'Man of Steel' trailer deep dive: Rebuilding Superman with fear and trembling

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The new trailer for the Man of Steel provides some provocative clues as to how Superman’s new creative stewards intend to answer those questions. The first thing you notice is the look of the movie. The film is clearly full of big screen, computer-assisted spectacle, but it eschews the classicism of previous Superman flicks with a darker color palette, more naturalistic aesthetic, and more intimate vibe. The trailer seems to evoke/invoke director Terrence Malick, a comparison that’s further goosed by a section that focuses on a young Clark Kent trying to reconcile the competing worldviews of his parents, akin to the internal conflict of Sean Penn’s haunted, lost-in-life modern man in Malick’s Tree of Life. (“Mother. Father. Always you war inside me.”) The first Man of Steel footage unveiled at Comic-con even went so far as to incorporate a musical piece from Malick’s The Thin Red Line.

But digging deeper into the Man of Steel trailer, and reading it not as a collection of out-of-context imagery from the movie, but as a narrative that says something about the movie, what you glean is a Superman we haven’t seen on the big screen before, one that challenges and subverts many of the characteristics that have long defined the character.

The very first image: An unidentified floating figure, bobbing like driftwood in a sea junky with debris, arms spread like Christ. We are below him, and we see the skies above, swirling with hazy clouds, maybe smoke. It’s a cold and stormy vibe. The first Superman movie told us “You will believe a man can fly.” But the immobile gent in this shot looks like he’s been blasted out of the sky, and worse for wear: His pants are in tatters, like the Hulk’s ripped and ragged chinos. And his feet are, like, Bigfoot huge… which probably has nothing to do with anything. Just saying.

Next: Our first look at Cavill.

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