Music Break: John William’s iconic Superman theme

The worst thing about the Man of Steel movie is how long the wait it. The movie isn’t scheduled to arrive until June 14, 2013. Bah, that’s a year away, so right now, I’d be happy if I’d see a trailer, which will likely arrive around Comic-Con in two weeks, yay! I’d love to see if the rumor about the Kryptonian war possibly playing a big part in the movie (per GeekTyrant) is true or not. Is that why they hired Maximus as Jor-El? 🙂

Anyway, we’re here to talk about the music and this post was sparked by the news I heard last week that Hans Zimmer will be scoring the Zack Snyder’s movie. Now, with Christopher Nolan being one of the producers, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by Zimmer’s involvement. Zimmer’s worked on four of Nolan’s movies: all three of the Batman films and Inception.

I’m a big fan of the German’s composer’s work, as I’ve outlined in my top five list from last year. He’s certainly done a lot of great scores in the past, but even a composer of his caliber should realize the daunting task ahead of him. In this FirstShowing article, he’s quoted as saying

You are allowed to reinvent, but you have to try to be as good or at least as iconic and it has to resonate and it has to become a part of the zeitgeist. That’s the job.

Photo courtesy of capedwonder.com/music

So he obviously realized that with John Williams has created one of the most iconic scores in the history of cinema, at least as far as superhero movies are concerned.

In last year’s Hero Complex Film Festival, Donner talked about how he got to work with John Williams, which was recommended by Steven Spielberg. It’s interesting how that came to be as Williams initially wasn’t available due to another project (it might have been Close Encounter of the Third Kind), so Jerry Goldsmith, who scored Donner’s The Omen, was hired. But then the schedule was pushed back again and Donner lost Goldsmith, but Williams became available. Talk about fate, eh?

Upon hearing the Superman theme for the first time, he said he was thunderstruck. “I couldn’t believe it, tears to my eyes…” Donner told Geoff Boucher, “He’s a genius, he’s a genius.” Donner even said in the interview that if we listened to the music very carefully, it’s almost as if you could hear the music say the word Superman. It’s like the music itself has superpowers!

Let’s take a listen at that wonderful rousing score right now…

I also adore the LOVE THEME of Superman which has romantic and sweeping feel to it, but still as majestic as the main theme. The Can You Read My Mind sequence is just hard to top, with Margot Kidder reciting the lyrics… she pretty much sums up how every young girl feels watching that scene, wishing it was us in Lois’ place 😉

Now, even though I think Zimmer is brilliant, I really don’t know how anyone could top that score. I feel that I think Snyder and Nolan should somehow keep the March theme, at least during Superman’s first flying sequence. I mean, this score is practically as inseparable as James Bond’s theme with 007 movies. I know Bryan Singer did use part of the score in Superman Returns, so it’d be weird to see Superman flying without that iconic score.


So what say you folks? Do you think John William’s Superman theme should be use in Man of Steel? Let’s hear it.

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39 thoughts on “Music Break: John William’s iconic Superman theme

  1. Easily, this was one of John Williams most iconic film scores. Plus, that opening theme was married so successfully to one of the all-time best movie title sequences:

    Bryan Singer’s ‘Superman Returns’ attempted to emulative the original theme (and titles sequence) by quoting from both, but John Ottman’s score kinda pales next to Williams’. Zimmer has his work cut out for him on this. Perhaps, it’d be better to go completely different — much like how Zimmer and James Newton Howard did with ‘Batman Begins’ (and away from Danny Elfman’s music from 1989’s Batman).

    1. Oh yes, Superman definitely is one of the all-time best movie title sequences! Yep, Ottman’s score can’t hold a candle to Williams’ so maybe you’re right that Zimmer should do something totally different. I’m just torn if they should at least use the iconic theme the first time we see Supes on screen y’know? I mean, they’re so inseparable!

    2. Ted S.

      That’s what I hope Zimmer would do, instead of just try to copy William’s great score, just give us a new theme. Whatever Zimmer came up with I’m sure people will bitch about it, but you know what, I remember a lot of fanboys bitched about his and Howard’s score for Batman Begins too but now they all seem to love it.

      1. Based on that quote, I think Zimmer will try to do something totally different and I am optimistic he can come up with something great. At this point I can’t imagine anyone can top Williams’ work but maybe I’m just biased as it’s just such a masterpiece.

  2. Ted S.

    I love William’s Superman theme, more so than his Star Wars. Mostly because I fist saw Superman: The Movie when I was very young and everytime I hear that theme, it brought back memories of those early years of my life.

    I can’t wait to hear what Zimmer come up with for the new Supe flick. Of all the films he composed for, the only one I didn’t like was his theme from George Clooney’s The Peacemaker. I thought he sort of phoned in for that film.

    1. Oh I know Ted, I feel the same way. I was listening to it last night and all the memories came back to me. I’ve always been a Superman fan all my life and that score is one of the reasons it’s stuck with me I think.

      I do like Zimmer’s work as well, I haven’t seen The Peacemaker yet, is that something you’d recommend?

      1. Ted S.

        I have The Peacemaker on Blu-ray, I can lend it to you. It’s an average action flick, I just thought it took itself way too seriously than it should have been. It’s one of those late 90s action films that aren’t too memorable but still entertaining to watch. I don’t know if you’ve seen Ronin or not, but if you like that one then you’ll like The Peacemaker.

        1. Wow Ted, you’re better than Netflix man, ahah. Yeah, I’ll borrow it one day. I did see Ronin a while a go but I don’t mind seeing that again. Oh I bet it’s way better than The Peacemaker.

    1. Thanks for checking this out Vince! Superman always brings back fond memories for me, too. It’s perhaps my all time favorite franchise. That’s why I sincerely hope Nolan and Snyder would do a good job on Man of Steel!

  3. rockerdad

    Ted,

    This post just reminded of how badly the franchise sunk after Superman 2. Can you do a post about Golan-Globus?

    1. Ted S.

      You know I was thinking of writing something about that studio, I was so glad Superman 4 tanked so bad at the box office and pretty much bankrupted them. If Supe 4 was success, they’d have enough money to shoot Spiderman with Alpert Pyan as the director, yikes!

  4. Aw shucks, now you have me here reminiscing about the late Christopher Reeves! I’m not surprised that Zimmer is said to be scoring the Superman movie but if he does, I don’t think it’s necessary to use Williams’ piece in the new film. I do, however, think that Zimmer might compose something that is in the style of what Williams put together for the previous flick.

    Either way, I have no doubts that the score will be good based on Zimmer’s hefty resume and skills plus the foundation that they already have in place….being able to get inspiration from Williams’ work and then building on that to create something that fits for the world’s favorite superhero.

    1. Christopher Reeve shall always be my favorite Superman, he’s just impossible to top isn’t he?

      Yes I think Zimmer has the skills to create something great. I think you made a good point there about getting inspiration from Williams’ work whilst crafting something unique. In any case, whatever it turns out to be, we’ll always have this one to go back to, as it’s as iconic as Chris Reeve as Superman.

  5. Huge Superman nerd here, and I just got a smile because I actually had one of my nerdiest moments with the love theme.

    I actually took quite a shining to the wildly messy TV series Smallville. During the later seasons, “Superman” who doesn’t yet go by that name, starts reaching out to Lois by way of calling a particular telephone booth.

    The first time she picks up the phone and hears “It’s me”, she responds with “can you read my mind”

    Not sure whether to be proud, or hate myself for catching the reference.

    1. Oooh, nerdiest moments with the love theme? Now you got me all curious 😀

      I used to watch Smallville up until the third season I think, I just couldn’t watch it anymore as it got sooo cheesy. Even with my love for Supes and Tom Welling’s extreme hunkiness, I just couldn’t get past the dialog.

      That scene you mentioned sounds awesome! I’d definitely catch that reference too, I mean we can’t call ourselves Superman fans if we didn’t, ahah.

  6. As a youth I loved Williams’ score although when I would hum them I would go from one soundtrack to another …

    Hans Zimmer is good enough for me 🙂 It is a different movie so for the scoring to be different, I don’t really mind.

    1. He…he.. sometimes these composers’ work do start to sound the same don’t they? I know Zimmer’s scores sound very similar at times, too.

      Good point about this being an entirely different adaptation, I’ll keep an open mind Iba 🙂

  7. Such a pleasure to listen to. Will be very difficult to beat this so they really should incorporate it definitely. Fine to go in new directions but I think this one is too iconic to leave behind completely. Would love to hear it at least referenced in the new film!

    1. That’s my sentiment too, Pete, though a lot of people who have commented here do make a good point about starting fresh, but part of me still wants to hold on to Williams’ score. It’s just THAT good.

  8. I agree with Ted above (and you too Ruth), I love what Williams did with Superman, but hope that Zimmer does indeed do his own and makes it fantastic! I expect nothing less. Thanks for highlighting one of my favorite scores and opening sequences!

  9. I have the John Williams Best Of on my ipod. It’s mind-boggling how many unforgettable scores he has made over the decades. I doubt anything that comes with the new Superman reboot will be nearly as memorable.

    1. Indeed Castor, musical genius is not an exaggerated term to use on John Williams. Oh, I’m still optimistic about that movie, it’s just the score that I think is hard to top. I think in regards to Superman, they’ve got not one but TWO very iconic things that will forever set the bar high, that is the music and Christopher Reeve’s portrayal.

  10. John Williams is my favorite composer, and his score for “Superman” is exceptional; however, since “Man of Steel” exists in a different continuity (unlike “Superman Returns,” which was a direct sequel to “Superman 2”), the music should be completely original. Zimmer recognized this with “Batman Begins,” despite the fact that Danny Elfman’s score to “Batman” was iconic. Even though it’s disappointing to not hear the famous music associated with a character, the new score should fit the new film and not exist just for nostalgia’s sake.

    1. You made an excellent point Jamie, now you made me feel less concerned about using this iconic score. You’re right the music should match the film and not be used for pure nostalgia sake. I think different is fine, I just hope Zimmer can create something that’s on par to this in terms of quality.

  11. Love this theme. It’s one that I can start humming in a heartbeat. I can’t not think of Superman without thinking of this theme.

    Though, I have on occasion, begun humming it and then it turned into Indiana Jones and then Star Wars! Thanks John Williams 😉

    I do love Hans Zimmer and his scores. They’re among my all time favourite. But, aside from TDK and Inception, his recent work hasn’t really wowed me as much as his work on Gladiator. He’s more than capable of it, just hope he really brings it for Supes!

    1. Ahah, yeah that happens to me too, humming three different tunes at once without realizing 😀

      I feel the same way about Zimmer. I guess it’s hard to top something like Gladiator, in fact he seems to *steal* that style on his other work, like Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes let’s hope he gets that mojo back for Supes, the Man of Steel deserves it!

  12. Completely agree. It’s not a Superman film without that theme tune. It just screams Superman and is as important to the films as the S-Badge and the Tights. I do love Zimmer though and if I did have to choose someone to take over, it would probably be him. When I think of Zimmer though, I usually think “Dark and moody theme.”

    1. You said it Ben, the music is as inseparable as the ‘S’ insignia on Supes’ chest. Yep, dark and moody is what I think of Zimmer too, though I think he has done some lighter themes as well, just not as well-known.

  13. Great post! You know, I haven’t seen any of the Superman films (except for Superman Returns). I had heard that theme before, though, and only now I’m realizing it’s the Superman theme! Ha!

    1. Oh man, you’ve GOT to watch Superman: The Movie! I mean if you like superhero movies, that’s a MUST-SEE. Then you’ll see how Superman Returns paid an homage to that one.

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