There are a handful of superhero movies which are fixed to a contentious pedestal, but none more so than Man of Steel. Back in the day when I first saw this movie in the cinema, I saw its glaring problems. Hell, I was like the majority of people who walked out of the big screen completely numbed to the over-exaggerated and, at the time I thought, comically unnecessary violence. The outright incineration of Smallville; half of Metropolis being reduced to cinder; and the radical departure of Superman’s established heroism being contracted to a brooding mute. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I certainly didn’t see it as anything other than style over substance – dark for the sake of The Dark Knight trilogy’s critical and financial successes. Now, 6 years on and Zack Snyder’s morose 5-movie vision is reduced to one Man of Steel movie, a convoluted Batman v Superman crossover that tried to tell several origin stories too many in 3 hours, and a bastardised Whedon-Snyder mutation that resulted in the abomination that was The Justice League. And I believe that for all the problems these three movies have, the flaws aren’t necessarily down to a vague, fickle execution, but more on that the aforementioned vision wasn’t seen through to the end. This fractured universe has led to the #TheSnyderCut movement; a sea of die-hard fans clutching on to the hopes Warner Bros. releases Zack’s fabled TJL cut, in the hope it’ll develop a more rounded picture of what Zack’s DC universe would have looked like.
Hindsight is a funny thing; just over a half-decade later and my appreciation for both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman grows with every passing day – and it’s not because I can’t see the inherently obvious flaws within the films, but because I can appreciate the films for what they are. Studio meddling is BvS’ main crux, but even with the last third of the movie falling apart at the seams – and certain sequences appearing to the public eye as arbitrary and without a proper payoff (I’m looking at you dream sequence) – both Man of Steel and BvS display a wild distinction from that of Marvel’s brighter, child-friendly offerings. They’re aimed at a more mature demographic, and I’ve always found the bleak, mean-spirited nature of the films to be the biggest selling point. Man of Steel in particular has aged like a fine wine. Henry Cavill’s grounded interpretation of the character stands as a far more human iteration which is greatly unique and interesting to me. Somewhat misconstrued, Man of Steel is one piece of Superman’s origin story. Kal/Clark is a man unsure of himself and his place in the world, learning to grow and find himself before inevitably morphing into the iconic superhero we all know. The popular notion that Superman fails to save anyone during the infamous third act of the film is a moot point, but many fail to realise or embrace this more realistic setting to see that, in fact, Kal does the best he can with his adolescent powers against an experienced and militant Kryptonian force. These things are subtle and, I think, add layers of imperfections and intricacies to a character that typically had only one weakness before Man of Steel, making him a more relatable hero in the process.
The music for the film is as equally nuanced and has grown on me exponentially with repeated listens. On the exterior, it’s Hans Zimmer 101, but there is a thematic strategy being implemented here: a contrast of Kal’s omnipotent powers (presented in the form of the almighty percussion ensemble) and the allegorical symbolism he represents (the ethereal, ambient synth passages). “DNA” is a good display piece for the album. Opening with melancholic synth swells before hastily shifting into booming percussion and grandiose string arrangements, eventually simmering back down for the alien-meets-god amalgamation; a really effective ambient synth-and-cello combo which fights it out for the dominant headroom. On initial listens, this near 2-hour-long score (if you include the OST’s special edition tracks) sounds very basic in its variety, but if you’re stubborn enough to stick with it and give the album a few listens, you’ll discover a really well-structured set of songs, filled with great melodies and moods that fit the film’s aesthetic masterfully.
The reinterpreted Superman theme is understated and excellent. It has a multifaceted arsenal of moods that combines poignancy and optimism with enigmatic results: the sliding guitar notes that are being smothered in bassy percussion with an elusive backdrop of spaced-out, droning synths, clarity-cutting sombre piano keys, and the lamenting vocal harmonies all serve up the religious-alien themes to a tee. The soundtrack also does a stellar job of painting and balancing the tone of both Krypton and Earth. Man of Steel
introduces its palate of sounds right up until “Terraforming”, where it throws the kitchen sink at the listener – a sonic journey that puts all of the album’s ideas into one basket: descending melodies, bowel-shifting bass frequencies that actually cracks under the weight of their own colossal might, and exciting highs that support Earth’s soundscapes with the turbulently ominous lows of General Zod and his cohorts’ distressing theme tunes. It’s a perfect display of this score’s worth, and the payoff that’s built up to that point is cathartic to say the least.
However, despite enjoying the score immeasurably, I can see that Man of Steel
definitely works more effectively in the confines of the film than it does as a stand-alone experience. As stated earlier, at just under 2 hours in length, this score presents a lot of low-key moments that don’t always go anywhere. Long-winded sections are centred around murmuring ambiences that are made to assist the bombastic pieces of “DNA”, “Terraforming”, “Launch” and “If You Love These People”. Of course, these moments of respite are excellently handled and serve the tone of this project with loyalty, but they might not be for everyone. In short, the score is a fantastic counterpart to the movie; reviving and analysing previous iterations of Superman’s music and creating a completely new game for it all. If you’re a fan of Hans Zimmer’s work, this is a worthy addition to his CV and is well worth your time, whether you care to agree with my sentiment of the film or not.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: DELUXE 2-CD/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶/̶/̶
PACKAGING: Steel-tin case with an embossed logo, including a booklet explaining the score's making and some postcards.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: Bonus tracks that sketched out the score's beats.
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE:https: //www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Steel-Original-Picture-Soundtrack/dp/B00C5WR6JY