Superman: The Music (1978-1988) "Blue Box" (2008)
Film Score Monthly’s second box set (FSMBOX02 available worldwide exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment) sees complete movie scores for the Christopher Reeve films joined by the songs from Superman’s III and IV and the score composed for the 1988 animated television series presented in a tidy blue box with a comprehensive hardcover book of history and annotation.
While it’s worth the money and 10/10 just for the best ever version of the best ever movie score (Superman: The Movie, by the way) this box set delights with the previously unavailable Superman IV score by John Williams and Alexander Courage which is surprisingly and genuinely very good indeed.
Superman: The Movie
This is the bestest ever version of the bestest ever score. Containing details I’ve never heard before and a clarity that simply takes the breath away, this is remarkable from beginning to end.
Strange how the original Superman: The Movie tingles the spine, wrestles your attention and inspires the soul. Ken Thorne’s retread of the same themes are fine but none of these things. For many years it has suffered from an underwhelming movie presence but this CD reveals that to be due to inadequate care in sound mixing as the orchestra sounds fine.
Ken Thorne delivers a score largely devoid of melody and over-burdened with music academy loops of off-the-shelf clichés though, to be fair, there are a couple of decent Gus snippets. An online interview with Superman Cinema sees Thorne comment that he didn’t like the tone or content of Superman III and found the scoring job really tough. It shows. This complete soundtrack also includes unused (in the movie) Giorgio Moroder efforts which are without sparkle and, surprisingly, catchiness. Though They Won’t Get Me is quite good fun, this is a disappointment from a talented songwriter. Superman III is, without question, the worst of the soundtracks.
This is the hidden treasure of this set and the content that really makes the expensive price tag go down nice and easily. Though it gets off to a slightly shaky start, Alexander Courage and John Williams soon start delivering a soundtrack that gets better and better as it goes on. It’s a fun, bombastic, and, at times, remarkably elegant score.
What’s really interesting is hearing the beginnings of John Williams more widely heard scores inside his themes for Superman IV. You can hear the genesis of the Hook score in the Jeremy theme and Harry Potter in the Nuclear Man theme.
As another compliment, Williams’ Lacy’s Theme is as lovely as anything Williams has ever written and highly reminiscent of the great Henry Mancini in its melodic romanticism.
Also, surprisingly, Paul Fishman’s pop songs are largely quite good with plenty of beat and bounce.
Superman: The Animated Series and Other Bits and Bobs
Ron Jones’ score for the 1988 animated series is entirely satisfactory and boasts a couple of attention-wresting moments. The other stuff is largely interesting and includes album versions of Williams’ work from the original Superman: The Movie soundtrack album.
For soundtrack collectors, for Superman: The Movie fans, especially for John Williams fans (Superman IV was essentially a lost Williams until this release), Superman: The Music is a luxury they will want to save their pennies for.