Excess Hollywood: ‘Man of Steel’ trailer sends fan expectations soaring

The newest trailer for Zack Snyder’s forthcoming Superman reboot “Man of Steel” has elicited a strong response from fans eager to witness the return of the original superhero, a deathless icon dedicated to fighting for truth, justice and the American way. The ad also confirms what many within the Phog have suspected for years: the last son of Krypton is a Jayhawk.

That’s right. Pause the trailer at just the right moment and you’ll see Clark Kent (Superman’s mild-mannered alter-ego for those of you trapped in the Phantom Zone) sporting a faded KU athletics T-shirt. Now I may be a tad biased, but having the Big Blue Boy Scout as an alumnus seems like a perfectly natural extension of his character. Think about it: Superman was raised in the fictional hamlet of Smallville, Kansas, his favorite colors are obviously crimson and blue (and yellow) and everyone knows the Daily Planet recruits directly from our journalism school.

University ego-boosting aside, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure riding on Snyder’s film, with its hefty $225 million price tag and its ability to connect with a worldwide audience. After two decades of relying almost solely on Batman’s super earning powers, Warner Bros. executives are using “Man of Steel” as a bellwether for determining whether movies based on other heroes in the DC stable can challenge Marvel Studios following the latter’s phenomenal success with “The Avengers.”

Past efforts to kick-start DC character franchises have ranged from mild disappointments like “Superman Returns,” a bland rehash that relied too heavily on paying homage to Richard Donner’s version, to the unmitigated disaster that was “Green Lantern,” so I can understand the studio’s trepidation. Yet “Man of Steel” feels like a winner for a number of reasons. First of all, the casting seems spot-on. British actor Henry Cavill certainly has the corn-fed looks and the polite, plainspoken nobility of a consummate Supes. His co-star Amy Adams seems equally suited to play the tenacious, evidently far-sighted Lois Lane, while Kevin Costner appears to be channeling his “Field of Dreams” character as Jonathan Kent, the adoptive father responsible for giving Superman his firm moral grounding.

No superhero movie can aspire to greatness, however, without the counterbalance of an equally worthy villain. Enter Michael Shannon, an actor who’s spent his career crawling into the brains of barely restrained bedlamites in films like “Take Shelter” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Here he’s playing the Kryptonian war criminal and prostration enthusiast General Zod, a role imbued with silken menace by Terrence Stamp in 1980’s “Superman II.” Some would say Shannon has impossibly big shoes to fill. Then again, they said the same thing when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker.

Finally, there’s the level of talent working behind the scenes. Snyder, who previously helmed “300” and the near-perfect adaptation of “Watchmen,” is one of the medium’s most promising young visualists, capable of wielding digital effects with all the power and delicacy of a brushstroke on canvas. Also, David S. Goyer’s “Man of Steel” screenplay is based on a treatment Goyer developed with executive producer Christopher Nolan, the director of the “Dark Knight” trilogy and the closest thing Warner Bros. currently has to a fairy godfather.

If Batman is the hero we deserve, Superman is the hero we aspire to become. In spite of the myriad issues I have with “The Dark Knight Rises,” I sincerely believe Snyder and Nolan will balance each other out when it comes to tackling “Man of Steel.” Snyder understands that Superman is meant to serve as an idealized embodiment of what Abe Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” and his story doesn’t require the funereal gloom or clunky, blunt-force cynicism that clogged the last Batman movie. Nolan, on the other hand, has an almost eerie knack for injecting dramatic heft and social relevance into stories that were once considered little more than lurid nonsense.

Want more proof the mythology is in good hands? Look no further than the aforementioned trailer, which ends with Superman’s natural father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) bidding an emotional farewell to his infant son while prophesying the influence he’ll have on Earth’s lesser mortals: “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. 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.”

  • Updated Apr. 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm
  • Edited by Brian Sisk
  • http://twitter.com/ittakesageek Shell Germann

    I admit that I was a little frightened to read the article, being that there seems to be 8 million “they turned Clark into Batman” journalists out there. You did a great job of rounding it all out, all the while admitting that there has been problems with Warner Bros and the franchise in general. I’m a longtime Superman fan, and the trailer took me from cautious optimism to outright excited.