MovieBob - Intermission
Let's Watch The Man Of Steel Trailer

Bob Chipman | 14 Dec 2012 12:00
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As we have done before, so shall we do again.

Here's the very, very serious trailer for Warner Bros.' new Superman movie, to which are pinned the hopes and futures of the studio remaining solvent with both the Harry Potter and Dark Knight series now concluded. Follow along as you like.

Open - 0:12
Corporate logo time. Our font theme this time around? "Gray, under-lit brushed metal."

0:12 - 0:20
"Person floating underwater" used to be a universal cue for uneasy contemplation in movies. Now, it tends to mean "brief respite from large action sequence." See also: The post-explosion silence (save for ringing ears) slow-motion "appraisal of hopeless situation" moment in every action film since Saving Private Ryan. Bonus cliché points for choirboy choral singing.

These are the times I miss seeing trailers in front of movies first, by the way - the build-up to "Oh! This is Superman!" in this is actually really well done, but since I'm watching this on a web video window with a big MAN OF STEEL title above it I'm instead distracted by trying to figure out what could be going on here (plausible guess: Clark Kent has either just finished or is about to start saving people from a fiery disaster at sea, maybe a boat or oil-rig explosion).

0:20 - 0:21
Nice to see the comic/cartoon tradition of the presence of a full beard being the indicator for "Superman is not himself today." Also does a good job further concealing what movie this is from the tiny handful of audience members who might already know who Henry Cavill is.

0:22 - 0:30
Young Clark (has to be, yes?) runs out of a classroom, hides in a closet and covers his ears following harsh close-ups of pencils and blackboards. I'd bet money that the context of this scene is "my super-hearing just now kicked in and I'm freaking the hell out." I'm sure it'll be a good scene (it's been a good scene whenever they do it in the X-Men cartoons/comics/movies, which is often) but I kind of wonder what sense it makes? Superman doesn't "gain" his abilities, he has them because physics and physiology differ between Earth and Krypton. Traditionally, he's already "super" as a baby (Smallville also ripped off the "powers-as-puberty metaphor" to a degree, right? I never paid much attention).

0:31 - 0:37
Introduction of Diane Lane in old(ish) age makeup as Martha "Ma" Kent.

... Huh. Y'know, it never occurred to me before, but Batman and Superman both had mothers named Martha. I don't recall that coincidence ever being remarked upon in the comics, which is kind of odd.

Anyway, it's Ma Kent who's been speaking over all the clips thus far, teaching Clark some self-control techniques. Given the somber, broody tone of the piece so far and the presence of somber broody specialist Christopher Nolan as producer and story-guider make it a safe bet that "suffering the burden of tremendous power" will be a main theme here.

Random shot of shoreline rocks. The most common "pithy" observation about this trailer you'll hear from movie-persons about the style in place here will be "it looks like Terrence Mallick made a superhero movie!" This is a Terrence Mallick movie. We should be so lucky.

0:41 - 0:49
Teenaged Clark rescues Smallville from a sequel to The Sweet Hereafter. Accusatory dialogue: "My son was in the bus. He saw what Clark did." Hm. Okay, now you've got my attention. If the "modernized" hook of this new Superman is that, if a godlike superbeing actually did appear in our midst, we'd shun him out of jealousy and/or terror even if he tried to help? Okay, that could be interesting.

0:50 - 1:02 "You have to keep this part of yourself secret." "What was I supposed to do, just let them die?" "...Maybe."

Introduction of Kevin Costner as Jonathan "Pa" Kent, sensational casting if I ever heard it.

So, our working theme seems to be "Clark and Clark's parents struggle with what he should actually do with his abilities." Subtle but interesting change - usually, the fact that he happened by chance to come into the care of a completely moral, utterly decent, classically all-American Kansas farm couple is the shorthand answer to why Superman becomes a benevolent Christ figure instead of trying to conquer humanity. It's a more "realistic" take, definitely ... not sure how I feel about it.

1:05 - 1:08
Adult (?) Clark in a glowy cave. Presumably, this is The Fortress of Solitude. Oh, and look! Trendy JJ Abrams Star Trek-style lens flare. Yuck. C'mon, Zack... you're better than that.

The beard is not a good look for him. Maybe that's deliberate, so he'll immediately look "right" to us when he shaves it off ... but it's still not a good look.

Hard to tell if this is a ring or some kind of key, but whatever it is has the "House of El" Crest (aka "The Superman Symbol") on it. Wouldn't be surprised if this is this movie's equivalent of the green Kryptonian crystal that Clark used to create/access the Fortress and his father's storehouse of knowledge and instruction.

Probably a good time to get this out of the way: YES, I think it's both appropriate and necessary to tell Superman's origin story again, especially if - as seems to be the case - this time the origin is less about how he got here/grew up than it is about why he decided to adopt a secret identity and dedicate his life to selfless super-altruism. Yes, everybody knows Superman's origin, but most have only seen it (as performed by humans) once in the 1978 Christopher Reeve movie that casts such a long, intimidating shadow over all subsequent adaptations. Finally getting out from under that shadow is essential to Man of Steel's success, and establishing firmly that this is new Krypton, and new Jor-El, a new Ma & Pa Kent, etc. is a step that must be taken...

... Just not for the entire movie, hopefully.

1:14 - 1:23
Superman goes for a walk. I like how bold the reds and blues of the costume look in these shots - in a lot of the publicity material it's looked a bit muted (the wonders of digital color-correction, folks).

1:25 - 1:29
Henry Cavill, looking more like himself. World, meet your new Superman. Gotta admit - he is one handsome dude. If the casting target was "looks like an Alex Ross painting of Superman (but a little younger because, y'know, Hollywood)," mission pretty much accomplished.

1:30 - 1:38
Superman, powering up before takeoff. I love this shot - it's a steal from an old anime/manga trope, having rocks, dust and ambient debris vibrate and float to convey a being radiating great power - because it indicates they've understood that you need to sell the awesomeness of just how powerful this guy is through things other than just feats of strength.

Speaking of which ...

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