Monday, July 23, 2012

Man of Steel: Super and Man

Super Man (Henry Cavill)

      Before a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, a flash of a trailer for Man of Steel played, quickly capturing the total attention of the crowd.  Using The Bridge of Khazad Dum, a mournful Lord of the Rings song, the trailer flashed images of a ragged and bearded man, wondering aimlessly along  color bleached butterflies, abandoned swing sets and boats.  The trailer called to mind indie movies like the John Keats Bright Star movie of a few years back, as well as bits of The Deadliest Catch and Into the Wild.  Mostly though, the trailer echoed the new, deeper, thinking man's superhero movie popularized by Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.  The tone was subdued and dark, which is a far cry from the not so distant Superman remake a few years back, and frankly much different (though not necessarily better or worse) than most Marvel movies.
       Most interesting, however, is the studio's choice to create two distinct trailers for Man of Steel.  Both feature the same images of the idealistic boy in a red cape and jeans and more weathered man, but the two voice overs present perhaps the most interesting aspect of Superman: his humanity versus his super-humanity and with that his choice versus his destiny.  In the first trailer, the voice over is done by Kevin Costner, who plays Superman's earth-bound father Jonathan Kent.  Kent speaks of Superman's choice as a man.  He has a choice for good and for evil as he changes the world.  In the second trailer, the voice over is done instead by Jor-El, the biological alien father of Superman.  Jor-El, played by Russel Crowe, instead presents Superman as an ideal for others to strive to become, and a leader of lesser men, saying "They'll rise behind you.  They will stumble.  They will fall.  In time, they will join you in the sun.  In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."  
      This image of Superman, as played by Henry Cavill, presents him as an ideal and almost as a deity.  It toys with  the notion from Batman Begins of a superhero becoming more than a man, and instead implies that Superman is no man at all, but rather a sort of a god unable to resist the call of his destiny.  It was a bold choice of the studio to present the duel nature of Superman as hero and human.  Superman without his powers is just a man, but Superman without his humanity won't cause anyone to rise behind him, especially at the box office.  The trick is to balance both aspects of him.  If Zach Snyder manages to pull it off, he may recreate Superman as the titan of the superhero juggernauts.  If he fails, then Superman won't fall to Kryptonite, but rather to a failure to live up to his superhero name.  Here is hoping that next June will bring a super hero who is both super and man.

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