…audiences need a film that taps into the Zeitgeist. I think “Man of Steel” just might be that film.
I will admit to you, I had my serious fears and doubts about “Man of Steel,” the new Superman movie hitting theatres next year. Some of these fears were spawned from, obviously, how poorly “Green Lantern” was received — as well as no underwear over the tights (you always need underwear over the tights). The recent promo pic of Superman in handcuffs also had me worried; it just seemed too stark, too dark. But the new trailer for the film — which you can read about at length at MTV Splashpage — really convinced me that there was something more there. And that’s because, at least judging from what little I’ve seen, this seems like a deeply mythic movie that delves into the very DNA of the Hero’s Journey.
This new young Clark Kent doesn’t have “super powers.” In the trailer, he’s obviously struggling with extra-sensory perception. In the trailer, Superman doesn’t have “super powers” — concentric rings of telekinetic force radiate from his fist. This isn’t the vague fantasy of the superheroes of yesteryear. This is a hard-edged story along the lines of “Chronicle” and “Looper.” Clark/Superman’s abilities have a reality and weight about them that is admittedly frightening. Is he our savior or our destroyer? Are we his adoring public or an angry mob, pitchforks in hand? Will we kill our only hope, out of fear? Should he sacrifice himself to save humanity, anyway?
Stop me when this all starts to sound a bit too religious.
But, as several writers like Grant Morrison has pointed out, a character like Superman is so enduring because he is, in a sense, our current “Hero,” our current “Savior,” our current “godlike” figure that retains meaning beyond matters of individual religious preferences. We see that “S” on his chest, that spit-curl, those colors, and it just circumvents our consciousness and hits directly our primal center — Superman is Our Hero.
And this is what I believe is being done here with “Man of Steel.” As the public has matured and gone through its evolution, so has the figure of Superman through many comics, TV shows, and movies. What we have with “Man of Steel” is the Superman of OUR generation, a Superman that addresses our true needs, concerns, dreams, and hopes/fears for the future. And that’s why I think it will click with moviegoers, in a way that “Superman Returns” — a film that in many ways was an unabashed “love-letter” for a beloved time that has unfortunately gone by — did not.
I don’t believe that audiences have time for nostalgic love-letters. They need a film that taps into the Zeitgeist. I think “Man of Steel” just might be that film.