Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Waiting for Superman

Warner Bros. has a bit of catch-up to do. With the help of director Christopher Nolan (a brilliant outside-the-box gamble they have yet to repeat), the Batman franchise wasn't just brought back form the cinematic graveyard, but the rebooted series became one of the most successful trilogies of all time. But their plans to do the same with their OTHER heavy hitter didn't turn out quite so well.

Admit it, when was the last time you thought about Superman Returns?

And now, in a post-Avengers world, WB is keen to get their own superhero team project out of the gate, but before that can happen, there's a question that seems to be at the forefront of their minds.

Is there still a place in the world for Superman?

Man of Steel is pretty much the litmus test that WB will be using to see if they have a prayer of launching a Justice League film, and is set to fly into theaters June 14th. Above is the logo, which is a clever - if obvious - use of the "Steel" part of the title. Then there's the full trailer, slated to play in front of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

"Gentlemen, you had my curiosity. Now, you have my attention."

I have to say, I have a couple of same worries about this that I do regarding Star Trek Into Darkness (it even seems to share some of the same color grading sensibilities), but I'm definitely intrigued. Partly because director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) has a real visual talent, one that seems to be evolving. The "Terrence Malick" feel of the first teaser and the first half of this trailer do a good job of both differentiating itself from previous Superman movies AND the current batch of superhero films (both on the "Nolanized" and the Marvel ends of the spectrum), and the last minute or so of the trailer features a HELL of a lot of money shots. The one with Superman and Zod racing toward each other up the side of a skyscraper?

Yes. Yes please.

And thematically, this movie is approaching things the right way. While Superman is the most recognizable superhero in history (his "S" shield is apparently one of the most wide-recognizable symbols this side of the Cross), he's been a continuing challenge to writers for years. "How do you make a character so insanely powerful relatable to an audience?" So the film's narrative tackles that very question at an interesting angle - how would people react to someone so insanely powerful? This question hangs at the center of great modern comic stories like Superman: Birthright, and those shots of Kal-El facing off against the military (and even being taken into custody) are indicitive of the attitude of a post-9/11 world.

Seeing how that world reacts to someone so incredibly strong but so impossibly good? With the right balance in scripting and directing, that could strike a rare balance between the more "grounded" tone that Warner Bros. has been chasing of late with the soaring idealism that's always been central to the character of Superman.

It could be good, it could be bad, but either way my butt will be in a seat. Though I'm still not sure if I'll ever get used to seeing the Big Guy without the red briefs.

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