Film Score Friday Top 5: Superhero Scores

So I’m going to start a hopefully weekly segment here at The Temp Track.  Based  on the Film Score Monthly website’s weekly “Film Score Friday,” I will select some “theme” and pick my favorite five scores to fit it.  The idea here is to actually spur some dialogue with you, the readers, as you comment with your favorites.  I also hope that I will learn of some scores to listen to, as I am still learning and listening, trying to educate myself.

First, some rules: it does not have to just film scores, I plan on including as much tv and video game music as possible (this is unless, of course, I stipulate the medium, i.e. TV Themes).  Second:  I’m not saying that these are “the best,” but rather just my favorites.  Lastly, if a composer does multiple films in a series within the theme, I’ll choose only one of the scores, and a tv series counts as only one entry.

With today’s theme of superhero scores, I have defined the genre as one in which a character has extraordinary ability (either natural or aided by tech), and uses it for the betterment of society.  The characters need not be ones that first appeared in comics (i.e. The Incredibles), but also, a film that is an adaptation of a comic/graphic novel necessarily a superhero film, etc (i.e. 300).

So without further adieu, my Top 5 Superhero Scores:

1. Superman: The Movie – John Williams: What can be said that hasn’t already?  The Superman March is so iconic that Bryan Singer instructed John Ottman to use it in Superman Returns.  If anything, the score itself has actually outdone the films, as the franchise has had exactly 2 good films (with 3/4 of it coming from the Richard Donner material of Superman II and the other quarter coming from the plane rescue in Returns).  For me, the best cue is actually is “The Planet Krypton,” with its slow addition of instruments, building from a solo trumpet to full ensemble.  It reminds me of a Strauss-ian sunrise.  Part of reason I actually went to see Returns was because of this cue’s use in one of the trailers.

2. The Incredibles – Michael Giacchino: What do you get when you cross the music of James Bond with superheroes?  You get the score for The Incredibles.  Using spy-tinged guitars with Giacchino’s signature jazz/rock infused orchestral style, the score captures the spirit of the film perfectly.  I particularly like the cue when Mr. Incredible discovers what “Kronos” is and the scene cuts back and forth between him and his wife discovering that he has been sneaking out and using his powers.  It was at that moment that I became a Giacchino fan.

3. Batman Returns – Danny Elfman: I could have easily selected the first film’s score, but I really prefer the dark, cold tone of Returns, especially the Penguin’s theme – creepy and sad all at once.  Also the addition of Elfman’s signature untexted children’s chorus really makes this score stand-out in my mind.

4. The Dark Knight – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard: I could of filled out this list with all Batman scores.  Between Elfman, Goldenthal, Zimmer/Howard, and the scores for Batman: The Animated Series, Batman is the comic character who has translated best into film/tv and music (with the exception of the Joel Schumacher films, great scores, terrible films).  With Dark Knight the stand out elements are the new themes for Joker and Harvey Dent/Two-Face, with the cue “Watch the World Burn” on the album being a favorite (and at one point reminding me of the ‘Allegretto’ of Beethoven’s Seventh).

5. Spider-Man – Danny Elfman:  I really struggled with this slot, becuase I couldn’t really think of another stand-out score in my mind.  I like Elfman’s work here, but since I’m not a huge fan of the film, and since I have yet to really listen to the score on its own, it is hard to separate the two.  But after watching the film again the other night, I feel confident in placing the score in the fifth spot.

So there you have it, my top 5.  Please comment, tell me yours, give me suggestions of scores to list to.  I want to encourage discussion in the comments section.

Next week: TBD

2 thoughts on “Film Score Friday Top 5: Superhero Scores

  1. That’s a pretty good list. I think it’s wise of you to include all the Batman scores since they’re all terrific in their own way. As I mentioned in my Batman post I still prefer the grittiness of the first one.

    I love, love, love Superman: The Movie. “The Planet Krypton” is an excellent and effective cue. My personal favorites are “The Fortress of Solitude” and “The Big Rescue”.

    While I think that Spider-Man 2 is the better film, I prefer Elfman’s first Spider-Man score. It has a certain sense of fun that, to a certain degree, is missing from the sequel(s).

    My list of faves probably looks something like this:

    The Shadow
    (Every list needs a Jerry Goldsmith score, right?)
    The Matrix
    Superman: The Movie

    Hopefully The Matrix doesn’t bend your rules too much.

    1. I think Matrix compeltely fits the criteria for superhero film, I’m actually a little dissapointed in myself for not think of it. I agree that Spider-Man 2 is the better film, but maybe I just don’t like the character as much because overall the films leave me with an empty feeling. I must admit that I’m not familair with Goldsmith’s Shadow score, I’ll have to look it up…along with the film!

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