Man Of Steel: trailer analysis

Feature James Peaty 23 Jul 2012 - 05:44

As the first trailers for Man Of Steel arrive, with their sober vision of Superman and fishing boats, James takes an analytical look at what it all means...

With Batman’s cinematic future somewhat unclear after the conclusion of the Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros are wasting no time in trying to find its next lucrative franchise.

The release of the first teaser for next year’s Superman revamp, Man Of Steel, gives us an early look at what the team who successfully revitalised the Caped Crusader, Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer, have planned for the Last Son of Krypton.


Much like the teaser to Batman Begins back in 2004, this short trailer is clearly designed to undercut audience expectation of a movie featuring this character. As with the original Begins clip, what we get here is in effect much more of a mood piece than any sort of indication of what the story is likely to be.  

Initially eschewing the bucolic Norman Rockwell tones of Superman’s earlier incarnations, the teaser opens with a number of defiantly non-heroic shots.

There’s water crashing against rocks, washing fluttering on a line, a gull circling a wind-swept cliff-top home and a fishing boat safely moored in dry dock. It’s here that we get our first glimpse of Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). Bearded, tired and scruffily dressed, the proto-Superman is shown feeding a dog in a back alley before we cut to Clark working a shift on the same fishing boat from earlier. Struggling with casting nets and soaked by the crashing waves, this version of Kent is clearly being framed as far more ‘human’ than any previous onscreen incarnation. 

While this may be new territory for movie-goers, there are clear recent precedents in the comic-book world, with John Byrne’s Man Of Steel, Mark Waid’s Birthright, Geoff Johns’ Secret Origin and Grant Morrison’s Action Comics all playing with similar ideas.


It wouldn’t be a trailer for a Christopher Nolan production if there wasn’t a portentous voice-over, and this Man Of Steel clip is no different. However, there are two versions of this voice over which end up having very different effects on the footage.

The first version features a voice over by Clark’s adopted human father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), who says:

“You’re not just anyone. One day you’re going to have to make a choice. You’re going to have to decide what kind of a man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s gonna change the world.” 

The second version features Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and it’s his dulcet tones that intone the following.

“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.”

As either of these monologues play, we get quick shots of: a faded photograph of young Clark and Jonathan, a young Clark (we assume) running around with a blanket for a cape and then another glimpse of the bearded Clark hitchhiking.

From there, we cut to dawn breaking over Smallville before settling on an image of a butterfly suspended in the chain of a garden swing. Finally, we cut back to young Clark as he adopts the classic ‘fists on hips’ Superman pose from the comic books. 

Rounding out the trailer is an effective FX shot of Superman flying up into the air, gaining in velocity and eventually heading towards the upper atmosphere before we cut to a shot of the legendary Superman ‘S’ logo. 


From the footage in this teaser and the extra snippets screened at Comic-Con, it appears that any suggestions (or fears) that director Snyder would play up his trademark speed-ramped visuals seem wide of the mark. 

After the box-office underperformance of his last few films, Snyder is seemingly back on the studio leash, and the visual style on display here is far more evocative of Terrence Malick and David Gordon Green than the director of Watchmen or Suckerpunch

The shots of the kid in the blanket cape in particular are reminiscent of Gordon Green’s George Washington, while the image of the suspended butterfly could quite easily have been lifted from Malick’s The Tree Of Life.

Of the two versions of the trailer, I have to say I prefer the version with Costner’s voice over, as it perfectly complements the mood of the footage. A warm and humane speech, it draws you towards Clark and makes you interested in his journey.

In contrast, the Crowe version sounds pompous and cold, and seems to jar with footage. It also has the effect of making Clark seem aloof and remote, which I’m not sure works that well as a first impression of the character.

Clearly, the release of these two different trailers means that the dilemma of Clark’s dual heritage will be a key theme in the film. This idea was explored in some detail during the 10 year run of Smallville, but with the right handling, there’s no doubt it could work well again. 

So, despite not being a total home run, the Man Of Steel is still looking a strong bet for box office success in 2013. Nolan, Goyer and Snyder all have a solid track record with this type of material, while the preview reel shown in San Diego hinted at the story playing out on a much bigger canvas than this teaser suggests.

Here’s hoping we get to see more of that type of footage sooner rather than later.

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All went well up until the last second... Superman leaving a chem trail ???

The voice over with Costner was just perfect...Fantastic casting as the elder Kent given that alot of his films represent good men having to make a choice

Yes the chemtrails were a stretch...and also if he did leave one, it would be a solid one and not two parallel ones. They obviously did it because it looked cool but instead it was a distraction that didn't make sense.

Looked like an ad for laundry detergent. Worst teaser trailer I've ever seen. In fact I'm less informed about the move than if I had not seen it!

You mean contrail, unless you're implying Clark decided that instead of fulfilling what either father thought he would do, he'd go work for the government spreading secret drugs through the atmosphere.

Still, contrails do make little sense.

No mention of the LoTR music used in the trailer?

LOL at people complaining about the contrail. As if you guys are experts on the aerial effects of extraterrestrials given superpowers by our "yellow" sun. You can't even explain how he flies yet the double contrail is a huge issue.

i can explain how he flys and thats why leaving TWO contrails is the stupidest thing i have ever seen,

It's a teaser trailer. It's supposed to undercut audience expectations. What you're supposed to get from this trailer is that this is more of a human story and Clark Kent trying to figure out who he is, hence traveling the world and working odd jobs.

Superman Begins, innit. The trailer at Comic-Con was much better from what I've seen. Still some gorgeous images in the teaser.

Its a movie. You watch it. Its visual media. By your own admission "it looked cool". Stay home and play with your Wii when this comes out. You just don't get it.

If you're worried about the contrails, you really need to get out more.

I like how it throws off the audience expectation until the end. I don't think the kid is Clark at all. I think he is an inspired kid emulating Superman from later in the film, as Jor-El suggests people will do in his voiceover. Clark grew up in Smallville, not a coastal town, where the kid obviously is.
The double contrails are coming off his feet, one for each as he cuts through the air. Nothing wrong with that, that I can see. The flying footage is powerful.

Not being funny but if the action trailer at comic con made the fans cry emotionally, shows that this film is going to be amazing, a whole new darker griiter storyline to what weve ever seen before, in jor'l saying he dosent think earth is ready for someone like him but johnathan kent said the choice is yours do you think the world is ready,its tell you that he's fighting a conflict in he head will he be acepted or dose he stay quiet remmain as a human among them.It make's me laugh when people complain about a film when they have even show much, seriously like you know f**k all about films your just complaining for the sake of complaining because they havent got anything better in their to do so they complain at something before seeing a film..

i can tell you how he can fly which is simple if you think about it, he's come from a planet with a high gravity atmosphere than ours, if we were to go to he's planet we would be crushed by the gravity because it much higher than our, it a reverse effect with him entering our atmosphere make he's body stronger plus our gravity is lower than he own planet which allow him to defy gravity laws which in turn make's him lighter which allow him to be able to fly, anyone with a brain can figure that one

LOL. You must be like 10 years old. That's like saying people who go to the moon or in outer space can fly because the gravity is lower.

ACEdotcom? Are you serious? If you are then I feel sorry for you. Shut the fan boy off for a minute and have a real discussion. Or explain to me how he flies. Because I would love to hear that.

Wow. Are people really talking about the contrail? The Internet is a sad place. It was there because it looks cool. And if you're watching superhero films for their realistic nature then you're doing it wrong. Grow up. You know what also doesn't make sense? Pretty much every plot point of every superhero story. That's why we love them.
Seriously. Contrails? Really? So sad

Well I'd guess that putting aside the question of propulsion and lift it's just possible the contrails or vortices could be accurate if he flew with his feet held tight together like a high diver but with toes still pointing forwards of his body (as wearing boots he could not fully extend his feet to a ballet point). In this configuration its just possible that the air travelling along the front of his body becomes pressured by the obstruction of his feet then spills off each little toe into the low pressure air behind his legs and beneath his feet. His pair of feet would then act like a wing of sorts with a wingtip vortice to each side. The appearance of the trails straight after the sonic boom would also be consistent with this. Do I get a No Prize?

He could have eaten a bad burrito earlier in the day.... just speculating of course.

Yawnworthy. I don't think dark, brooding Superman will work as well as dark, brooding Batman did. And Zack Snyder isn't exactly known for his intelligent plotting and delicate emotional nuances.

I didn't think the Crowe monologue was pompous...

Hey, let's ignore that this guy can fly faster than the speed of sound. Let's make a big issue over the FX seen when he's flying instead!

Please. Please. Please be good!

i've heard it put forth that he expels gravitons.

i don't WANT superman to be dark and/or gritty!
he's not a dark or gritty character, so why would anyone think a dark and gritty movie would suit him?
we should make a comedy starring batman!

(this is not a rant against the movie-- obviously, i know very little about the movie itself-- rather one against 'fans' who equate 'dark' with 'better', in all cases)

jesus, i feel bad for you. how does anyone stand watching a movie with you?

If you are going to go geek, go all the way. They are not contrails. They are Prandtl-Glauert Singularities resulting from a drop in pressure, due to shock wave formation as superman crosses the sound barrier.

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