While the world prepares for Man of Steel‘s pulse-pounding action, and the chance to see Zack Snyder’s take on Superman on the big screen, the other side of the superhero’s identity is being seriously overlooked. Although the first photos and video of Henry Cavill on set implied that Clark Kent’s Metropolis alter ego would indeed be a character alongside Superman, evidence has been hard to find since.
According to newly released comments from both Snyder and Cavill, there’s a good chance that the ‘mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent’ may not be involved at all. At least, not a version that audiences will be expecting.
In an on-set interview with Collider, Zack Snyder was quick to evade questions about the Clark Kent side of the superhero’s identity – a tradition that has held, as audiences still know very little about Clark’s pre-Superman activities. We know he’s bearded and on a journey to find himself, but what happens to his identity once the red-and-blue suit gets thrown on is still unknown.
In fact, it would be fair to say that at this point, given what we know, the ‘secret identity’ of Superman may not even play a major role in Man of Steel at all. As Snyder explains, the lack of a recognizable incognito Kent is yet another case of the filmmakers’ wish to make the hero’s origin story a bit more realistic:
“I’ll only say that I think in a lot of — well, definitely in the movies — he always jumps straight from childhood to Clark. Like, he jumps from sort of his teenage version of himself to the adult version of himself. Frankly, The Daily Planet Clark, that happens pretty quick. I just think that our Clark, he’s not fully realized and I think — by the way, that’s huge information — but I think that’s the big difference. That’s why there’s this talk about who Clark is.
“In a lot of ways, the movie really is about the why of Clark, not to say that this kind of bumbling — I don’t want to call him bumbling — his mocky, nerdy Clark is… But that’s not the Clark that we went after or are going after. We’re going after sort of a different, there’s a different take on Clark, how Clark is.”
Now, for those who aren’t the most hardcore fans of Superman comics we should clarify that the ‘identity’ of Clark Kent/Kal-El is a tricky notion. It’s generally accepted that Clark began as simply his Smallville self, engaging in heroics when needed, despite his parents urging restraint. Thus came the need to create a public face – Superman – where he could exhibit his own personality while wearing the suit and cape. But to live a normal life, Clark changed his Kent identity into that of a clumsy, uninteresting and disguised ‘everyman.’
That works just fine in a traditional ‘secret identity’ story, but when family, relationships and realism are factored in – all the elements Goyer, Nolan and Snyder are emphasizing – things begin to get messy. Did Superman get noticed in civilian clothes first, or the suit? When he goes home to Smallville, does he remain in disguise, or get to be himself (and obviously Superman)? It’s not hard to see why tackling all of these issues can be challenging, and frankly, not particularly gripping for mass audiences looking for a ‘blockbuster.’
So we’re not shocked to see that the reason behind a lack of ‘mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent’ in marketing may be due to the fact that there won’t be one in Man of Steel; not one fans would recognize at any rate. Instead, Snyder’s comments imply that Man of Steel will fill in the gaps writers tend to skip over.
Audiences may react differently to seeing Clark and Superman less rigidly defined, but realism dictates that splitting a life down the middle isn’t easy. That idea of an identity in flux – at least for the first movie in the franchise – helps shed light on some of Cavill’s quotes as well. When asked how the actor is balancing the relationships with Lois Lane in and out of the super-suit, his response was cagey:
“Superman, Clark and Lois, the key to making it work? Hm… let me think about that so I can give you a decent answer… I mean, the easy answer is acting, but there’s a fine balance between — again, I’ve gotta be careful what I say here. There’s an honesty to Clark, Kal-El — Kal-El’s the better way of saying it because he is both Superman and Clark — there’s an honesty to him which crosses over on both—I don’t like to use the word identities, but I will because I can’t think of a better one. So, it is not that tough to make that swap and change.”
“I connect with both equally. I really want to explain why because I’ve got a great answer, but I’m going to give away plot points.”
To us, that sounds like Cavill is refusing to acknowledge that the two characters – Superman and Clark – are separate identities at all. Again, it’s not shocking to hear that Snyder is avoiding the minutia of Clark’s glasses, changing hairstyle and slumping posture – since the film tells of Superman’s first public reveal, all of that would come later anyway. But after so many on screen incarnations, a complicated Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El is something we’d welcome, if handled properly.
If our suspicions are accurate, and Man of Steel may not heavily feature a bespectacled Clark Kent as an intrepid reporter, then questions will need to be raised. Is the dual identity a problem to tackle in the inevitable sequels? How will Clark’s desire to be a journalist be handled? And most importantly, how will Lois Lane’s inability to recognize Clark as Superman be handled with any sense of realism? Could she be in on the secret?
What do you make of these latest comments? Have you had enough of the clumsy and bumbling Clark Kent, or was that one of the more charming aspects of the character in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Man of Steel will be in theaters on June 14th, 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.