Let's Talk Superman

For some reason I seem to be on a Superman kick this evening, so my article today is going to be about the upcoming Superman movie, Man of Steel.

Before I begin, I think it best to let you know 'where I'm coming from.' I'm a big of the Superman. From childhood until only very recently he was far and away my favorite superhero. His time of complete supremacy came to an end when Disney and Marvel introduced me to a guy named Steve Rogers, a.k.a., Captain America. But even now he is still in my top two.

You also need to know where my appreciate of Kal-El comes from. I'm not The Inner Dorkdom's resident comic book expert (that's Todd, no question). In fact, growing up I had very few comics. It's not that I disliked them; I just didn't collect them. And unless my memory fails me, I've never owned a single Superman comic. So when I talk about Superman, I'm not approaching it from the perspective of someone who knows all about Kal-El's decades of comic book exploits. My knowledge and appreciation of Superman comes from film/television (the Superman films and the old Superfriends cartoon show most notably).

I tell you this because someone might read my about-to-be-shared-with-you concerns about Man of Steel and say, "Come on man. This kind of stuff has been happening in the comics for years. Get with the program. Get with post-modernism. This us just the superhero genre growing up." I'm just going to go ahead and head that off at the pass: Yeah, that's great, and very well may be true. But I don't read the comics. And if I did, and if what you say is true, I'd probably feel the same about them as I do about what it looks like Man of Steel will be.

Ok, now with that behind us, let's talk about Man of Steel. The truth is we don't know that much about it. A couple of trailers have come out recently that have shed a little light, but we'll talk more about them in a minute.

It's a reboot. The all-news cast includes greats like Kevin Costner and Russel Crowe, and relative newcomers like Britain's Henry Cavill (Kal-El himself). Hans "I write superhero themes that consist of 4 notes" Zimmer is doing the score, and has said he won't be using any of John Williams' themes. And given the screenwriter (David S. Goyer), director (Zack Snyder), and producer (Christopher Nolan), folks have inferred that the film will give us a dark, more gritty, 'realistic' take on the story of the last son of Krypton.

And this is what concerns me. I'm just not a fan of applying the "darker and edgier" trope (overused these days anyway, in my opinion) to Superman. I'm ok with a Batman movie being dark. It fits with his character. "Dark" is even in one of his nicknames. But Superman isn't Batman. The story of Batman is the story of a man overcoming a great personal tragedy and using his wits and fortune to fight for justice in a corrupt place, channeling the darkness within him into his Batman persona. The story of Superman is the story of an alien...from outerspace...orphaned as a newborn, who finds he has extraordinary powers..like invulnerability, flight, and laser eyes...and chooses to use them to protect the people of his adoptive home, fighting for truth, justice, and freedom wearing a blue and red uniform with a cape and a big bold S on the front.

I know that the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy has done very well for DC. The films were praised critically, and made boatloads of money. But that doesn't mean that the same formula should be, or must be, followed for all superhero films in order for them to perform well. Marvel's recent films I believe prove this conclusively (The Avengers, anyone?). I fear that the powers that be in the DC world are afraid to embrace the 'lighter' side of their properties on film. Maybe The Green Lantern is part of the reason. Then again, maybe I'm completely off-base on why they would choose to make Superman gritty.

But, with the release of two trailers now, I think it's safe to say that's exactly what they've done.

Or it is? I think we need to throw out a little disclaimer here, to keep us from jumping to conclusions.

See, the thing about trailers is they can very easily be misleading, because they exist for marketing purposes, not artistic purposes. They are made in order to 'sell' the movie to us. That being the case, they aren't designed to purely reflect the final film. Sure, they use footage from it, and attempt to give us at least a sketch of what the film will be about. But accurately previewing the tone, pacing, style, or overall vibe of the film is not the top priority. Now, this is nothing new and earth-shattering. Many of us have been the victim of a misleading trailer, going into the theater expecting a film very different (sometimes better, sometimes worse) than the one we actually saw. And there's an entire genre of videos on YouTube that exploit their inherent potential unreliability.

Ok, so here's the truth. I started looking for the videos to link to in that last sentence, and I ended up spending over an hour looking at stuff on YouTube. It's late now, as well as almost the end of the day. So I'm just going to try this again tomorrow.

In the meantime, I also found this, and this funny. Spoiler alert.

Suffering from ADD apparently, I am,

 - Nic

p.s. - This is what I was talking about.


Posted on January 18, 2013 .