Zack Snyder‘s upcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel, has not been without controversy. Fans have spoken out about Legendary Pictures choice of Snyder as director – his two previous comic book adaptations, 300 and Watchmen both received strongly polarized reviews. Henry Cavill has mostly been regarded as a good choice for the lead role, Michael Shannon is, in this writer’s opinion, an inspired bit of casting for the new General Zod, and the first trailers have done a lot to disprove naysayers. Even so, there are a few crucial things the film will have to pull off if it is to avoid becoming a flash in the pan, like Bryan Singer‘s 2006 effort Superman Returns.
5. Be Different
Superman Returns‘ biggest flaw is arguably that it was too reverent of the films that had come before: with 26 years since Richard Lester/Donner‘s Superman 2, it couldn’t reasonably expect to just pick up where the series left off. A whole generation had grown up without a Superman to call their own, myself included, so when Brandon Routh stepped into the role and proceeded to imitate his predecessor, they had reason to feel cheated (go and try to distinguish between him and Christopher Reeve in the role of Clark Kent).
With the film relying on so much continuity and nostalgia, Superman Returns was always going to struggle to be more than a modern day rehash. Even Kevin Spacey in the role of Lex Luthor couldn’t do much to save it given that his evil scheme to create real estate, even at the cost of millions of lives, was exactly the same as it had been in the previous two films (though I will add in the film’s defense that the scene where Spacey’s Lex and his goons kick the crap out of an incapacitated Superman aboard their new kyryptonite landmass is deceptively brutal).
Still, it seems like Snyder’s addition to the series is setting out to distinguish itself from the get-go. While America’s own Boy-Scout-meets-demigod might not seem the most instinctive choice for a gritty, “realistic” reimagining, the most recent trailer did a lot to win me over. Watch the ground compact around Superman’s hands as he prepares to launch himself into the sky; there is, for the first time, a real sense that the Last Son of Krypton is bound by the laws of physics, if only in so far as his breaking them actually means something.
Zod might not have been the bravest choice for a villain – Terence Stamp‘s incarnation having already pretty compellingly commanded us to kneel – but that Man of Steel seemingly features Jor-El (Russell Crowe) in a larger and more physical capacity than any previous film suggests that we may finally get to witness the full back-story between the usurper of Krypton and the man who banished him to the Phantom Zone. It may well be ground the franchise has trod before, but at least the film seems to be going out of its way to give us a reason to care, which leads me neatly onto…