"Man of Steel" Trailer ReviewBy Michael Bailey
I think that is the best word I can use to describe my initial feelings upon seeing that two minutes and some odd seconds of footage.
To say that Superman fans have been waiting what seems like forever for this trailer is a bit of an understatement. Anticipation was huge, especially after the teaser trailer (or trailers if you factor in that Jonathan Kent narrated one and Jor-El narrated the other) and the leaked Comi-Con footage, which could only be seen via shaky hand held cameras. The teaser was just that... a tease. We didn't see much but there was enough there for me that I was generally happy with the way it turned out. The leaked footage was another matter. You got to see so much more but only through the lens of someone recording it with their phone, so while the visuals looked appealing they also could be quite blurry. So the desire for clean, in-focus footage was there and a good number of us speculated on what we would and wouldn't see.
And then suddenly... unexpectedly... it was there. I write, "unexpectedly" because we thought we would have to wait until December 14 and a certain movie about a guy with hairy feet going on some grand adventure but all of a sudden a viral marketing campaign hits and on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at around noon EST the trailer... THE TRAILER hits the Internet.
So how was it?
Overall I was very pleased with what we were given. In all honesty I don't want to know too much about this movie before I go and see it, which is complicated since I am part of a website dedicated to talking about all things Superman. There was a time when I would follow every single new bit of business regarding a Superman film like a junkie looking for a fix but frankly I felt a little burned by the marketing for SUPERMAN RETURNS, which to me gave us too much to see before the film came out. I have come to the conclusion that with a movie about Superman, especially a movie that is starting a new franchise and thus giving us a new Superman for this generation less was preferable to more. I want the wow factor to happen when I am in the theater watching the movie unfold, not sitting in front of my computer or waiting for another film to start. So I wanted to see something cool but not the whole movie in two minutes.
All in all I think that is exactly what we got with this trailer.
Moody and Ominous
The opening seconds of the trailer let us know right away that this is going to be unlike any Superman movie we have seen before. It is a very introspective. We see adult Clark floating in the water and hear Martha Kent talking to a grade school aged Clark through a closet at school where he is holding his hands over his ears. Martha has tears in her eyes. The images shift to a whole lot of water and the aftermath of what I am assuming is Clark saving a bunch of kids on a bus. One of the kids' mother flat out says that her child saw what Clark did. This is intercut with a few seconds of a bearded adult Clark seeing a school bus drive by in a small town.
Crack-Pot Theory Number 1; based on how these images are cut together I suspect that a lot of the scenes with Clark as a boy and then teenager are going to be given to us through flashbacks rather than making up the first act of the film. The image of the adult Clark floating in the water with the narration of Martha telling her son to imagine he is on an island struck me as something Martha could be saying to Clark to help him deal with some new ability, most likely super-hearing. The way that kid is covering his head I got the sense that he was trying to block out all of the sound around him. He could also just be really upset and crying but I like my theory better. This also goes with the scenes with the bus. Adult Clark sees a bus drive by and he flashes back HIGHLANDER style to when he was a teenager and saved a bunch of kids. I have no way of knowing if this is the narrative tool they are going for but if it is I like that idea quite a bit.
He Said What?
Then we move into what could quite possibly be the most controversial moment of the trailer. Jonathan Kent tells his son he has to keep his powers a secret. Clark asks his father if he should have just let those people die. There is a pause and we hear Jonathan say, "Maybe."
As I watched the trailer on my iPhone (I was at work and couldn't wait the eight hours until I got home to finally see it) I said both aloud and to no one, "Man, people are going to wig out about that."
And lo it came to pass that people did indeed wig out about that.
I didn't, which surprised the heck out of me. The Mike of two years ago would be having a fit right now. The Mike of today (the one writing this review) is a little calmer and more level headed about the whole thing. Some of this comes from just chilling the heck out. Ultimately the thing that kept me from flying off the handle was the realization that this a new way of looking at Superman. I know that can be a little jarring to some people but no more so than to those that grew up watching the George Reeves series in the fifties going to the cinema to see SUPERMAN II and watching Superman and Lois get busy in the Fortress of Solitude. If you look at the history of Jonathan Kent as presented in film and television there is a historical precedence of him being a giver of sage like wisdom and that is a totally valid way of dealing with the character. The Jonathan in SMALLVILLE was a different animal. Sure he was one of the factors that led to that version of Clark becoming a hero but he was also a nervous wreck about people finding out what his son could do.
I have a feeling that that the Jonathan we are going to see in this movie is a natural evolution of that. What if this Jonathan is so afraid of people fearing his son that he tells that son to hide what he can do? Does that make this Jonathan a bad father? Or does it recast him as a man that is in an impossible situation dealing with if the best way he can? Yes it is nice to think of Jonathan as this bastion of fatherhood that says all the right things and does all of the right thing shortly before he assumes room temperature. However, if you are going to shake things up how about you make him a man that loves his adoptive son so much that as a father he will do everything he can to keep the son safe and protected. If it comes down to people dying so his son;s freedom won't be jeopardized well... that's a shame but it might be worth it in the end. It doesn't make Jonathan a bad man or a bad father. It makes him human.
It is also important to keep in mind the bit of dialogue Jonathan delivers later in the trailer where he tells Clark that he is going to have decide what kind of man he is going to be. That strikes me as someone telling his son that it is his decision on how to use his abilities or maybe even not use them. Between that and just being a good man I can still see a Jonathan Kent that replies, "Maybe," when his son asks him if he should have just let those people die.
It is hard to say for sure but it looks like we're getting a new Fortress of Solitude in this movie. We see Clark walking through a weird looking hallway and holding a key with the S symbol on the end. This is followed by Superman walking out into the arctic landscape, crouching down and then rocketing into the sky. This leads to...
Crack-Pot Theory #2; Clark finds the little S symbol thingie and uses that to either access or create the Fortress of Solitude. I get the feeling that the shot of Jor-El and Lara saying good-bye to baby Kal-El is going to be shown around this time. When you combine that idea with the narration of Jonathan Kent and add in the two teaser trailers I get the sense that this Kal-El will be a product of two fathers. Jonathan councils caution but ultimately leaves it to his adoptive son to decide what kind of man he is going to be. Jor-El informs his son that he is going to be a symbol for men to follow into the light. Clark takes both of these messages and becomes Superman. The scene of him streaking into the sky is after he decides that this will be his course of action.
Or it could be from the end of the film. Again, I like my idea better.
All of that sounds like SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, which should bug me because I am the guy that complains that SUPERMAN RETURNS borrowed too heavily from that film. The thing is you can do homages to a past iteration without getting lost in it. If I am right and Clark finds/builds the Fortress, discovers his origins and then puts on the suit and become Superman then it will be a new version of what happened in the 1978 film before the movie goes off in a completely new direction. This is a nod to the past while moving forward, which is what a character like Superman needs.
I was completely blown away by him taking to the skies. It was an epic shot that borrowed a bit from how SMALLVILLE had Clark fly at the beginning of Season 4. Everything about those few seconds made me feel like a little kid again. Epic doesn't even begin to describe how awesome it was.
Seeing the scenes of destruction cut into the flashes of Zod and Lois Lane and Dr. Hamilton was fantastic as was the clip showing an alien space craft landing on what I assume is the Kent farm. This sort of fast cutting between striking images is designed to make the audience wonder what the heck is going on so they just HAVE to see the film and that sure worked on me because I've watched those images again and again and get more and more excited each time I see them. SUPERMAN RETURNS had some great visuals but they were spaced out so far apart that they started to feel tacked on. I get the feeling that the action in this film is going to be organic to the plot. We'll still get the running theme of a man deciding what he is going to do with his life but set against the backdrop of stuff blowing up and super powered people wailing on each other.
That shot of the ship landing indicated to me that while I am sure the story itself will be grounded that this take on Superman will have more elements of science fiction than past iterations. While the Krypton of the original film series was very much science fiction the rest of the movie was set in the real world. Here we are going to get a better blend of the two. The danger is that Superman will not look as unique if we see things like a giant space ship landing near a Kansas farm or a woman watching a scene of destruction from a larger viewer but for some reason I think that is what this film needs. I am not the biggest fan of having too much science fiction in the Superman stories I read and watch but frankly I think the average movie goers wants that sort of thing. They want to see Superman against a world of falling buildings and alien despots.
Seeing those images filled me with the first real sense of hope I had that this movie is going to be successful. One of the reasons I think that SUPERMAN RETURNS didn't catch on was that it was too reverential to the past. It was put out after the X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN and even BATMAN BEGINS which were all designed to capture a new generation of fans. I think that MAN OF STEEL is going to do that for Superman.
This trailer was everything I wanted and more. The only thing that would have made it better was a sample of the new Superman theme. Beyond that everything about the trailer had me excited and intrigued. It also gave me faith that while this may be different in tone than any other version of Superman it will be something that a more general audience can latch on to and enjoy. This film NEEDS to be successful. We don't have a choice. If this film tanks Superman goes away again for a long time and all of those people that say that he is outdated and corny will have more ammunition for their insults. He won't stand up there with Batman and Iron Man and Thor and Captain America and Spider-Man as the current giants of the movie world. Superman deserves to be there so if Christopher Nolan and David Goyer and Zach Synder want to play with the legend while maintaining what he stands for then bring it on.
I've felt this way for a while now but this trailer made it truer than ever. June can't come fast enough.