I will never watch ‘Man of Steel’ again. I won’t rent it. I won’t download it. If ‘Man of Steel’ were the only movie available on a twenty-five hour flight to London I’d rather read the safety card. Man of Steel is a shitty fucking movie. But between the years 2012 and 2013, I truly believed it was the next Citizen Kane.
Marketing a movie used to be left to the last minute. Studios would kick out a half-decent trailer a few weeks from launch and send the stars to do late night chat shows. Right now, I could probably name the Summer 2016 lineup and it’s only June. Like crack dealers, the studios drip feed the product to the influencers, fan boys, review sites and die-hards. A few ‘leaked’ grainy set photographs of a superhero’s new outfit are generally enough to start a frenzy on social media. After all, it’s all about that ‘buzz.’
And hey, why not? When you’re marketing an event picture it makes perfect sense. If the movie’s worth the wait you can be staring at a hundred million dollar opening weekend. But if it’s not, and worse, you always knew it, teasing an audience for nearly two years has repercussions. To paraphrase ‘Jaws,’ you’ve got a panic on your hands on the fourth of July.
Back in 2012, somebody in the marketing department of Warner Brothers decided to pitch ‘Man of Steel’ as a Terrence Malick art film. The teaser showed waves hitting rocks, a butterfly on a chain and a bearded loner thumbing a lift on the snow covered streets of Oregon as a soprano sang a mournful lament. It was beautiful, different and as tonally close to the finished film as hardcore German pornography.
And we bought it – a year out. Instead of the usual populist bullshit we were being taken seriously goddammit. It was wonderful. Nine months later the geniuses at Warners dropped the official trailer and chose the battle scene from ‘Elizabeth’ as the score. I remember tearing up a little and breathless commentators spoke of a new and wonderfully enlightened age of mature film making.
And then it came out. It wasn’t anything like Terrence Malick; unless Terrence Malick was suddenly into huge fucking robots, corny dialogue and CGI fight scenes that lasted over an hour. After two years of marketing ‘Man of Steel’ as the next ‘Tree of Life’ the letdown was so utterly profound that I remember driving home in a bitter, miserable silence.
After promising wagyu steak with a truffle-infused French cheese sauce, the movie turned out to be a Happy Meal complete with American style apple pie and plastic action figure. It wasn’t even close to the promised product. Of course, like Kryptonite, it grievously wounded Superman at the box office, but I guess that’s what happens when you pull a bait and switch with millions upon millions of moviegoers. If I wasn’t so utterly fucked off I could have admired the brazen audacity.
Of course, I’ve moved on now. I don’t rock myself to sleep anymore and the pain is now just a dull ache. And hey, we’ve got the new Star Wars to look forward to. The trailer looks fucking amazing.
This article originally appeared in Adnews.