The 2006 film "Superman Returns" didn't reboot the superhero franchise so much as carbon copy Christopher Reeve's take on the Man of Steel.
Star Brandon Routh could have passed for Reeve's brother, or even twin, and the film usurped John Williams' classic score to reinforce the bond. Superman was still a force for good, someone you might even call a square (but not to his face, of course).
"Man of Steel" starts from scratch, casting aside the look and feel of Reeve's super template.
The first full-length trailer for the film, coming Summer 2013, hit the web earlier today. The trailer holds plenty back, but it's clear that director Richard Donner's 1978 "Superman" has been cast aside for a very contemporary take on the ultra-good hero.
Henry Cavill, a relatively unknown actor last seen in the flop "The Cold Light of Day," fills out a far less colorful costume than the one Reeve donned for four films. We're in origin mode, with a young Clark Kent questioning how he can hold back from using his powers if it means innocents will die.
They may have to be in order to preserve his secret identity, cautions Kevin Coster as Kent's pa.
The story itself remains a blur. We see little of Russell Crowe as Jor-El or Michael Shannon's General Zod. The fine art of trailer marketing demands a drip-drip-drip approach setting us up for future sneak peeks.
The 2006 movie blurred one of Superman's signature lines, that he fought for "truth, justice and the American way" to fit in with today's cynical Hollywood model. We'll have to see how director Zack Snyder handles the character's native land this time around. One encouraging sign is Christopher Nolan's name attached in a producer capacity. Nolan oversaw the unabashedly conservative "Dark Knight" trilogy, and he's unlikely to steer Superman into the realm of American indifference, let alone America bashing.
Still, the movie's final seconds find Superman questioning if the world is ready for someone like him, as if a god-like creature willing to fight on the side of goodness might be a sorry fit for the world. It's a mighty big question, the kind Donner didn't think necessary to ask back in the late '70s.
That the question exists now tells us plenty about both the superhero reboot and our skeptical times.