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Analysis of first full trailer of "Man of Steel"

The first real trailer for "Man of Steel" came out. This is Zack Snyder's and Christopher Nolan's new Superman movie starring Henry Cavill (more about the movie on Wikipedia).

First of all let me disclose, that I grew up with and loved the Christopher Reeve Superman movies from the 70's and early 80's, warts, turning back time, non-canonical superpowers and all (more about Superman: the Movie and Superman II on Wikipedia). I even liked Superman III in its own way (I hadn't seen the abysmal Superman IV until a couple of years ago). I was quite disappointed in a non-spectacular way by Superman Returns in 2006. It was boring and ridiculously slow paced, but had the really well made set piece where Superman saves a shuttle and an airplane.

My hopes were cautously up for a good Superman movie in 2013.

We have been privy to a teaser featuring nothing Superman-like. It started out in desaturated colors in quite a depressing environment and Cavill fully bearded like it is decembeard. In the end we got to see the distant figure of Superman flying through the clouds in a straight line upward towards the heavens. And that's it. Not much really.

Enter the new trailer for "Man of Steel".

In a Nut Shell

So we learn that Superman has had troubles developing his powers, has had to keep secrets from everyone except for his adoptive parents, he has had many questions about his origin and is now making his great entrance into the world. We see him doing miraculous feats and even confronting someone has his level of power (probably Zod). We see Clark at three ages: 9 years, 13 years and as an adult. And… we see him displaying the uncanny ability to grow a scruffy beard.

Most of all… only very little is there to remind us of Superman's previous movie incarnations, not the music, not the mood, and definitely not the costume.

Detailed Walk-Through


I am not sure that this trailer gives away all that much about the plot and situations in the movie. Nevertheless I will be going in depth in to the separate shots, drawing upon other sources in the process. So be warned! Some things may be given away that could have an impact on your enjoyment of the final product. (But then again, I may be blatantly wrong about some details.)

Clocking in at 2:33 minutes, the trailer starts out in muted, desaturated colors, with melancholic music. Let me tell you: this is one dark trailer (dark as in lack of light, I had to brighten up some of the screenshots). The trailer can be roughly divided into two separate parts. The first is a sketchy flashback on Clark's origin, the second (unfortunately shorter) part shows a collage of action sequences, some of which are quite exciting while keeping things quite enigmatic. There are 63 shots in the trailer. Without further ado, let's get to it!



1. We get to see Cavill's Superman floating lifelessly in water with presumably flames burning beyond the surface.



2. We get a shot of Cavill's bearded face.



3. A child's voice (probably little Clark played by Cooper Timberline) says something along the lines of "The thought's (?) too big, mom!" (Interpretation in the Youtube comments, that little Clark can hear everything around himself and is trying to deal with it.) We see a bunch of pencils. A woman's voice answers: "Then make it small."



4. Closeup of the silhouette of a pencil wielding hand writing something on paper.



5. A different woman's voice says: "Focus on my voice. Pretend it's an island… out in the ocean. Can you see it?" (Is this some kind of technique to help young Superman cope with his emerging powers?)



6. We see young Clark holding his head, probably fending off the voices his super-hearing allows him to perceive.



7. Close-up of Martha (Diane Lane) looking distressed.



8. Child's voice: "I see it."



9. Cut to bearded grown-up Clark floating in the water slowly opens his eyes



10. Waves caressing a rock. Another woman's voice: "My son was in the bus. He saw what Clark did."

So there is a school bus in peril. Apparently Clark does something to save it. This reminds me of the pilot episode of Smallville, where Clark saves Lex Luthor when he hurls his Porsche of a bridge. This was used as a reveal for Clark's powers and a point of tension between Lex and Clark.



11. We see the bus hurtle into water.



12. Inside the bus a school child is fighting for his life, gasping for air.



13. Another child pushing against the glas of the sinking bus.



14. We see young Clark (this time Dylan Sprayberry) having saved the bus. He realizes the consequences of his actions.



15. Closer shot of Clark. We did not actually see him save the bus, but the voice over tells us that one of the children on board saw Clark do something spectacular that contributed to their survival.



16. I guess this is supposed to be Kent farm. But it looks more like the back yard of a regular house with a run down pick-up truck.

This is distinctly different from the farm shown in "Superman Returns" and "Smallville". Again the colors are muted. The predominant palette is grey and green and not the saturated blues and yellows used in the other depictions.



17. Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner): "You have to keep this side of yourself… a secret!" Pa Kent lectures young Clark about his display of superpowers.



18. Now this is an interesting combination of shots. It has been established that Clark saved the school bus as a kid. Now we see him observing a school bus as an adult, probably reminiscing about these past events.



19. We get a better look at adult Clark looking quite mundane and sporting a beard.



20. Back to young Clark and Pa Kent in the back yard. Young Clark: "What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?" Amazingly Jonathan Kent answers: "Maybe…"

Now please let me take break here for a moment. My interest is piqued. Why would Pa Kent, who has been a pillar of moral, say such a thing? Is this an attempt to mislead the audience? Or perhaps it is the uncertainty before settling in on the moral higher ground that killing is bad and saving people is good. As delivered the line does not sound much like the Pa Kent we got to know in the other movies and the comic books.



21. Gloomy, enigmatic shot of (presumably) Clark in an ice cave. Probably this is related to the Fortress of Solitude, Superman's refuge on the North Pole.



22. Same scene, closer shot of the icy light playing on Clarks face.



23. Now we get a surprisingly clean looking adult Clark (still sporting the beard) musing about his past: "I have so many questions… Where do I come from?"



24. Beyond the Superman symbol I have no idea what this object is supposed to be. Perhaps it is a Kryptonian shift stick. Or could it be the successor to the esoteric crystals that hold Kryptonian information used in the previous movies? Still looks weird.

At this point I would like to note some of the rumors surrounding Superman's new look and the direction some of the imagery is going: his symbol is a family coat of arms like the heraldic signs of the knights of old. This may even apply to the use of a very cloak-like cape. The texture on Superman's new costume is more like chain mail and not the cloth like material used in the first few movies or the very movie-Spider-Man like textured material used in "Superman Returns". It is a cool direction. But now for the costume...



25. Well at least we get to see Superman's boots and his billowing cape as he strides through snowy ice. What an unsatisfactory shot! We get all but a glimpse of him. Could we please see him as a whole?



26. Okay... Now we see him as a whole but from afar. Still can't make out much! Why can't the movie makers give us a clear shot of Superman in costume?

Meanwhile Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent says off camera: "You just have to decide what kind of man you want grow up to be, Clark!"



27. We get a clearer shot of Cavill as Superman, but of course they show us his back and the back of his head. Jonathan Kent continues musing: "Whoever that man is, Clark, he's gonna change the world!"



28. Finally a short shot of Henry Cavill's face. He is a good-looking fellow. He looks more robust and intense than Brandon Routh from "Superman Returns".

Later on we will see how ripped he is. But one thing bothers me a bit, he has a tall forehead and a strong brow taking away from the classic pretty boy-look you would expect from Superman.

Again we only catch a short glimpse of Superman. Could it be that the movie makers are ashamed of Superman's look? But enough, how about we start seeing some real action?



29. Superman kneels on the ice and something powerful starts to happen. The snow around him starts to shift and whirl as he prepares to launch into the air.



30. Now we get a shot, blurry as it may be, of Superman jumping into flight.

The music swells to a crescendo and an epic orchestral score starts to play.

For a second there it looked like a pose akin to Kirby's rendering of Superman flying. I am sure it is not intended, but please see for yourself:




31. Superman shoots through the air like a... OMG! Speeding bullet!?! Or perhaps a red and blue blur? Nevertheless he flies in a spectacular manner.



32. Again we move from an close-up to a wide shot. Superman is a speck in the cloudy sky as he speeds toward the heavens leaving a sonic boom in his wake.



33. Now we see him fly across space with the glowing blue globe of Earth behind him. The Flight into the high atmosphere envokes the image of Chris Reeve's Superman at the end of each movie flying over planet earth waving at the audience.



34. Now things speed up greatly. We get to see carnage exploding. There is a blue beam of energy shooting into something that looks like space debris. Is this the same energy beam we will see Superman flying into later on in shot No. 53?

This is the shot the trailer reminds me of (being the only parallel to the earlier movies):




35. We see the only shot of Russell Crowe as Superman's birth father Jor-El and the beautiful Ayelet Zurer (israeli actress from the Da Vinci Code sequel/prequel Angels and Demons) as Lara Lor-Van. By the way: Superman's birth name is Kal-El, in case you didn't know.



36. Now we get a bad ass shot of bearded Clark walking through fire as flames lick his ripped pectorals. This shot reminds of a scene added to the re-released and remastered "Superman: the Movie" where Superman walks into Luthors trap in Lex's subterranean lair. Machine guns emerge from the walls of the tunnel and start barraging him while he casually walks through the rain of bullets. Later on flames start shooting at him, he shakes them off without so much as bating an eyelash (es expected, he is after all Superman!).



37. We get to see another explosion. Hard to say, but perhaps this is something in space blowing up. Could it be a part of Kryptons demise?



38. Now this is an intriguing shot. It looks like the Kent farm but there is a spaceship floating nearby and (again) a silhouette emerging from the porch. Is this General Zod's ship? Or another threat?



39. A menacing shot of General Zod as portrayed by Michael Shannon. Finally we get to see the main antagonist. Get ready to kneel.



40. Superman falls to his knees in agony, weakness or obedience (we do not know). He is now kneeling before Zod!

This shot reminds me of a scene in "Superman Returns", when Superman confronts Lex Luthor on the artificial kryptonite continent created by Lex. Superman weakened by the Kryptonite falls to his knees and gets beaten up by Luthors (non-superpowered) lackeys. Please compare it for yourself:




41. Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White together with Lois Lane (hard to make out) outrunning a blast of destruction. Much has been made of an actor of color portraying Perry White. But why the heck not? He is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet (let's hope that Clark Kent is not a blogger as currently chronicled in the comic books). After Samuel L. Jackson played Nick Fury and Idris Elba portrayed Heimdall in the Marvel movies, this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone (do we really want to recall the commotion by the white supremacists over Heimdall?).



42. We get to see another illustrious shot of explosive destruction. This time a veiled figure stands out against the clouds of orange and yellow. We do not know who this is.



43. Hard to see in this shot: a brightly glowing speck is flying across the sky. Is this Superman or his Kryptonian spaceship crashing to Earth. Perhaps it is one of the evil Kryptonians from the Zod squad.



44. Shackled Superman! This shot was previously published a poster. Superman handcuffed and escorted by the Army/Marines (people in the know, please do not stone me for not recognizing the exact denomination of US military these figures hail from).

The tone of the trailer allows for some room for interpretation. I do not believe that these handcuffs actually hold Superman. He could probably break loose on a whim. A bit later on in the trailer Superman confronts some soldiers. I believe that he submits to them to show that he is not a threat. This includes playing along with their feeble means of incarceration.

Compare the previously published movie poster of Superman in chains:man_of_steel_prisoner

Now these are chains that would probably make Superman break out a sweat (keep in mind that Superman was depowered in the depicted story line "Trial of Superman"):



45. Superman (without costume but with beard) is lifting something heavy surrounded by flames.



46. Two silhouettes flying toward each other. One of them (right) is most likely Superman, the other is probably one of the superpowered Kryptonians from General Zod's group. The exact back story has as yet not been revealed. In previous incarnations (pre-crisis, Superman I and II, John Byrne's Superman and Smallville) the villains survived the destruction of Krypton in the Phantom Zone, a parallel dimension that serves as a prison for particularly vile Kryptonians.



47. Some more indistinct destruction. This time a space craft slowly emerges from the flaming inferno. Probably it is something different, but this particular vessel reminds me of Braniac's ship after the redesign in the early 80's by Ed Hannigan. It does slightly resemble a skull.



48. We get to see Emil Hamilton (right) embodied by Richard Schiff of "The West Wing" fame and an as yet unidentified character beholding something ghastly or fantastic. I believe that casting Schiff as Hamilton is a good move.

I doubt very much that this movie ties Krypton's destruction in with Braniac (as previously the case in Superman: The Animated Series) it would be an interesting addition to the movie canon if they did so.



49. This is the first time I regret using a mobile connection to download the trailer. I cannot recognize this person. Perhaps it is Zod, or perhaps some other person. He nevertheless seems to be quite desperate.



50. Clark saves a child from some sort of threat probably emanating from or interfering with the atmosphere. This shot reminds me of a scene in "Smallville" episode 100, where Clark chooses to turn back time to save Lana, but sacrifices his father Jonathan, because of some time travel rule about one life having to be given in place of another (in actual fact the really good John Schneider wanted out).



51. The obligatory nostalgic shot of a photo of Clark growing up with his dad (Kevin Costner). Should it show us how human Clark is, and how much we should identify with him?

Meanwhile adult Superman's voice revs up for the trailer climax: "My father believed that if the world found out who I really was… it would reject me."



52. I guess it is Martha Kent hugging Superman in costume.



53. Superman speeding toward an energy source, or should I say ascending to the light? Is this the same beam of energy we saw before in shot No. 34?



54. Now this is a strange shot. It is Superman's costume in a glass display cabinet not unlike Batman's costumes or Iron Man's armors. It is particularly inane because Superman is not defined by his costume and I cannot imagine him having a nice display in his Fortress of Solitude. And now really? Does he only have one costume? Disgusting!!!



55. This is the first shot of a three-shot sequence. I believe that Superman is fighting some superpowered opponent, because he is thrown through the glas and onto a structure that resemble the door of a vault. Bear with me in the next two shots.



56. Superman is blasted through the door with considerable force and...



57. ...Crashes against a steel structure that looks familiar. Said vault door was the background of one of the first official images of Henry Cavill as Superman.

Here is the image in question:




58. We see US military vehicles and soldiers standing on an air field framing Superman an Lois.

Superman continues: "He was convinced that the world wasn't ready."



59. Superman talking to Lois.



60. Lois looking at Superman.



61. Superman gently taking Lois' hand.



62. Soldiers approaching with raised weapons ready to fire.



63. Superman stepping into frame facing the soldiers (I guess their bullets won't be particularly effective...)

Superman concludes: "What do you think?"

Aaaaand... credits and Superman's logo with the title of the movie ("Man of Steel" for anyone who has not paid attention!).


Fade to black... That's all folks! The trailer is over.

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So what did we learn? Not much. It is quite a somber take on Superman. Apparently they are trying to humanize him. Fortunately we get some shots of action. We get to see that Superman can still strut his stuff and will be actually in conflict with others... as opposed to "Superman Returns" where he basically spent most of his action sequences lifting heavy things.

I guess Jason Kottke put it quite well on his blog (read the whole thing here: New trailer for the new Superman movie): "On one hand, it seems really really good but also really crappy at the same time. Tell me what to feel, Superman!"

The first time I saw the trailer I wasn't that impressed. But it grew on me considerably on successive viewings. I quite like it now. It is personal, but then turns epis. Most of all: it shows a very promising movie.

Trailers are sometimes very misleading. A good trailer may be the precursor to a miserable movie (I'm looking at you Star Wars Episode I: A Phantom Menace) and some non-distinct trailers may herald really good movies (the very first Matrix being a prime example). The jury is still out on whether the next Superman movie will be any good. The trailer has some pompous and tedious bits, but there is still hope.

After more than 30 years I still believe a good Superman movie can be made! Let's hope this is it!

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Links of interest

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