How the Man of Steel Trailers Have Hoodwinked Us All
Ever get your hopes up way too high for a movie, only to be crushingly disappointed when it turns out to be terrible…or worse, just ok…? I know I’ve been guilty of unrealistic-expectations-syndrome one too many times. I’ve been unfairly teased by one too many brilliant teasers, been deceived by one too many slick marketing campaigns. Usually it’s too late. I have no reason not to let my hopes skyrocket and my imagination soar until the credits roll and I realize how much time and energy I’ve wasted in anticipation of something average.
But not this time!
I’ve seen the signs, my friends, and it’s time to speak up and sound the alarm on Man of Steel. Let me be clear; I deeply want this movie to be great, for it to be the most monumental addition to the superhero genre since The Dark Knight. But I urge extreme caution. We live in a time where movies (especially of the summer blockbuster variety) are so fast-paced and visually oriented that they are tailor-made for knockout trailers that the films themselves rarely live up to. Select the right music, choose your most stunning images accordingly, and you’ve got a movie looking way more important than it has any right to look. And the primary offender in this trend is none other than Man of Steel director Zack Snyder.
So as the Man of Steel release date inches ever forward, allow me to temper some of these through-the-roof expectations.
Let’s start with that first teaser:
Anyone else have goosebumps? How could we not with that music? The piece is Howard Shore’s “The Bridge of Khazad Dum” from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, conjuring up memories, whether consciously or unconsciously, of the supreme motion picture trilogy that defined a generation. That’s a tall order, Mr. Snyder, especially considering the context of that musical cue. When we first heard it, we were pretty sure (or at least those who hadn’t read the books were pretty sure) that the-one-and-only Gandalf was dead. Those are some pretty potent emotions to stir up in a trailer, especially for a reboot of a remake of a comic book franchise.
But let’s move on to the second trailer:
Again with the emotions! This time we hear the unmistakable voice of Lisa Gerrard, who helped redefine the film score with Hans Zimmer on Gladiator. Who can resist those haunting, soulful melodies that implicitly remind us of the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, the gladiator who defied an emperor… But to accentuate the swelling pathos of Gerrard’s voice we have the kind of fleeting images and abstract voiceovers that have become oh so familiar in superhero trailers that take themselves a bit too seriously. With a story and screenplay credited to David S. Goyer of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, we can certainly expect a whole lot of brooding and not much in the way of fun. Still, with glimpses of acting heavyweights Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon, it’s hard not to get carried away with those pesky expectations again…
Now for the third trailer:
Yowza. Led off by Crowe’s gravelly, oh-so-significant voice and a taste of some breathtaking special effects, we appear to be in business. We have some more philosophical musings via voiceover, as if Terrence Malick decided to venture into mainstream Hollywood, but the proceedings are propelled by a sample of Zimmer’s new original score. The go-to composer for action films of all shapes and sizes, he seems to be coasting on his laurels a tad, but it’s easy to get swept away by these dynamic drum-and-string arrangements. Meanwhile, Michael Shannon looks positively out-of-control in the best way, an instinct fully supported by…
The fourth trailer:
With some super-menacing terrorist threats (think Bane or the Mandarin on steroids), Shannon seems primed to cap off his recent career tear with a villain for the ages as General Zod. But the rest of the trailer is far more telling. The poetic sensibilities of the first two trailers have been swapped for a busy, frantic tone, no doubt far more indicative of the film’s actual style than the quiet contemplation and intimacy of earlier footage. And then we’re reminded: “From Zack Snyder/Director of Watchmen and 300” and the spell is broken completely.
So before we prematurely ordain Man of Steel the next “Best Superhero Movie Ever,” let’s not forget that this is what Snyder (or at least what his marketing team) does. Recall the Watchmen trailers. Using choice songs from Muse and Smashing Pumpkins, they cranked our hopes up through the stratosphere for a movie that ended up decidedly mediocre. Or how about that 300 teaser, boasting a nifty Nine Inch Nails track that promised a movie far better than anything that muscle-porn schlock-fest could have hoped to achieve.
Snyder’s a director who serves up bite-size morsels of movie magic, a marketing team’s paradise. With the right tune and the appropriate glory shots, they can make him look like the next Cecil B. DeMille. But close up, under the microscope, his films are forgotten as soon as they’re experienced. I hope for the sake of everyone that enjoyed the rush I did from these Man of Steel trailers that this time is different. But I wouldn’t hold my breath…
Call it a defense mechanism, but I’d much rather have my expectations surpassed than bitterly and cruelly shattered by a director who has yet to prove himself as anything but a second-rate pop artist.
What do you think? Leave a comment.