The world needs heroes. In this time of perpetual misery, we withdraw into the realms of fantasy, into a world with souped-up versions of man. We thirst for humanoid stars to soar above us and vanquish the preying forces of darkness.
Lucky, then, that cinematic trends are giving us just that. Descending upon us in full throttle 3D, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (directed by Joss Whedon) smashed box offices, reflecting audiences’ craving for the superhuman. Next in the superhero sagas came Mark Webb’s reboot of arachnid antics with The Amazing Spider-Man, with an endearing and human take on the hero theme. Then, of course, was the conclusion of mastermind Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy in The Dark Knight Rises.
2012 is the year of the hero. 2013, however, is giving us the most famous hero of all.
Director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen) delves once again into the DC archives and offers a reinterpretation of the American cultural icon, Superman. Set for release in June 2013, Man of Steel features appropriately chiselled Henry Cavill (Immortals, The Tudors) as Clark Kent, with support from Russell Crowe and Amy Adams (Jor-El and Lois Lane respectively). The most exciting news however, is that Christopher Nolan is producing.
Whereas Avengers and Spider-Man embrace the fantastical elements of comic fic (here’s looking at you, Ifan’s reptile-alter-ego-CGI-monstrosity), Nolan’s talent lies in emphasising the reality in the comic universe, rendering Batman, Catwoman and Bane believable (albeit with a little more gusto than your average Joe). After all, superheroes are man writ large; we like heroes that reflect the contemporary state of humanity. He makes blockbusters out of art films, with an intelligence that is a refreshing change from fun but mediocre comic book adaptations.
The Man of Steel looks like no exception. Although we have little to go on (Warner Bros 1.29 minute teaser), Nolan’s influence is evident. The trailer very much follows the ‘less is more’ approach, with brooding, artsy landscape shots set to a haunting soundtrack (borrowed from Lord of the Rings).
However, it also makes it clear what exactly is being sold, with an indulgent shot of a young Clark Kent in a fluttering, homespun cape pre-empting the full-grown version powering into the sky. It certainly looks more promising than the last Superman instalment, Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006), which was, quite frankly, a bit tedious. It will be interesting to see if Cavill can fill those red
boots, and whether Snyder/Nolan can re-energise a cult classic that can stand out in a crowded genre.