John Williams is the greatest composer of all time. Of all time. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are all amateurs compared to him. I bet you can name ten John Williams’ scores before you can name five of the other guys, combined. Its not about popularity either, its about the mood he puts us in. Jaws is an unnerving theme. Raiders makes you want to punch Nazis and E.T. makes you want to cry if you know you are into that type of thing. Yet, the one score I want to talk about is Superman. Probably the greatest superhero theme ever. It inspires you and has inspired. Its the theme a lot of us want to walk into a room full of bad guys. Seinfeld used it for his race that he won. Which is the complete seal of approval on everything. It is the theme which all other superhero themes are judged much like the movie.
Even if you take the Master out of the equation, Elfman’s Batman theme is pretty iconic as well. It is moody and uplifting at the same time much like the Dark Knight. His Spiderman theme is good, not great, but good enough to capture the fun and sometimes tragic tale of Peter Parker. Yet those are the only two composers to do anything for the movie score scene. Every other score is garbage. Take Hans Zimmer AKA HJ. Hans, who has worked on all of the Nolan Batman films and Man of Steel. This guy can’t not write an inspiring theme to save his life. His Batman theme is a giant horn. I know shocking for a guy who has a giant horn blast in all of his movies…see Inception to know what I am talking about. His only good work came in Dark Knight Rises for the Fishy, Fishy, Pasta, Pasta chant the prisoners were screaming as Bruce was climbing out of the hole for the zillionth time.That and the finale six minutes of Dark Knight Rises are the only good things he has done with that score. 10 minutes out of 400 minutes is not good at all.
His Man of Steel theme is one long march to nowhere. It is the Trail of Tears of Superhero movie scores. It is like going out on a date with a girl where everything is going well. You have good small talk which is rare. The food and movie were good. Things are looking up as you walk her to her door and you think well maybe its go time. Nope, its a hearty handshake and I’ll see what we can do on our second date ie the sequel in about two to three years from now. Its annoying and makes no sense. Superman’s score out of the box should be huge and inspiring instead it waddles on like a fat lady at Walmart with too many items in the 15 or less lane. Superman Returns was a crap film, but it at least knew not to screw around with the score. Its like in Jurassic Park, Nedry knew better than to screw around with the Raptors when he turned off all the power. Apparently, Nolan and company like screwing around with Raptors, it explains the ending to Man of Steel.
DC is not alone in this either. For all the millions dropped on the Iron Man, Captain America and Thor movies, it doesn’t seem like a dime went to the score. A lot of money went to Black Sabbath and AC/DC for Iron Man. I am cool with that and it makes sense especially for Sabbath’s I am Iron Man for well..Iron Man. Yet, he should have a good theme that is a bit electric and upbeat. Thor has little or no fanfare. It should be bold and in your face like he is. Captain America is the worst offend. There is no sense of idealism or inspiration in his theme. There is more patriotism in Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades TV show which was made for $3.99. $3 when to Bruce’s magnificent chin.
I would be ok with Marvel if they said, they were going to use existing bands for their movies, but they don’t. Its mainly for Iron Man and everyone else is second much like the entire Marvel franchise. Avengers had a good score, but it should have blended in all the themes of the heroes to spotlight their actions scenes. Instead it plays through for everyone and it becomes generic. And don’t get me started on that terrible Soundgarden song at the end. That band should have stayed in the 90s with their flannel shirts and pitch howling singing. Awful.
At the end of the day, a superhero’s theme is as an important as their costume and origin. It lets us know who they are and what they stand for. So, how do we fix this problem without rebooting two universes? You can’t. We are pretty much stuck with this problem til eventually we get another John Williams’ score from somewhere which the clock is ticking on that or we pray the Nolan/Zimmer Bromance ends to allow a new fresh take on these heroes. Or maybe I am the old man living in the past and maybe this is what the new generation wants. I am going to link a video that has the Eflman score with the end of Batman Begins and Zimmer’s theme for Batman ’89. You tell me which one is better.
Dedicated to my mother. Who forced me to listen to classical music after school instead of letting me go home and watch cartoons. So, you can blame her for this article.