It's a very stark image we find in this MTV Splashpage article, spotlighting the new "Man of Steel" poster: a grim-faced Henry Cavill as Superman handcuffed and being escorted by military-types. Not exactly the type of Superman I remember a a youngster. But it's a version of the character -- that of Public Enemy #1, a super-being to be distrusted -- that's been steadily building for a while.
Take the "New 52" "Action Comics", in which Superman is depicted on one cover in an electric chair. Or the steadily-building paranoia that infused TV's "Smallville," with any number of characters (including Lex Luthor of course) suspicious of this curiously strong newcomer. And we can move back even further in the comic books, with storylines involving characters like Batman and Amanda Waller distrusting the Man of Steel and considering him worth of monitoring.
The cover for "Action Comics" #2
Why no love for Superman?
Well, it's like a lot of sci-fi stories involving UFOs and aliens -- the UFO was the ship that brought Kal-El to Earth, and the alien is Kal-El!
Seen in that context, the image on the "Man of Steel" promo image makes a lot of sense, and gives us further clues as to what this movie might be about. If the first Superman movie was about the "Classic" Superman-as-Hero, the second about Superman-as-Man, the third inexplicably about Richard Pryor and a really scary lady-robot, the fourth about Superman-as-Global-Guardian, "Superman Returns" as basically a "love letter" to the first Superman..."Man of Steel" might be about "Superman-as-Alien," a strange visitor from another planet.
From "The Day The Earth Stood Still"
It's a story we've seen in films many times before, from "The Day The Earth Stood Still" to "The Man Who Fell To Earth" to "E.T." And it's a metaphor for all people finding themselves far from home, in the throes of an identity crisis between two worlds, surrounded by people who misunderstand and even fear them.
But is this the Superman movie audiences are looking for? Certainly, "Superman Returns" -- "love-letter" to the Chris Reeve version aside -- wasn't really the blockbuster that set off a new franchise. Maybe people really desire a grittier story about Superman, a counterpart to the ultra-grim "Dark Knight" films. Or if there are purists who object to this version of the character -- do they think a "Superman with Smiles" will pack 'em into the theaters? Are we just too jaded, too sophisticated, at this point to accept this:
The Christopher Reeve version of Superman
And in that case, is it really the responsibility of Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder that this new movie is, by the very words of the people involved, a bit darker and grittier?
Isn't this what we asked for? Further -- isn't this the natural reaction to the times in which we currently find ourselves in? Should movies be a mirror -- or a more idealized image?
At any rate, we'll find out the verdict on "Man of Steel" June of 2013!