May 2010

Music from "Superman - The Movie"

by John Williams

I think I may officially make the month of May "John Williams Month". This year, my subject is the music from "Superman - The Movie".

We introduced John Williams back in May 2009. We also introduced his style of leitmotif, or the art of giving specific characters or actions their own melody or theme to let the music tell the story. Both of these things will come into play this month.

In December 1978, Richard Donner directed "Superman - The Movie". Christopher Reeve played Superman (a.k.a. Clark Kent). The incomparable John Williams provided the score. While the sequels to this movie got progressively worse in quality, this version of the movie remains a standard for a generation. I submit that this is largely due to the music.

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

I don't have clear memories of seeing this in the theater, but I know that I did. It was likely in the early part of 1979, so I would have been eight years old.

I do remember the music, though. The main theme was Superman. In fact, if you listen to the main theme, it almost seems to sing out: "SUP-er-man!"


For this one, I'm going to have you listen to three segments from the soundtrack. The first one is called "The Planet Krypton". This starts out quietly, but gets progressively loud and majestic. Picture the glorious crystals of Superman's home planet.

The Planet Krypton from "Superman - The Movie" by John Williams (4:49)

Next, a bit of humor. "The March of the Villains" is often heard throughout the movie whenever Lex Luthor, or particularly his bumbling sidekick Otis, are seen. Otis is fat and dumb. See if you can picture that type of character while listening.

The March of the Villains from "Superman - The Movie" by John Williams (3:37)

And finally, last, but far from least, here is the Main Theme from "Superman - The Movie". This contains the two main themes for Superman, as well as a version of the Love Theme (for Superman and Lois Lane). Can you picture yourself flying?

Main Theme from "Superman - The Movie" by John Williams (4:28)

For those interested, these recordings are from the Original Soundtrack. John Williams conducted the London Symphony Orchestra.

Jon's Interpretation:

This is music that just makes you feel good! There is something about the Main Theme that just makes you want to jump up in the air and fly away. At one time or other, I have played this music for each one of my children when they were less than a year old. And, as can be expected, I "flew" them around the room while listening to it.

"The Planet Krypton" feels so majestic and mystical at the same time. "March of the Villains" just makes me chuckle. But when I really want to feel great, the Main Theme can do this like no other piece of music.

Extra Credit:

I had trouble thinking of an Extra Credit for this one. As a blast from the past, I thought I'd include this video I found on YouTube. It shows the first 6+ minutes of the original film, which includes the Main Theme and part of The Planet Krypton.

Unfortunately, the person who put this on YouTube refused to allow it to be embedded in other sites for some reason, so you'll have to click on this link in order to see it. Enjoy!

Superman The Movie 1978 - Opening Sequence And Theme