By Kal'smahboi 10 Comments
When Man of Steel was announced as in production a couple years back, I was...how can I put it...cautiously ecstatic? Naturally, I was excited. This movie is a second chance to see Krypton's last son on the modern big screen. The first opportunity (the more or less unsuccessful and unpopular, Superman Returns) got many things right, but many wrong. That's for another blog. But this film along with Superman's rich 1980s cinematic history has caused a bad taste in the mouths of many fans whenever the words "Superman" and "movie" are used in succession.
That brings us back to Man of Steel.
Here, we have a movie that looks terrific on paper. The film's producer and screenwriters are the men behind the critically and financially successful Dark Knight trilogy; the visual director is Zach Snyder, the man who brought us such visually astounding films as Watchmen and 300 (promising a brand of action that hasn't been seen in a live action Superman movie EVER); and I haven't heard one choice for the all-star cast that I don't love. Have I missed anything? Don't tell me if I have. I don't need higher expectations for this movie.
And now, we have a trailer. It's just a teaser, released a year prior to the movie's premiere, but a teaser is, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of a film's advertising season and an opportunity for the creators to showcase the film's tone. And as simple as this particular teaser is, it’s honestly beautiful. There are two visually identical versions of the trailer, differing in the narration voice-overs. They both begin by showing what I take as scenes from a rural childhood; possibly the earliest memorable moments in a young Kansas man's life. The images then move on to actual images of Clark Kent doing what? Hitchhiking. Working on a deep sea fishing vessel. Regular Superman stuff, right? Not even close. But scenes that made some people smirk and comment, "What, is this an Aquaman trailer?" showed me a man looking for his destiny, a man searching for his place in the world.
These scenes are what tie the two voice-overs together. One showcases lines spoken by Jor-El, Superman's Kryptonian birth father, speaking of the great destiny that his powers make him responsible for. "You will give the people an ideal to strive towards." He uses the word "will" six times in the minute and a half trailer, expressing the expectations that a father has for his son.
The second version of the trailer gives us fatherly advice from a Kansas native, Jonathan Kent, the adoptive father and moral inspiration of the Man of Steel. While he is also aware of the greatness in his son's future, he is also aware that he is releasing a fully autonomous young man into the world. "You're going to have to make a choice." He knows which choice he would decide for Clark, but understands that it is not his place to make it.
So we have a major distinction between these two fathers' words of advice. They pose a dichotomous internal struggle, putting destiny and free will in the ring together to duke it out. It's not a new idea, but it's one that every person contemplates at some point (or many) in their lives. Maybe I'm pulling too much philosophy out of less than two minutes of footage, but my point is that, without mentioning superpowers or a villain with plans of revenge and indecency, the creators of this movie have created conflict – conflict that every living person can identify with.
As each of Superman's fathers concludes his spiel, it becomes clear that, whether by design or by choice, Clark Kent fulfills his fathers’ wishes to become an ideal and a defender: we see a young boy with a red beach towel around his neck standing regally with fists on his hips, emulating his hero, and then a Sun god soaring above creation in a marvelous display of modern computer graphics.
Every bit of news I hear about this film piques my interest a little more. I was excited as the trailer started, and it honestly wasn't anything like I expected. As it ended, I found myself disappointed that The Dark Knight Rises was beginning so soon after because I wanted to talk about what I'd seen so badly. The brass facts of Man of Steel look good on paper, and that inspires hope, but it's another thing entirely when a sample of the product lives up to that hope and becomes more than words.