The new Man of Steel trailer is amazing. It is flat out awesome. Every aspect of what has been teased over the last few months indicates that Zack Snyder has directed something that aims for epic and in all likelihood will succeed. Snyder proved that he could handle a cynical take on Superman (i.e., Dr. Manhattan in the underrated Watchman), and all the early indicators are that he will deliver with the real deal.
First, let’s look at Jonathan Kent:
Pa Kent: You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world.
Pa Kent (Teaser Trailer 2): You’re not just anyone. One day you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is — good character or bad — he’s going to change the world.
Bravo. Good and Evil exist — and not only do we have the power to choose the person we become, but we must choose. Moral clarity out of the gates is reassuring. The world is clearly a messy place (e.g., Should Clark have let children die to protect his secret?), but deep down we know what is right and just and what must be done.
Growing up, I was never a huge fan of Superman and I never could quite pinpoint why. He was just “boring.” I didn’t realize it for quite some time, but Jor El explains the situation clearly:
Jor El (Teaser Trailer 1): 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.
Superman is the ideal we all strive for, but will never attain. He sets the bar for all other superheroes. He has nearly-unlimited power, but he chooses to serve others. He is so much more than the humans he walks among, and yet he loves and protects and cares for them. And perhaps the truth is I didn’t dislike Superman because he is actually boring; I disliked him because he reminded me of just how flawed I was. And am. And always will be. Superman is that moment in time when after months of denying something you know to be true you look in the mirror and it’s there — there’s no escaping it — and the truth just stares you in the eye and forces you to confront the issue or fight that much harder to live in denial. Zack Snyder gets it, and he wisely made sure to include it in the script:
Clark Kent: My father believed that if the world found out who I realize was, they’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?
When I first saw an image of Superman in cuffs and flanked by U.S. servicemen my instinct was to become skeptical. Would Snyder go the route of so many other Hollywood directors and portray the U.S. government as the “bad” guy for a good portion of the flick? I thought about it, and decided not to write on the issue because everything I’ve seen from him suggests he’s smarter than that. There had to be a better angle. After having viewed the trailer, I’m glad I held off.
The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.
If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.