By Edward Davis | The Playlist April 17, 2013 at 1:21PM
Are Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer the best thing to ever happen to filmmaker Zack Snyder? An amazing visual stylist that deserves full credit there, Snyder's films like "Watchmen" and "300" look fantastic, but... how do we put it? They're often lacking real characters, heart and soul (or in the case of "Sucker Punch" just look like a bad video game meets a music video with little substance). But last night's "Man Of Steel" trailer looks as though Snyder may have turned a corner, perhaps thanks to the script, tones and world set up by Nolan and Goyer. Yes, it's only a trailer, but as far as mainstream tentpoles go, it's certainly the most impressive one in recent memory (perhaps since "Prometheus" last year, and yes, we realize that one didn't turn out the way we hoped).
Simply put, "Man Of Steel" looks rather epic -- a mix of deep-rooted character development and incredible action that points to full-on war on Earth. Also, Henry Cavill, something of a question mark as he’s never quite impressed, doesn’t seem completely out of place here, thankfully. The world and context of "Man Of Steel" is unfolding, and much like Nolan's "The Dark Knight" films, it seems to be rooted in a pragmatic reality, with plausible reasons for elements of the Superman cannon to appear while less plausible lore seems to have been jettisoned completely. We thought we'd take a deeper look, so here are five key elements from the trailer. Note, some minor spoilers are ahead, but it's stuff that's already out there if you've been paying attention.
In previous iterations of the “Superman” movies (and many of the comic origins), Krypton is seen exploding as a result of a nuclear chain reaction caused by the planet's unstable radioactive core. Knowing their planet will be destroyed, Superman’s parents send him to Earth in a type of escape pod ship. However, one iteration of the Superman origin features what is known as the Clone Wars (no, they have nothing to do with “Star Wars”) during which Kryptonian science was turned to warfare and several super-weapons were developed and used. And this appears to be exactly what Nolan, Snyder and Goyer went for. A recent issue of Entertainment Weekly reveals that children are not born -- “they’re engineered.” Goyer said, “People were bred to be warriors, or scientists or what have you and there’s a whole element of the movie about nature versus nurture.” While it’s not spelled out, based on Goyer’s comments and the trailer, the Clone Wars do break out and create a war that destroys the planet.
And so, much like the original Superman narrative Jor-El (portrayed by Russell Crowe) saves his infant son and sends him to Earth. His mother (Ayelet Zurer) worries that Kal-El will be “an outcast, they will kill him” but the more confident Jor-El says, “No, he’ll be a god to them.” Later on, Jor-El says, "What if a child dreams of becoming something other than society intended?” hinting towards Goyer's earlier comments. "What if a child aspired to something greater?"
We’ve already discussed the themes of “Man Of Steel” thanks to that awesome Entertainment Weekly article. They include, among many others, alienation, wondering where one belongs, fear of being discovered, reluctant heroism, and a world not ready for super humans. Zack Snyder described it all as “emotional kryptonite” (as the radioactive element won’t be present in these films). Previous trailers had Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) warning his son that he should never reveal his powers because the world would fear him, and while that theme is once again expressed, there’s also inspirational themes of discovery and eventually blossoming into the hero Superman was born to be. "I have to believe you were sent here for a reason," Pa Kent says. "And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is."
Jor-El adds, "You will give the people of earth an ideal to strive for. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time you will help them accomplish wonders."
One must add....is this Hans Zimmer’s score? Because whatever it is, it’s wondrous, inspirational and crescendoing (and it does seem like his score). Also, like Zimmer has said, it sounds nothing like his work on “The Dark Knight” films.
There’s a lot of incredible looking action in the trailer in its final third, but what’s encouraging throughout is the time spent on character building and emotional depth. There’s a pretty devastating moment where Pa Kent reveals that Clark is not his biological son and he comes from another planet. Clark looks brutally pained and afraid. "Can't I go on pretending I'm your son?" he says, voice quivering. Pa holds him close. “You are my son,” he says. It’s a brief but excellent moment demonstrating that Goyer, Snyder and Nolan have put in the work -- just like they did with the Batman films -- to make you invest emotionally and care about the characters beyond the explosions and sure-to-be astonishing visuals. Which leads us to General Zod (Michael Shannon) and the last third of the trailer (and presumably the final third of the movie).