The Daily Stream: The Man Of Steel Trailer Might Be The Best Superman Movie Ever Made

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Trailer: "Man of Steel" Official Trailer 3

Where You Can Stream It: YouTube, and below.

The Pitch: Warner Bros. teamed with Christopher Nolan to revive Batman, and then decided it was time to give Superman his day in the sun, too. Nolan remained involved, coming up with a story and serving as a producer. The film itself, though, was in the hands of Zack Snyder. And while the end result, "Man of Steel," was a disappointment, one of the movie's trailers is so well put together that it just might be the best "Superman" movie ever made. 

Why It's Essential Viewing

Richard Donner's "Superman" is a wonderful movie. Christopher Reeve looks (and acts) like he was born to play Superman, and the movie has a colorful, playful tone that stands apart from our modern-day glut of super-flicks. But is it the best "Superman" movie? I'm sure some would argue in favor of that, but for my money, the best "Superman" movie isn't really a full movie. It's a trailer. The third official trailer for "Man of Steel," that is.

I promise I won't spend the majority of this post dunking on "Man of Steel" or Zack Snyder. I don't love a lot of Snyder's films, but I also don't think he's the antichrist of cinema. But I also think "Man of Steel" is a disappointment. There are plenty of elements there to hint at greatness – Henry Cavill makes a good Supes, Michael Shannon is hamming it up as the villainous Zod, the effects work is solid, and Hans Zimmer's score is an all-timer. And yet ... something feels off about the film. The characterization of Superman feels flat. Sure, you could argue that this was the first adventure of the new Superman, so he's still finding his way. But most of the time it comes across as if Snyder doesn't know what to do with the character. He simply wants to use the Man of Steel as a Christ-like avatar, and then get to all the big moments of destruction.

Which is a shame, because the "Man of Steel" trailer above makes "Man of Steel" look like it's going to be a masterpiece. I remember watching the trailer for the first time and being incredibly taken with it. And while I will always wish that feeling translated to the film itself, I have found myself revisiting the trailer over the years (while I've never felt the urge to rewatch the full "Man of Steel"). Why does the trailer succeed where the film fails? Well, it's shorter, obviously. It essentially condenses the entire film into three-ish minutes and gets the point across. On top of that, say what you will about Snyder, but he's a visual stylist. I don't think his storytelling skills are the best, and that's a problem when it comes to filmmaking. But whatever his faults, Snyder does understand iconography. He has a grasp on the power of imagery, and the "Man of Steel" trailer is loaded with it – the young Clark Kent wearing a cape and playing with his dog on the family farm, complete with Terrence Malick-inspired scenery; Superman's shadow hovering above the ground as he flies; Clark Kent wandering the snowy road; Superman stepping out through a pair of spaceship doors, framed in silhouette, his cape billowing; fireballs falling towards skyscrapers; Amy Adams wearing a cute little vest. You get the picture. It all looks great.

And it's all cut in time to Hans Zimmer's score. The music played here is an edited version of the track titled "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?" and it's an absolute rush, slowly building towards a punchy, triumphant crescendo. It starts with lovely, melancholy piano notes layered with a reverb effect, giving them a dreamy quality. It's beautiful stuff, and it just keeps building and building. And the footage builds with it, as we watch Superman grow more and more powerful until he's punching people through the air.

Emotional beats are layered throughout. The Pa Kent storyline in "Man of Steel," where Superman's human father urges him to both ignore saving people and lets himself get swept up by a tornado is rather lame. But there's a moment in that trailer that always gets me. The young Clark Kent learns his true nature and fearfully asks the only father he's ever known: "Can't I just keep pretending I'm your son?" Kevin Costner, as Jonathan Kent, emotionally replies: "You are my son." Gosh, I'm going to tear up just typing this, aren't I? My own father was nearing the end of his life when this trailer arrived and hearing that line the first time really knocked the wind out of me.

Why was all the emotion and energy on display in this trailer absent from the film itself? I don't entirely know. Perhaps it really is just because Snyder works better in short bursts than in one big epic format (and yet, I still found myself enjoying the fabled Snyder Cut, so what the hell do I know). We'll get more Superman movies in the future, and perhaps they'll be good. But I have a feeling none of them will quite come close to landing as well as this trailer.