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Superman: Keeping Score

February 2nd, 2011 . by Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan)

It was announced that British actor Henry Cavill has been cast as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman in the Superman re-boot movie due out next year. I’m not filled with dread over the decision, by any means, but it is a little sad to see America’s greatest hero being played by an Englishman. That’s like casting a Scotsman as England’s great hero, James Bond. (No kidding…really? Ok never mind) But I’m unfamiliar with Cavill’s work so I can only go by his look…and he certainly has the eyes and jawline to play the Man of Steel.

But the thing that concerns me is something I read about the REASON they cast Cavill. A studio exec was quoted as saying, “We’re really going to try and make Superman as contemporary as possible.” Which some have interpreted as meaning they are going to ditch the John Williams theme that has been synonymous with the character since the 1978 movie. This, to me, is simply not acceptable. The John Williams has become as much a part of the Superman character as his cape and tights. When you see Superman’s big red “S,” the theme starts playing in your mind.


You were humming it before you pressed play, weren’t you?

Fortunately some composers have had the good sense to turn down the assignment already. Hans Zimmer reportedly turned down the job to write a new Superman theme saying, “I’m not thinking of rewriting Beethoven’s ninth, either.” Which is exactly the point. If you write a new theme to Superman, you will not do better or even as good as Williams’. Which only leaves you to do worse.


Sorry Danny…needed SOMEONE for the joke.

I understand they want to reboot the franchise and distance themselves from the 2006 Superman Returns. I get it. Certainly that can be achieved without throwing out the theme altogether. Take a page from 2009’s Star Trek. They used the Alexander Courage Star Trek theme but not until the end. Same with 2007’s James Bond reboot, Casino Royale. They rebooted the CRAP out of that franchise! Different tone, different humor, different action, even a different hair color for the main character…yet they STILL kept the classic Bond theme. Why? Because it’s become part of the character’s cinematic legacy!

So Zack, Christopher, et all…I know you’re trying to rebuild the Superman franchise from scratch, but don’t throw out the baby Kal-El with the bath water. Make sure whoever you get to do the score for the Man Of Steal incorporates his iconic theme. Or better yet…


THAT’S what I’M talkin’ about

12 Responses to “Superman: Keeping Score”

  1. Jess Says:

    I can’t say I agree with you Tim. Although the original score is iconic (and one of my personal favorites) the new movie needs to be it’s own version of Supes.
    I think one of the major flaws with Superman Returns was that it was trying too hard to be a sequel to the Donner films, and that will never work. Donner did an amazing job with the character, but those are old films and a different time. People might need to look past their personal nostalgia to see that copying the old films is a bad idea.
    I’m sure they won’t be able to come up with something half as good as Williams original, but it needs to have it’s own identity. If it’s just another Donner rip-off, I think myself and a lot of other people will not be interested in seeing it.

  2. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    There’ a difference between making the same style of movie and reincorporating the same music. That’s why I pointed to Star Trek and Casino Royale as examples. They are 180 degrees different from anything done to that point by either franchise. Brian Singer tried to make a Richard Donner film. He didn’t just borrow the score he borrowed styles, themes, and even that interminably long opening credit sequence. Even Lucas knew enough not to make the prequel trilogy with retro 70’s style film making.

    You can’t deny Chris Pine is his own Captain Kirk and Daniel Craig is his own James Bond…and the old themes didn’t work against that. In fact, I would argue they helped carry the characters’ essence through so that they could be remolded but remain recognized.

    I fully agree that Cavill needs to be his own (Super)man and not try and evoke Reeve. For the same reason Pine didn’t try to do Shatner…you either come up short or come off as a parody or copy. But the music…the music fits any mold of Superman (They’ve even used it on Smallville which is light years from the films…also light years from interesting, but that’s not the point)

  3. Jess Says:

    Ok, those are very good points (you had to bring Star Trek into it dammit, I love that movie!!)
    I guess I just still have a bad taste in my mouth from Superman Returns, that movie just pissed me off.

  4. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    Yeah…it really squandered it’s goodwill in no time flat. I think the 2 biggest flaws were 1) Lex Luthor’s plan suuuuuuuuuucked! 2) Superman basically spent the entire movie stopping things from falling.

    That’s why I’m hoping with this re-boot, it will be some sort of “super” villain that draws Clark into taking on the role of Superman. I want super battles!

  5. Joe Anthrax (TANcast's #1 Conservative Fan) Says:

    FUCK…and YES. Pitting Superman against Lex Luthor will, for the most, part be incredibly boring because Superman has to fight Lex with his wits rather than his fists. And it’s not that Superman is a one dimensional “Hulk Smash!” type person (he outsmarted Luthor many a time without resorting to throwing him into the sun), but when people (most specifically ME) go to a movie about Superman, we want to see a villain that he can really throw down against. That’s why Superman II worked so well for me. It had both aspects of the character of Superman utilized well. So put Luthor as a secondary character and let Supes fight the likes of Metallo, Parasite, or Brainiac.

    About the music, yes it would suck if the Williams theme was gone from the new movie. But in some ways, unless used like the original theme in Star Trek ’09, it could be used as a crutch to get you to feel that sense of wonder and nostalgia when the scene fails to do it on its own. For example, would you be excited for The Phantom Menace if you read the opening crawl about taxation and trade dispute without the awesome John Williams Star Wars theme playing underneath it? I think not.

    Lastly, the new film just has to be fun. Superman is antithetical to Batman as a hero. With The Dark Knight being so grim and gritty, Superman has to be the opposite. This doesn’t mean there doesn’t need to be drama or “grittiness” in the film, but don’t forget that Superman should be the embodiment of all that is good about mankind. He’s about doing the right thing, and not being a brooding, emo, peeping-Tom (I’m talking about the Singer-Routh version). Give me a Man of Steel who actually looks like he loves doing what he’s doing because despite the fact he is having to be the Earth’s protector, he loves to do it!

  6. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    @Joe I like the way the Trek ’09 team put it in the commentary. They said something about wanting to use the Alexander Courage theme when they first showed the Enterprise, but they didn’t feel like the movie had “earned it” yet. Which is why they save it for the end.

    I don’t necessarily think they should save the Williams theme for the closing credits of the movie like in Trek. But I agree they shouldn’t use it as a crutch (like they did in Superman Returns after the Airplane scene…they just let the theme play while Superman stood there for a minute…ugh) they should use it sparingly, creatively, and judicious. And they should come up with a complementary Clark Kent theme and a contrasting villain theme.

  7. Sean Says:

    I think they should use the old theme but maybe sparingly, save it until the first time he suits up and does some serious ass kicking! That way it really stay with you and it doesn’t have to be used in the opening credits.

    I also join the bandwagon of agreement that Superman Returns was a waste of a movie, could have been something much cooler. I did not care at all about Superman having a kid, ugh.

  8. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    You know what else was a waste of movie? Superman IV. It hit a lot of great notes and had a lot of chances to be really cool but missed the mark a LOT. #SupermanOnTheBrain

  9. Joe Anthrax (TANcast's #1 Conservative Fan) Says:

    Waiting until the end to play the Williams theme would probably be a bad idea, but creating a new set of themes wouldn’t be bad. The Superman Animated show had, what I considered to be, an excellent theme that didn’t harken back to the Williams theme but still invoked that feeling of representing Superman. A guy on a Superman podcast I listen to said that he could listen to both themes and hear the word “Superman” being musically invoked. That’s what the new theme, if there is one, should do.

    As for Supeman IV, it would have been a better movie if Nuclear Man had been replaced by Bizarro, as that’s what he essentially was (an evil/negative clone of Superman). Same with Superman III, making the computer Brainiac instead of just some evil Macintosh…

  10. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    @Joe By the way, apparently the original plot outline for Superman III was Braniac and Mxyzptlk…then they found out Richard Pryor REALLY wanted to be in a Superman movie. Aaaaaaaand flush.

  11. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    Well Zach officially announced no Williams score in Man of Steel.

    …and I am ready to announce I am 80% sure I will not see it. That will make no difference in the grand scheme of things, except on a personal level. I don’t have to watch my favorite character without my favorite theme.

  12. Tim Babb (TANcast's #1 Host/Editor Fan) Says:

    Hey Tim from 2012…you’re 80% full of crap. You saw it TWICE in the theater. (True, you brought your iPod to hear the Williams theme while you watched it, but you still watched it)

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