Superman the Teaser


June 30th 2006 is the date that all of comic book fandom is eagerly anticipating: the release of Superman Returns . Principal photography on the not-just-big-but-record-breaking budget film is now finished, and some of the footage has been arranged into the first teaser trailer. The trailer is being shown in screenings of the new Harry Potter film , and was aired in the US during this week’s episode of Smallville , and is now also available over the web.

The teaser does exactly what it says on the tin: it teases you. It gives away absolutely nothing about the film, leaving you yearning for the few more snippets you will be allowed to see before the film is released. The only dialogue is an archive voice over from Marlon Brando ’s original recordings as Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father. All it does is show you that a new Superman film is coming; nothing else.

The trailer can be found here , so I’m not going to give a description of its content. The flying effects look fantastic, and it’s nice to see Superman’s cape floating behind him in space rather than flapping like it’s in the wind. The external shot of the Daily Planet looks really cool as well. Unfortunately, the trailer is a snapshot of what the rest of the film is going to be; all style and no substance.

This seems to be a reflection of Singer’s directorial method of late. My apologies to fans of the X-Men movies , but they suffered from the same problem. Yes, the films were visually stunning, as the new Superman looks to be, but they lacked substance in the narrative, as Superman looks like it’s going to as well. Singer gained notoriety for his classic The Usual Suspects , which was intense and featured a gripping storyline with an exciting twist at the end. Where did his dramatic flare as a storyteller disappear to?

On top of serving as a preview of what we can expect when this movie hits cinemas, the trailer also further demonstrates Singer’s complete disregard for the established Superman mythology. It shows a young Clark Kent using his superpowers which, according to the comics, did not develop until late adolescence. This may seem trivial, but in the comic book continuity there is a very good reason for Clark growing up as a normal child; it gives him an understanding of the value of human achievement. Like in Smallville, as a teenager, Clark did play on his high school football team, but without superpowers, and he still won trophies. As a result, he understands the value of pushing yourself to the limit, of trying to achieve that little bit more.

Of course, this is a minor change that I personally have no problem with; after all, it is not really that essential to the characterisation. But it does once again shed light on the fact that Bryan Singer has never picked up a Superman comic in his life. Chris Nolan based Batman Begins on the Batman: Year One graphic novel , which was circulated to all cast and crew so that they could better understand what they were creating. Not so with ‘Returns. In fact, so flagrant is Singer’s contempt for the established Superman ethos that in this new movie Lois has a child by another man. This is indisputably a very large nail in the coffin of the Superman mythology. It can play out in one of two ways; (i) There is no future for Lois and Clark, as she now has a family and has moved on, or (ii) Lois ends up with Clark, despite having had a child with someone else, demonstrating that she has no respect for good old fashioned American family values. Fair enough, in the real world people don’t always stay together when they have children, and ‘Singer’s just tryin’ to bring Supes into the 21st century, man!’ But Superman is supposed to be a symbol of hope, a reflection of our dreams and aspirations, not just another morbid account of how life really is with some special effects thrown in.

At least in the X-Men films there was Wolverine , a charismatic lead for people to relate to. In this film, the lead is a gormless nobody without any power or presence on screen. And there’s a good reason for that too. Singer has made himself the star of this show: the film is all about him and his vision. For anyone familiar with comic book history, this may sound familiar. In the 1960s Bill Finger, an executive at what is now DC Comics , agreed to camp up Batman for TV because he didn’t really like the character anyway. The show was a huge success at the time because it touched on something new in pop culture, but looking back all anyone can do now is cringe and ask, what were they thinking? It seems that this is what will happen with Superman Returns. The film will be a huge success, but in the future we will look back in despair and embarrassment and ultimately conclude that, as ‘cool’ as it may have seemed at the time, it just wasn’t Superman.

Sorry, Bryan, but you really had no business making this film.

Written by Matt Goldman, MSc Communicating Science


    Brent Enloe

    December 8, 2005

    Have you even SEEN the movie yet?… no, so instead of quoting your opinion as fact, wait until June 30th, and THEN make your opinion about the movie.


    December 8, 2005

    I disagree Matt Goldman.
    I knew IMMEDIATELY that Superman Returns SUCKED.
    I don’t have to wait for the future.

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