Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Sound of Steel

Ok so something's been bugging me recently and I wanted to look into it. There is music track from a movie trailer that I found to be insanely appealing. This is me exploring that.

Recently I came across the new Superman trailer (#3) and so much was I blown away that I quickly realised something was seriously off. Why? Well for one thing I don't get excited about movie trailers. Ok well maybe I did... once... but only just once! That was almost exactly 5 years ago for Dark Knight.

So 5 years ago I had a 'hunch' about a movie and the resulting product delivered perfectly. That's cool for sure but I'm keen to keep intact my 100% record of not buying into bullshit. Bullshit because it doesn't matter how good or bad something is, the job of marketing people is to use the available budget (in this case a very large one) to generate as much positive emotions and excitement as possible.

Just Marketing Hype?
Problem is I just don't like being a casualty of a very elaborate and dazzling display of cinematic marketing trickery when the actual product doesn't deliver, and I can't imagine anyone feeling differently. For instance nobody would rather waste €8 + 2 hours of their time without a good reason.

So being blown away by the Superman trailer put me in a position of a significant dilemma. Is the end product really gonna be amazing or is my intuition and my bullshit detector failing me? I had to get to the bottom of this!

So on that same day that trailer 3 was released, after re-watching it again and again a lot of times, I came to the conclusion that around half of my positive reaction could be attributed to the music theme itself. And then I started hunting down youtube videos of JUST the music theme.

The YouTube Bonanza
The initial YouTube uploads of the theme were poor quality, largely due to the fact that background sound effects and dubs couldn't be entirely separated from the score. But nevertheless, increasingly better edits of the theme were getting uploaded by the hour. Clearly I wasn't the only one on Youtube searching for "Man of Steel trailer 3 theme song".

Since trailer #3 was released, a couple weeks have passed now (and still couple weeks out before the movie premier) and I decided to look for a cleaner version of the theme again and lo and behold I found what I was looking for.

Turns Out It Was All About The Music
Now with weeks gone since I first watched trailer 3, my verdict is - and obvious to me now - that I was always blown away by that Hans Zimmer theme. Fifty-Fifty? No, more like 90% to 10%. The music was the driver of the whole trailer.

This theme has already provided me with so many hours of entertainment that I must get on record and give credit to its creator. I need to spend a few moments just talking about this wonderful piece.

I love to compare and I'm not alone so first question that comes to mind is "Is the new theme better than the classic original John Williams theme?"

The original 1978 theme is doing a lot more, has more colour, variety, and explores multiple extremely well realized emotional avenues in just 4 minutes without leaving any endings loose. The original theme is a true masterpiece that conjures feelings of absolute gracefulness, noble grandeur and simply an icon.

The new theme by comparison has much narrower... or just a very narrow focus without losing any of its 'super' ideals. It has pin sharp focus that embodies feelings such as: devastating supremacy and unrestrained power.

So which is better? To me there is no question... the original 1978 theme is the richer of the two. It's the better work of the two and I'm not even a little reserved about saying that. But the circumstances are unusual here because it's as if one song (1978) was written so well that it dazzles everyone with it's impeccable quality while the other song (Hans Zimmer's theme #3), also top notch, tugs on my emotional strings a bit more.

Comic Book vs. Symphony Orchestra
What's my take on how John Williams' & Hans Zimmer's themes stack up to the best music compositions in history?

Ok so in a way this is a little bit of apples and oranges but comparisons can be made nevertheless. Fair enough that a 3 or 4 minute composition cannot accurately be compared with an hours worth of symphony. But what if we were to compare pound for pound (minute by minute)? Sure the Superman themes are more condensed than say Mozart's 40th Symphony which has a much larger scope; but what about the quality of the work?

Maybe I'll leave this bit to somebody who either actually knows about music more than I do or knows the history behind the compositions of the tracks. I can't come up with any logical arguments but I'll just throw in my very unscientific feelings; that the quality of the work is comparable (if that counts for anything).

Hans Zimmer
Finally thank you Hans Zimmer for the absolute masterpiece you've produced. Top quality, world class, and timeless. I'm a big supporter and I view this theme as a landmark audiophile moment. Thank you.

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