November 11, 2007

CD Review: Superman: Doomsday Original Soundtrack Recording - Music Composed by Robert J. Kral

Back in the early 1990's an animated version of everyone's favorite Dark Knight (Batman for those who don't know) arrived on the small screen. It was so good that to this day it is considered one of the finest representations of the character ever. It had distinctive animation, great voices, strong writing, good music, and was just flat out entertaining. It was only a matter of time before his blue and red clad counterpart (Superman, of course) followed suit. In 1996 the Superman animated series arrived on the small screen. It too was a success, perhaps not as big as the Batman show, but it still featured many of the same strengths, including in its music. Here we are 11 years removed from the dawn of the animated series and we have a new animated feature based on the big blue boyscout, complete with a fully realized music score. You know what? The tradition of good music for these animations is intact, if little else.

Superman: Doomsday is the first DC animated feature to bear a PG-13 rating. It tells a modified version of the storyline that culminated in the death of Superman. Back when the story was new it was a worldwide sensation. Seriously, whoever thought that we would see Superman killed? Granted, it did not last very long, but still.

The unfortunate part of this whole thing is that I did not find the movie to be all that good. The animation was excellent, but the writing was sub-par and portions left a bad taste in my mouth. Even worse, the character designs where altered from the other animated look, I thought this was supposed to be in the same universe? Also, the voices were different and just did not sound right.

Okay, this isn't about the movie it is about the music. Fortunately, the music is one of the high points of the movie. Although, I would have liked to have heard a bit of the animated series opening theme worked in somewhere, but I can understand it's exclusion. It seems that one of the things they wanted to move away from was the ever-present use of triplets in the Superman theme. All of the themes prior to this one had that triplet musical saying "Sup-er-man." Well, that and they were asked to stay away from the John William's theme and its variations, as this is completely separate from the big screen version.

The score was composed by Robert J. Kral. Never heard of him? Neither had I prior to this; although, upon looking at his IMDB page I have had a lot of exposure to his work. His music has appeared primarily on television series including The Dresden Files, Angel, Duck Dodgers, and The Inside. This was his first official superhero work, and he has another one coming up with what is labeled as Batman Anime.

Superman: Doomsday's music is big and epic with moments of soft sentimentality. It stands completely apart from the pantheon of Superman music; apart, but never below. Okay, maybe it is below John Williams' work, it is hard to touch what is one of the greatest pieces to ever be created. Take heart, though, Kral offers a lot to chew on as the score plays out.

The album opens with the majestic theme, beginning with a little percussive introduction before taking flight and soaring over the clouds, but with a hint of darkness. Heroic horns playing counterpoint to slightly more morose string sections, it is not the jubilant theme of the series, but it is it ever a rousing start. The opening transitions to "Fortress of Solitude" featuring a light flute theme for Superman's private refuge. Both tracks contain a touch of sadness hinting at what lurks ahead.

Among the album's best cues are "Doomsday Rising" with its foreboding sound of doom, the immediacy of "Doomsday Battle," the epic sadness of "The Death of Superman," the playfully evil tones of "Toy Man Attacks," the epic string battle of "Superman vs. Superclone," and the uplifting "Superman's Victory."

Bottomline. This soundtrack is a much more satisfying experience than the movie was. No, the movie isn't that bad, but it is not at the level of past adventures. Robert J. Kral has crafted a fine score that covers all the basics and expands on what is going on. It is complete, emotion filled and just very entertaining.



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