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Soundtrack review: Man of steel (Hans Zimmer, 2013)

Film scores Hans Zimmer

Soundtrack review: Man of steel (Hans Zimmer, 2013)

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I didn’t have a great prior attachment to the Superman music. Of course, John Williams’ theme is immortal for me as well, and it will always make a personal “top 10 movie themes ever composed”. But that was about it, I didn’t care much for the rest of the score. I loved John Ottman’s take on the theme and score though, but even so, it wasn’t something I listened to often.
The trailers for the Man of Steel movie showed something different…They showed an origin story, intimate, intense, grey, full of doubt and even fear. It showed something along the lines of “Batman begins”, and I was intrigued. And the trailer music,”An ideal of hope” sounded like something out of this world beautiful. Hans Zimmer with the Dark Knight trilogy had more than convinced me that he can reinvent a superhero theme and take it to the next level, so I couldn’t wait for his score.
Then it came out, and with it burst a wave of outrage at the blasphemy than Hans Zimmer did with this score…How he didn’t use or honor John Williams’ theme…how this score is not worthy of a Superman movie…how he and his collaborators are ruining film music…oh yes, people were angry at this entity that had invaded their headphones….but of course, people reacted with hostility at the appearance of Superman himself, didn’t they…?
…and this score is the Superman of film music….only a little more than a year has passed since it came out, and my love for this score has grown like Superman himself. It’s not a new score for me. It’s a score I feel I’ve known all my life. It’s not something I’ve listened to for the past 14 months; it’s something that was echoing inside me for years, waiting for the right manifestation. …it can fly, it can lift anything, it can go back in time, and it can save the world. It’s bigger than us. Hans Zimmer built an entire universe and when the first notes of “Look to the stars” begin, I enter a timeless zone where nothing can hurt me…The laws of physics don’t apply there. I can fly, I can jump, I can swim endless seas and I can dream…The experience of hearing this score brings the safety, warmth and certitude of eternal nourishment and protection that a baby must be feeling in his mother’s womb. It’s a level of comfort like no other.
I love to listen to this score during my long runs, when I need to not feel the passing of time. I always listen to it in its entirety; it would be a shame to break the flow of this wonderful composition. I love the Krypton cues, with their intimacy and subdued sound. The Krypton period has harrowing strings, lullaby voices and represent the soul of this score. “Look to the stars”, “Goodbye my son” and “Krypton’s last” evoke vast spaces, and they make me think of the stillness of winter once the first snow has stopped.
But that stillness is just an illusion. The ground starts to shake because here comes the percussion…The awesome, intense, pounding, relentless and perfect percussion that sounds like Superman’s mighty steps and covers almost half the score. And it’s nowhere more awesome than in the almost 10 minutes long “Terraforming”. This cue could have very well be named “Terrorforming”, because it’s menacing, frightening, decisive and fitting for the destruction that happens on screen during that track. You feel like the world is about to end, because the mightiest earthquake is rumbling in the bowels of the earth.
But Superman comes to save the day. And he loves us. And Hans Zimmer put all that love in two blissful cues that work like two sides of the same coin: first, “If you love this people”, a track that makes me feel the burden he takes on himself and his perpetual motion as he watches over the people of Earth. It’s an immense task, but it fits in three minutes. The other side of the coin is my favorite cue of this score and one of the five most beautiful cues written in 2013: “What are you going to do when you’re not saving the world”. This track is perfect, and it’s the origin of the trailer music that melted my heart when I first heard it. This is the theme that sticks with me the most, because of its warmth, tenderness and because it breathes love.
And then there’s “Hans’ original sketchbook”…Hans’ gift to film music lovers, an insight into his magic, a 28 minutes cue that includes all the themes from the score, molded into one beautiful track that I could listen to over and over again. How many composers could get away with a cue of this length? How many composers could deliver a perfect cue of this length? It’s like an awesome and unexpected encore after the “Man of steel” score. It’s a renewal of the vows.
Even if I’ve known it only for a year, I know this score better than I know any other score. “Man of steel” is family; it’s like a twin to me, a mirror, and a score that I will forever have inside me….It’s the score I feel the most comfortable listening to. It’s home, and it’s another important pillar of the legacy that Hans Zimmer is building for the people of Earth.
My ratings:
Cue score: 95 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 103 / 106
Album excellence : 97%
Replay value: 100%
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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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