By Anthony Breznican
Updated April 17, 2013 at 11:11 PM EDT
Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 3.54.31 PM
  • Movie

Faster than a speeding bullet?

That pretty much sums up a few of the new images we see in the latest Man of Steel trailer. Some of the scenes are impossible to figure out without a bit more context, but Entertainment Weekly has some clues that might help explain a few of the more inexplicable shots.

A close study also reveals that director Zack Snyder has slipped in a reference to another major Superman villain.

Here’s a deeper look at what’s hidden in the trailer:

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While Michael Shannon’s General Zod is the big bad menace in Man of Steel, the trailer reveals a subtle reference to another Superman nemesis, who would likely turn up in any future film.

Lex Luthor.

While we don’t see his bald dome turn up in this footage, we do see a ship or meteorite breaking up over the Metropolis skyline and atop one skyscraper is an unmistakable red, white, and blue logo: LEXCORP.

Luthor is a legitimate businessman, after all. Just one who has a taste for world domination. (Although, who doesn’t?)

The burning question surrounding this Superman reboot is whether Man of Steel will lay the groundwork for a new generation of DC Comics film adaptations. Only the finished film will reveal if other heroes are linked into this world the way Marvel Studios ties together its superhero franchises, but clearly this is a nod toward future Superman sequels.

As Snyder tells EW: “I really enjoy the character and I really loved shooting this movie about him. And whatever happens as we go ahead, I’m not exhausted by Superman. I’m knocking on wood. I’m not going to try to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make another movie!’ because I don’t want to jinx anything.”

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At its core, Man of Steel is as much an alien invasion story as a superhero tale. Case in point: This object wedged into eons of arctic ice looks like an extra-terrestrial mothership, and that’s exactly what it is. Superman fans also know it by another name: The Fortress of Solitude.

This is Superman’s home base, his HQ, where he goes to get away from the distractions of Earth life and reconnect with his Kryptonian roots.

In the Richard Donner-directed Christopher Reeve films, the Fortress builds itself from a crystal that was included in the intergalactic bassinet that Superman’s father, Jor-El, dispatched to Earth. Hurled into the arctic wasteland, the object sprouted into a jagged crystal palace. Kind of like Magic Rocks, only epic.

Man of Steel changes up the formula a little. Instead of building his own Fortress, Clark Kent steps into the existing home market — and emerges, as we see below, as Superman. The residents of Krypton are an advanced race, keep in mind. Their knowledge and exploration of the cosmos far surpasses our own, and when Jor-El launches his son to Earth, our planet isn’t unknown to them.

Superman isn’t the first citizen of his world to visit us, and the Fortress is proof. It is a massive craft left behind by a previous group of Kryptonian pioneers.

Screenwriter David S. Goyer, who also co-wrote The Dark Knight trilogy, describes Man of Steel as “a first contact story.”

“Even if he didn’t have superpowers it would literally be the biggest story that ever happened in human history. It would change the face of the Earth forever. Just his existence would,” Goyer told EW. “I think it was in one of the Donner films — which I adore — but I think there’s a moment where Lois Lane is interviewing Clark and says, ‘So you’re from Krypton, huh?’ and he says ‘Yeah,’ and then they just kind of drop it. He just said he’s from an alien world! And everybody just accepts it. I just thought the idea that we would treat [Man of Steel] as a first contact story was in a strange way it was kind of a big idea because everything sort of follows from that. So that was one of the Eureka Moments.”

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Mention the possibility of our hero battling with any kind of giant, insect-like legs and it’s sure to inspire dread in those who have followed the various aborted Superman films of yesteryear.

In the most famously dysfunctional proposed Superman project, a late-’90s effort that would have starred Nicolas Cage, with direction by Tim Burton and a script co-written by Kevin Smith, Superman would have pummeled an enormous space spider — for some reason. While most fans are grateful that never came to fruition, the sight of mechanical legs grasping for the hero might rouse long-buried arachnophobia.

But fear not. That’s only General Zod’s command ship — the Black Zero.

We also see it in this image, although it might at first look like Zod and Co. looking out at Metropolis from atop an especially tall building.

And this is a wider view of the multi-legged ship, using an energy beam to bore down into the city.

Although Zod was trapped in the 2-D Phantom Zone in the Richard Donner-directed Superman movies, Michael Shannon’s version of the villain is dispatched aboard this prison ship. Here they are seen shackled and awaiting exile. Not too happy, vowing revenge.

We don’t see their escape, but can safely assume that’s where things are headed.

“It was prison ship that he retrofits, and that’s what he comes to Earth in,” says producer Deborah Snyder.

If it looks somewhat organic rather than high-tech, that was intentional. Production designer Alex McDowell (Fight Club, Watchmen) crafted what she called a kind of “geo-tech” to show they were both scientifically advanced, but also visibly different than the styles on Earth. Less glossy. “We wanted to do something fresh but also felt that it should look like an ancient society,” Deborah Snyder said.

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The trailer opens with a scene of Kryptonian civil war, with Russell Crowe’s noble Jor-El surveying the exploding battleships with great fear. In a flash, we then see a figure riding off into the distance aboard what looks like a huge, multi-winged insect.

That’s Superman’s dad’s ride.

In keeping with the effort to depict Krypton as a true alien world, Snyder and Goyer have given it some unique wildlife, such as this creature, which might be cousin to the mountain banshees of Avatar.

This film’s Krypton is a subterranean world. The surface is somewhat barren and lifeless, like a rocky moon, while the civilization exists on the interior of the planet. But occasionally it’s necessary to emerge on the surface and fly to another location. When he needs to get somewhere in a hurry, Jor-El hops aboard this creature, which Deborah Snyder said was named “Herocka.” (Although we’re not sure of the spelling.)

“It has insect wings, but has kind of a rodent-ish face,” she says. “At first he was a little mean, but we made him look more sympathetic.”

Later in the trailer we see a figure — maybe Zod? — plunge from above and try to crash this flying beast. Whenever the confrontation takes place, expect to see a serious showdown between Zod and Jor-El early in the film.

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We see our hero in American military custody and being interrogated by Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, but since Snyder has revealed there is no strength-sapping kryptonite in the movie … couldn’t he just, you know, snap those cuffs right off?

Yes, he could. But his detention is voluntary.

Earlier in the trailer we see a squad of A-10 Warthogs opening fire on Superman on a small town street. It’s actually a Smallville street, where the good guy is engaged in serious fisticuffs with Zod and right-hand-sociopath Faora (Antje Traue). While they’re slamming each other with parked cars and tossing each other through store walls, the military comes in to try to play referee by spraying machine gun fire everywhere.

At this point, you have to guess that Superman’s existence is still a mystery to most of the world. We know from the filmmakers that Lois Lane has been trying to report on the miracle man reported to be wandering the country, laying low until he springs forward to save the day in the middle of some deadly crisis. But Clark Kent has also been working to get his temper under control, and isn’t above some heavy-handed vandalism when provoked.

So even those aware of Superman’s existence most likely aren’t certain he’s a good guy. When he and a handful of other powerful aliens start laying into each other in Smallville (where Zod goes in the hope of drawing out Kal-El), the military operation — led by Col. Hardy (Christopher Meloni) — is just going to shoot first and sort the good from the bad later (and if they’re sorted into body bags, then so be it.)

Of course, the Kryptonians don’t go down that easily. The one spotted in the sites of the A-10s below is not Superman, although he certainly dodges his share of rounds. This one is Faora, who doesn’t even bother to get out of the way. She launches her own attack, with devastating results — if that crashing A-10 earlier in the trailer is any indication.

Later we see Superman float down willingly before their tanks, and goes with the authorities peacefully. Most likely, this fight has led him to decide he needs to identify himself as someone who is fighting on the side of Earth, not against it.

This will also be the first major test of whether the fears of his adoptive father (Kevin Costner) would prove true: Will Earth reject this alien son?

Naturally they have a lot of questions for him, too.

Why the military let Lane, an outsider, and worse — a reporter — do the asking of those questions is unclear. Maybe because she has been following the case for so long, she’s the best expert they could find?

Lane proves her skills by asking the one question on everybody’s mind: “What’s the S stand for?”

Hey, it’s better than: “So you’re from Krypton, huh?”

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Man of Steel

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 144 minutes
  • Zack Snyder