“When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either.”
Advertising executive and creative genius Leo Burnett used this quote to describe his unwavering quest for greatness. Burnett's reach for the stars inspired many memorable ad campaigns; the Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Dough Boy and others. There is no mud in this cast of commercial characters.
Burnett's model of reaching for the stars could easily be applied to John Williams. Throughout his career, Williams has scored hundreds of films with a seemingly endless amount of energy and creativity. He has on many times reached those celestial bounds. His score for Superman: The Movie is a perfect example.
That film landed in cinemas in 1978. The superhero film has since changed. The starry-eyed vision of hope was laced with a grittier, more cynical demeanor. This dark shift is perfectly captured by Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. In their own ways, these films reached for the stars.
Hans Zimmer received a lot of negative press over many of his recent works. His Dark Knight scores have been lambasted as “predictable,” “painful,” and “shapeless”. Inception was considered as Zimmer writing from his “comfort zone”; that it lacked originality. This is a sad turn of events for a composer who once was acknowledged for his stellar work such as Driving Miss Daisy, Backdraft, The Lion King and Crimson Tide. Man of Steel offered Zimmer a chance to shake off this criticism. All he needed to do was reach for the stars.
He reached within his bag of tricks, and pulled out a lot of mud instead. It is hard to accept that where Williams succeeded, Zimmer failed. Man of Steel has a simple, percussive theme that is more headache-inducing than heroically uplifting. The rest of the score varies in volume from loud to ear-splitting. It drifts aimlessly from one scene to another. It lacks the cohesion that Williams worked into his Superman: The Movie. It is bogged down by its own heavy-handed approach, its insistence on synthetic-sounding instrumentation. It is mud.
There is a small sliver of hope that Zimmer will once again reach for the stars and produce work that truly befits the tag-line, “Music composed by Hans Zimmer.” Man of Steel is not that score, though it truly should have been.