The talent attached along with the positive buzz from early test screenings means that the summer blockbuster is one of the most hyped films of this year. Whereas Bryan Singer chose to pit Superman against his old nemesis Lex Luthor for Superman Returns in 2006, Snyder’s film is an origin story with Kryptonian supervillain General Zod in the antagonist role.
We got the impression that Total Film had a payload of Man of Steel details waiting in their latest issue when they unveiled a cover image of Lois Lane and Superman. And indeed, they do – in interviews with director Zack Snyder, writer David S. Goyer, and stars Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon, we learn quite a bit about what we can expect from both Superman and General Zod.
Interestingly, Shannon denies that General Zod is a villain at all, let alone a supervillain. Of course, he might be a little biased, but the actor firmly believes that Zod is just doing what he believes is the right thing. Says Shannon:
“He’s not a villain any more than any other General fighting to protect his people. He doesn’t like to just hurt people and steal diamonds; he’s focused on being successful at his job. I think the way Terrence Stamp approached it – and this isn’t any kind if criticism of his performance – there was something kind of detached about it. Pure hatred, rage, whatever… I think this [characterisation] is more ambiguous.”
Henry Cavill diplomatically tackles one of the controversial aspects of his character’s new costume design, best summarised as The Mystery of the Missing Red Pants, by saying that the change happened naturally as part of the character growing up within the franchise:
“We have absolute respect for what was then. But now is now. Even Superman in the new comics doesn’t have the briefs – he has the red belt, but not the briefs. It’s time for a change.”
It’s been said before that Man of Steel is not going to be based on any particular comic book story arc, and will in fact be something of a departure from the established canon and tone. Cavill admits that he is unfamiliar with the comic books, but that he was still able to get a good feel for the character in the context of the story that Goyer and Snyder wish to tell:
“Having gone to boarding school, I didn’t have a comic book store nearby. But as soon as I was cast in the movie, that’s when I got my full, real introduction to Superman. I managed to piece together this character, maintaining that baseline and having all differences and nuances that our script adds. This is our own thing, standalone. It’s about Superman, but we’re not copying from any one comic book in particular. And that’s a good thing, because its an origin-story.”
Snyder does not speak explicitly mention Superman Returns – which did okay at the box office and earned mixed responses from both audiences and critics – but he alludes to it as part of what he considers to be a “broken” string of Superman characterizations:
“It’s amazing what [Superman] is capable of but [Henry's] a slightly more down to Earth version of the character. I don’t think he can hold up a continent… Superman has been broken for a little while.”
The impression we’ve been given so far is that Man of Steel will be a more realistic take on Clark Kent’s origins, insofar as an alien baby being transported to Earth and developing super-powers as he grows up can be realistic. One of the ways in which David S. Goyer attempted to make Superman more accessible was by making him a little more vulnerable, but he has apparently also chosen to embrace the protagonist’s Kryptonian past, rather than treating it as something that might infringe upon the realism:
“We try to flesh out Krypton and its different political factions, its fauna, its science. [Superman is] a man, but he’s a Man of Steel … It’s very much the theme of the movie, so it’s embedded in the title, which we settled on at the very beginning. He’s human but he’s not human.”
Considering it’s been over seventy years since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first introduced this character to the American public, it might be argued that a lot of good could come from experimenting with changes in tone and characterization, especially if those changes make the Superman franchise more accessible to audiences outside of the core group of comic book fans. The Dark Knight trilogy, which was David S. Goyer’s last major project prior to Man of Steel, was also a break from its more over the top predecessors, and earned a lot of financial and critical success with its recapped origin story and image change.
Do you agree that Superman is broken, and that Man of Steel will be the film to fix him? How do you feel about these new insights into the hero and villain? Let us know in the comments.
Hannah Shaw-Williams blogs at Screen Rant.