I have a pre-run promo copy of this album – i.e. without pictures or notes of any kind just the track listings. The film has not yet arrived in the UK. Having said that, the title shouts comic book adventure and track titles like 'The Robot Army' and 'The Flying Wings Attack' explain much. The opening track 'The World of Tomorrow' is a tongue-in-cheek, big-and-brassy parody of John Williams' Superman/ Star Wars style. Indeed John Williams' Superman theme is constantly quoted.
Influences, sometimes amusingly blatant, often subtle vary from Host in familiar Mars form, through steely Prokofiev-like figures through to Goldsmith, Horner and Ron Goodwin etc but with John Williams prevalent. Quieter, more reflective passages like 'Back at the Base' are more imaginative than is the norm and not reliant for the weight to be placed, for instance, on clichéd string figures or meandering melancholy piano figures.
Shearmur's writing is splendidly rousing, powerfully heroic and quite magically evocative (sample 'Flight to Nepal' for instance). And no resorting to synth score-bolstering either – this is all large, punchy symphonic writing. Performances by the big orchestra are taut and crisp and polished.
Alas, the obligatory soloist, Jane Monheit's affected singing, her bizarre slurring of 'Over the Rainbow' would make Judy herself desperately call for Sky Captain. Nevertheless, this is the most outrageously heroic score for years - more imaginative than the norm for the genre but at the same time unashamedly derivative and eclectic – great fun.
Gary Dalkin adds:
While I generally agree with Ian, and the reference to John Williams' Superman theme is quiet apparent on occasions, I'd suggest there at least as frequent nods to Williams' 'Raiders of the Lost Ark March', and, in cues such as 'An Aquatic Escape' to David Arnold's Independence Day. There are also hits of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, particularly a fanfare evocative of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Sky Captains' fixation with the year 1939 at least makes the first two and the last of these references highly appropriate (Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 in June 1938) while 'Over The Rainbow' likewise made its screen debut in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Jane Monheit's version certainly is an acquired taste, and it will be interesting to see how it is used in the film. I wonder if it will be as imaginatively and powerfully employed as it was in Face/Off back in 1997.
Edward Shearmur is one of our most talented and young film composers. If epic adventure pastiche in the Golden Age style is what you are looking for you won't go far wrong here. For those who say they don't write them like that anymore, here's a fine fix of 1930's barnstorming action to put to fill the gap and put a smile on your face until the next Star Wars score comes along.