The Man of Steel Trailer: Five Key Moments

The countdown is over, the second Man of Steel trailer is live, and this time we get a lot more of a feel for the movie--including the humanity in Clark Kent and the kind of challenges that he'll face even before he starts acting as Superman.

While most of the footage is the same we already saw at Comic-Con, this is the first time most people have been exposed to it, and it seemed like as good a time as any to comment on it briefly. We got a look at the destruction of Krypton, obviously a key moment in Superman's history, as well as the first time he used his powers publicly...some events that really shape who the character will turn out to be. So what else stuck out?

"What was I supposed to do--just let them die?"

It perfectly communicates what makes Superman special in a sea of dudes with capes and tights and super-powers. His commitment to the sanctity of human life is key to what makes him Superman, and the only thing that really bums us out about this trailer is that Jonathan Kent, long depicted as Superman's moral compass, offers up "maybe" as a response to this obviously rhetorical question.

It does establish one of the themes for the rest of the film--that Superman is seen as some as a freak at best, or a living weapon at worst, and it's not easy to be him. We get that same "it's not easy" vibe from a flashback to his childhood that opens up the ad, when Ma Kent is trying to calm him down after his super-senses seem to be driving him to the brink.

"You're going to change the world"

The "aw, shucks"/"I'm just a kid from Kansas" thing really worked well for Christopher Reeve, but capturing the scope and the inspiration that is Superman will be key to Cavill not only in differentiating himself from Captain America (who played that aspect of the character way down in favor of a literal "I'm just a kid from Brooklyn" approach) but also in setting the stage for a DC Universe where Batman and Wonder Woman can exist but Superman remains special.

The scope they illustrate in this trailer is key, I think, to understanding not only why the military would want to take Superman into custody but also why it's important that Superman go willingly to be questioned (see the trailer that was recently released). One of the things about Superman is that he doesn't wear a mask, he doesn't operate in the shadows. He isn't Batman or even Spider-Man; he's supposed to be an inspiration, and that doesn't work if he's viewed as a threat to law and order, national security or the natural order.

The takeoff

The Jonathan Kent quote cited above is something we've all heard before, actually, but the actual takeoff represents the first shot we've seen of Henry Cavill in flight, and it's an impressive shot. Craig Byrne from KryptonSite compared it to Smallville's "Crusade," which he called "one of the best moments in the ten year run," and both aspects of that point are difficult to argue.

It was also important to show Superman in flight--once again, if for no other reason than to convey scope. While everyone loved Batman Begins, it's not entirely clear whether fans want to see a Superman movie where he doesn't put on the costume until the last ten minutes, and the amount of footage we've seen here where he's clearly already Superman is heartening for those fans who found the Nolan trilogy to be a bit ponderous at times.

Kneel Before Zod

We get a brief flash of Michael Shannon as Zod...and while he may have told interviewers he has no intention of uttering the character's famous command to kneel before him, Superman does get thrown to Zod's feet--something that, if you're in the know, sends a clear message.

There's also a brutality to the way he's thrown down, and to the way things are cut together in the ad in general, that gives a sense for how this movie will handle things. We've all heard about a big fight scene between Superman and Faora that's supposed to be impressively epic and violent...which is good. One of the few really weak points of the way the Kryptonians were handled in Superman II was that they never particularly raised the stakes in terms of physical danger. They were an imposing presence, certainly, but there was no torn cape, no bleeding, no desperation or sense that there was no way out. Those things ought to play in if Superman is fighting three people with the same powers as him.

"What do you think?"

Superman narrates that Jonathan Kent was convinced he would be rejected and feared by humanity, and asks the person listening, "What do you think?"


That person? It looks to be Lois Lane, with whom Superman has a quiet moment and begins holding hands just as the audio is playing.

The moment of tenderness between Superman and Lois is enough to make all of us who remember the days when they were an old married couple smile a bit.