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Man of Steel
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer
  • Sony Classical / 2013 / 118m (regular edition 88m)

The most-hyped film of the year is finally here – after months of publicity, Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel has been released (to fairly lukewarm reviews, it has to be said).  Henry Cavill takes on the most iconic of comic book roles, his jaw appropriately chiselled, and he’ll be hoping it leads to a rather more successful career than that enjoyed by his predecessor in the role, Brandon Routh (who!?) from the little-liked 2006 Superman Returns.  One rather suspects that it will.

For what it’s worth – in other words, not much – I enjoyed the film for what it was.  It’s a fairly straightforward good guy / bad guy thing – as it should be – and my fears from the early reviews that it would take itself too seriously were unfounded.  There’s certainly a good sense of fun, a good spectacle to the action sequences, and Cavill acquits himself well.  Think too much about it and holes soon appear, but that’s not unexpected, and as a piece of entertainment I thought it served its purpose.

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer

Given the involvement of Christopher Nolan as the film’s producer, Hans Zimmer’s announcement as the film’s composer came as no surprise – while Snyder had worked with Tyler Bates on most of his previous films, it seemed likely that someone a bit higher-profile would be chosen.  While I didn’t think his music for Nolan’s Batman films was terrible, it did seem rather a missed opportunity – they were good films, one of them bordering on great, and the relentlessly grim music didn’t particularly damage them but there was an opportunity there to write something very special.  However, this time it’s Superman – it was hard to imagine the music could possibly come out so relentlessly joyless, so my hopes were high for something of the quality and creativity shown in the composer’s Inception – while the composer has undoubtedly been stuck in a bit of a rut since then, indeed going through the weakest period of his career, it was natural to assume a bit of brightness and optimism at least in the music for Man of Steel.

Think again.

Wisely, Zimmer avoids any attempt to reference or ape any Superman music which has gone before.  Sadly, the problems that are here are endless, but one rises above all others – the music is completely devoid of any even remote sense of fun.  It’s humourless, grim, bleak, meant to be incredibly serious but compositionally so simplistic that in fact it’s impossible to take seriously at all.  Zimmer recently stated that he deliberately writes simple music because he feels that’s the best way of establishing an emotional connection – but I really don’t see what emotions he is attempting to connect with through this music.  There’s no inherent problem with simple music – but simplicity itself is not enough to establish an emotional connection.  There’s good simple music and bad simple music, just as there’s good complex music and bad complex music.  My friend said that this makes Zimmer’s Broken Arrow score sound like Hugo Friedhofer’s Broken Arrow, and that seems pretty apt.  Zimmer’s music has always been simple, but he seems to be going simpler and simpler in recent years, stripping so much away that actually there’s barely anything left.  Social media reaction to the score has been and will no doubt continue to be as if people are witnessing some sort of musical miracle; I can’t help but think what they’re actually hearing is the emperor’s new clothes.

As the hype surrounding the film and score grew in the weeks before its release, various tracks were “leaked” onto various websites’ promotional pieces.  I listened to a few of these and genuinely believed (and hoped) that at least some of them must be a joke – this surely – surely – couldn’t be the music for a $200m blockbuster.  Turns out the joke was on me – on all of us – because it is.  (And don’t call me Shirley.)  One problem is that it sounds remarkably cheap – it’s written for orchestra but I don’t really know why, because barely anything in here sounds anything other than synthetic, with keyboards either doubling or replacing the orchestral recording most of the time.  Even the much-vaunted group of 16 celebrity percussionists who bang away on their drums from time to time somehow manage to sound synthetic in places.  Again – it’s the no-budget high school approximation of a big-budget film score, which is an extraordinary failure given that there have presumably been very few films ever made with higher music budgets than Man of Steel.

The music mostly sounds like castoffs from other Zimmer scores, some recent and some more distant – the male choir that was a hallmark of many of his earlier action scores, the HORN OF DOOM that by now just sounds like self-parody, the cello action ostinato that you hear everywhere, some synth brass that could be from one of his adventures with Jack Sparrow.  But they really are like castoffs – like music that might have been improvised in early drafts of those scores but understandably discarded – a feeling only increased by the fact that it all sounds like the synth mockups of cues rather than the actual recordings intended for the film.

And where’s the theme?  People will claim there are themes here, and they’d be right, but they’re not themes in the traditional sense.  How can you possibly have a Superman film and not give him a soaring theme?  OK, I get it – the recent Batman films were deadly serious, ultra-realistic portrayals of a vigilante dressed as a bat.  You couldn’t possibly put a melody in there – no way.  Not one that anyone might actually become attached to – oh no.  But this is Superman!  He flies around in a pair of tights with his underpants on the outside.  If you can’t give Superman a proper theme – one the audience can hum on their way from the cinema, one kids in 30 years will have as their ringtones – well, let’s all give up now.  I’ve come back to the same point – there’s just no fun here, none at all.

The album opens with “Look to the Stars”, which under an electronic soundscape introduces the “main theme”, a series of widely-spaced progressions that slowly builds in volume up to a brief burst of fairly generic action.  “Oil Rig” is the first of the glum action tracks: an array of drummers bangs incessantly away before the HORN OF DOOM signals something really bad is happening.  “Sent Here for a Reason” introduces a piano variation on the main theme which is reasonably attractive at first glance, but there’s no meat on the bone – it’s too simple to leave an impression – and then when a bass guitar takes up the theme, we really are back to Broken Arrow.  I guess it’s tracks like this that are meant to be the ones with some semblance of hope or heroism, but I don’t get any of that from it.

“DNA” is another relentlessly dark action piece, the stolen bassline from Once Upon a Time in the West the only ingredient of quality; otherwise it’s like an early draft of “The Kraken” from Pirates of the Caribbean, at least until Broken Arrow takes over again.  The female vocal in “Goodbye My Son” has a certain innocence to it, like a lullaby, but is spoiled by the 90s Media Ventures slow-mo action which emerges over it, and the trite cliché of the cello ostinato.  The HORN OF DOOM is back in “If You Love These People”, as well as some synthy percussion and an electric guitar, for a cheap action track that again rolls out every cliché in the book.  At least in “Krypton’s Last” there’s what sounds like an attempt to inject a bit of – gasp – emotion, but the violin solo passes before it’s had chance to leave any injection at all, and we’re back into silly overblown power anthem territory before you know it.

“Terraforming” is based around a rhythmic pattern with synth brass eventually laid on top – one of the easiest tricks in the film composer’s book when they’re trying to find some energy for a scene, but not when it’s as tired and hackneyed as done here – and then what can only be described as some sort of rumbling, growling extreme fart noises ushering in a new passage of dull “action”.  It keeps pounding pointlessly away for almost ten minutes – and there’s no respite in sight, because “Tornado” picks up where it left off, yet more miserable joyless bass-laden action music, this time with a highly-irritating synth effect fluttering around it like a pesky insect you want to swat.  No insects in “You Die or I Do”, but it’s hardly less irritating, with its simplistic blaring synth-laden brass and percussion on top of the familiar string ostinato – again it’s more like listening to a child’s music project than a professional film composer’s film score.  “Launch” is even sillier, with the electric guitar adding a new layer of dumbness.

“Ignition” brings back all the drummers, who pound away like nobody’s business – the same rhythms they pound away whenever else they appear – before they give it a rest again.  Can’t quite understand what the point is.  “I Will Find Him” continues the unstructured mess, as various ideas heard earlier in the score are combined together one after the other – we’re approaching the end of the score and nothing so far has been developed, only ever restated, which again emphasises the lowest common denominator approach Zimmer was clearly aiming for (and hitting).  Still, there is in this track for the first time something slightly more exciting about the action material, the sense for the first time that there is more to it than just being loud and obnoxious.  “This is Clark Kent” also has an element of quality, the piano theme getting its most pleasant airing.  Finally, we’re in a sequence of tracks that doesn’t sound amateurish.  Admittedly, “I Have So Many Questions” briefly bucks that trend, with an extended set of variations on the over-simplistic “mystery theme” or whatever you might call it dragging the pace right down, but it livens up again in “Flight”, one of the pre-release tracks that had people dancing in the streets with joy.  The main theme slowly builds, ultimately reaching a frenzied orgy of guitar, synth brass and percussion that is still a bag of cheap tricks, but at least isn’t awful.  The finale cue, “What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?” is actually a long way from being awful – it’s too little too late, but it does earn the album an extra star from me, it’s so much better than anything else here – it’s this score’s equivalent of Inception‘s “Time” or The Da Vinci Code‘s “Chevaliers de Sangreal”, and while it’s certainly not as good as either of them, it does have a high guilty pleasure value to it, thanks in no small part to it actually not being completely bleak and miserable.

Two versions of the album have been released, a regular and limited edition, both of which feature two discs, on the second of which is “Hans’s Original Sketchbook”, a piece of music that lasts almost half an hour and is apparently the suite Zimmer composed early on in the process and from which the composing team wrote the score.  One thing that’s interesting is that even though it’s keyboard-only, it doesn’t sound too far from the sound of the final score.  It does indeed feature most of the material heard through the score itself.  I’m not entirely sure why it’s been made available – the cynic in me wonders whether it’s just an attempt to rebuff those who suggest Zimmer doesn’t always take the most active involvement in the creation of his scores – and it certainly does show that the score is fully-crafted from his own ideas.  But perhaps apart from a solitary listen for curiosity value, I wonder exactly who is ever going to listen to it – admittedly, the condensation of the better parts of the score into something a bit shorter does have some appeal, but you could paste it all together from the first disc if you were that way inclined.  More likely, you’ll be listening to something else instead – something good.

The special edition – which comes in a very nice package, it must be said, so at least the purchasers of that album get something of quality (and if you discard the CDs it would make a useful storage container for perhaps some small mints) – also features the dubious bonus of another half-hour of score cues.  “Are You Listening, Clark?” features a dissonant soundscape which sounds a bit like the distorted whalesong emitted by the alien probe in Star Trek IV, before Spock realised you had to filter it as if heard underwater to hear the intended sound.  “General Zod” opens with some even stranger noises, this time resembling one of the songs Ross played on his keyboard in that episode of Friends, with the added bonus later on of one of Zimmer’s clichéd slow-build ostinato-based action – and then some incredibly earnest, melodramatic synthetic strings which are meant to signify events of great importance, no doubt, but sound like an amateur Zimmer-impersonator improvising on a keyboard.  It sounds incredibly silly, again more like self-parody than anything, but at least it brings an unintentional but much-needed smile to the face.

“You Led Us Here” brings back the gloom and misery, darkly depressing choral fragments oohing and aahing over noodling keyboard patches.  A lot of drums bang away, with no accompaniment, in the appropriately-named “This is Madness”.  “Earth” has a synthy version of the main motif, in what is presumably intended to be a more reflective setting, then the piano in an even more pared-down arrangement than usual, then that theme gets an odd, dated, flower power-style synth arrangement.  A comically-ominous bass synth passage opens “Arcade”, which is the sort of thing you’d play to a young film composer if you were showing them the kind of cliché they should strive to avoid.  But, unbelievably, it gets worse, as another ostinato pattern emerges and then – the HORN OF DOOM is back.  If I hadn’t seen the film, I’d be convinced it was a joke.  Then, at last, comes the best feature of the album – after two excruciating hours, there is finally some mercy.  It’s over.  There’s silence.  The miserable, never-ending doom and gloom is at an end.  And there was much rejoicing.

If the score on the album is poor, then at least one might think it might work in the film – but it doesn’t, not really.  It only occasionally detracts from the experience – the ludicrous HORN OF DOOM will probably have people splitting their sides with laughter when they watch back in a few years, it’s so asinine and inane – but here you have something that, while clearly far from a masterpiece, should still have proved to be fertile ground for any competent film composer.  Good versus evil; not just a hero that’s easy to latch on to but in terms of American popular culture, perhaps the hero that’s easy to latch onto; a nasty villain; a glamorous young woman – yes, fertile territory indeed.  It fails on all counts, failing to bring any menace to the villain, any spunk to the hero – and not for the first time, watching the film it’s as if Zimmer thought every single moment was the moment, and by treating them as such, of course none of the music has an impact anywhere – coupled with the lack of development, the obvious restatement of material all over the place, it’s the musical equivalent of being bludgeoned to death.  The film does actually have a few places where it stops to take a breath, but the music never allows it to.  “THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!” is the constant scream from the score.  It could have been epic; instead (and I can’t believe I’m about to type these words) it’s an epic fail.

Does it really matter?  It’s easy to say that if film music has been dumbed down, then it’s because films have been dumbed down; and if films have been dumbed down, it’s because society’s dumbed down.  (In fact it’s so easy to say that, I just did.)  But who leads, who follows?  I would have thought that any “artist” with any self-worth would strive to do his or her best possible work, not play down to the lowest common denominator, which is what Zimmer has done here.  The easy riposte to that is that he needs to put food on his family’s table, therefore needs to do what he’s told to do by the filmmakers – but there would certainly have been a way of satisfying their needs without treating the audience like idiots, throwing an endless parade of cheap tricks in their direction.  Sadly – and perhaps this invalidates my argument – those cheap tricks seem to have been lapped up like meaty bones by a dog, people seemingly salivating as they fall over each other in saying how “awesome” it is.  While a few reviews of the film have criticised the music, notably that in Variety, more have described it as effective (or indeed “awesome”); and the vast majority of course haven’t mentioned it at all.  So I must ask again – does it really matter?  While the fact that the film will make a ton of money and the soundtrack album will top the charts suggests that no, it doesn’t, I couldn’t feel more strongly that it does.  Sales figures don’t indicate quality – sometimes they just indicate that people are falling for the marketing – and who’s to say that with music that’s a little more, shall we say, “intellectual”, that Man of Steel wouldn’t end up with even higher box office, its soundtrack selling even more copies?

Zimmer’s whole ethos – the whole raison d’être of his Remote Control studio – is that one size fits all.  His brand of film music is based on providing something that’s there – not something that makes an attempt to raise the film to a level it wouldn’t otherwise have occupied, like all the best film music has done, but just something that’s there.  When he’s at his best, he certainly raises films up – Inception was no hotbed of complex composition, but it was a score that felt uniquely crafted to its film, one designed on that film’s nuances and needs – and here we are, hearing a retread of the same thing in a different film – not only does it fail to boost Man of Steel, it even cheapens the experience of watching or listening to Inception in future.  One size does not fit all.  Man of Steel – the film – may not have the ambition of Inception – but it still has its unique musical needs, and they’re just not satisfied.  I’m not talking here about the exercise of a particular musical style by a composer – all good composers have their own distinctive styles.  I’m not even talking about self-borrowing – hardly something to applaud, but it has always happened in film music and always will.  What I’m talking about is this treatment of it almost as library music – “this is an action scene, so this is how it must sound” etc, regardless of context.  Filmmakers don’t let their production designers or cinematographers behave like that, so why do they let their composers?  It’s as if Hollywood has forgotten just what film music can do – what it’s there to do.  What is the point of paying such a large sum of money on getting Hans Zimmer to assemble music like this, when they could just pull a few tracks of library music off the shelf which would do an equivalent job but be far cheaper?  Film music isn’t supposed to just be there – it’s supposed to respond to the unique needs of the film and help to shape the audience’s response to it.

So – does it really matter?  You bet it does.  It matters to me, and it should matter to you.  This trawl through the detritus of previous music, throwing it together to provide something that’s there – it matters.  It’s not right.  It shouldn’t happen.  Just because it makes a ton of money, it doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t make it good.  Intellectually, this is scraping the barrel.  The drive for simplicity has come at the cost of any depth whatsoever – film music doesn’t get more surface-level than this, more like wallpaper.  It has no impact at all – it’s far too shallow to make any sort of dramatic impact on the film, and so hollow that there is no emotional connection – frankly it all seems pointless.

I am acutely aware that another thing that seems pointless is someone like me writing a review of an album like this – some people will buy it whatever I say, some people will avoid it whatever I say.  True, too, that someone like me is hardly in a position to make a stand and have any bearing on anything.  But surely the time has come for someone with more influence to take a step back, look at what film music – not all film music by any means, but an awful lot of mainstream Hollywood film music – has become and ask themselves whether things have really gone in the right direction.  Man of Steel is not the worst film score I’ve ever heard – it’s not even the worst of the year – but it’s surely one of the worst for an event film like this; and I can never remember having such a feeling of being treated like an idiot by a film score.  It’s so disappointing that it aims so low, with seemingly so little ambition – and then doubly disappointing that it fails to meet even the most modest of targets it sets itself.  Zimmer’s bag of tricks is sounding increasingly limited – I’ve got a reputation for some reason as a regular hater of his music, whereas in truth I’ve probably given him more positive reviews over the last couple of decades than any other regular reviewer of film music – but I have to say, on the evidence of the last few years, he really just doesn’t seem to have anything left to say.  Some of the music here is borderline insulting in its simplicity and cheapness.  And perhaps the biggest crime of all – it’s just so boring.  There’s no sign of the composer’s popularity waning either within Hollywood or with his own, uniquely devoted and vocal group of fans, for whom the emperor’s new clothes seem a true delight; and as a long-time lover of film music, that’s pretty scary.  Surely it’s time for someone else to have a turn now.

Rating: * | |

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  1. elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 00:05

    Congratulations, your review is actually much more epic than the score itself.

    • flynn (Reply) on Saturday 17 June, 2023 at 00:25

      Lol no

  2. Mike (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 00:24

    Great review. I always look forward to your negative reviews, just because they are a treat to read. Very witty and full of good points.

    I listened to the score once while cleaning the house, and I felt the strange feeling of wishing it to be over while at the same time not giving a rat’s ass about the score. What a letdown of a score.

    I haven’t really liked a Zimmer score since the 2 very fun Kung Fu Panda scores, but I guess that was mostly John Powell…

  3. Jose R (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 00:26

    I was quite surprised after watching this video – – because you can see there are actual players with actual instruments. It instantly reminded me of similar videos of Transformers, with different sections recorded separately, each of which at least sound like real instruments, and then mixed down in such a way that every hint of their true origin is lost.

  4. Christian K (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 01:39

    “True, too, that someone like me is hardly in a position to make a stand and have any bearing on anything.”

    This can be applied to any numbers of “bad situations” but in this day and age, it’s all the more important to speak out. Even if it’s unlikely to change anything. Even if it’s unlikely that anybody is listening. But you have every right to speak out.


  5. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 03:56

    “I’ve got a reputation for some reason as a regular hater of his music, whereas in truth I’ve probably given him more positive reviews over the last couple of decades than any other regular reviewer of film music”

    only cause I quit!%!

    good review; so was clemmenson’s; but I can’t help but think “judge not lest YE BE JUDGED” when you say something like “Zimmer’s bag of tricks is sounding increasingly limited.” I mean, wouldn’t simply his (overall) excellent 90’s output be enough to give the guy a break if he IS out of ideas by this point in time? This is the man that gave us The Prince of Egypt and The Thin Red line, remember!#% Yeah so Goldsmith and Williams never lost steam… still. Only heard a few select tracks and not seen the movie, but what I do dig about it is the familiar sound that does hearken back to stuff like Broken Arrow.

    aye. ” This surely – surely – couldn’t be a professional film composer’s music for a $200m blockbuster.” Surely this statement is a bit erroneous, as we all know (I think) how you felt about the Transformers scores. However I suppose Steve Jablonsky as a “professional film composer” might be in dispute, what given that jewish name and being a japanese-american. 😛
    Steamboy, however…

    Oh wells. The one good thing I got out of this review was your mentioning of “The Kraken” from Dead Man’s Chest; totally forgot about that track, stupid brain of mine, cause it’s quite sweet indeed.

    Lastly, when are you europeans going to start saying THE future like normal people instead of “in future”. after studying/watching hundreds of hours of world war II footage a while back, I noticed this peculiar difference in linguistics between america and europe. In future just doesn’t sound right!

    STILL LOVE ‘YE though James.

  6. Michael Horne (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 05:50

    Great review. This score proves, once again, that Media Ventures’ way of composing (by committee) never gives the results that one would want. As I suggested on Facebook, surely with this amount of potential in subject matter no-one could cock it up… apparently they can!

    As for the “in future” debate that will no doubt rage… The least said the better. It’s a British/European thang.

  7. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 06:05
  8. Josh (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 06:31

    I really don’t think these big blockbuster films show Zimmer off in his best light. I’m not a big fan of his and even I can admit that scores like Frost/Nixon are fine work. He just never seems to get hired these days for the smaller flicks.

  9. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 07:46

    Wow. I clicked on this review bracing myself for a round of more or less unjustified bashing. What I got is an earnest, heartfelt and well thought-through treatise that easily ranks as one of the most impressive film music reviews I’ve ever read. Even though I think the score is more or less passable as a modern actioner, I really feel your passion here and I understand your points. Plus you made a Friends reference. You get a billion internet cookies for that alone!

  10. AntonioE1778 (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 16:14

    Though I would hardly say “Superman Returns” was mostly disliked (75% on Rotten Tomatoes), I will say that its score was infinitely better than this one. Still, though, I am torn as to what I think of Zimmer’s new score. I am in the middle of writing a review and it’s difficult to write because it is clear that Zimmer put much effort into his score despite its simplicity. However, its simplicity almost kills is from time to time (especially in the slower emotional parts). There are other reasons, but I just wanted to say that I share your concerns with modern film music.

    • flynn (Reply) on Saturday 17 June, 2023 at 00:27

      Superman Return’s score is forgettable. Recycling the same Williams Superman theme (I’m not saying the theme is bad or anything).

      Zimmer did a better job by creating his own themes.

  11. Craig Richard Lysy (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 16:16

    James, I am unaccustomed to such verbosity! My compliments on a not unexpected and incisive review. Even the most fervent sycophant must now concede that “The emperor has no clothes!”

    All the best!

  12. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 17:28

    Reading your one-star review and Clemmensen’s one-star review back-to-back was a real treat, and I’m now going to refer to those Inception horns as the HORNS OF DOOM whenever they show up again.

    But most of all, I agree with your point that Zimmer and his crew offer a “one size fits all” approach to film music that prevents the music from ever being anything other than sonic wallpaper. It’s become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy by this point: big movies get this kind of score because other big movie have had this kind of a score. It’s disheartening.

  13. Tobias R. Priebe (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 19:54

    Great review!

    I was expecting it to be bad but this underwhelming piece of garbage is just plain silly.
    There is no real theme only hints and a whole lotta space-crap inbetween.

    I’m very disappointed.
    I only “enjoyed” it yesterday in the gym because the drums kinda motivate and push you a little but that’s it.

    Still looking forward to seeing the movie but i’ll have to wait till thursday (Germany-release).

    Thanks again for the great detailed review.

  14. HM (Reply) on Sunday 16 June, 2013 at 21:49

    Your review is 100% accurate and I second it, unfortunately people like this kind of noise now.
    To me, John Williams theme for Superman is still the best by a mile compared to this lazy and lame effort by Hans Zimmer.

    I used to like his music tough, Rain Man and Black Rain are among my favorites from Zimmer.

  15. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 04:53

    u guys are nuts#%!# just heard “general zod” for the first time; little ‘the kraken’, little ‘am I not merciful’. all out BADDArseness.

  16. Sergio Javier (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 04:55

    Maybe is not the The Dark Knight trilogy music by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, but in my opinion I think that this soundtrack is almost a soundtrack without much to show, it’s like the Batman Begins soundtrack, but Zimmer shows his lazy side, because other soundtracks has been epic and full of magic, I think this is a failure, I think that something is missing, and it’s the creativity, I think that superman needed something like the original theme by John Williams, a music with victory and greatness, the fury and those choirs full of emotions and creativity are missing. He could make a better soundtrack.

  17. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 05:07

    Should add a little (gene hackman#!%*)! “mutiny” vibe as well.

  18. Ryan Clements (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 08:23

    While I found the review to be a little hateful, there is no denying that this is a very mediocre score indeed… especially for such a tentpole picture (not that that should matter, but it DOES!).

    I feel that this score is just a sign of the times though. Most film scores these days seem to lack that harmonic resonance or those themes that you just have to listed to ad infinitum! Most of Zimmer’s output since Hannibal has been relatively dull in comparison to his earlier works, and fail to include any tracks that make my compilations.

    But it doesn’t end with Zimmer, as most composers who were at their peak in the 90’s and early 00’s seem to have lost their spark these days. I must disagree with whoever suggested that John Williams can still bring it. as not a single one of his scores since Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone has had a repeat play, and these days I don’t even bother buying them, even on sale.

    Elfman, Newton-Howard, Silvestri, Giacchino… former idols of mine who have now seemingly lost their gift for writing beautiful, exciting or (at the very least) memorable music. Often delivering the musical equivalent of “phoning it in”. There will, of course, be the occasional cue that delivers to a certain degree and maybe even gets me excited (as well as repeat listens), but these are usually few and far between, and never really compare to the output of their former glory days.

    But I can’t really just blame these titans of filmmusic, as I feel overall that the quality of contemporary filmmusic is just not there. I fail to think of a single composer working today that brings me the joy I used to get… and while it might be easy to just dismiss my comments as being my problem… I find that going back and discovering filmmusic works from past era’s that I haven’t heard gives me the joy I used to find on a regular basis about 15 years ago. Back then, I could quote my favourite soundtracks on any given year… these days I struggle to name any single tracks, unless it is from some older score I just hadn’t heard before.

    I really hope this is just a temporary phase, and composers will actually rediscover their ability to deliver memorable music… but for now it seems to be headed in the opposite direction. Some have tried to tell me that “there are just 8 notes in the octave” and there are only so many themes that can be written, but I suspect that it is more just a case of currently working composers just resting on their laurels (read: reputations) and need to snap out of this rut.
    Given that artists like Two Steps From Hell can create music that brings that old time feelin’ (and even then, their last couple albums have fallen way short)… I still have hope for the genre.

    (Actually… Two Steps writing the Man Of Steel score would have been an interesting experiment… and far cheaper than Zimmer!)

  19. ed (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 16:50

    Well, where do you start after a Hearing like that. I can only assume that yourself and Mr. Clemmensen from Filmtracks are sore at the fact that Mr. Zimmer failed to utilise the biggest orchestra this side of the LSO to fulfill ones needs concerning the Superman score to carry on the legacy built by the mighty John Williams. It is a shame that Hans is getting lambasted for his efforts – and to be honest, we all knew he wasn’t going to create something that would overshadow Williams’ original, no matter how hard he tried.

    In the histogram of Zimmer efforts, it seems that his ‘Remote Control’ facility weighs on him like a ten-ton medallion. His proteges from Jablonsky, Glennie – Smith, Djawadi, to the recent Trevor Morris seem to be pulling Zimmer down into a creative parapet of despair, trying to gather his ideas by shifting them to, Lorne Balfe and Atli Ovarsson; thus causing a quagmire with his original ideas.

    The complexities of his score are down to the sheer fact that it is designed for Superman 2013, and not, in some way, fashioned to be inherent from even the likes of what John Ottman achieved (probably even more daunting). Having just listened to the score through the 2 disc deluxe edition and totally denying the freedom of a You Tube preview, i was expecting something so abhorrent due to recent reviews – as from yourself. I was actually taken by Zimmer’s attempts. I loved the ambient textures, to the tributary authority in the cue “What are you going to do when you are not saving the world.” Anyone who loved or loathed his ‘Batman’ scores knew immediately what they were getting into.

    Hans himself – no matter how much he is frowned upon by soundtrack lovers – has, in my mind changed the landscape of film music for another generation (Black Rain is an example of this; then with Crimson Tide).

    Man Of Steel is a score that will require multiple listens, before accepting it for what it is. It is neither great, nor is it bad. For the rest of us, we have John Williams, erm…Ken Thorne, Alexander Courage, John Ottman, and even Ron Jones…Take your pick.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 18:04

      Ed, I don’t know what leads you to think that my feelings on the score are based on it not sounding like John Williams. I don’t believe there is anything in what I wrote that suggests that. A clue comes when I say that the only wisdom Zimmer exhibited was in avoiding making his score sound like previous Superman music. This is a modern Superman and needed a score to reflect that.

  20. Mark (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 17:31

    This unflattering review, however predictable, furthers proof of the reviewer’s modern irrelevancy. “Open your mind”, “expand your horizons” are two phrases that would serve the reviewer well in the future.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 18:06

      Mark – irrelevant perhaps, but there is more to it than expanding horizons. If anyone needs to expand horizons it is Mr Zimmer and perhaps more importantly those who employ him.

  21. Irons (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 18:52

    Mark, don’t be pathetic. Just because someone doesn’t like something you like, doesn’t mean he is narrow-minded. I’m tired of people who resort to personal judgement whenever thy’re short on arguments.

  22. Mat (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 22:19

    Excellent, well thought out review. I agree that this score was a HUGE missed opportunity. Here was a chance to give Superman a new modern identity with music and we get a generic, synthesized orchestra with no real themes. It didn’t work well in the movie IMHO.

    Also, kudos for the Ross reference. Perhaps Zimmer could have called these Man Of Steel “wordless poems.” 🙂

  23. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 22:23

    I won’t claim that Zimmer has found an excellent new sound, but 1 star? 1 star is something that’s absolute garbage that is completely unlistenable. This isn’t great, but it isn’t bad. It is simple and bland, but it isn’t Eric Serra “Goldeneye” offensive.

    The only thing good about the Superman Returns score is the John Williams theme. Ottman was in his X2 temp track mode throwing notes around because it was exciting. This thing does equal some super bland 90s Goldsmith action music like Chain Reaction or River Wild.

    I’m not hailing this as a stunning piece of film music art, but it’s not complete trash either. It reads more like a reviewer’s disappointment than a critique of the music. A bit like a friend of mine detesting American Gangster because it wasn’t a 1920s mob movie.

  24. Pawel Stroinski (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 23:33

    James has openly stated that the fact that this score doesn’t refer to the John Williams material (which I am incidentally listening to) is its biggest advantage, so those who think that he hated the score because it didn’t sound like 1978 are plain wrong or should, I apologize for the strong statement, go back to English 101.

    My opinion about this score differs from the reviewer’s and, for those who know me from a few film music forums (I am a regular at and a lurker at FilmTracks, I also run a Polish forum on, you will know that I am very sensitive for what either is a personal attack on Hans Zimmer or, maybe more precise, what I perceive as such. That comes from my personal experience with him, I won’t divulge into it more though.

    While my opinion on the score is not as critical, this review makes very well thought-out points both about the score and about the state of film music. I find it quite respectful and very well-grounded, so guys…

    If you disagree with the review, please take these two points into consideration:

    1. Before you decide to attack the reviewer, take into accounts the points he makes and, yes, it’s a long piece of writing, read the whole thing, so you don’t make any false points James doesn’t make at all.
    2. Before you decide to attack the reviewer for something that is distasteful or disrespectful, please take into account that there is no disrespectful or lack of taste in this serious and well-argued review.

    I am saying this all as a huge fan of Hans Zimmer, maybe one of the biggest on the whole planet. Kudos to James for writing what he has written. It was a lot of work and very well done at that.

  25. zimmeristurd (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 23:37

    Look people the real fact is that this score is complete shit and garbage.

    An old tape recording of jerry goldsmith taking a dump would be far more advanced and superior to any Zimmer score.

    I like some of zimmers scores but he is clearly out of his depth and should retire.

    When Zimmer copied and pasted his blackrain theme for Harman you know that Zmmer needs medical help.

    Zimmer has the

  26. zimmeristurd (Reply) on Monday 17 June, 2013 at 23:39

    Zimmer is hopeless and these days has the musical ability of a deaf piano player.

    He’s been too busy having gangland sessions at the remote control playhouses mansion.

  27. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Tuesday 18 June, 2013 at 01:25

    I’m not one to psychoanalyze anyone (OR AM I), but I do doubt James’ and Christian’s sincerity somewhat on the one star rating. like Daniel Henderson pointed out, one star ratings should be relegated to those film scores which are, in essence, UTTER, TRASH. Given, as Mr. Southall stated, he is actually quite fond of Zimmer as a composer over the entirety of his career, and has awarded him countless praise in a dozen or more deserving scores (pretty sure I’ve read every Southall Zimmer review, at least up ’till 2005 or so…..

    well, my theory is that both him and Clemmenson are countering the (almost fascistic) hype and shoved-down-your-throat media hullabaloo of ‘Man of Steel’ as a filmic entity. Just as that over the top, exaggerated ad campaign surely brought in the most possible movie goers, I think assigning Zimmer’s ‘Man of Steel’ score with the lowest possible rating (sans frisbee or, I think(?) the zero star rating Southall may occasionally give out), responding to such an inflated marketing machine for the film is a somewhat wise and tactful way of garnishing more attention than one would, perhaps, had they given the soundtrack album 3 stars.

    JUST A THEORY; i’m not saying these two fine reviewers are out for the press/attention (though I wouldn’t blame them; it’s utterly sickening how (relatively) unpopular both movie-wave and filmtracks are, the two best, classiest film music critique sites on the PLANET) when compared to the internet on the whole. but a decade ago it was no different. The conclusion is obvious; film music, and film music fans, are simple a medium and following that is, was, and (I guarantee) always will be small, very small… tiny even. and yet imo, (especially film music of the 90’s), no other genre of music in ANY realm has contributed more greatness to art in general than what’s come out of Hollywood over the past decades.

    I once stated in a post at the filmtracks forum, shortly before being SCAPEGOATED, a rhetorical question (at least I thought it was rhetoric); given how enormous Hollywood is, given that $100million dollar movies come out in boatloads every month; given it’s a zillion dollar industry and everyone from actors to editors to cinematographers make a nice deal of BLING, why should Christian Clemmenson (or Southall for that matter) not be being paid (at least) some several hundred thousand dollars a year for running filmtracks? That’s like .00001% of Hollywood’s bank account. It just shows you HOW neglected the art of film music is. I mean look at how classy filmtracks is, and yet Christian’s financial woes require him to put ads on the front page. in 1997, he had no ads. and a few years ago they were somewhat related advertisements, now each time I visit the site I see half naked women at the top for some vacation resort or some random thing. boo to all.

    Being a past reviewer along the lines of these marathon running film score critics, I can put myself in the situation of asking myself if, had I continued to pursue writing film music reviews, I would probably have approached a score like this with the same exact results. But like one of the above posters, I gave up long ago trying to hear every single new score ever released, and like him too, have resorted to just going back to the best scores repeatedly of Horner, Newton-Howard, etc. So perhaps not having to drudge through what many call a lackluster past 7 years or what have you from Zimmer has simply made me less cynical about his newest doings, or at the very least I really have no expectations.

    as for my hypothesis about 1 star giving the score reviews more attention.. when was the last time Mr. Southall had a review with 28 comments in the first few days? 😛


  28. Richard Reese-Laird (Rick) (Reply) on Tuesday 18 June, 2013 at 03:05

    This is not a score worthy of it’s subject matter or budget.
    I don’t dislike the score quite as intently as you do… But I must say two things:

    One) The few people here that are defending it are actually proving the validity of your criticisms, and that’s the nicest way I can put it.

    Two) I’m with Edmund; This is one of the best reviews, and perhaps the best “negative” review, I’ve ever read. You weren’t mean-spirited, you were just pointing out it’s many short-comings, and by proxy, the short-comings of the Industry that spawned such a “score”.

    Great review, and more importantly, great passion.
    I should hope this review would find it’s way into the hands of the director before the next film starts production- but even if it doesn’t, I refuse to believe that your valiant effort is in any way wasted.

    Cheers, sir.

  29. JTL (Reply) on Tuesday 18 June, 2013 at 03:51

    Wow, someone is having a bad day, and it’s certainly not Hans. My feeling is diametrically different — this was a surprise and one of my favorite compositions by Hans. Guess everyone has a different ear or lens, which is fine and expected. Very industrious and fits the film perfectly….job done, and then some!

  30. Dr.Freud (Reply) on Tuesday 18 June, 2013 at 14:26

    “This is really, really bad simple music, puerile and banal throughout. If you were a youngster back in the 1990s who quite enjoyed Media Ventures film scores, then I imagine the music you might write for some sort of school project might sound something like this.”

    “…again it’s more like listening to a child’s music project than a professional film composer’s film score. ”Launch” is even sillier, with the electric guitar adding a new layer of dumbness.”

    “and then some incredibly earnest, melodramatic synthetic strings which are meant to signify events of great importance, no doubt, but sound like an amateur Zimmer-impersonator improvising on a keyboard. It sounds incredibly silly, again more like self-parody than anything, but at least it brings an unintentional but much-needed smile to the face.”

    “I can never remember having such a feeling of being treated like an idiot by a film score”

    Is this written by an angry, bitter teenager?

    Lots of meaningless rambling but no analysis. This and that sounds offensive,cheap,silly,dumb… but why? Explain instead of foaming at the mouth. And no, synthetic sounding instruments in not a valid argument.

    Broxton and Clemmensen’s(less so) reviews are far more professionaly written.

  31. Matthew Rushing (Reply) on Tuesday 18 June, 2013 at 14:27

    I always appreciate your reviews even when we disagree. I am a huge score fan and of course John Williams is my king there; but I love this soundtrack. I have had it on repeat for over a week now and cannot get enough. I love the new theme.

    Thanks for your work!

  32. Robert (Reply) on Tuesday 18 June, 2013 at 19:46

    I agree with this article wholeheartedly. And since music is the foundation for most movies I watch, this movie was completely ruined for me by this vapid score.

    I was looking forward to a new theme for the hero, if not also for others (at least one for the bad guys!), but what I heard turned out totally forgettable. I wanted to walk out of the theater with the theme music stuck in my head, and ended up quite disappointed. The movie itself will likely fade from my memory as well, thanks to the lack of feeling in the score.

  33. Mark Camilleri (Reply) on Wednesday 19 June, 2013 at 10:27

    I hope you don’t mind – I linked to your above review at the very end of my review of the film –

  34. JohnnyG (Reply) on Wednesday 19 June, 2013 at 17:57

    I like all of zimmer’s scores and I can never remember having such a feeling of any other film score.

  35. Mr Indian Singh (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 08:40

    One scene stuck out which was like a patronising musical slap in the face…
    The first time he tries to fly, the music gets a little forced, funky n heroic, …then he falls …..followed be hmmm forced serious music. As if preconceing the audiences emotions to be the same…Haha I think this encapsulates Zimmers range of emotions.

    The actual film was pants…I don’t think that helped Hans ole boy!

  36. Jostein (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 12:30

    Very well put James and although I’m probably closer to a 2-3 score than a 1 I pretty much agree with the basic points

  37. Luke (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 22:45

    From your own mouth Mr. Southall…

    “but I really don’t see what emotions he is attempting to connect with through this music”

    It IS because you “don’t see” what Zimmer attempts, or you don’t understand…regardless of you and your particular standards, you seem like you can’t wait for the opportunity to rip him apart whenever you can just because you don’t “agree” with what comes out of his attempt(that of which he pours heart and soul into, it’s just not your type) to give the film what it needs…that isn’t a reason for you to put him down they way you do. Your personal opinion of the music is what a review is…NOT bashing the composer who writes a score you don’t like.

    I personally hate it when I hear Marco Beltrami is doing a movie because I don’t like his music, Iinstantly get bummed at what it could have been if a composer I enjoy more were to do the film, but I don’t base the review on everything I don’t like about Beltrami himself just about what I would rather hear musically.

    Your personal opinion is NOT the way, truth and life…’s just an opinion. You’d do well to remember that.

  38. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 23:18

    Luke, I’ve never considered my opinion to be any more than that. My review is, by definition, an expression of my opinion. Others’ opinions are equally valid.

  39. Michael G (Reply) on Sunday 23 June, 2013 at 23:53

    I was really looking forward to Man of Steel, both as a movie and a score, but I’ve been left disappointed.

    Whilst a single star is a bit harsh, I can’t really fault your reasonings. Mostly, the score fits the movie like a glove and that’s not necessarily a good thing – in parts it’s just as loud and obnoxious and lacking in emotion as the visuals it was written for. I really enjoyed “Flight” and “What are you going to do when you are not saving the world?” but the rest is almost exclusively pounding percussion, volume turned to 11, drumming a headache right into the middle of your brain.

    And then, if you listen to the Deluxe Edition you’ll have the peculiar pleasure to experience “Earth”, a piece of music that surely has been blatantly ripped directly from Days of Thunder, a film over two decades old and so badly dated in all aspects, including its music. I’ll admit, Days of Thunder and Hans Zimmer’s accompanying score remain a guilty pleasure of mine, but this kind of sound should have no place in Man of Steel. Set to lyrics on a Power Ballad compilation album? Yes. But the penultimate track of a 21st Century superhero movie score? No.

  40. Mihnelis (Reply) on Monday 24 June, 2013 at 14:36

    Some faith in humanity restored after reading this review.
    I went to see this film as a blank slate. Apart from one trailer, I stood clear of everything remotely connected to Man of Steel. And there I was in the cinema thinking to myself while watching the movie “good god, what is this? is this a bad joke?” Not only the music is bad, but the music doesn’t STOP, for crying out loud. It bangs away almost from the beginning to the end. This isn’t Superman. It’s a mad man editing and splicing musical elements together to create something undefinable. What was so wrong with John Williams’s score that Zimmer had to deny it completely and run away in a totally wrong direction? Guitar riffs? Endless percussion rhythms? Trombone swells? Drones? gut pounding sub-bass? Where is the identity in all of these elements? Why is there a guy playing a Stradivarius violin at Krypton’s last?
    Hell, when I listen to the original Superman theme it makes me wanna fly, it makes me wanna be a better man, it gives me hope. Zimmer’s soundtrack makes me hide in a dark corner and weep.
    I actually lost IQ points listening to this, and to make matters worse, when I went on internet social media I was petrified reading all the comments. People, did we listen to the same thing or what is going on? You all seem to be witnessing the second coming of Christ or something, and the only thing I see is piles of garbage.

  41. H.R. (Reply) on Thursday 27 June, 2013 at 06:32

    I respect the above comments but personally I disagree. Most people are afraid of change because they think the new thing would be replaced to the old one. I love the the genius of Zimmer’s work. It’s something new and If I think there are other similarities well then I’m wrong.

    I believe Zimmer thinned the line between the picture on the screen and the music playing on it. usually the composer understand the mood of the scene and tries to make a music equal to that mood or atmosphere. Zimmer goes beyond that, he goes through the mind of the characters and he’s not afraid to sacrifice the melodies in his mind to make something more effective. Look we are talking about a man who’s composed masterpieces like The Thin Red Line, The Lion King etc… definitely he CAN come up with new melodies like them but he tries to do something new. The one note of The Dark Knight for instance, can you come up with something more impressive than that ? now I hear a lot of people complaining about the harshness of that track and they never ask themselves this is the SOUNDTRACK of a maniac called Joker!
    The Dark Knight Rises for instance, those big drums and Taikos of bane theme is exactly the way his character is. Heavy, Harsh and of course resemblance of the war drums. There is a war and there is soldiers in TDKR. The first scene of TDKR with that great music of Zimmer really inject the personality of Bane to my veins. He used Decay,Reverb with a high buffer and the result was something that has weight. This is something modern, this is something that may not be a good listen without the film but what are we talking about? Soundtracks, It must serve the picture no matter what.

    Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to watch Man of Steel but I’m sure It’s something special too. Now I don’t say everyone should be Hans Zimmer (Obviously they can’t) but I say there could be a room for a composer like Zimmer to make something new and special and there must be a room for John Williams with his beautiful complex musics.

  42. CAHet (Reply) on Thursday 27 June, 2013 at 16:08

    H.R., very well said. I completely agree with your insights.

    I have been a fan of Hans Zimmer’s for as long as I can remember. It has been very interesting how Hans’ style has evolved as time has gone on (becoming more cerebral as compared to reactionary). This is not to say that Man of Steel is his best work yet, but it is most definitely a great addition to his collection.

  43. Fozzy (Reply) on Monday 1 July, 2013 at 20:02

    Congratulations James! You’ve spent a lot of time just to write 20 paragraphs of puke!
    Envy is a bad thing, James…

  44. MPC (Reply) on Tuesday 2 July, 2013 at 01:53

    You pretty much nailed my feelings on this score. Zimmer has been capable of SO much more, and he has delivered on other films. But he should stay away from superhero films.

    And John Ottman’s “Superman Returns” score is miles away from the shit Zimmer churned out for this film. Even when you strip away Williams’ themes from SR, Ottman did a solid job. While I was watching “Man of Steel”, I kept picturing Ottman’s SR music playing over the various action sequences, instead of enjoying Zimmer’s underscore.

    That’s how bland and forgettable Zimmer’s score is.

  45. Matt C. (Reply) on Thursday 4 July, 2013 at 18:37

    I didn’t read every comment, so maybe this has already been stated, but Hans Zimmer and James Horner are by far the most polarizing and controversial composers working today. I might even say that Zimmer is even more so, due to the pound-you-over-the-head-with-a-wall-of-sound approach he favors with action scores. I was just listening to the track “Maestro” from the film The Holiday and really wish Hans would get back to music of that nature and make way for composers such as Elliot Goldenthal, David Arnold and David HIrschfelder – who can really handle an orchestra with power, uniqueness and intricacy.

  46. Tim (Reply) on Thursday 4 July, 2013 at 20:22

    James, I could not agree more with your review of this pathetic score.

    The most frustrating thing to me is the supply and demand snowball of crap that Zimmer’s recent scores are creating. I honestly was blown away reading the comments on social media praising this score as (literally) a masterpiece when the previews were released. The brain-dead unthinking movie-going zombies who crave nothing more than loud, pounding, endlessly repetitive percussion, blasting brass and ostinato strings were thrilled with this terrible effort. But as long as Zimmer can get away with writing this overly simplistic nonsense – as long as it’s loud and pounding – then why would he ever stop? What motivation does he have to put some actual effort into a score when he has discovered that he can get away with ‘writing’ a single bar of rhythmic nonsense and repeating at nauseum at fff?

    It’s only going to get worse, thanks to Zimmer and the dummies out there who are too simple to expect something better than this.

  47. Mikal (Reply) on Thursday 11 July, 2013 at 00:27


    I like ‘Man of Steel,’ and I went to one of the nation’s top universities (W&M), so there goes your theory about those liking the score being intellectually inferior. But I appreciate the insult all the same. In fact, maybe this is petty of me, but I hope Zimmer continues this stylistic trend, for no other reason than it seems to get your knickers in a twist. If someone who praises music you don’t like, makes you that upset, I suggest you speak to someone…or, at least, get some air.


  48. school of mozart (Reply) on Saturday 13 July, 2013 at 21:25

    Mr Indian Singh you said it man…that was a big slap in the face…i noticed that big time.

    Mikal, haha speak for yourself, it shows in this day n age, getting into a ‘top’ university means absolute nothing about taste, so give us a break with that turd speak. Top uni…lol
    Go and play with some C major root triads…haha

    The score seriously needs an enema.

  49. Trevkins (Reply) on Tuesday 16 July, 2013 at 10:13

    I don’t get all the negativity. I love J. Williams and his original Superman score but this film is a different beast. I like this score alot and it has some great dramatic and sensitive moments. So what if it’s not technicaly accomplished it still evokes emotion in me. I would give it 4 stars.

  50. Burkhardt (Reply) on Friday 19 July, 2013 at 10:42

    Filled with respect for the statements of the real experts in this discussion and even at the risk, to reveal myself as a movie-going zombie: I like the score….

  51. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Sunday 21 July, 2013 at 15:32

    At the end of a movie, when credits start rolling and “MUSIC COMPOSED BY…” flashes on to the screen, many composers (HORNER, GOLDSMITH, BELTRAMI etc) give their names a musical credit > > sometimes a rhythmic change, or the introduction of the title theme…maybe percussion or solo instruments are focused on …whatever! So, there I am sitting alone in the cinema [ credits roll and most people exit ] patiently waiting for Zimmer’s credit to appear accompanied by a massive orchestral blast from the digital speakers….INSTEAD, the exit music is replaced by a sotto synthesizer note as ZIMMER’s name flashes …and not even played by state-of-the-art hardware, but by an instrument that produced an awful 1980s experimental sound??? The pros & cons of the score have been debated 53 times since James’ in- depth critique first appeared… but I’m still left wondering what on earth director Zack Snyder’s brief was to our Hans.

  52. Jake Wilson (Reply) on Wednesday 24 July, 2013 at 22:55

    Hey James…Those are your thoughts on the score but I missed reading the individual track thoughts…instead of asking you what each one is though I just want your thoughts on “What are you going to do when you’re not saving the world”???

    If you can’t no problem…just curious

  53. mastadge (Reply) on Thursday 25 July, 2013 at 01:55

    Jake, he discusses that track in the review: “The finale cue, “What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?” is actually a long way from being awful – it’s too little too late, but it does earn the album an extra star from me, it’s so much better than anything else here – it’s this score’s equivalent of Inception‘s “Time” or The Da Vinci Code‘s “Chevaliers de Sangreal”, and while it’s certainly not as good as either of them, it does have a high guilty pleasure value to it, thanks in no small part to it actually not being completely bleak and miserable.”

  54. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Thursday 25 July, 2013 at 05:13

    mstadge, ‘general zod’ (a bonus but still), ‘earth’ (another bonus), ‘terraforming’, ‘I Will Find Him’, ‘Flight’, and probably a few I’m forgetting are all better than the somewhat lifeless and generic (tho still enjoyable) ‘what are you going to do….?’ finale.

  55. Jake Wilson (Reply) on Thursday 25 July, 2013 at 19:59

    Thanks Mastadge, totally missed that…Haha!

  56. sreekirch (Reply) on Wednesday 2 October, 2013 at 07:49

    When I heard Man of Steel soundtrack, I agree that most of the tracks are not really powerful. But I could easily pick three numbers that are really a rock the park blockbuster stuff.

    1. Tornado – All starts as a slow churner to danger sign. But the score earns my super grade, when the drums start off like a volcano out of control and goes with full power. Turn the bass to full and feel the hit to your heart. A blockbuster track. No doubt

    2. What are you going to do – This is a theme song. I waited for it to pick up. The score does start slowly and almost test my patience. But it is the build up that smartly gets the work done. When the guitar work starts and the electronic cues pummel up, it is the best hair raising score I heard for a super hero film. Can’t compare to the classical superman score, but for modern era, this is the theme to be always thought of.

    3. Flight – A power house of fast beats and a rehash of the already gone tracks. I did not wait for the novelty here. It is the profound beats that set the stage to shake up. A bass booster would really churn it up.

    Hence Man of Steel is not Zimmer’s best. But it easily passes muster. A blockbuster of 200 million dollars, needs such a score of propulsive force and along with Snyder’s smart visuals, the score will take the film to greater heights.

  57. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Wednesday 2 October, 2013 at 23:31

  58. Comment (Reply) on Wednesday 11 December, 2013 at 07:16

    I think the reviewer has been listening all this time to the wrong soundtrack.

    My compliments to you for a very elaborate and descriptive review for the soundtrack, but after reading it twice, I realized that this entire review is most probably written at the desperate need to post more content to this website.

    I am unable to take you seriously with this review when after reading it I am in doubt that you might even be tone deaf. I am not even a Hans Zimmer fan, but I am a fan of good, emotionally, well-fit in movies music. And the Soundtrack for Man Of Steel does just that.

    Simple music or not, that shouldn’t even matter. There is only rich or poor quality music. And if you are trying to say publicly the latter, and also insulting the composer’s music by comparing it with low high-school budgets, then by all means go compose your own soundtrack for man of steel, as from the words you write you seem pretty elevate. But I imagine you won’t even try such a thing, because people usually only use words and never act.

    And to end my already long comment at your post:
    “But this is Superman! He flies around in a pair of tights with his underpants on the outside. If you can’t give Superman a proper theme – one the audience can hum on their way from the cinema, one kids in 30 years will have as their ringtones…”

    First of all, if you would’ve payed any attention to the movie itself, Superman’s suit was redesigned, now being more serious and mature, without his underpants on the outside.
    If you haven’t noticed, the entire movie is set in such way to portray the inner-conflict which Clark Kent suffers, tormented constantly by questions such as: – Who am I? What am I? What is my purpose on this planet?

    And let’s be serious, who the hell gives a damn about kids having the Superman theme as a ringtone 30 years from now?

  59. felix (Reply) on Wednesday 11 December, 2013 at 12:21

    Is this the place where people slate things that the majority of people like?

  60. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 12 December, 2013 at 00:52

    Mr. Comment, I’d just like to congratulate you for using the Internet’s most tired and overused and fallacious argument – “let’s see you do better.” No. Mr. Southall does not need to “go compose your own man of steel,” any more than Roger Ebert or James Berardinelli need to make a better movie every time they write a negative review. I see this from butthurt fans on pretty much any negative review on the Internet and it never has, nor ever will, fly. Criticism and creation are two completely different things, and the ability to do the latter is not a prerequisite for the former.

    Criticism is the ability to describe, to formulate and clearly express an opinion. As you said, “My compliments to you for a very elaborate and descriptive review for the soundtrack.” That’s it. James succeeded. If you don’t agree with him, that’s your right, but for cripes sake don’t whine about it unless you have some specific counterarguments to back yourself up.

    • Comment (Reply) on Thursday 12 December, 2013 at 06:01

      Mr. Edmund, ok. I rest my case.
      If those are the only points you saw in my entire comment, then again, ok.

      Have a fabulous day.

  61. Alexander Beach (Reply) on Thursday 12 December, 2013 at 01:02

    Definitely not, as he himself has admitted to liking quite a lot of Hans Zimmer scores, including more recent ones. The list just does not include this one, and not without good reason as he well explains.

  62. Jens (Reply) on Saturday 4 January, 2014 at 05:58

    I keep coming back to this review. It may be my favorite thing you’ve ever written. Bravo!


  63. Dan Stadnicki (Reply) on Thursday 23 January, 2014 at 19:01

    I strongly disagree with the score being mediocre and not fitting the film. The music for this movie was perfect. Mr. Zimmer clearly stated that he did not want to write a completley new theme for superman, because he admired the original theme so much. Goodbye My Son, Krypton’s Last, and Flight were some of my favorites for the movie and aided in story telling the most. Film music is not supposed to pop out and make you notice the music more than the picture, it is supposed to aid in storytelling. Although I do not believe this soundtrack is in his top 20 made, I do believe that he did a very good job with Man of Steel

  64. tiago (Reply) on Monday 7 July, 2014 at 03:29

    When I first heard this score, I really liked it. I wrote a positive review of it, and received very harsh comments back. But, today, I don’t think that I would like this score so much. Listening it one year later, I’d probably give 3 stars, maybe 2,5 because of Zimmer ridiculous use of ghost writers. However, I really think that this review were a little too harsh and hateful for me.

    But then I heard the horrible Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack. In comparison with that, Man of Steel is a Bernard Herrmann masterpiece. The Electro’s Theme is one of the worst of the year, along with the equally awful Winter Soldier’s theme.

    Well, here in Brazil the majority of film score fans (or, at least, the few ones that comment in the site I write) are tired of the Zimmer way to score a film. And this year of 2014 has been terrible in this aspect: scores like Transcendence or Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, whose composers are not from Remote Control, are all trying to emulate the scores of Inception, Bourne and the Dark Knight trilogy. Personally, I used to be a fan of Hans Zimmer, especially of scores like The Last Samurai, The Thin Red Line, Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean 3, but I don’t like this new pop/electronic style that he is taking. The worst part is that talented composers are just doing what he did, like Mychael Danna, Patrick Doyle, Javier Navarrete. This is really sad.

    Greetings from film music fans from Brazil, James!

  65. Ian Simpson (Reply) on Thursday 2 October, 2014 at 21:06

    I don’t find this score disastrously bad, just very bland, with not much musical or emotional substance. While the one-star rating may be harsh, I agree with a lot of the criticism in the review (and I note that a couple of other popular movie music review sites raised similar points too).
    As an aside, I quite enjoy listening to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I find it a mixed bag, but with the good tracks significantly outweighing the duds.

  66. luca (Reply) on Monday 20 October, 2014 at 20:51

    thsi site is terrific…all the graet soundtrack is devastated…site review: 1 stars

  67. Krafty (Reply) on Monday 3 November, 2014 at 19:30

    Very good read. As usual, Zimmer’s sound is one-dimensional and very lacking of inspiration. I’m not confident that I can classify him as a ‘composer’ and feel that ‘sound designer’ more accurately his meanderings. I’ve gotten really tired of seeing his name attached to EVERYTHING in cinema. Surely it MUST be time for someone else to have a turn at film these days. There are several composers who I’m sure are itching for a chance to say something. Come on, producers. Fight for a different voice for once.

    • RRL (Reply) on Wednesday 5 November, 2014 at 12:07

      Spot on. He’s actually quite the quintessential “sound-designer”, the pinnacle of a field that he himself created. He deserves much praise for his excellence in that particular arena…

      BUT- the man hasn’t been a “composer” since “Prince of Egypt” (or perhaps “Gladiator”), and in spite of his musical and tonal skills, the man has wreaked havoc on the film-scoring landscape. Not on purpose, of course. He made a thing that vacuous film producers decided they just had to have. He’s become the iPhone of movie music…
      He needs to take an extended vacation to do some adverts or theme-park rides or corporate training videos or sports-casting incidental music or Xtreme nature documentary soundtracks (and take his cohorts with him), and perhaps pass some composers’ phone numbers along to the movie execs who ceaselessly call him.

  68. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Wednesday 5 November, 2014 at 21:56

    Yes, because this is sound design:

  69. Ian Simpson (Reply) on Saturday 8 November, 2014 at 01:49

    Zimmer is capable of writing very good music, and still sometimes does- for instance he also co-wrote the score for The Lone Ranger (also released in 2013). But “sound design rather than music” is definitely a common characteristic of his weaker film scores and a concerning trend generally in film music.

  70. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Sunday 9 November, 2014 at 14:41

    I’ve still to view INTERSTELLAR which opened here on Friday at all Multiplexes…and ZIMMER’S synthesizers & bellowing organs are already being sneered at. So, I’m waiting, IMPATIENTLY, for your Album review James before making an ORDERING decision.

  71. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Monday 10 November, 2014 at 22:14

    I was expecting to be dazzled by mind-blowing images [in INTERSTELLAR] as space-explorers travel through a Black Hole, to another Galaxy in search of Earth – Congruent Planets. [these are NOT SPOILERS as everyone knows the basic plot]. In spite of viewing the movie at a state-of-the-art Multiplex, a lot of dialogue (and, as a result storyline) was lost, due to a shocking Audio-mix of thunderous sound-efffects & music…the actors swallowing their words…and Matthew McConaughey’s slurred Texan (?) accent. And the special effects certainly didn’t exhilerate the senses as they did for director Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION nor for James Cameron’s masterpiece, AVATAR. I do hope HANS ZIMMER has already tired of his new musical toy – THE ORGAN…the sound blasted my eardrums as it competed with earth shattering space-craft rockets for dominance. And NO, it doesn’t compare with the spectacular Fanfare [by both RICHARD STRAUSS & ALEX NORTH] for 2001 a Space Odyssey. ZIMMER does incorporate some very innovative and startling tonalities for a few cues & delights the soul with a JAMES HORNER influenced theme that accompanies McConaughey & his daughter as they drive to a secret NASA bunker. There are Metaphysical references in the narrative that are underscored with rhythmic psionic impulses over appropriate music. Soulful, joyless music plays under sequences on farmlands, striving to produce food on an Earth that has become a dustbowl. Human emotions and the power of Love, as an energy that traverses both Time & Space, has ZIMMER effectively referencing ENNIO MORRICONE in laid back mode. I usually view movies to listen to their film scores…but half way through the end Credits with dreary Exit Music [as dull as the opening music on McConaughey’s farm] I decided Enough! Maybe INTERSTELLAR’S music on an Album will be the exciting, and also emotional experience I was hoping for…but missed out on in the Cinema.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 11 November, 2014 at 10:05

      Oh dear! I was expecting it to be special. Comments on the score so far are very mixed.

  72. […] […]

  73. tiago (Reply) on Tuesday 11 November, 2014 at 16:02

    I saw Interstellar the other day, and the score wasn’t so bad in the context of the film. But it’s indeed a sound design score, with a lot of organs, piano and strings. However, although this score is not among Zimmer’s best, it is better than Man of Steel, 12 Years a Slave and, of course, the bizarre Spider-Man score.

  74. Random Guy (Reply) on Thursday 25 June, 2015 at 17:37

    I love this score and disagree with your assessment wholeheartedly.

  75. Fred Laner (Reply) on Monday 14 September, 2015 at 22:10

    It amazes me your fingers didn’t fall off writing so much about something you so adamantly proclaim to not like.

    Reminds me of MacBeth: “the lady protests too much”. You secretly admire it, and hold Zimmer’s success against him. Probably some nobody “composer”. Big deal. He’ll never read this tripe, and would probably crack up if he did.

  76. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Wednesday 16 September, 2015 at 19:54

    Roger Ebert wrote at great length about things he didn’t like and, to my knowledge, his fingers never fell off. It never ceases to amaze me how certain people fail to understand what criticism is on such a fundamental level.

  77. ANDRÉ (Reply) on Thursday 17 September, 2015 at 00:16

    Fred, I suggest you read James’ critiques of other ZIMMER scores- some include lots of stars, meaning that they were praised…and the creativity of a noteable composer was applauded. Obviously, you have a high regard for ‘Man of Steel’. Please share your reasons with us – join the debate.

  78. PRADA プラダ 6連キーケース 2M0025  キーケース 黒 ブラック  カーフ NERO〠(Reply) on Friday 1 April, 2016 at 05:22

    I truly love your website.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own personal blog and would love to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

    • James Southall (Reply) on Friday 1 April, 2016 at 21:48

      Wow, thanks for the exceptionally kind words. It’s rare to see such a heartfelt message. I’m truly glad you like the colours, I selected them all personally.

  79. Vincent (Reply) on Saturday 19 August, 2017 at 00:15

    Great review! Too tired to write more, but I’ll definitely be reading more of your stuff in the future! Also just read your look back on your 20 years as a reviewer and I do hope you’re proud of the fact that Zimmer called you an idiot: it’s a sign you’re doing a fantastic job.

  80. Darren Duran (Reply) on Wednesday 4 April, 2018 at 18:40

    I am a fan of film scores from way back, and I love this score. It’s not Ben Hur or the Sea Wolf or Psycho…but what is? The dismissiveness of the review makes me question the validity of the rest of them.

  81. Firenze (Reply) on Saturday 1 May, 2021 at 22:14

    soundtrack can be divided into two halves: the parts with the drums and the parts where your ears are recovering from the parts with the drums.