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

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Typically in Superman origin stories, Clark Kent moves directly from his idyllic formative years in Smallville to his adult life in Metropolis… albeit after a brief pit stop at the Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic for some remedial Kryptonian education and self-directed, independent study in the way of the superhero. In these stories, Clark’s adopted parents are wise, inspired salt of the earth farmers who raise him to be a humble and selfless custodian of the planet. Sure, he’s alienated from the world, but he isn’t afraid of it, either, and when he comes of age, he’s excited to venture into it, engage it, and find his place and destiny.

But Man of Steel’s Clark Kent doesn’t appear to be that Clark Kent. The narrative that emerges in the trailer tracks the development of boy with a very different orientation toward the world.

As the camera hovers above Cavill’s fuzzy face, we hear a boy’s voice declare: “The world’s too big, Mom.” We cut to a shot of Martha Kent (Diane Lane) outside a door, talking through it. “Then make it small,” she says tenderly, trying to talk the boy off an emotional ledge. We then see shots that evoke education. Pencils tipped with erasers. A teacher’s handwriting on a chalkboard. A boy running through a school hallway. Mom continues: “Focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island, out in the ocean. Can you see it?”

Off this question, we cut to young Clark, hiding from his mother and that scary world behind that aforementioned door. He has barricaded himself inside what looks to be a janitor’s closet — an ironic allusion, possibly, to those images of the George Reeves Superman serials of Clark Kent at The Daily Planet, sneaking away to a janitor’s closet to slip out of his reporter’s suit and fly away in his Super-skivvies to save someone from something somewhere.

Young Clark takes his mother’s advice to heart and tells her “I see it.” We cut back to Grizzled Clark floating in the water, and we see him open his eyes. Maybe it’s just my pop soaked brain, but I heard Simon and Garfunkel in the subtext. “I am a rock/I am an island.” Indeed, the song’s portrait of a man on a frozen December day reflecting on the “walls” he’s built to shield him from existential pain, “like a fortress deep and mighty,” echoes through the next section of the trailer…

NEXT: Father Knows Best?

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