‘Man of Steel’ Trailer Fails to Take Flight

Trailers for Superhero movies are, on a whole, some of the easiest ones to sell the audience with. Even a terrible superhero movie like Green Lantern had an awesome trailer. The voice-over, the spectacular visuals, the promise of seeing something larger than life…it had everyone hyped up until the first reviews decided to burst the bubble. Some of the best and most memorable trailers in recent years were for superhero adventures. We all remember the first trailer for The Dark Knight that revealed the maniacal Joker, and the mind-blowing images of Watchmen. Not to mention the final trailer released for the The Avengers that was more entertaining than an entire movie you’d paid a small fortune to see in the cinema that day.

By logic the trailer for the new Superman reboot Man of Steel should’ve been a slam dunk. Superman shouldn’t be a big sell – he is, by definition, the most epic of all superheroes and we just need to see him doing something epic to be sold on this movie. This teaser trailer fumbles the ball so hard that it broke it’s shin. Let’s take a look:

First up, this is only a teaser trailer, and to that extent it should only give us enough to get us hooked and wanting to see more. For that reason it could be excused for showing us so little of the actual character. On the other hand, why did it spend so much time on everything else? There’s more than a full minute of the 94 second running time of the trailer on…well, a bunch of stuff we’ve got no interest or real context for.

The bulk of this tease doesn’t ‘tease’ Superman up until the final shot. When selling a Superman movie, there’s only one thing you need to show the viewer: Superman. The marketing department must’ve missed the memo about putting their brand front and centre because we begin with arty shots of water flowing over rocks, clothes blowing in the wind and country houses. This is followed on with clips of a scruffy, beardy looking guy doing it tough working on a boat and hitch-hiking before some more arty shots of butterflies stuck in chains and people being out of shot before the money shot.

Man of Steel

…such as it is…

Superman has, over the decades, been defined as a god in the shape of man who stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and espousing the American way. This trailer could be about a guy grieving over the death of a loved one. Seriously, stop it before the final shot and you could sell it as a weepy drama film. The concept seems to be grounding Superman and humanising the character with a dash of gritty realism. But here’s the thing – we’ve already got movies that have done that. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy did a brilliant job of recasting Batman as a human character with a dose of gritty realism, which you can do that with Batman because he is human. Nobody wants to see Superman being dark and realistic – we want to see him doing epic, larger than life stuff.

Superman Returns

Like this.

Fans do enjoy reading about Superman facing an existentialist crisis, examining the psychology of the character, but that’s best kept in the comics. Cinema is a medium decided for a larger, more mainstream audience and what they want is spectacle and the traditional values that Superman normally embodies. Director Zac Snyder has done superheroes as both dark and violent with larger-than-life supermen before in Watchmen, but this time he doesn’t have the pen of Alan Moore driving the story and characters.

By the time the actual footage of Superman comes around it doesn’t so much tease as taunt. Superman zooms past in the middle distance, barely visible to the viewer, before he blasts away leaving condensation trails in his wakeWhy on Earth does he leave jet trails? He must either have Astro-Boy boots on or he’s spreading gamma trails. This ‘reveal’ barely counts as a reveal, it’s more like footage from the B-Roll. Compare it to the original teaser trailer for Superman Returns…THAT’S how you tease a Superman movie.

Not that there’s any reason for the producers to hide the character from us…it’s not like they haven’t already shown him to us in the posters.

Man of Steel

ALL of him.