Man of Steel Soundtrack Review

Man of Steel OST CoverPay attention: you are destined to become familiar with each of the overarching and bombastic tracks comprising Hans Zimmer‘s score for Man of Steel in future car adverts.

Filled with a sense of self-reverie, the 24 track Deluxe Edition soundtrack album to Zack Snyder‘s upcoming movie, released in cinemas this week, begins with the slow brooding of Look to the Stars and culminates with the building crescendo of Arcade.

Peppered throughout with wistful Celtic vocals and the heavy percussion familiar to anyone familiar with Zimmer’s previous work on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Man of Steel is an affair swollen with the need to convey to the listener the urgency and responsibility of the journey the principal character must undertake – there are in fact schools of religious composition that are lighter in tone than the heavy bombast on display across the tracks comprising this release.

At times seeking perhaps to emulate the atmosphere of Daft Punk‘s work on Tron: Legacy soundtrack, again especially with Look to the Stars, there is sadly not enough of the nuance or subtlety in Zimmer’s work to match the lofty heights of that other soundtrack.

The full weight of Zimmer’s fondness for percussion is found in evidence on tracks such as Tornado, a piece diminished only in its baroque ambition by the preceding nine-minute-plus epic, Terraforming. Every strike of a percussion instrument, every pluck of a string, every mournful, undulating female voice and gentle dip into soft, warm lullabies, is a catalogue of Zimmer’s attempts to hammer home the message of Superman‘s origin and plight to the listener. It is an exercise in fervour, a crescendo of building passions that fails to impart to the listener what is heroic, what is human about the man who walks amongst us.

Each track bleeds into the next without pause, drowning out the quiet with bombast and leaving the listener no time to consider the character buried within the sound – the origin point of such orchestral assault.

Save for Flight, where Zimmer at last seems to grasp the majesty of the film’s central character – and even then not without the hammering of drums after less than a minute – there is a lack of understanding of the gentle nature of Superman‘s personality, a lack of the softness in the way he speaks, the kindness he expresses and the ideals he stands for.

This is not the Superman who daily searches for a way to save the citizens of the Bottled City of Kandor from their diminished state; this is not the Superman who lifted up the body of his deceased cousin as the fate of two Earths hung in the balance during Crisis on Infinite Earths; this is not the Superman who the Dream King reminds sleeping Michael Haney to believe in.

Whilst not a popular comparison to invite and something that Zimmer will most certainly be hoping to avoid, it is impossible not to mention John Williams‘ score to Richard Donner‘s previous 1978 adaptation. Moreover it is impossible not to mention Williams’ majestic theme and the meaning of that theme in the culture of the modern world.

Without intent, without guile, that theme became a rallying call for those of us who believed in childhood that if we squinted hard enough at the blue skies we might catch a glimpse of a man who strove like the famed bodhisattva to present the highest principles of mercy.

It is conspicuous in its absence.

Whilst understandable given the attempts to build again the cinematic franchise, Williams’ theme is not the POW! WHACK! BAM! of Adam West‘s Batman. To refrain from referencing it causes a significant disjoint in terms of the wider understanding of Superman‘s character in our cultural mythology.

For all of the overpowering sense of reverie, there is a strong lack of humility in the drowning sounds of Zimmer’s score.

A far cry from Williams’ majesty, a far cry even from Zimmer’s work with Ramin Djawadi on the first Iron Man film.

Often pompous, always heavy handed, it is difficult to think of both a more grandiose and lacking motion picture score of recent years.


The Man of Steel Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out in the UK 17 June. It is available on CD and also in a Limited Deluxe Edition.

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