Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man of Steel Trailer #2 - Because, really, what else are we going to talk about at this site?

A second trailer with greater plot detail has surfaced for the coming Superman movie, Man of Steel.

When I think of how superhero movies have traditionally been shot and edited, even recent Marvel event films that I quite liked, I have to tip my hat to the cinematographers and editors of Man of Steel.  While you can almost taste the filter effects, it at least doesn't feel like a disposable popcorn flick from jump that even the Iron Man films tilted toward.  The look and feel may not have been how I would have done things, but I can dig the "I saw a Terence Malick film once" vibe they're going for in an effort to make this film on what appears to be a scale more epic than Donner's Modern America Myth of Superman: The Movie.

I desperately want to fling myself on the alter of fandom and get excited.  I really, really do.  But...

To get it out of the way - the trailers for 300 and Watchmen were also amazing spectacles, but as movies, both based on works I knew very well, I found the actual product terribly disappointing.  And, as every nerdling knows, Zack Snyder directed both of those films as well as Man of Steel.

I gave up hope for an ideal Superman movie when I heard Snyder had been hired - a move I found shocking with Chris Nolan attached as producer.  But pretty clearly, Nolan is receiving a paycheck and isn't really involved.  The studio is just riding off his story treatment with Goyer and the good name 3 Batman films and an Inception earned WB and counting on the fact that John Q. Public has no idea what a producer actually does and how fungible that term becomes when money gets thrown around in Hollywood.

That said, the trailer has some great imagery, some nice dialog, some choice actors and - of course - Amy Adams (rawr).  It also features a lot of elements that pretty much give away the whole plot to any of us who've been anything resembling a serious Superman fan.  But that's okay.  That's necessary.  You don't go see a trailer for a King Arthur movie and find yourself surprised that they're putting Excalibur in the movie and that the king has secured himself a roundish table.

you go ahead and not be Margot Kidder, Amy Adams.  I forgive you.

Over the weekend I was talking to the most intense Superman fan you're likely to find, and he mentioned a few iconic elements he'd like in a poster for the movie, and they're there in the trailer.  Superman flying at Mach 10.  Superman cresting the horizon in space.  Superman about to go toe-to-toe with a villain.

That said, my thousands of Superman comics and hundreds of hours of media inform me - you can emulate a Superman comic or story with the right imagery, but to boil it down to the right essence is much harder.

The Pa Kent of this trailer is the cautious one - taking Glen Ford's suggestions to keep Clark's super-ness on the QT a lot farther than not outrunning trains in Kansas, but maybe choosing not to save lives when Clark can - for fear of discovery.

I think there's going to be a lot of things those of us who grew up with Chris Reeve, George Reeves, or even Tom Welling are going to have to adapt to.  Or, those who became fans under the pen of Eliot S! Maggin or John Byrne or Geoff Johns.  This is going to be different, once again.  The questions may remain the same, but who asks them may be different than what you'd expect - and that's going to be okay.

My concern is:  When I watched Snyder's Watchmen, I saw an excellent art director who fundamentally did not understand the tone and nuance of the material he was adapting.  Screaming, on-the-nose popular songs as soundtrack. Turning the lumpy has-beens of the character roster into super humans.  Sense of pacing so well dictated by the page and panel layout destroyed by editors with ADD.  And some really iffy casting.

I like this trailer.  But I see no reason to believe that the movie itself will be anything more than pop-culture summer candy.  And, that's enough for the intended audience that goes out to see pretty explosions and some snarky one-liners from a dashing (and in this case, brooding) hero.  The movie is meant to appeal to the demographic of today's 13-30 year-olds, not to fuddy duddy me.  And, hopefully, to some kids.  This is their Superman movie, not mine.

We'll have to see how it goes, because I really can't tell much from this trailer.  As I like to say "there are no bad ideas, just bad execution".  In my book, Snyder has epitomized what happens when you have a proven idea and iffy execution in his prior efforts.  He may have grown up.  He may have been pointed in the right direction and can yet surprise me.  Heck, if Joe Johnston can turn in a movie I like such as Captain America: The First Avenger, anything is possible.

But let's get real - It's not like I won't go see this movie.  I just need to level-set before I walk in the door and hope that Snyder surprises me.

I've suffered through 10 years of Smallville, a reboot of the DCU that feels like I'm taking crazy pills when I try to decipher how this is readable, the disappointment of JMS's Superman work on Grounded and Earth One, and an amazing number of "re-imaginings" over the past decade that didn't work.  I can't get too invested, as much as I'd like to, because, yes, this trailer is very pretty.  But we're all going to have to wait and see

Also - done esta Jimmy Olsen?


Simon MacDonald said...

I think you've hit upon what I found off in the trailer. I can't imagine Pa Kent telling Clark not to save someone's life. I understand wanting to keep Clark's powers hidden from the world but not at the expense of even one life. That doesn't make sense for someone who grows up to be a pinacle of virtue.

The League said...

In a way, I get that a father's love for their child would supersede the idea that would culminate in Superman. I mean, if Superman never existed, and your kid suddenly started showing alien powers, I imagine there would be some internal and external uncertainty about what it meant. Keep in mind, Superman's parents in the Donner movie didn't tell Clark to go out and be Superman and asked him to hide his nature. It was holo-Jor-El who put him in the costume. In the Byrne version, they also didn't say "go out and be Super Clark" - they helped him adopt an identity as Superman.

This seems to take the idea a little further, that Jonathan Kent seems to die before Superman is accepted by the world - and in a movie with Superman getting arrested - how Superman fits in and his Earth father's wisdom that "hey, they're going to come for you" may make narrative sense.

My guess - Ma Kent is the Pa Kent of this scenario.

But I guess we'll have to wait and see. I hate to extrapolate to much off a few out of context lines of dialog.

J.S. said...

Well, Watchmen was a dud. I sorta liked 300. It came off as a little cheesey at times, but on the whole, I thought Snyder actually did a much b etter job than most directors would have done while trying to adopt that book (and honestly, with the amount of melodrama dripping out of that book, it would have been sort of hard to avoid some over the top scenes).
Interesting to hear the reaction to the portrayal of overprotective Pa Kent. In some ways I think we might just be seeing an evolution of the character. Things have been changing an awful lot over the last 70+ years. The media induces a lot of fear in our popular culture these days, but a lot of it is born out by existence. I think parents are more protective of their children than ever. Bullying has spilled out onto the internet and drug dealing and gangs are commonplace. Kids in recent decades have been known to shoot up schools and theaters with automatic weapons. The idea of having to talk to your kids about the risks that they should take in the course of protecting other people or themselves might feel a little less hypothetical to a parent in 2012 than it did in in the 1940s or 1950s. The new depiction of Pa Kent might not necessarily reflect a bad parent, but just one who's let his fear get the best of him a bit. Of course, we all know that Superman will can truly only realize his potential when he elects to take risks in the service of other people. This movie may have major flaws, but I'm not sure that updating Pa Kent's role a bit will necessarily be one of them. We'll just have to see how it plays out.

AHLondon said...

I desperately want to fling myself on the alter of fandom and get excited. I really, really do. But...
I hear ya. Just gotta wait.
BTW, who has a good Wonder Woman fan site? Know anybody? I've written about her recently and want to query what others think.

The League said...

I haven't found a Wonder Woman site that's been as well managed as The Superman Homepage. Your best bet is The Wonder Woman Museum, but the curators seem to have disappeared about a year ago.


or: http://www.wonderwomannetwork.com/Collectors.html

On Twitter, former WW writer/ artist Phil Jimenez will sometimes talk WW directly to you. He seems super-cool.


I'm a bit of a WW fan myself and would be happy to chat on the character.

AHLondon said...

Ok. 1. I'm supposed to be slightly provocative. My complaints aren't so much against Wonder Woman, but her writers. Diana isn't so superior attitude, but naive--at least in the TV series. Been so long since I've read the comics, though. 2. It's girly stuff. I had to cut a whole bit about how there are no men on Paradise Island yet she is the only "begotten" daughter of the Queen. Exactly how was she begotten? Popular modern heroine stories really bug me. The unpopular ones are much better.

Simon MacDonald said...

As the father of an 8 year old girl I totally get Pa Kent not wanting to see Clark get hurt. It even makes sense when you update it to 2012 where the media is such a voracious beast that it would be tough for "Superman" to get a fair shake. It just seems odd to me that Pa Kent would tell Clark that maybe it would be for the best if he didn't help people. Again is is an interesting story point and as Ryan & Jake pointed out we'll have to see how it all plays out.

AHLondon said...

@Simon, yeah, I get it too, but I'm a mom-of young ones too. That's just not the kind of thing a dad says of a guy that grows up virtuous, though I have a scene from The Patriot running though my head right now...

Simon MacDonald said...


Good, it's not just me.

The League said...

@AHLondon - I recommend picking up a collection like "Wonder Woman Chronicles Volume 1" to see what early WW was like and how the idea got transformed later by standard media portrayals of women once the original creative voices were gone. And its definitely worth reading up on William Moulton Marston who created WW. He had some less than traditional ideas about women that you see popping up in the comics as the major themes of "willing submission to womanly authority". There are one or two good books by Les Daniels on the history of WW I highly recommend.

And, btw, WW was a gift to Hippolyta from the gods. Up until 2 years ago in the comics, Diana was carved out of clay and imbued with life. They've changed that dramatically of late, but for 70-odd years, that was where she came from.

The first half of Season 1 of the WW series was intended as camp, so don't take the speechifying too seriously. And I think if you look at the Greg Rucka and Phil Jimenez runs on WW, you'll find a better balance of "we're women so we're better" treated more like "we're a displaced peoples with a history, but we're re-entering the world society through our ambassador, Diana. She has a few ideas she'd like to share" as the basis for much of the dramatic conflict.

AHLondon said...

Oh, I've read some Marston. And I remembered marble, not clay. Season 1 of WW certainly achieved camp.
But you are telling me that they amped up the women are better for the mass consumption for TV, when it was more ambassador Diana—before or after?
Back later. Nursery school pickup now.

The League said...

we should probably take this off this comment thread and two Twitter or something, but I don't think its important the material (I recall it as clay in a couple of sources). It's the mythological creation of the character on an island full of women. I do think on the pilot they were placing tongue in cheek about the "women are better" angle, but Marston CLEARLY believed in the moral superiority of women, and imagined an island of women who were the physical and educational equivalent or superior of men while retaining the moral compass he felt women had.

Jake Shore said...

I respect that you guys are trying to keep from getting too excited for fear of having your hopes trampled on by the Hollywood machine. My heart was stomped upon repeatedly by George Lucas in 1999, 2002 and 2005. That's why I wasn't bothered in the least by Disney's acquisition of the franchise.

There are many things I'm cynical about. For example, I have a friend who's a huge fan of Alien/Aliens. He was really pumped for Prometheus, but I had no illusions about that being good given Ridley Scott's track record in recent years. Likewise, there are certain movies, books, and characters that no matter how hard I try, I can't stay cynical about. Superman is one of them.

I guess part of my enthusiasm stems from the fact that when I heard Zack Snyder was directing, my expectations completely bottomed out. Now that I've seen the trailer, it seems like there are elements that Snyder may get right. As far as Snyder's previous works, other than adding a few scenes not in the book, 300 was fairly faithful to the source material, which was basically a Quentin Tarantino version of history anyway. I never saw The Watchmen and don't care to. I know this is blasphemy, but I never finished the book despite several attempts. Just did nothing for me.

Ryan, you said:

"...I see no reason to believe that the movie itself will be anything more than pop-culture summer candy. And, that's enough for the intended audience that goes out to see pretty explosions and some snarky one-liners from a dashing (and in this case, brooding) hero. The movie is meant to appeal to the demographic of today's 13-30 year-olds, not to fuddy duddy me. And, hopefully, to some kids. This is their Superman movie, not mine."

How can you make that many (specific) judgments about a movie you haven't seen based on a two minute trailer that's just a collection of images?! You could be right, but I just don't see how you can make that leap already, especially after you say in the next paragraph, "I really can't tell much from this trailer."

But I readily admit my enthusiasm is less than reasonable given what we know about Snyder's history and DC's recent track record outside of Nolan's Batman trilogy. But there are examples of movies that have exceeded expectations. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was about as good as one could possibly expect from Hollywood. A majority of recent superhero movies have been decent or better. And if McG, who directed an unwatchable Charlie's Angels movie, can go on to make what I thought was a pretty decent Terminator (Salvation) movie, then anything is possible.

The League said...

@jake - You asked: "How can you make that many (specific) judgments about a movie you haven't seen based on a two minute trailer that's just a collection of images?! You could be right, but I just don't see how you can make that leap already, especially after you say in the next paragraph, "I really can't tell much from this trailer.'"

Well, that's my cynicism about Hollywood's cynicism and the formula-driven approach taken to making movies aimed at profitable demographics. I think you're talking art and I'm talking commerce.

Before a single frame of digital celluloid was shot, a team of marketing people decided that MoS was a safe-enough bet for WB to spend the GDP of a small island nation to make this movie. They looked at the formula of Superman and put it against their formula of PG-13 action movies with a large budget and aimed it squarely at an audience who needed to be introduced to Superman in a new way and make everyone forget about Superman Returns. They hired a director who appeals to that demographic, actors who would give the movie gravitas for the wider audience, and slapped Nolan's name on as a producer to give the movie some class and weight that Snyder doesn't have.

The marketing folks know how many explosions they have to have compared to Avengers, how many minutes of romance they need for the attendant girlfriends, how many FX shots per minutes of running time, and probably have some "grittiness" scale that they've figured out, all to appeal to the male 16-30 demographic, which is the sweet money demographic for movies to become enormous hits rather than "did okay for the kind of movie it was".

So, yeah, this isn't going to be aimed at me. I'm 37 (nearly 38). It is literally aimed at someone else, and if I happen to like it - great! Even better if I pay my $12 to see it.

I'll get caught up in the cross-demographic-appeal on some Venn-Diagram they've got, and which they count on, but if I don't like it, nobody in LA will lose any sleep over it nearly as much as an 18 year old left scratching their head at the movie. I don't matter on their actuarial tables nearly as much as that kid.

Jake Shore said...

You're killing my buzz, man. :)

The League said...

Big budget movies are a sausage factory. That's why it's so great when a good one actually appears. Commerce rules every decision made, so if you can make something worth watching in that system - that's something to celebrate.

horus kemwer said...

surely it's "donde" ?

I think the only hope is an intervening hand with a sense of substance (and not just style). The guess that Nolan is just drawing a cheque is indeed realistic / plausible. But in my mind, that's the hope killer. I do think it's at least possible he's being more interventionist, or that someone is.

What Snyder has demonstrated is that he's competent at creating action and imagery, but (exactly as you pointed out) completely clueless when it comes to emotion or any kind of deeper meaning in the material. It seems possible to me that the right kind of intervention might give Snyder free reign on the action, yet tweak things just enough to bring the rest out.

One point of issue - I'm not sure of the answer, but my recollection was that Snyder was signed to this project before the bombing of Sucker Punch, but that Nolan was signed afterwards. If that's correct, then there's reason to think Nolan is playing an interventionist role.

Whether it's Nolan or not, even the most empty-headed, dollar-signs-in-the-eyes pencil-neck has to have noticed that Watchman and Sucker Punch both under-performed, and that Snyder needs a corrective to realize his box office potential. Whether it's Nolan or something(one) else, if the goal is money, you have to notice that Snyder needs some help.

So, I actually think, the greatest hope for this movie to actually be worthwhile (as opposed to more Snyder pap) is that someone is following the big bucks, and consequently, they hired Nolan as more than a name, and (if, implausibly, but fingers crossed), they picked the right corrective, their attempt to strike paydirt may actually coincide with Snyder being suitably chastened / corrected into actually producing something with heart.

Of course, at the end of the day, you're right again: we'll only know when the darn thing is released.

AHLondon said...

Meant to come back and comment on the Superman stuff, but got waylaid by sniping in the Voltron fandom. (Ah, the online life of a geek.) Anyway, I worry about the money and focus groups mentality. For these stories to be great, someone has to understand the characters and heroism in general so they don't add another fight just to get fight quota, or have some character zig because the focus group thinks that's cool. That's why Clark's dad is a bad sign at the moment. If the writers don't get the kind of father that raises a hero, especially in the Superman world, then what else do they miss? I want to hope. I really do. But I have a bad feeling about this.