That being said, if you are a Zimmer fan or if you like your themes big, bold and easily identifiable, Man of Steel will likely please. The soundscape that Hans Zimmer has created for Snyder and Goyer’s (notice I didn’t say Nolan’s) Superman is akin to that of The Dark Knight trilogy. The higher octaves that Zimmer explored in cues such as “Like A Dog Chasing Cars” from The Dark Knight and many from The Dark Knight Rises are much more prominent here, but there is still plenty of brooding and churning in the lower registers to be had. “Look to the Stars” opens the film in an ethereal landscape with slurred electric guitar pronouncing the first musical identity for Superman soon joined by chorus for the Kryptonian’s birth. Following this is “Oil Rig”, one of the more brutal and less-listenable tracks of the score but representing the first you will hear of Zimmer’s much touted “drum orchestra”, a collection of famous drummers organized to jack up the intensity. To hear the drum orchestra in a slightly less brutal arrangement, look to “Tornado”. “Sent Here for a Reason” introduces the Clark Kent theme on solo piano but the theme receives fuller treatment in “This Is Clark Kent” (a standout) and “Earth”. The latter is the best representation of what Zimmer must have meant when he proclaimed in early interviews that he was going to be playing up the Americana in this score.
The theme for Zod and the battle of Krypton is a progression of synthetic strings that comes across as a little underwhelming at first but builds to such ridiculous proportions that it ultimately wins you over. I absolutely love the track “Arcade,” the piece that plays during Jor-El’s escape on Krypton. Simple yet massively threatening and a good example of the electronic distortions and synthetic effects (a descending ripple, a heavily distorted horn) that Zimmer used to represent Zod and his forces. “I Will Find Him” and “General Zod” also feature the same theme and distortions with the former cue giving the drums a little more “mmph”.
Other themes of lesser prominence include the tender, lullaby-like identity for Jor-El and Lara’s goodbyes to Kal-El in “Goodbye My Son”, the Jor-El / Zod fight motif nearly straight out of Crysis 2 in “Launch”, and the destruction of Krypton and Kal-El’s landing cue in “Krypton’s Last”.
Every Zimmer score seems to have that one ridiculously long track and Man of Steel is no exception. If you get the Deluxe Edition, which I recommend if only for "Arcade", you will get a few of these including Zimmer’s synth mock-up titled “Original Sketchbook.” If not, though, there’s always “Terraforming”. A loud action cue worth it mainly for the first minute and a half but listenable for the rest, “Terraforming” features one of the Superman motifs at the start and a collection of variations on numerous themes throughout its near ten minute runtime. You’ll hear a horn motif at 3:43 that seems pretty reminiscent of the mermaid theme from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and a near copy of that theme on strings at 7:05 with Zimmer’s typical all-male chorus. All in all though, “Terraforming” is an impressive and raucous cue with some satisfying material.
The latter part of “Flight” (2:50 onward) contains one of the most rewarding and developed themes for the Man of Steel. Also heard in variation in “If You Love these People” during the final fight with Zod, this theme is my favorite of the album. A grander and more fast-paced variation of the theme introduced in “Krypton’s Last”, the latter part of “Flight” and “If You Love these People” conveys simultaneously Superman’s great power and his identity as a loner disconnected from his home world. It accurately conveys the awe of Kal-El’s first flight and the final fight with Zod, but at the same time a touch of sorrow. Of the two big renditions of this theme, however, I have to prefer “Flight” over “If You Love these People”, if only for the fact that “If You Love these People” employs the electric guitar in a way that will remind the careful listener a little too much of Drop Zone.
Now for the Superman theme. In the fashion of The Dark Knight, the identity for the hero is simple enough that one may only consider it a series of motifs linked together rather than a full-bodied theme, but Man of Steel offers a bit more intricacy than that prior score. Of course, this is not your John Williams’ Superman fanfare. Heard in a bit of a bizarre, slurred electric guitar arrangement after Clark's theme in “Flight”, the theme’s most developed and triumphant rendition can be found in “What Are You Going to do When You Are Not Saving the World?” For most, this will be the standout cue of the album, in which the various Superman motifs come together to create, for the first time, the full theme. Critics of Zimmer will undoubtedly slam this theme for not living up to the Williams fanfare. To meet them in the middle, I will say it’s very Zimmer. The synthetic strings do the bulk of the heavy lifting in this track and the percussion slams away in all its glory. But there is something for me about this new Superman and this new theme that makes me love it. Like the rest of this score and the film itself, Zimmer’s Superman theme is far from perfect and certainly won’t please everyone. Upon first listen, I was even a little disappointed. I had the same reaction to the film, but I kept coming back for more and both the film and score grew on me. Boy did they grow on me. It may be a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.
Label: Watertower Music
Availability: 18 track edition and 24 track deluxe edition