Never has there been a more apt choice for “Forget The Movie” than Man Of Steel. A reboot of the Superman character fuelled by a Christopher Nolan fresh off, Zack Snyder’s film is a movie that doesn’t really like anything about Superman.
We spend a lot of time on “cool stuff”; Krypton’s civil war, a very angry Michael Shannon wanting to turn Earth into a new Krypton, a holographic Jor-El that’s admittedly a lot more mobile than Marlon Brando’s floating head, but it’s all pew-pew and little else. Scenes of Clark Kent growing up learning his powers have their promise neutralised by an overbearing Kevin Costner who doesn’t give two shits about the infinite potential Clark has to save the world many times over. The film is a horrible dirge and feels very much like a forced attempt to not be previous adaptations, ironic considering Nolan’s first Batman worshipped Richard Donner’s Superman so much he cast Shane Rimmer.
Hans Zimmer’s Man Of Steel, however – that’s a totally different story. Zimmer’s score is all the things the film failed to be: emotional, gripping, and heroic. If you close your eyes you can see a vision of Superman more befitting the naure of the character, but to do that you need to divorce the score from the film completely. First things first: open up whichever music program you use, import the Man Of Steel album into it (normal version only, let’s not overcomplicate things) and put it in a playlist resembling the one at the bottom of the page.
You see, the Man Of Steel album is terribly sequenced, and while like all Hans Zimmer’s albums it’s all been put into little suites, it can be programmed to follow the film order a bit more. This is important with a score like this due to its thematic content, so you will reap the benefits of the development of themes and motifs and subsequent callbacks. And it won’t take too long to blow its wad with the big theme, as it does in the original sequencing.
It’s a wonderful score, by far Hans’ best, and it’s quite a shame that the film isn’t anywhere near up to the task. It’s not perfect – at times it feels like wading through treacle – but those parts are offset by some of the sheer awestruck beauty and power on display, not least by the huge drum circle. And so much of it contrasts, like the huge primal percussion of ‘Oil Rig’ followed by ‘Sent Here For A Reason’. ‘I Have So Many Questions’ is a beautiful cue with that searching theme, and works brilliantly preceding ‘Flight’ (the original soundtrack had them in this order too, but placed Flight as the penultimate track) and having the flight scene track (which is a brilliant piece) gives it room to breathe and have more impact as opposed to being right at the end.
This now prepares Clark for the final act and the battle to come, starting with ‘Terraforming’, and finishing the triumvirate with ‘You Die Or I Do’ and ‘If You Love These People’, the latter with a beautifully melodramatic choir that nails home the importance of Clark’s success. And this leads us into the final celebration of Superman, with the ridiculously long winded title of ‘What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?’ Whatever happened to ‘Finale’?
Here that wonderful two-note motif has its full resolution and the flying theme is unleashed for a gigantic climax to the score, as we rejoice in the greatness of Superman and his potential as a mirror for humanity. Funnily enough, I hear not Russell Crowe but Marlon Brando with this: “They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.”
It’s stil incredibly hard to think of the character of Superman without thinking about John Williams’ theme, and that will probably continue. But as a catalyst for your own vision of the last son of Krypton, Hans Zimmer’s Man Of Steel works amazingly well, a concept album of sorts instead of the turgid film it was attached to. Happy listening. -CB
1. Look To The Stars
3. Goodbye My Son
6. I Will Find Him
7. Krypton’s Last
8. Oil Rig
9. Sent Here For A Reason
11. I Have So Many Questions
14. You Die Or I Do
15. If You Love These People
16. What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World?