"Look! Up on the screen! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It's Man of Steel!
How times have changed. Superman is no longer in the title. The campy mild-mannered reporter is nowhere to be found. Lois Lane does not spend a whole film trying to figure out who he is. You cannot go out whistling any of the tunes, as there are none.
Our icons from the past have been undergoing severe transformations. Perhaps the younger generation is more clued in to these darker versions of super-heroes, but I miss the humor and whimsy that made them endearing. Now the Batmen, Spidermen and Supermen each have troubled pasts and spend a great deal of time on the cinematic therapists couch. This is the new role assigned to the moviegoer.
Each of the main characters has serious family issues. The recent incarnation of the indestructible one abandons the tights, the yellow in the insignia, and pretty much his sense of humor. Not that the new film is bad. The first hour or so gives some real heft to the background story. Newcomers to the saga, if there are any, will learn that our hero is called Kal, rather than his full name of Kal-El. That only comes into play when we need to know more about the relationship to his father. Since we do not see the name in print, it is possible to surmise that it is spelled Cal, giving the young man a trendy moniker.
Remember the days when we sat by the television to watch the weekly excursions of George Reeves? Remember the theme music? Same for the Christopher Reeve versions with one of John Williams' memorable marches?
Those days have gone by faster than a speeding bullet. Yes, the recent scores are great for the chases and fight sequences. And it is certainly loud enough. I thought that the Transformers films had set the limit but there seems to be no end to the decibel levels in today's movie marketplace. Spinal Tap would have to give it a 12.
Just as we want to have memorable screen personalities, so we want music to match. Action sagas are a little like Wagner or Puccini operas, where the characters have leitmotifs not only on stage but in the pit as well. Wouldn't it be nice to have snippets of identifying music played when the protagonist is young and only have a full statement of the tune when he or she has matured? Even sub-themes for the villains would give us aural clues as well as visual ones, allowing the director, producer and composer to create a more integrated experience.
Mind you, I am not criticizing the creators of these scores. They are doing their best to engage the viewer, without drawing undue attention to the sound track. Composers must walk a fine line between over and understatement. There are even times when silence is the best score of all, especially when tension is called for.
Summer was meant for these types of movies, although I am not sure how many visions of the apocalypse we really need to see. For now, Metropolis is only somewhat damaged as well as a few patrons' eardrums. There are not many buildings left to bound over. They will certainly be rebuilt in time for the sequel.
We wish Superman luck in his pursuit of truth, justice and a proper theme song.