Superman Returns, a 2006 reboot of the eponymous superhero's film presence, was generally considered forgettable. Warner Bros. hopes to erase memories of that failure with next summer's Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and produced/co-written by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises). The latest film in DC Comics' Superman canon stars relative unknown Henry Cavill, who's created a bearded, moody version of the hero's civilian alter-ego Clark Kent. Two almost identical trailers were released over the weekend, each featuring a voice-over by one of Superman's two fathers — adoptive Earth-Dad Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and Kryptonian biological father Jor-El (Russell Crowe). What can the stark footage tell us about Snyder's vision for Supes? Here, 4 talking points:
1. The film looks to be surprisingly emotional
The trailers suggest the film will be more poetry than bombast, says Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly — and that's probably a good thing. The "elegiac tone" is conveyed by "sweeping shots depicting the power of nature," with a "mournful-hushed voice-over" narrating an uncharacteristically rustic Kent looking morose and lonely. "We know Superman is strong — but for that to matter, we need to know what makes him weak, and I’m not talking about a glowing green rock."
2. It's unequivocally Nolan-esque
The Kryptonian-born Kal-El is raised by small-town farmers Jonathan Kent (Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), who imbue their adopted son "with a strong sense of integrity and compassion so that he learns to use his extraordinary powers responsibly," says Sandy Schaefer at Screenrant, even if the world sees him more as threat than savior. Nolan's influence is apparent: The trailer is woven with Americana imagery that "harkens back to Superman's origins as an All-American hero." While these teasers don't offer much in terms of special effects or super villainy, says Christian Toto at Breitbart, they suggest the kind of radical departure that made The Dark Knight franchise so beloved compared to "Adam West's avuncular Batman from the swinging '60s." Still, some fans may grumble that this muted, brooding Superman has been routinely "Nolan-ized," says Screenrant's Sandy Schaefer.
3. It features a hero fit for our times
Superman is a "big responsibility," said director Zack Snyder at this year's Comic Con, and "he needed to be reintroduced to a new generation." This version is edgier and more relatably human than previous iterations, especially compared to the regal pop-superhero played by the late Christopher Reeves and his 2006 deadringer Brandon Routh, says DiMarkco Chandler at the Guardian Express. The teaser suggests "a powerful story of hope at a time in world history when despair has permeated our human existence." It's exactly what we need.
4. The costume isn't everyone's cup of tea
This version of Superman's costume makes him "look more like an armored warrior [rather than] a guy in a tight unitard," says Schaefer. The near-uniform color head-to-toe is certainly polarizing, says Bruna Nessif at E Online. The costume's "Kryptonian chain-mail chic" has been condemned by Superman purists with "near Wonder Woman levels" of angry rhetoric. The lesson: "Just because they have super powers doesn't mean superheroes are exempt from the eyes of fashion police."
Trailer 1 narrated by Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner):