Composed by
Colin O'Malley

 

Published by
Electronic Arts (2006)

 

Tracklistings
1) Superman's Triumph
2) Metallo
3) Son of Krypton
4) War World
5) Bizarro Appears
6) Look Up in the Sky
7) Gladiator's Arena
8) Guardian of Metropolis
9) Battle With the Scoldfires
10) Riot
11) Meteor Storm
12) Earthquake
13) Rapid Descent
14) Bizarro's Minions
15) Superman Pursues Bizarro
16) The End of Bizarro
17) Fortress of Solitude
18) Metallo's March
19) Metallo's Devastation
20) It's a Bird...
21) Searching the City

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website
- Interview

 

Availability
Commercial release no longer available

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Superman Returns

It has long been common practice for game publishers to try and profit from movie licensing. Indeed, there’s hardly any blockbuster in cinemas nowadays that hasn’t spawned a video game. While some game adaptations turn out to be faithful companions to their films, both in quality and atmosphere (The Chronicles of Riddick by developer Starbreeze being the most notable example), most of them are rushed and generic efforts that don’t offer much satisfaction. Unfortunately, Superman Returns would join the long list of failed movie adaptations. What critics denounced the most was the storyline of the game that seemed more to confuse than expand upon the film.

There’s hardly any other franchise that is as marked by its music as Superman. John Williams’ 1978 score became an instant classic and its heroic themes and rousing orchestral style have become part of Superman’s character. Other composers who have since written music for a Superman-related film, television series or video game have all struggled to keep up with Williams’ superior first score. For Superman Returns, the daunting task to score the video game fell to composer Colin O’Malley. Recorded in Bratislava, Slovakia by a 75 pieces orchestra, O’Malley wrote about 75 minutes of music. In addition, he utilised some synthesized orchestral elements to a total of 120 minutes. The result is an epic and heroic action score worthy of The Man of Steel.

One of the most interesting aspects about O’Malley’s score is the complete absence of Williams’ established themes for the franchise. Instead, O’Malley built upon the soundscape of the original score and introduced various new themes, mainly for the villains of the game. This approach proved to work very well for two reasons: for one, it cleverly evaded the pitfall of simply emulating the original and, for the other, it gave him the chance to bring something new and fresh to the Superman franchise.

The first track on album called “Superman’s Triumph” introduces exuberantly the new Superman theme. It’s a catchy, heroic fanfare and lends itself well to different arrangements. O’Malley makes extensive use of it in his score, but nowhere as memorable and catchy as in “Guardian of the Metropolis”. That particular cue could be described as the essence of O’Malley’s score: the recognizable orchestral style of Williams joined with a new, exciting theme. Additionally, O’Malley wrote some motifs for the villains, which make their appearances in the frenetic cue for the bad guy Bizarro (“Bizzaro Appears”) and the determined “Metallo’s March”.

Although the music doesn’t offer a wide thematic variety, it is the arrangement and orchestration as a whole that shows the true quality of O’Malley’s work. He has a great sense of orchestral finesse and shows an understanding of Williams’ unique musical style. Thanks to these intricacies, the abundance of battle cues will seldom tire you, but rather keep you on edge. “Battle with the Scoldfires” enforces Superman’s power with a firm rhythm and a determined trumpet line while “Metallo’s Devastation” mixes heroic fanfares with metal percussions. In “Gladiator’s Arena”, O’Malley enriches his action arrangements with a nod to the old movie epics and a specific ancient Roman brass sound. There is one downside though: the score never seems to let up. Given the fact that the music was written for an action game, it is, of course, understandable that slow cues are relatively sparse. Still, as a stand-alone listen the score is not as varied as one might hope.

The album was commercially released on iTunes by Electronic Arts, but was withdrawn when the game was delayed. Sadly, it has not been re-released yet; a real pity, since it’s a great achievement and excellent addition to both the Superman franchise and your soundtrack collection.