superman Lives, a Kevin Smith script based on Superman’s death that would’ve featured Tim Burton behind the camera and Nicolas Cage as Kal-El. Eventually, it was Bryan Singer, who had made his name with The Usual Suspects and the first two X-Men films, who pitched a story that would actually go into production. Superman Returns depicts, as you might expect, Superman returning to Earth after travelling to the remnants of Krypton. Though he is supposedly gone for only five years following the events of Superman II and the film often has a color palette suggesting the 1930s, the film is firmly set in the present, a skeptical, post-9/11 world, reflected through Lois Lane, who is hurt by Superman’s sudden disappearance and cynical about his equally sudden reappearance. Superman Returns is easily one of the most melancholy comic book movies ever made, with soft dialogue and stretches of introspection. While I greatly appreciated this unique approach, and while many parts of the movie are terrific (including Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor), the pacing is very uneven, and lead actor Brandon Routh, while sufficient at playing Clark Kent, lacked the charm and charisma Christopher Reeve brought to Superman.

Singer brought along several of his regular collaborators, including editor and composer John Ottman. Given the reverence Singer displayed for the first two Christopher Reeve films, Ottman’s utilization of the classic John Williams’ themes was a foregone conclusion. From the opening of the film, Ottman makes it clear that homage will be made to Williams, kicking Superman Returns off with a noble performance of the Krypton theme, immediately followed by a full-throttle performance of the title march over the opening credits. However, unlike Thorne and Courage’s sequel scores, Ottman goes beyond mere quotation, blending old with new in a seamless package. The best interpolation of Williams’ old themes is the galloping ostinato from the title march, pricking the ears up at the merest passing mention and providing anticipatory energy to the action cues, simultaneously charging Kal-El and the audience up in a cue like “Power of the Sun.” Like Williams, Ottman also makes liberal use of the brass fanfare, though he shelves the A theme for just the opening and closing credits. The Kent family theme dutifully appears in “Memories,” while Clark waxes nostalgic on the old farm, and the Krypton motif gets development peppered throughout, most notably in “Found Something.”

The only Williams theme that Ottman drops is the campy March of the Villains, giving Spacey’s Lex Luthor a more menacing and scenery-chewing descending brass line, which is short enough to herald Luthor’s arrivals, and also works in brilliant counterpoint to Superman’s ostinato in “Saving the World.” The iconic love theme returns, but primarily in nostalgic fragments, reflecting the damaged relationship between Superman and Lois Lane, who has mostly moved on with her life. Ottman crafts a new idea to supplant it, tonally similar, but more wistful. To mix Williams metaphors, Ottman’s new theme is to the original what “Luke and Leia” was to “Han Solo and the Princess” in Star Wars. The old and new merge in the heart-wrenching “How Could You Leave Us?” as Lois and Superman take one final flight together over Metropolis.

Ottman’s ace in the hole, however, is the choir. The prior Superman scores featured virtually no choral presence, but Ottman wrings just about every emotion he can out of his vocalists. They appear at times with deep and foreboding accentuations, other times with gentle, Elfman-esque cooing. At times, Ottman even channels György Ligeti’s Atmospheres, famously used in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the emotionally draining “So Long Superman.” Ottman’s utilization of the choir reflects his approach to the entire score: stay true to the roots of the concept, but give it a something more that no one realized we needed. The original 2006 Rhino Records album (with just the logo on the cover) includes 55 minutes of highlights from the score, particularly the terrific “Rough Flight” and “How Could You Leave Us?” However, a full appreciation of Ottman’s achievement is better accomplished by either watching the film or checking out La-La Land’s 2-CD complete score (with a brooding Superman on the cover). Whichever product you choose will yield one of the high points of the entire Superman franchise.
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2008 Warner Brothers Records release
The Dark Knight (2008) – Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard

Batman Begins’ financial and critical success virtually guaranteed a sequel, and Nolan and company set about delivering on the promise of the first movie’s final scene, casting Heath Ledger as the Joker. Ledger’s tragic death in between filming and wide release cast a pall over the film, but rumors of his performance only served to heighten the anticipation for the movie. Between public anticipation and critical acclaim, topped with an incredible, Oscar-winning performance from Ledger, The Dark Knight had little trouble racking in over $1 billion, the fourth highest grossing film ever at the time. To say that The Dark Knight was a cultural phenomenon would be a slight understatement; the Academy Awards doubled the number of nominees for Best Picture in response to outrage that this comic book movie wasn’t nominated. Between the superb performances, haunting imagery, social commentary (there are strong allegorical echoes of the War on Terror), and the complex moral dilemmas the heroes face, there are many things working in this film’s favor, and it’s easy to see why many adore this film. Personally, I find Batman Begins to be slightly better constructed and paced, though The Dark Knight is nonetheless an excellent film.

Returning alongside the primary cast and crew were the Dynamic Duo of Zimmer and Howard. For this film, the tone of the crime drama genre was doubled down upon, at times bearing great thematically and structurally resemblance to Michael Mann’s Heat. Given the campy, almost cartoon-y tone of the Schumacher Batman films and the hard-nosed noir-ish elements of the Nolan films, I would love to witness the alternate universe where Zimmer and Howard, both well-experienced composers in the animated and adventure films, and Elliot Goldenthal, whose stylish guitar-led score for Heat is among his best, had flipped assignments in Batman’s musical world. However, we reside in the universe where Zimmer and Howard’s score for The Dark Knight is, by association with the film, one of the most overrated scores of recent times.

That’s not to say it’s bad, however. For the most part, this score is a step up from the rather disjointed Batman Begins. The various identities representing Bruce Wayne and his alter ego remain rather muddled, but two motifs rise to the greatest prominence: the drawn out two-note progression, and the hinted-at melody from the previous film’s “Eptesicus,” which here blossoms into a cello-based theme. The latter alternates between a slow and haunting elegy in the album-closing suite “A Dark Knight,” evoking “Chevaliers de Sangreal” from Zimmer’s The Da Vinci Code (as well as a few of Zimmer’s best dramatic scores), and a rousing, ostinato driven power anthem as heard in “Like a Dog Chasing Cars.” The action motif returns, sometimes slower and heavier as a suspense technique, but, just as in Batman Returns, the ideas for the hero get overshadowed by the music for the villains.

For this entry, Zimmer and Howard split responsibilities for the bad guys, the former developing the Joker’s music and the latter Harvey Dent’s. For the Joker, what Zimmer created can barely be described as a theme, as it’s really just one note, surrounded by heavily processed sound design. You can hear it in its full glory in the 9 minute “Why So Serious?” and it is, depending on who you ask, either utterly brilliant or painfully dull. While this motif successfully generates tension whenever the Joker is present, and reflects the character’s singular drive for chaos, it also betrays the layers Ledger gave the Clown Prince of Crime and is nigh unlistenable out of context. Howard nearly neutralizes the negatives of the Joker theme with a terrific concept for Dent, fully fleshed out in the “Harvey Two-Face” suite. Every facet of this theme exacerbates the contrast of Dent’s character. The hint of major-key nobility stands out from the bleak atmosphere of the rest of the score, though it ultimately twists itself into a cruelly bittersweet theme, just as the Joker twists Harvey into the monstrous Two-Face. Similarly, the juxtaposition of flutes and percussion underlines the contrast between Dent’s struggle to be Gotham’s White Knight and his eventual descent into the basest despair and villainy.

For the most part, Zimmer and Howard do a solid job of integrating their pieces into a cohesive puzzle, at times stacking the Joker texture, Harvey’s theme, and one of Batman’s themes on top of one another. The overall tone is more consistent in this entry, but that also causes problems when the tone is so consistently depressing on its albums. If you seek this score out on its own, steer clear of the two-disc “Collector’s Edition.” The second disc contains 20 minutes of pointless remixes, and the first disc is identical in material to the regular release. The single-disc regular release provides most of the necessary music from the film, albeit once again heavily rearranged into suites. In the end, Zimmer and Howard’s music for The Dark Knight may have been the Batman score we needed, but it was certainly not the Batman score we deserved.
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2012 Watertower Music release
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Hans Zimmer

Following the smashing success of The Dark Knight, Nolan, cognizant of the third franchise installment’s bad track record (Superman, The Godfather, Terminator, Alien, etc), was wary of returning for another Bat-film, and in the meantime made the Oscar-nominated action blockbuster Inception. After being persuaded by the script quality, Nolan signed on for part three, bringing along several thespians from Inception with him, most notably Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy as the ‘roided-up Bane (what is it with Tom Hardy and voices you can’t understand?). A massive marketing campaign preceded the release of the film, set nearly a decade after the events of The Dark Knight. While borrowing elements heavily from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, as well as past Batman films (the wintery setting and an antagonist of Batman Returns, and the bomb-disposal sequence in the Adam West film, among others), The Dark Knight Rises brought the series full circle, completing Bruce Wayne’s character arc in a satisfying manner, though the film does drag at times and is just a notch below Nolan’s first two entries.

Returning in the music department was Hans Zimmer, whose score for Inception was beginning to redefine action music for several years, but more notable was the absence of James Newton Howard, who chose to not return to avoid becoming a third wheel between Nolan and Zimmer. The German composer forged ahead without his close friend (though, as with the first two, accompanied by several people who composed “additional music”), for the most part extending the sonic palette of the previous two films, though Howard’s emotional touch is sorely missed. The Dark Knight Rises is primarily defined by the same action style as the previous two scores, though with a more prominent electronic presence echoing the string section in “The Fire Rises” and “Despair.”
For the new villains, Zimmer develops two themes, both as ostinato driven as Batman’s themes. Selina Kyle (who is never called “Catwoman” in the film) receives an ascending string of sixteenth notes on the violins, which is slowed down and overlaid with a slinking piano line for the character scenes. Bane’s theme is defined by low brass (reminiscent of Inception’s “Mombassa”), choppy glissando strings, and a mixed meter ostinato, often chanted with the words “Deshi Basara” (Arabic for “Rise up”), capturing the brutal aggression of the character. Interestingly, Zimmer offers no thematic idea for the duplicitous Miranda Tate, whose femme fatale role ought to have provided an ample opportunity for a juicy, nuanced musical characterization.

More than the other themes representing Batman, the two note horn theme gets the most development, including a ghostly performance by a soprano in “On Thin Ice” and the hint of a shift to the minor key in “Despair.” For the most part, Zimmer’s other ideas are merely repeated instead of developed. Even more egregious is his complete regurgitation of passages from his earlier Bat-scores, notably the tender piano lament in “Nothing Out There” and the concluding minutes of “Rise,” which is a note-for-note lift of the music at the end of The Dark Knight. Mix this in with a score that is almost entirely in D minor, built around the same propulsive action ostinati, and offers only slow-moving ambience in between the action, and we’re left with a score that, while functional and containing some solid cues and ideas, ironically comes off as boring. Cues like “Why Do We Fall?” and “Imagine the Fire” may be great to accompany your workout, but the score as a whole lacks the Gothic grandeur of Elfman’s first two, the frenetic insanity of Goldenthal’s sequels, or even the tortured heart of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight.

One perk of The Dark Knight Rises’ soundtrack album is that many cues are from the film instead of suites, though still slightly out of chronological order. That said, nearly half an hour of extra music was released through various outlets along with the regular album. Frankly, they’re not worth the effort of tracking down. If you need just one album to represent the music of Nolan’s brooding interpretation of Batman, make it The Dark Knight and scrap together highlights from the others.
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2013 Watertower Music Regular release
Man of Steel (2013) – Hans Zimmer

Despite the critical and commercial success of Superman Returns, scheduling conflicts, combined with what Warner perceived as under-performance at the box office, squashed hopes of a sequel and potential crossover with Nolan’s Batman films. An origin story developed by Dark Knight collaborators Goyer and Nolan made its way into production, and after a lengthy search involving many big names (Aronofsky! Zemeckis! Affleck! Duncan Jones! (Okay, last one not as big)), the directing chair was filled by Zack Snyder, who made a splash with flashy adaptations of famed graphic novels 300 and Watchmen. The resulting film polarized audiences and critics, with some praising the brooding tone, similar to Nolan’s Bat-films, while others criticized it for the same reasons, particularly the brutally over-the-top destruction of Metropolis. Personally, while I found some interesting ideas in the film, in particular the contrast of Superman’s two fathers, the frequent flashbacks hindered narrative flow and Snyder never managed to capture any emotional investment in the characters from me.

In addition to Nolan as executive producer and Goyer as screenwriter, Man of Steel featured another prominent carryover from the Dark Knight trilogy with composer Hans Zimmer, who had refused multiple offers to tackle Superman, but eventually relented, bringing along a new squad of four young composers to offer “additional music” in the same manner he did with his Bat-scores. By fully embracing the hard reboot of Superman, Zimmer and Snyder agreed to set John Williams’ iconic themes for the Donner classic aside, opting, like much of the film’s other aspects, for music closer in style to what Zimmer and James Newton Howard had crafted for the Dark Knight series. At this point, I am obligated to note that I’ve observed a correlation between most fans’ enjoyment of Man of Steel the film and their appreciation of Man of Steel the score, so take the following opinions in with that caveat in mind (though your pinch of salt need not be too hefty).

Zimmer and co. introduce a couple good ideas for this incarnation of Superman. A series of two rising notes on a piano seem to convey the warm humanity of Clark Kent, and the main theme it leads into is, if not on par with Williams’ iconic march, still displays a sense of heroism, pride, and energy. A more yearning theme appears in the brief but potent “Goodbye My Son” and comprises the second half of “Flight,” whose chord progression Zimmer also ties to the destruction of Krypton.

Unfortunately, that’s just about all I can say positively about Man of Steel. The heroic theme never gets any development, appearing only in the conclusive “What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving the World?” (I’m guessing that track is never getting a library card.) Save for the ending, there’s barely a drop of old-fashioned, patriotic, heroism. Then again, Superman barely does anything heroic in this film, so one could argue Zimmer was merely scoring the film he was given. The other themes are barely developed, the piano theme getting next to no variation in pace, instrumentation, or rhythm. The motif for General Zod is always performed over the same pounding block chords, though it does go faster for the action scenes and slower for the REALLY DRAMATIC moments.

Possibly the most frustrating aspect of the score is the hideous mixing. Over nearly every minute of this score, a thick layer of ambient smog sits over everything, diminishing the power of the performing ensemble. Nothing better displays the effect of the mix than the nearly ten-minute-long “Terraforming” cue, which basically goes nowhere; the mega-ensemble of all-star drummers are indistinguishable, the electronically enhance bass rips feel labored, the brass and choir almost sound fake, the string ostinati feel dull and lifeless, and the drawn-out chords at its conclusion, intended to elicit emotion, bleed into one another and lack any kind of punch. When all of its parts are added together, Man of Steel is a very weak score, lacking both the heart and narrative development of a good film score, the heroism and Americana of a Superman score, and the listenability and balance of a good standalone album. If you do seek an album out, there’s the “Regular Edition” (with red and blue on the cover) and the “Deluxe Edition” (which comes in all gray). The latter features about half an hour of more music in the same vein as the regular edition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ____

We have come to the end of my recap of Superman and Batman’s storied film music history. If you have made it this far, I applaud your tenacity. What do you expect from Batman v. Superman? Would you like to see articles of this nature in the future? If you enjoyed this article, please call me nice things in the comments. If you think I was very wrong on many things, please call me less nice things in the comments.