The first two-thirds of the final Man of Steel trailer are a slow burn: The origin story basics are covered by narration from Superman’s biological dad, his adopted dad, Lois Lane, and then the biological dad again. It’s two minutes in before the first title card shows up, mentioning Zack Snyder’s direction.
Snyder doesn’t have a great track record – 300 was pure testosterone and boredom, Watchmen was okay, and Suckerpunch was a bucket of schlock so bad even this trailer doesn’t mention it. But the man is consistently amazing at one thing. Visuals. This trailer proves his merit once again: every shot is lush with a vast depth of field, and the unique textures include swirling snowy powder and space debris. There’s no doubt that the film is going to look good.
The trailer’s final minute holds a ton of information: there’s a tentacled Cthulhu-style monster; General Zod threatening Pa Kent; Superman captured by US soldiers (they’ve totally got him with those handcuffs); and a fun scene where Superman and Lois argue about whether he’s got an S on his chest or not. It’s all epic, and the entire trailer is gripping, yet the main story is only hinted at.
The themes of the film come across clear. It’s aiming for weight, taking the sober Nolan-Batman-style approach over Avengers-style cartoony action. To make a story about a flying alien in a leotard serious, the trailer emphasizes the emotions and stakes. Zod is a strong choice of villain, as his heritage on Superman’s home planet meshes with Supes’ origin story. The film’s stakes are the world, as Zod threatens Earth itself, which is a smarter choice than merely threatening Superman’s well-being. We all know Superman’s going to survive fine.
Superman seems to know it, too. When we finally see him talk, he seems casually, politely confident, just as Superman should. The superhero’s perfect mind, body and soul often make him a tough character to portray on film, but Zach Snyder’s past work often deals in archetypal, larger-than-life characters like the 300 or Dr. Manhattan. Christopher Nolan’s role as producer may have helped, too, though the only requisite for the “producer” title is investing money. At any rate, the hero and the film itself are both coolly confident in their abilities. However strong the film’s actual story is, it will thrash the box office through sheer charisma.
Personally, I enjoy light-hearted superhero movies, but if you have to make it dark and serious, it might as well look awesome. This trailer delivers on a difficult task. It makes a Superman film seem genuinely solemn and heroic.
(Previously published on my college’s website)