[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your weekly dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
Though elegant and pristine in all its shadows and shimmer, the new poster for Man of Steel is an exercise in tedium, proving more unwelcome than exciting in a summer that just saw Spider-Man rebooted. Truly testing the limits of tolerance in a superhero-saturated culture, this design and the film it's touting reek of yesterday's news, like a back issue of the Daily Planet made into shiny papier-mâché. Admittedly, there've been far worse teaser one-sheets released on the world, and this one, conceived by the fine folks at P+A, already trumps the simple, gleaming "S" that first announced Superman Returns. Caught an angle that's just right for showing off the Krypton native's pectorals, this image is striking for its sharp attention to detail, specifically in regard to the work that went into that revamped suit. What we see stretched across Superman's chest is more than just a familiar logo, it's a texture emblematic of the new film's title—the rubbery, unitard equivalent of chain mail. That's a neat trick, and the costume designers are no doubt thrilled to have their labors front and center, but damned if this doesn't echo the poster we just saw for The Amazing Spider-Man, another ad that zoomed in on the kinks of its hero's armor.
Superman may not wear a mask, but this poster still plays by the rules of those promoting disguised do-gooders, making the subject more a symbol than a person. Assuming the role of the new Clark Kent, Henry Cavill is likely to see his career soar inside and outside this franchise, but this movie is hardly about him, no matter how many magazine covers he graces. In a deliberate effort to place brand first, Cavill's chiseled face is eclipsed, suggesting that the red and blue getup far outweighs the actor wearing it. Certainly, the fanboys who descended on Comic-Con—the event for which this poster was specifically released—found more glee in that big, red stamp of authenticity than they would have in the chiseled jaw of the Immortals guy. If there's anything that Warner Bros. is hoping is made of steel, it's the devotion of Superman diehards.
Ironically, this all seems rather demure for a guy like Zack Snyder, whose last film, Sucker Punch, boggled the mind with the simple fact that it was released through a major studio. Has the 300 maestro finally opted to put away his game console? Or is this just a bit of bait-and-switch Americana, drawing in the loyalists with benign iconography so they can be subjected to the zany whoosh of Superman ala Snyder? The latter seems much more promising than what's ostensibly presented here, for even a week that gives us Batman's last hurrah, the last thing the comic book genre needs is more of the same.