by Gene Turnbow

The first full length trailer for Man of Steel is out in theaters now.  Most of us saw it first when it was shown with The Dark Knight Rises.  My first reaction was that this really doesn’t look much like a comic book movie – the footage is dramatic, beautiful, majestic, but appears to explain very little about our new Superman and how he comes to be the iconic hero he must eventually become.  There are scenes of a boy wearing a towel around his neck and posing like a hero, and while that resonates with many of us who played pretend at that age doing much the same thing, it makes my brain hurt – who is he supposed to be emulating?  Thor?  Unless that’s not young Clark at all, but the linear progression of the trailer gives us no hint at this.

This new film is produced by Christopher Nolan, and directed by Zach Snyder. Nolan, of course, directed all three of the most recent Batman movies, including the newest one, The Dark Knight Rises – which has just broken the $500 million mark in box office returns.  Snyder is no stranger to the genre either, having directed The Watchmen in 2009.  He has a sophisticated, fully matured visual style that brings some much needed substance to what we hope will be the consistent look of the new Superman film.  And of course, the trailer demonstrates this nicely.

What it does not demonstrate is whether they’re going to be playing with the origin story yet again, and tweaking things and stirring it around until they like the flavor for the sake of “art”.  So far they imply that young Clark will spend some of his life as a young adult meandering through his life trying to find some meaning in it.  We see footage of a fishing ship at sea, and we see Clark briefly in it.  We do see him on a road, with a full beard.  As an aside, we’ve never seen a full beard on Superman before in the movies.  How does the Man of Steel shave?  Or cut his hair, for that matter?  Such questions are best left unanswered. In the comic books, he’s shown trimming his hair and beard using heat vision and a pocket mirror, but of course infrared wouldn’t work that way – even if it did, how would he trim the hair on the back of his head?

I think a bigger question is, is “gritty” going to work for Superman?  Batman is pretty much defined by grit, but Superman’s world isn’t about angst.  It’s about being courageous enough to be open and honest about your desire to help people, without worrying about the cynicism of society.  Is that where Snyder’s Superman is headed?

This trailer, while visually sumptuous, asks more questions than it answers, and entices us to want to find out more, and in that sense, it’s doing what it was designed to do.  However, you have to wonder whether  these departures from the canon story of Superman signify that they have a fresh new angle on this story, or that they just don’t understand the material?  Given how well Nolan nailed the Batman character and mythos, I’m hoping it’s the former.  We’ll see more trailers over the next year, and we’ll get to see a bit better what Nolan and Snyder have in mind.  The film is set for release June 14, 2013.

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