James Garcia on why the new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is so anti-Superman…
Over the weekend, the first official trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice leaked and was then officially released, a few days earlier than its scheduled IMAX premiere. Like most of the things to come out of the Warner Bros. and DC camp of superhero filmmaking, the trailer was met with both excitement and controversy, thanks largely to its dark color palette, tone, and anti-Superman sentiment.
The tone and color palette aside, I think the important thing worth talking about here is how the teaser portrays Superman. Many felt that the video wrongly portrayed the Man of Steel not as the heroic figure we know and love, but as a menacing, “evil” Superman. They aren’t wrong. In fact, that was the entire point.
Man of Steel brought the titular character into a real world setting, and shed some light on what it might really be like if a super-powered alien suddenly appeared on our planet. Batman v Superman will explore that idea even further, and tackle its predecessor’s controversies head on by dealing with the fallout of Man of Steel both figuratively and literally. As such, the citizens that populate the world of the DC Cinematic Universe have as many mixed feelings about Supes as moviegoing audiences currently do. I suspect that as the marketing campaign for the film goes on, we’ll start to see how both Superman’s supporters and his detractors view him, thus forming a campaign that asks audiences to “pick a side” between Batman and Superman.
This first trailer was very deliberately anti-Superman, and was edited in such a way that it strategically makes him look intimidating and scary. We only see a few shots of him, and only one of those is a close-up of his face:
The other shots all obscure Superman’s face, and highlight how godlike he really is. These are shots that exemplify how the world, not you, the audience, see Superman:Notice how we don’t see Superman’s face, and the S symbols on the uniforms
Superman may be doing something heroic in these shots, but because of how they’re edited, he looks more intimidating than benevolent. When you place him in a scene with Batman, he looks even more terrifying, giving us a glimpse at how ol’ Batsy himself sees the Man of Steel:The angle of this shot exemplifies how larger-than-life Superman is compared to Batman. From here, it doesn’t look like much of a fair fight. When Superman falls to Earth, it exemplifies his power. The small crater he creates when he lands shows off his strength, and the fact that we don’t see his face at all in this shot removes any notion of who he actually is.
Comic book artists have employed similar techniques in the past to show how other characters see Superman. Frank Miller famously did so in The Dark Knight Returns, while Lee Bermejo drew Superman in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel as a dark, twisted monster to exemplify how Lex Luthor sees him:
By doing so, the artists give the reader a glimpse inside the psyche of characters like Batman and Lex, and remove our preconceived notions of the Superman we’re so familiar with. Snyder is doing the exact same thing here.Even the preliminary shots of Superman’s statue make it look intimidating.
The rest of the trailer calls into question Superman’s place on Earth, and shows that not everyone is happy that’s he’s flying around, “protecting” people.
The trailer opens with several interweaving voiceovers. Holly Hunter’s character suggests that Superman may become corrupt, as “absolute power corrupts, absolutely,” while Lex Luthor notes that “We know now, don’t we? Devils don’t from Hell beneath us. No, they come from the sky!” Others note that humanity has a horrible track record of idolizing and following powerful individuals. It’s very possible that someone with Superman’s power could become such a menace. We know as an audience that he’s not capable of that, but the people of Metropolis who didn‘t watch a movie about Clark Kent becoming Superman don’t.
Juxtaposed against those sound bites are what sound like anti-Superman protests, with citizens screaming that “this is our planet!” and chanting, “Go home, go home, go home!”
A similar story was told during DC’s New 52 relaunch, which saw the world reacting to Superman’s existence with fear and panic. After the destruction he and Zod caused in Metropolis, it’s no surprise that people aren’t as accepting of him as they were in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie.
Not everyone is against him, of course. You’ll notice that we don’t see a single shot of Clark Kent in the new footage, or a single sound bite from anyone who may be on his side during the film. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is notably absent, as is Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White and Diane Lane’s Martha Kent. As marketing goes on, perhaps we’ll start to see how they’re trying to combat the anti-Superman sentiments around them.
The thing to remember here is that this footage is a teaser, and is only meant to do just that: tease. It’s simply announcing to general audiences that this film is coming, and sets the stage for the basic story. Does it paint a full picture of what we can expect to see from Superman in the film? Absolutely not. With 11 months to go before release, however, and plenty more marketing materials to come our way until then, we’ll get there.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will hit theaters on March 25th, 2016.
You can listen to the Flickering Myth Podcast review of the teaser trailer below:
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