Hans Zimmer has been composing classic Hollywood scores for 30 years, but you can practically pinpoint when he was handed the baton to become the Maestro. For more than a generation, John Williams, famous for Jaws, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, was the artist who scored our dreams, but last July, Warner Bros. announced that it was retiring Williams’ iconic Superman theme. Instead, Zimmer — the composer behind The Dark Knight, Inception, and Gladiator — would provide the melody that a new generation of kids would hum while they pretend to fly around their backyards after seeing Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
An eight-time Oscar nominee — who won for The Lion King — Zimmer is best known for his collaborations with director Christopher Nolan, but the one track that seems to have made the longest-lasting impact is from Terrence Malick’s 1998 World War II movie, The Thin Red Line, in which Jim Caviezel is an oasis of serenity (above) within the hell-hole of war. Fifteen years later, “Journey to the Line” is a go-to tone-setter for the biggest and most ambitious Hollywood films. It accompanied the first footage of Man of Steel when Snyder reintroduced the character at Comic-Con 2012. The most recent trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past pumps it up just as Wolverine screams in anguish, while Steve McQueen’s saga, 12 Years a Slave, leans heavily on the tune just after Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) says, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live!”
Triumph. Tragedy. Serenity. Deep, profound emotional release. The music conveys it all, and could eke a single tear down your cheek even if it played over Grown Ups 3: Dookie in the Pool. Plus, the tune is evocative without being iconic. Not many people hear it in a trailer and go, “Cool, ‘Journey to the Line’ from The Thin Red Line!” Instead, they might think, “Whoa, this movie sounds intense and important. Why am I crying at naked, blue-skinned Jennifer Lawrence?”
With X-Men and 12 Years, Michael Fassbender certainly seems to be profiting from the soundtrack association. He’s already intense and important, but “Journey to the Line” has now played over three of his biggest recent films, including last year’s Shame. [Correction: Actually, the piece of music in the Shame trailer is a Zimmer soundalike from composer Harry Escott.] Maybe, as one of my colleagues suggested today, hearing “Journey to the Line” is simply how it feels to be Michael Fassbender every day…
Click below to hear “Journey to the Line” — or as some call it, “The Fassbender Suite” — in a few of its trailer incarnations:
The X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer starts out with another ubiquitous soundtrack — John Murphy’s “Surface of the Sun” from Danny Boyle’s Sunshine:
12 Years a Slave blends two of Zimmer’s works, beginning with “Time” off the Inception soundtrack: