Spotlight On: Superman

The newest Spotlight On takes a look back at the Superman films.

One could arguably say, the modern superhero film started in 1978 with Superman: The Movie.  The heroic nature of the films and John Williams' main theme have made the music in the films stand out.  With the lineup of John Williams, Ken Thorne, Alexander Courage, John Ottman and Hans Zimmer, there has been a strong continuity of themes through the franchise (until Man of Steel).  *Side note: if you love the music and want to hear more of Superman I-IV, check of Film Score Monthly's Superman box set* 

Here's a look back on the Superman films score by score. 

Superman (1978)
Music by John Williams
The quinticential superhero theme.  Another top theme by Williams is used throughout the film (sometimes just the opening fanfare, or even rhythmic pattern).  In addition to the main Superman March, we get the sweeping Love Theme (Can You Read My Mind), a theme for Krypton, a family Smallville theme and a comic march for the villains.  (Just listen to: Prelude and Main Title, The Planet Krypton, The Fortress of Solitude

Superman II (1980)
Music by Ken Thorne
Ken Thorne adapted Williams' main themes, notably the March, Love Theme, and Krypton Theme.  Added in was a darker new theme for Zod and arrangements of source music.  Overall, Thorne's own music fits nicely with the assigned themes.  (Just listen to: Lift Into Space-Release Of The Villains, Clark Exposed As Superman, Mother's Advice)

Superman III (1983)
Music by Ken Thorne
With this sequel, Thorne was able to compose more new music, while still utilizing the past Williams themes.  The music tends to be comedic in tone, matching Gus Gorman, while taking away the grandiose scale from the first film.  We also get a Supercomputer motif and a new love theme with the melody by Giorgio Moroder.  Easily the weakest score of the bunch.  (Just listen to: Main Title (The Streets of Metropolis), Montage, Metal Vera/Computer Blows Up)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Music by Alexander Courage
Unable to return, Williams turned to collaborator Alexander Courage for this bomb.  Williams did write some themes, with Courage composing new material and arranging Williams themes like: Nuclear Man Theme, the sultry tune Someone Like You and Jeremy's theme.  With parts of the score cut, no soundtrack was ever released until the FSM box set.  (Just listen to: Jeremy's Theme, Nuclear Man Theme, Statue of Liberty Fight)

Superman Returns (2006)
Music by John Ottman
One of the best adaptations of past themes, Ottman utilized many of Williams' themes for Superman, Smallville, Krypton and the Love Theme.  In addition to the past themes, Ottman added a second theme for Superman and a serious-villain Luthor motif.  (Just listen to: Memories, Rough Flight, Saving the World, Reprise/Fly Away)

Man of Steel (2013)
Music by Hans Zimmer
Zimmer started fresh with the score, not using any past themes as the other films did.  We get a new surging theme for Superman, complete with electric guitars and a bevy of drums, and some electronic sounds for Zod.  (Just listen to: Look to the Stars, Sent Here for a Reason, Flight, What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?)

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