In Anticipation of Man of Steel
I like the teaser trailers for Man of Steel. I wonder exactly how everyone else feels about it but I think it shows a lot of promise. Though, in comparison to its awful predecessor Superman Returns, really anything would. Still, from the limited amount of material that’s available for public consumption, this new interpretation of Superman has me very excited and hopeful. And I think those are exactly the sentiments that his iconic character is supposed to inspire. So even in that regard alone, this film is already headed in the right direction.
The struggle with portraying Superman, in any medium, has always been how to relate him to the common man and show him vulnerable. Not an easy task to accomplish when by design he’s supposed to be such a supremely powerful being. He exists apart from the rest of humanity, literally an alien, and is always trying to understand his place in the world. His alter ego Clark Kent is a mid-west farm boy turned metropolitan news reporter but that’s only half of who he is. Iterations of his character in the written form or some kind of screen have always had to decide whether it’s Clark or Superman that is his real identity, the other being the performance. The biggest failing of Superman Returns, besides being a bit too goofy for its own good, was portraying him as a god, with a true to form savior complex. But the last son of Krypton is more than just Earth’s protector. It’s not just his job; it’s his home. And in that sense of belonging, given that he was raised on Earth, comes with it all the same struggles that any other man would have to deal with – including learning how to be a good one.
I think it’s elegantly fitting that two teaser trailers have been released, both with the same footage, but one with a voiceover from his Kryptonian biological father Jor-El and one with his adoptive Earth father Jonathan Kent. Each gives a humbling piece of fatherly advice – and it’s been Superman’s life’s ambition to reconcile these two virtues in everything he does.
Man of Steel looks to be something that strives to also do both – to recognize that he’s a man like any other, and yet also much more. The style and tone seem very humble but composed, much like the careful restraint that Kal-El must display for fear of his power hurting more than helping if not kept in check. Zack Snyder, best known for highly stylized films like The Watchmen and 300, I think has displayed a very tasteful direction for this particular property. I have no doubt the action sequences will be every bit as visually astounding as he is capable, but I like what he’s done with everything else as well. Produced by Christopher Nolan, I trust that in his guidance this film will be able to find the proper balance between grounded reality and the remarkable that by the end of it they’ll be one and the same.
I also think it was an excellent decision to cast Henry Cavill as Superman. He exhibits a depth and silent strength that embodies the character. Superman is a boy scout. He is the ultimate unwavering good guy. The uphill battle in his portrayal in this day and age is the fact that society and its younger generations are much more jaded that generations passed. Superman doesn’t have to be old fashioned, but the ideals he stands for should still be. He can’t be dark, but he can have an edge. He should have a commanding presence.
Certain nitpicky details aside, Brandon Routh was a fine enough actor to play the role in Superman Returns, but you always knew he was acting. It’s been said that many, many fine and established actors came in to audition for Superman, but the litmus test was making them wear the suit. If you can’t pull that off with an unassailable dignity then it just won’t work. When Henry Cavill walked into the room, they just knew. Not to say that others looked bad, but what they saw were grown men in a superhero suit. Henry Cavill came in and they saw Superman.
Man of Steel comes out in the summer of 2013. I remain excited and hopeful until then.