Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel may have already completed its task of introducing a brand new spin on Superman, Krypton, and Clark Kent, but anyone who’s seen the film knows that it wasn’t just the actors putting in long hours. And as wild as the action and spectacle were, Man of Steel was as intense an experience for the audience’s ears as it was for the inhabitants of Metropolis.
We’re not just referring to Hans Zimmer’s pulse-pounding score, but the work of the sound designers, mixers, and editors. How do you make an otherworldly society seem something other than alien? How do you bring something new to a classic American setting? And when the fighting starts, how do you construct sound to rival city-levelling destruction? Those are the questions answered in the latest featurette, focusing on the sounds of Man of Steel.
It’s easy to understand how sound design ends up getting the short end of the stick with mass audiences – they tend to be more interested in learning about Superman’s new powers or the challenges of updating the character for a new generation – but sound is half of the theatrical experience.
The above featurette helps remind audiences just how many unique sounds needed to be created from scratch for the film. And while mimicking real world sounds is one thing, figuring out how an alien world sounds is something else entirely. Kryptonian weaponry, the strange interfaces of metallic balls, even the physical composition of Krypton’s buildings had to be realized sonically as well as visually.
Crumbling skyscrapers and groaning metal may be a bit closer to home for the sound designers, but given the scale of destruction in Man of Steel‘s third act, it’s a testament to the team’s talent that their work was even discernible amidst the carnage. As the featurette explains, that’s due largely to their decision to design the film to take full advantage of Dolby Surround 7.1 from the very beginning.
Most audiences will simply decide whether a film sounded good or not, but serious audiophiles will be glad to hear just how much the team used Dolby 7.1 (as opposed to the previous 5.1) to not only beef up the sound, but better express themselves as artists. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the delivery of Zimmer’s score, allowing the sound mixers to shape the music around the theater, giving the impression of hearing it in a cathedral, not directly from speakers.
Besides offering even more evidence that having Christopher Nolan involved in a film means a chance to work with some of the industry’s finest, the featurette also confirms yet another Man of Steel easter egg. If any fans of the original George Reeves Adventures of Superman television series thought they heard an homage to the show in Snyder’s reboot, it wasn’t just wishful thinking.
The rushing wind sound effect used during the show’s flight scenes did find its way into Man of Steel, so even if John Williams’ iconic theme wasn’t adopted for the reboot, the filmmakers found another way to pay homage to the character’s history.
Did any of the sound design stick out in your mind while watching the film, or is this the kind of behind the scenes movie magic that can only be appreciated once the extra Blu-ray content is released?
Man of Steel is in theaters now.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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