What did we learn from the latest Man Of Steel trailer?

Superman is back on our screen shortly, and clues for what we have in store were in abundance in the new Man Of Steel trailer...

Superman: Man Of Steel

In contrast to a lot of comic book movie trailer campaigns, the promos for Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer’s Man Of Steel have been somewhat slow and considered, carefully building their reveals bit by bit rather than showing us everything at once. It seems to be doing a good job of heightening anticipation for a film that’s now only a couple of months away from release, but we’ve still been able to pick out a little bit about the film more from the latest, longer trailer. So following the various things we noticed in the previous trailer in December, here’s what we were able to discern this time…

Secret Identity

From the amount of time the trailer gives over to scenes featuring both his fathers offering advice, it’s clear that a major theme of Man Of Steel will be of Clark/Kal-El’s struggle to find a place in the world. This trailer again shows us, as the earliest teasers had, a moment where a young Clark is apparently caught in the act rescuing a crashed school bus. It seems to point to the fact that, following his time spent travelling the world in bearded Batman Begins fashion, the film will look into Clark’s reasons for adopting a costumed identity in the first place, rather than simply rescuing people as ‘himself’.

It’s difficult to gauge at this point just how much of the film will be taken up by these origin sequences, incidentally – the trailers have so far been heavily weighted towards it, but we suspect that a lot of the film’s second half is being held back for the moment. If nothing else, we still haven’t even seen Clark wearing glasses in Metropolis yet…

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All Star

Portentous and philosophical voice-overs from Jor-El are a staple of Superman films, but what’s especially notable about this one is that it can trace its origins directly back to a particular Superman comic. Jor-El’s speech about how the human race will “race behind you… they will stumble, they will fall… but in time, they will join you in the sun” isn’t a verbatim quote from Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, but it’s pretty close, and would therefore seem to be a direct homage. It bodes well for the possibility that Nolan and Goyer, presumably learning a lesson from what they did with Batman, are drawing from across the spectrum of interpretations of the character, rather than (as Superman Returns did) largely limiting themselves to one.

S is for…

And that brings us on to another excellent Superman comic from the 2000s that gets a nod, in the shape of the trailer’s conversation between Clark and Lois. For a good 40 years after the character’s creation, the ‘S’ on Superman’s chest was exactly that – an ‘S’ for Superman. It wasn’t until the 1978 Richard Donner film that it was instead established as having been some form of coat of arms or shield representing the ‘House of El’, as shown by it having been worn by Jor-El, although its actual meaning was still unclear.

It was in 2004’s Superman: Birthright by writer Mark Waid, however, that the notion was first put forwards that the shield was actually the Kryptonian symbol for ‘hope’, something that’s been maintained by the comics since (even as other elements of Birthright have been retconned), and which now appears to be firmly established in this film.

It’s also nice that the film sticks with the idea, first presented in John Byrne’s 1986 Man Of Steel comics reboot, that it’s Lois Lane who comes up with the name ‘Superman’ (something that’s always made far more sense than him calling himself it) – although her being cut off in this trailer means that we’ve still yet to see any footage of anyone saying the name in full.

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We also like, incidentally, the idea of Lois as the intrepid reporter spending a lot of time chasing down the mysterious super-hero long before he makes his costumed arrival in Metropolis. This should, we hope, give a shade more depth to their relationship, as well as actually giving the character purpose in the earlier parts of the film.

Zimmer Framed

After previous trailers used music from other sources – including Lord Of The Rings – it’s pleasing that we’re finally getting to hear the work of Hans Zimmer for the first time in this one. Zimmer has a job on his hands following in the footsteps of John Williams, whose Superman theme just happens to be the greatest and most iconic superhero-related piece of music of all time. But as saddening as it may be that we won’t be hearing those famous strains in Man Of Steel, as a conscious decision to break with the past it does make sense. And having already scored up a storm with the Dark Knight films, Zimmer already sounds on good form here.It’s around the two minute mark that we hear what we suspect is going to be the ‘main’ theme motif, and while it obviously won’t live up to the Williams classic, it sounds like it’ll do a suitably inspiring and hopeful job.

Man Of Action

As the last trailer did, this one spends a lot of time on slower and more ominous scenes before launching headlong into a quick action-based montage. While the cuts are almost as quick as they were last time – relying heavily on the pause button just to catch what’s going on – there is, thankfully, a heck of a lot more action going on, suggesting that Zack Snyder really isn’t going to scrimp when it comes to scale.

Most notably, as well as what appears to be Zod’s ship attacking Metropolis (let’s put out of our minds the fact that a Kryptonian criminal attacking in a ship calls to mind J. Michael Straczynski’s abominable Superman: Earth One graphic novel for now), and Superman dodging military gunfire in what appears to be a great representation of his power of speed, the standout sequences seem to show Kal-El and Zod going head-to-head in a flying, super-powered battle above the city. Which, frankly, while it may seem slightly like a retread of Superman II, still looks like it’s going to be pretty flipping awesome. (Although ironically, having worried in advance of the film that it might suffer from Snyder’s taste for slow-motion action sequences, we’re now a little concerned that everything might be happening too fast for us to see it…)

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“So this is Planet Houston…”

Speaking of Zod, we finally get to hear Michael Shannon speak in this one, with a nicely Terence Stamp bit of maniacal shouting. What’s of interest here – aside from the fact that we also catch a glimpse of his ‘evil partner’ Faora – is that he’s talking to Jor-El about baby Kal, as if the rocket has already left Krypton. This would seem to be a departure from the classic image of him being rocketed away literally as the planet disintegrates, although in all other senses the plot dynamic of a resentful Zod being put on trial by Jor-El prior to Krypton’s destruction seems to closely mirror Donner’s films.

Also, is there any significance in the fact that Superman’s outfit seems far closer to what Zod’s seen wearing than to Jor-El’s…?

Referential

There’s just space in the trailer for a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nods to other characters from the comics, too.

While we still haven’t seen much of Perry White, it’s interesting to note that Richard Schiff’s Professor Emil Hamilton makes an appearance. Having already been glimpsed in the last trailer, what we learn about him here is that he seems to be in cahoots with the military/government/whatever people who capture or otherwise detain Superman. This would seem to be a far cry from his comic book origins in the late ‘80s as an independent ‘mad scientist’ who initially attacks, but ultimately becomes friends with, the Man of Steel.

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There’s an even more subtle reference, however, in the shape of a background building seen as missiles are shown hitting Metropolis. For yes, that is indeed the word ‘LEXCORP’ in big, patriotic, red-white-and-blue letters. Is this all we’ll see of Superman’s balding arch-enemy, or might we even get a cameo in anticipation of a sequel? Either way, the fact that they’re going down the ‘successful businessman’ rather than ‘renowned criminal’ route suggests a further departure from the original films to bring them more in line with the more recent comics…

All in all, while it could perhaps stand to show us a little more action, the latest trailer certainly feels somewhat more upbeat, action-orientated and downright thrilling than the previous ones, and heightens our hope that this might just be, finally, the 21st-century reimagining that the character deserves.

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