As I delve into my Dark Knight Rises review, I can’t help but be more intrigued by another DC adaptation on the horizon. With its Comic-Con panel behind us and two newly released teaser trailers, Man of Steel has finally been unveiled to the world. I had the chance to see not just its two official teasers, but the exclusive Comic-Con footage which leaked online (I won’t link to it, but it’s out there…Google is your friend), and I felt compelled to share my reactions. Keep in mind that the footage I’m primarily writing about was recorded via camera phone, so this won’t exactly be the final word on the film or its marketing.
Before I get into the footage itself, many of you may already be aware of my stance on the film up until now. I was devastated when the news broke that sub-par 300 director Zack Snyder would be helming, and I’ve since been skeptical of everything we’ve learned about the film thus far. That said, I’ve maintained the stance that I’m happy to be proven wrong come June 2013, even if I didn’t think it was especially likely. But where do I stand now that we’ve received our first look?
At first I reacted skeptically, honing in on the self-serious tone of the trailer. It really is as if producer Christopher Nolan directed the film himself, which I’m sure was exactly what WB wanted for the film. If you look at the shortlist of directors they first lined up to tackle the project, it’s obvious WB was looking for someone similar to Nolan or at least possessing the ability to ape the director’s style, the latter of which certainly fits Snyder. Whether it be a comic book writer/artist or another filmmaker, Snyder’s lack of a real directorial identity and history of…er…borrowing other styles makes him a prime candidate in WB’s eyes, his only real claim to fame being his own overused slow-motion sequences and a broad visual vocabulary.
There are certainly better ways to make a superhero movie than thoughtlessly emulating Chris Nolan’s style, that much is certain. There’s something to be said about these films taking themselves too seriously when even Chris Nolan can’t recapture the magic of the style he introduced, as I’ll illustrate in my Dark Knight Returns review. Still, all this is rendered moot if the film itself manages to deliver, and maybe, with any luck, that self-serious atmosphere could lend the film a kind of artsy sensibility that may elevate its material into something more thoughtful, and potentially of A-list quality.
And I will admit that despite Snyder’s shortcomings, there do seem to be a lot of pretty-looking visuals in this movie. The footage looks colorful, with a lot of lens flare and epic shots of Superman’s powers. I do, however, feel the flair isn’t particularly necessary to begin with, as it may have the potential to become more of a distraction than anything. A more straightforward approach would’ve likely been just as serviceable. But the fact remains that this film is going to live and die based on its narrative, and if they get it right, if all this pieces of the puzzle come together in the most satisfying, well-constructed way possible, there could potentially be something great here.
Surprisingly, I don’t find myself as put-off as I thought I might be by the trailer’s military presence. They’re only in a few shots of the trailer, and while it’s too early to say for sure, I get a sense that they won’t be vitally important to the film, perhaps allocated the same amount of facetime as they receive in Earth One or George Perez’s recent run. I do have concerns with the shot of Superman being escorted away in handcuffs, if only out of concern that the film may possibly take a page from Peter Berg’s Hancock. Regardless, as long as Superman isn’t treated like the Hulk, and as long as his scuffles with our men in uniform don’t encompass the entire film, I’m not worried.
Digging deeper, I’m wondering what the trailer’s voice over means for the writing in the final film. We hear tidbits such as, “people fear what they don’t understand.” Batman Begins, anyone? David Goyer wrote both that and this film’s screenplays, which begs the question…is he just repeating himself? Still, what I’m most concerned about is the final voice over from Henry Cavill, which concludes with, “what do you think?” Is Superman supposed to be speaking directly to the audience? If so, it’s an incredibly clumsy method of exposition, and reminds me far too much of Goyer’s script for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, in which its protagonist dictated similar fourth-wall-breaking material, and ended up being perhaps one of the absolute worst voice-over narration ever put to film.
Still, I like what I’m seeing so far, and the more I watch the trailer the more I dig it. This character deserves a thoughtful, well-made adaptation, and despite my earlier comments to the contrary, I think it actually has a chance at being something really special. Color me cautiously optimistic.