Hey, an actual department for the blog. Maybe this is the start of something big.
Or maybe it will just be another thing I don’t keep up with.
At any rate Trailer Park is a series of posts that will discuss the various trailers to the four Christopher Reeve Superman films, Superman Returns and any other trailer type oddities I run across on the highways and byways of YouTube. I posted something similar a few months back, but this is a more organized effort and hopefully one y’all will enjoy.
In this first installment I wanted to cover the various trailers connected to Superman: The Movie. While not my favorite of the series (though it ranks way up there) it is hard to dispute how important this film was not only to Superman as a character and icon but also to super-hero movies in general. While it has been stated time and again it is nonetheless true that before Superman: The Movie the concept of a big budget super-hero film was almost laughable. The Batman series from the sixties, as entertaining as it was, gave comic book adaptations a black eye and relegated them to kid stuff. The Salkinds, Dick Donner and Christopher Reeve changed all of that.
It is hard to explain how much this film means to me. It is one of the few things in my life that has always been there for as long as I can remember. I was born in 1976 so I was a little over two and a half when this movie hit theaters. Because of this I wasn’t aware enough to appreciate the hype and hoopla surrounding the release. I have never seen Superman: The Movie in the theaters. I’ve seen it on HBO, on ABC, on video, on DVD, on AMC, on various other cable channels and recently in Metropolis, Ill, but never on a true big screen because, for whatever reason, the Special Edition has not come to Atlanta. Back in 1998 the movie came through as part of a traveling Warner Bros. film festival, but I found out about it two days after the film had played.
I’m still annoyed about this fact.
There is a part of me that wishes that I could go back and see the film in the theater when it first came out. Yeah, I know. It’s kind of silly, but seriously, if there was a way I could wipe all memory of the film from my mind and go into a theater in mid-December of 1978 and see Superman: The Movie fresh I really think I would. Actually, I’ll go one step further. If there was a way that I could go back and see the teaser trailer for the first time…man, that would just be awesome.
I remember vividly in 1988 hearing rumblings of a Batman film going into production and then, in 1989, seeing the first teaser trailer on Entertainment Tonight. It was so exciting to the thirteen year old me. Here were the first few moving images to come out from Batman and suddenly the movie became more than a mere film. It became an event.
I sometimes wonder if that was how it went for people, especially Superman fans, in the seventies. The more I think about it the more I believe that you can really compare the two films on that level. Imagine, if you will, that it is 1978. You are a kid or a teenager or even someone in your early twenties and more importantly you are a fan of Superman or even comic books in general, but let’s assume for the moment that Superman is your favorite. Maybe you read the comics. Maybe you watch the George Reeves series when you get home from school or work. Maybe you love the Super Friends and Superman is you favorite part of that series. Maybe it is a combination of all three. Whatever the case one day you go to the local cinema to see a film and before the movie this trailer plays on the screen.
Now remember, this is the late seventies. The Internet as a common means of disseminating information may have been around but considering it would be another decade before the personal computer became a common item that people bought much less as a tool to communicate with one another and share images, writing and porn we can assume that for all intents and purposes the Internet didn’t exist. The only way people got any kind of information was from magazines like Starlog or from fanzines or from going to conventions or from being part of a mailing list or really paying attention to the Hollywood trade magazines and papers.
Imagine for a moment that you had no access to any of this. You watch television in the seclusion of your own home and you buy comics from the drugstore near work or school. You exist in a Superman vacuum and I am going to go so far as to say you don’t even read the letters page where an announcement about a Superman film might be placed.
Imagine all of that and then watch the above trailer again.
(Yeah, I know. DC had that contest. I’m trying to make a point. Work with me here.)
Man, I can’t even begin to conceive of how awesome that must have been. Even if you were as aware as you could be and knew that a film was in production and knew that it was coming…to actually see that teaser trailer with the giant S filling the movie screen was probably jaw dropping.
I’d love to have been around and aware during that time. I really would.
There were a few other teaser trailers that followed along the first one’s tone. One of my favorites is this one because it drove home the epic scope of the film. The narration is full of hyperbole but it is effective nonetheless. And it has theme in it, which is another point in it’s favor.
One of the teaser trailers that I have on my computer that I just could not find on YouTube is this funny as all get out joke trailer. There were like four teaser trailers to this film and they all had that same, “You’ve never seen anything like this,” over the top narration. At some point the guy doing the narration must have gotten tired of it because they have a version of the teaser that will make you laugh. You can check it out HERE at the wonderful CapedWonder.com. Warning, it does contain a little bit of profanity.
Finally, the full trailer was released.
And I really don’t care for it.
Sure, if I wanted to put myself in the mind set of someone living in the seventies, being a fan of Superman, etc. then I am sure it would be awesome. Truly awe inspiring. It would have gotten me pumped and excited and ready for the Man of Steel’s big screen adventure.
The thing is I was raised, so to speak, on film trailers of the eighties and nineties and the seventies had a totally different way of selling movies. This point was driven home as I went through the special features on my Rocky DVD. It had the trailers for what was then all five movies and it was like watching the evolution of the film trailer from the seventies into the nineties. The full trailer for Superman: The Movie was very much of it’s time and because of that it will always seen a little odd.
Despite my general sense of not liking the trailer I will admit that it has an extremely moody atmosphere. It does a bang up job of showing how alien Krypton is and the general themes of Jor-El sending his only son to a world where the people have the capacity to be greater than they are. It also hearkens back to the era of Superman where the people of Krypton also had super powers and these abilities were heightened on Earth even if that wasn’t in the film proper.
Two aspects about the trailer bother me, though and the first one is that it doesn’t use the main Superman theme, which would have given the trailer a greater feeling of excitement. The Love Theme is wonderful and it does give the trailer a certain feeling of wonder, but man you can’t beat that march for getting a Superman fan jazzed.
The other problem is that they show way too much of Superman, which may sound odd, but I have always felt that the less you show of Superman before the actual release of the film the better. This was actually a problem I had with the movie itself. While there is a part of me that loves the scene in the Fortress where Superman takes flight for the first time (made all the more amazing by John Williams’ score) there is a bigger part of me that feels it would have been better to have waited until the helicopter sequence to show Superman to the audience for the first time. That shot of Christopher Reeve stepping out of the revolving door for the first time was great, but how much greater and more dramatic would it have been if you had not seen him in costume already? I feel the same way about the trailer. The less shown, the greater the mystery, the better the payoff.
I doubt my opinion would be popular among those banking a whole lot of money on such a movie. I understand that you have to sell the movie by selling the character, but still. I stand by my feelings.
Most of my problems with the original trailer are nowhere to be found in the one they put together for the Special Edition released in 2001.
Now that is a Superman trailer I can get behind.
I swear if you don’t get a charge out of that trailer then I doubt you have a soul. Even one of my best friends who doesn’t really care for Superman thought that that was an efffective trailer. The person that cut the Special Edition trailer together really knew what they were doing. They hit all of the beats, they made excellent use of the theme and there was a great pacing to the trailer to get the person watching it all excited. The first time I saw it I swear the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. They still do if I let enough time lapse between viewings.
Which may or may not be a bad thing. I haven’t decided yet.
And I think that does it for this edition of Trailer Park. I sincerely hope you liked it. If you have any particular thoughts on the various trailers posted here or any memories of seeing them go ahead and comment away. I’m interested in your thoughts on the subject.
Coming Soon: Superman II: The Adventures Continues.
More to follow…