MAN OF STEEL
The Evolution of a Modern Superhero
Born Kal-El of Krypton, raised Clark Kent on Earth. What world does he belong to? What world does he fight for? Those are the questions confronting Superman, and the choices he makes will determine the fate of the planet he has always called home.
"In the world of Super Heroes, Superman is the completely uncompromising figure who exists to represent the best that all of us can be," director Zack Snyder states. "He is the ideal; he's what we strive for, that magical, golden god, the kind of icon that has extended beyond the comics world and into all of popular culture."
Created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster and first appearing in the comic book Action Comics #1, published on April 18, 1938, Superman quickly became a cultural phenomenon, winning fans around the world in live-action and animated form in nearly every known entertainment medium. In feature films, TV shows, radio, video games, social media and literature, he has battled some of the greatest villains of all time.
Given the character's iconic status, Henry Cavill, who soars through the skies in Snyder's action adventure, was both excited and humbled to play the titular character in "Man of Steel." "Superman is one of the truly special figures man has created throughout history," he relates. "He stands for hope, for the ability to conquer adversity against all odds. That's something we can always hold onto, no matter where we are in life or what's going on in the world. We will always face hardships in one way or another, and therefore hope will always play a significant part in our lives. To take on that mantle of hope as Superman was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
Though known for his ability to bring high energy action to his films, and create fantastical worlds on screen, Snyder was initially hesitant to take on the responsibility of bringing one of the first comic book Super Heroes back to the silver screen. "I was pretty into comics when I was growing up, and Superman was a favorite of mine, so I wasn't sure I wanted to do it," he acknowledges. "I wasn't sure where I could take the character that he hadn't gone before."
Then he read the screenplay David S. Goyer had written, based on a story Goyer devised with one of the film's producers, Christopher Nolan. "Without breaking the canon, without taking away the things that make him Superman, they were able to make him totally relatable," Snyder says. "They took me on a journey that was interesting to me, and that was the reason to do it."
Nolan offers, "Audiences will be very familiar with 'Man of Steel's' portrayal of Superman as the ultimate superhero, but where he was an impenetrable, god-like figure in previous iterations of his story, we show him as a rather more relatable figure who deals with very human issues of love, divided loyalties and family, even as he is anything but human himself."
The story also captured the imagination of producer Charles Roven. "I really liked the script from the very beginning, because I found that it had enough of what I grew up with, but was still completely fresh, a different take on a very revered subject. He's a very aspirational character; I think that every kid grows up thinking that, one day, I could be like Superman. What I loved about this story is that he's still a character you want to be like, but he's a lot more complex than we've ever seen him before. It's a much more emotional road that he travels."
To take the character down that road throughout the production process, Snyder instinctually knew it would be a departure for him as a filmmaker, despite having worked in the genre before.
"We were thrilled when Zack agreed to take on 'Man of Steel,'" producer Emma Thomas states. "He had amply demonstrated an extraordinary grasp of the technical complexities and heightened storytelling demanded by this genre with his previous work, and those qualities, combined with his love for the character, made him the perfect man for the job of bringing this contemporary take on Superman to the big screen."
Producer Deborah Snyder recalls, "One of the first things Zack said to me was, 'This is going to be the most realistic film I've ever done. How ironic is that?' But that was our goal: to make Superman relevant for today's audiences, to make him fit into our world."
In capturing that realism, the director chose to shoot on film and in 2D instead of native 3D, to be converted into 3D in post. Snyder continues, "Zack felt that an intimate filmmaking style, including handheld cameras, would help us connect with Clark who, when we first meet him, is kind of lost, trying to find his place but feeling very out of place, which is something we've all felt at some point in our lives."
In scripting the story he and Nolan wrote, screenwriter David Goyer determined that "the film is very much about choices. It's about a man with two fathers: Jor-El, Kal's Kryptonian father, and Jonathan Kent, Clark's dad on Earth. Clark/Kal has grown up with two sets of histories, though only one was known to him until now. And now he needs to reconcile those teachings if he is to become the man that, arguably, both fathers would want him to be, in their own ways."
These two very influential role models in his life are portrayed by two highly regarded actors: Kevin Costner stars as Jonathan Kent, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Diane Lane also stars, as Jonathan's wife and Clark's mother, Martha Kent, who serves as a steady, calming presence throughout her son's life. And, just as Clark is beginning to discover the secrets of his birth and decide which course he must follow, he meets a woman who could have a good deal of influence over the choices he makes, and who has the power to turn his world upside down: investigative journalist Lois Lane. Amy Adams stars as the comic book world's most famous newspaper reporter.
"Part of Clark's journey is finding acceptance," Adams notes. "He's running from it, hiding from it, because he hasn't come to terms with who he is, and that makes for a lonely existence. He's had to work hard not to expose his abilities, but he's made some mistakes there, and that has made him extremely intriguing to someone like Lois, whose job, whose very nature, is about uncovering -- and exposing -- the truth."
In today's Ă¼ber-technological world, very little information is withheld from public notice and what is, is often uncovered and exposed, whether at the hands of the media, by self-appointed wiki watchdogs, or via viral video. Thus, it's difficult to imagine that an alien from another planet could live among us, undetected, for any length of time. And, of course, once discovered, that individual would likely never find peace again.
"We knew that to tell Superman's story in a modern context meant addressing the trappings of our modern times," Snyder remarks. "And the character inherently comes with a lot of expectations as well, having been around and idolized for 75 years. So, it was important that we vetted the ramifications of every decision we made in updating him and his environment, from Smallville to the S-shield."
Cavill relates, "Everything grows and evolves at some stage, and I think this contemporized version is another stage of that evolution. If you read the DC comic books, like the New 52 from a couple years back, they've been doing it as well -- in a different way than Zack and Chris and David have, perhaps -- but the new Superman's suit is entirely different, and his attitude has changed a bit, while his core characteristics are still there. It's growth for a modern reader, and our film does that for a modern audience."
Even as the filmmakers explored the genesis of the legendary character, Snyder offers, "We knew the action had to be bigger than big, with heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat thrills. We never lost sight of the fact that we were making a Superman movie."
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