Man of Steel

Hans Zimmer

" Lack of Steel "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

It may have been a bird, it could have been a plane, and yet somehow in the end it is always a flying indestructible man with a red cape and an S. The character Superman has always inspired fans around the world, if only for his fight for the good of mankind. In Metropolis he was the man who would protect the people from any possible threat, whether it was from a bald madman, visitors from his home planet Krypton or alien androids. Superman always stood for hope and morality, and it remains an icon that until this day sells out movie theaters whenever he visits us on the big screen.

For this new reboot (just years after Brian Singer's faithful retelling in Superman Returns), popular visual stylist Zach Snyder was chosen. Director Zach Snyder was not only a surprising choice for this newest reboot, it was also considered to be an exciting one. A brilliant visual director who gave us Spartans, fallen superheroes and ass kicking girls, always triggered through a visually mind blowing style. But now producers made it very clear, this style wasn't particulary suitable for Superman. And that's where Christopher Nolan comes in. His take on one of the other great comic heroes Batman has inspired fans and critics around the world these past few years, enough for him to join Superman on another adventure. Sadly, that meant that Nolan and not Snyder was in charge. And this is evident from the get go. Man of Steel feels like The Avengers (without the fun), Inception (without the complexity) and Batman (without the brilliance), leaving nothing more behind than a hero who's made of steel.

Gone is the humor of the Superman movies (that bar scene in the beginning had everything on board to make a wonderful nod to Superman II), gone is the heroism that made each specific adventure (no matter how good or bad) inspiring and gone is the heart that made Superman charismatic, loveable and human. And gone is the music too that made all that melodically memorable the moment we saw flying credits soar over the screen.

What does the Z stand for? Hope? Or something else?

Well, I think we all had some kind of hope when we found out popular composer Hans Zimmer was about to embark on (perhaps) one of the biggest assignments of his life. It's curious, the man has done so much in his life, and yet somehow he had to test his limits again when we discovered he was about to give us a new superman march. Which meant, no John Williams' march anymore, but a new clean slate. A fresh start by which we will define that this is a Superman score written by Hans Zimmer, not by anyone else. It's strange to think of Superman and not hear John Williams' famous theme over it, a theme that graced the recent reboot Superman Returns so strongly, it was considered an ode to Superman in general. But considering this is another reboot, loyalty to the past wasn't necessary any more. And with the heart and the humor gone, it wasn't necessary any more to pay homage to a theme that will remain the one and only Superman theme.

And that means, expect anything BUT John Williams music. But let's be Kent (sorry Frank) too. Nobody is able to bring us music like Williams than Williams himself. And nobody wanted Zimmer to bring us John Williams' ish music in the first place. His own style would suffice, if he would deliver what was required from him. Meaning, in time, we had to believe Zimmer would accomplish wonders.

And let's get directly to the point. The theme, the march, the one that soared over the trailer is the most memorable moment of this album. It's a powerful moment alright, especially in the film, but only when it's delivered in its complete form way at the end. Sadly, this theme, this track is the only track to look out for, considering everything before "What Are You Going to do When You Are Not Saving the World?" is just not good enough. Make no mistake about it, this is a Hans Zimmer score alright, but it's just not Superman music. The lack of pure heroism, the lack of fun, the lack of basic complexity, it never existed. Zimmer just wrote music like it was for an ordinary movie, showing nothing superman like but a memorable theme.

And that theme is all over the place, sorely never in its fullest form. It even opens the film very faintly with "Look to the Stars", triggered further by a solo vocal and some really uninteresting suspense music. The issue here is not the lack of the theme soaring over the speakers when we see credits passing by, but the lack of heroism. Cutthroat Island started out with a thrill when we heard but a mere minute of bombast, turning to subtle music for the actual opening scene. Here it's like it's lulling you in an adventure that's without any form of excitement.

Furthermore, something else to talk about. The emotion. There's a nice piano melody of the theme (heard as well in the trailer) that constantly returns in the same format. Every time something happens to Kent or his loved ones, this theme pops up. In the film it's effective to a degree, but the lack of any variation here shows a distinct lack of complexity and above all heart as well. It's virtually identical in "Sent Here For a Reason", at the end of "Tornado" and during the begin of "This is Clark Kent". But in the film it's heard a lot more, so much more it even becomes tiresome. Another emotional resonance is used for the real parents of Kal-El, and despite the effect of the solo violin, it again lacks some kind of passion. This is always heard alongside that meandering opening music of track 1, showing once again that diversity and originality wasn't really necessary here.

Which brings us in the end to the action music, an element that's by far the worst of the score. The entire second part of the movie is one big action spectacle, rather unfocused to look at and all special effects / no thrill. Sadly that's heard through the music too. "Oil Rig", the first part of "Tornado", "You Die Or I Do" (which actually shows us a rather unmemorable theme for Zod) and the 10 minute "Terraforming" shows us how poor Man of Steel really is. Seriously, loads of percussion (something that was actually considered to be exciting in the trailer theme), power anthems, epic choral outburst and even honest to god Transformers sfx (2.40 in "Terraforming"), it shows us possibly the worst side of Hans Zimmer in a long time. Seriously Hans, you wrote heroic uplifting and bombastic music for At World's End several years ago, why didn't Man of Steel get any of this? Where was the moment you wanted to infuse some kind of heroism to the battle? When was it considered to be a good thing to go for action music without one single performance of that soaring main theme? Superman is the theme, and a theme always soars once Superman goes to save the day. Here none of that is on board. In fact, the music is part of the sound in the film, it blends in and it never stands out. Again something Superman music never oughta do.

And sadly we may have yet to address the most painful moment of this album, namely once Superman goes electric. Hearing a god honest electric guitar over a flying superman is by far the most painful idea ever. "If You Love These People" and "Flight" feels like Thelma and Louise on steroids, and an element that feels even more out of place than power anthems. People may have had criticism about John Ottman's music for Superman Returns, but something tells me they will think differently about it now. At least that score had heart, emotion, music that soared (even when it wasn't using John Williams' themes). At least John Ottman and Brian Singer did bring justice to the character Superman.

So where did it go wrong in the end? Honestly, my personal reaction says Christopher Nolan. Nolan's a fantastic director, and a man who has given us smart blockbusters, but his input here overpowers everything that Snyder stands for, and his influence also triggered Hans Zimmer to continue on the path of bleak colorless action music. Really, it was mind blowing for movies like Inception and Batman, but here it's just not working. Superman stands for good, hope, heroism, not electric guitars wailing over power anthems when he's flying over mountains. The choice to go for something this simplistic, and not something soaring and exciting like At World's End has definitely ruined the experience for me. Making Man of Steel one serious missed opportunity.

Favorite Moment - What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World? (2.39 - 3.27)
The one and only Superman moment

Track Listing

CD 1: 59.32
1. Look to the Stars (2.58)
2. Oil Rig (1.45)
3. Sent Here For a Reason (3.46)
4. DNA (3.34)
5. Goodbye My Son (2.01)
6. If You Love These People (3.22)
7. Krypton's Last (1.58)
8. Terraforming (9.49)
9. Tornado (2.55)
10. You Die or I Do (3.13)
11. Launch (2.36)
12. Ignition (1.19)
13. I Will Find Him (2.57)
14. This is Clark Kent (3.47)
15. I Have so Many Questions (3.47)
16. Flight (4.18)
17. What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World? (5.27) Excellent track

CD 2: 28.16
1. Man of Steel (Hans' Original Sketchbook) (28.16)
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 76 votes - average 3.5/5)

Released by

WaterTower WTM39424 (regular release 2013)

Conducted by

Nick Glennie-Smith

Orchestrations by

Elizabeth Finch, Bruce Fowler, Rick Giovinazzo, Kevin Kaska, Yvonne S. Moriarty, Carl Rydlund & Geoff Stradling