No matter how many times the topic comes up, there are still people who seem upset about the absence of the John Williams “Superman” theme from the upcoming Zack Snyder film “Man Of Steel.”
That’s a testament to the emotional connection that people have with film music, some of which is conscious, some of which is involuntary. There are things that we connect with at various points in our lives that have a nearly chemical reaction on us when we encounter them later, and you can rail about it or struggle with it or try to ignore it, but that’s the truth of it. Most of the time, our love of certain pieces of art goes deeper than we can explain, and I suspect that for a generation of people, that 1978 “Superman” is a deeply felt piece of childhood. It certainly was for me.
And let’s put that in perspective. Today, if you’re a regular moviegoer, you’re used to powerful sonic experiences as a routine thing. Even a basic surround set-up these days can be impressive, but in 1978, Dolby surround was brand new, and not everyone knew what to do with it yet.
When you consider the impact of “Star Wars” and “Superman,” you have to take into account how it felt to go from a world of basic two-channel stereo to a world where the orchestra surrounded you and those iconic themes came blasting out, bigger than anything you’d ever heard in a movie theater before. It was a brand-new experience, and that “Superman” score in particular is such a character in the film. It’s one of the most dynamic things he ever wrote, building and dropping and rising and falling, and it’s not just the theme. It’s the love theme, the remarkable opening on Krypton, the way it evokes Americana for Clark’s childhood and the way it grows with the character. Lex Luthor’s theme is great, and the Otis theme that accompanies Ned Beatty’s bumbling is almost diabolically perfect.
So Hans Zimmer is up against it with “Man Of Steel.” No doubt about it. But the thing to remember is that he’s not competing with the Williams score. Nobody could in any serious way. Instead, he’s helping Zack Snyder redefine the character. This is a new score for a new Superman, which I think it had to be. The first full track from the score was released yesterday through another of those games where people found a code somewhere and scanned it and followed it to a reveal. I’ve listened to this three times now, and it’s pretty impressive.
It is not the Williams theme, but I think it pays homage to the way Williams played with dynamics in his score. It is a strong first impression for the score, and I can’t wait to see how Zimmer’s work plays in the actual film.
“Man Of Steel” opens in theaters June 14, 2013.