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

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The moral of most superhero stories is (to quote from The Revelation According To Spider-Man) “with great power comes great responsibility.” In other words: Discipline, sacrifice, service. Most superheroes need to learn this lesson the hard way (again, see Spider-Man, as well as Batman), but not Superman: He was raised on these values, built with these values, by a pair of heartland saints who preached severe, even austere humility (think: the first Superman movie, when Clark was prohibited from being the high school football stud he could have been, and instead had to settle for being a lowly, subservient water boy), who sent Clark into the world with a Great Commandment: Go, and be Super to everyone, man!

While it’s hard to imagine that the Ma and Pa Kent of Man of Steel won’t acquit themselves well as parental role models, it’s very possible they might articulate their core values differently than Kents past, and might even have some learning to do themselves. Case-in-point: The surprising moment in the trailer when Jonathan Kent takes young Clark to task for saving a group of children when their school bus plunges into the drink.

“You have to keep this side of yourself a secret!” says Jonathan, no doubt just wanting to protect his misfit son from a world that might persecute him for his point of difference, or exploit him for his power.

Clark: “What was I supposed to do? Just let ‘em die?”

“Maybe,” says Jonathan.

It’s shocking to hear Pa Kent give the future Superman such advice. It’s also tempting to ponder the subversive politics of this scene, steeped as it is in Americana imagery, from the idyllic Midwestern farm to the presence of Field of Dreams star Kevin Costner to Superman himself — or rather, a post 9/11, post-Iraq War Superman.

Projecting too much? Perhaps. So for now, let’s keep it simple: This Superman had parents who taught him how to survive a troubled, frightening world, not save it. This Superman has a very conflicted relationship to the whole notion of heroism. Which means…

NEXT: The Meaning Of Superman Is Up In The Air.

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