‘Man of Steel’: Michael Shannon & Antje Traue Talk Kryptonian Villains

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Michael Shannon as General Zod in the trailer for Zack Snyders Man of Steel Man of Steel: Michael Shannon & Antje Traue Talk Kryptonian Villains

Superman is thought to be the ultimate American hero for many reasons. Man of Steel director Zack Snyder has compared his character to Jesus and said that he considers his origin story to be Biblical in nature, and Henry Cavill’s co-stars have said that the actor personally embodies many of the virtues often attributed to the character.

With such a brave and morally resolute superhero at the center of Man of Steel, you might assume that the best way to make his qualities stand out would be to pit him against the most dastardly villains that the DC universe can muster, in order to make the contrast between good and evil shine. The main antagonist for the film is General Zod, a warlord from Krypton who was frequently pitted against Superman in the comics – but is Zod truly an evil villain or simply misunderstood?

CBM has published video interviews with two of the villains of Man of Steel, where they give their own perspective on the characters they play. Michael Shannon, who is cast as General Zod, has repeatedly said in past interviews that he doesn’t consider the character to be a villain, which is probably quite a good approach for an actor to take; after all, it’s difficult to truly empathize with someone if you consider them to be one of the bad guys, and if Zod believes that he’s doing to best thing for his people then Shannon probably should as well.

The actor was asked about a previous statement he made with regards to Zod being misunderstood, and responded:

“I don’t know if he’s necessarily ‘misunderstood’ or just ‘not understood’. I think it’s all a matter of perspective, because if you’re an Earthling, you’re not going to like General Zod very much because he’s basically willing to wipe you out in order to save his people, but if you’re a Kryptonian you’re probably like, ‘Wow, that General Zod, he sure is doing the best he can.’”

Check out the interview with Shannon below (his comments on General Zod are at the 1:24 – 2:07 mark).

Playing Zod’s second-in-command, Faora Hu-Ul, is German actress Antje Traue, who also starred in Christian Alvart’s sci-fi horror Pandorum. Traue says that she deliberately did not read any of the comics in preparation for the film after a discussion with Zack Snyder, in which they agreed that it would be better for her to approach Faora from a fresh perspective. That character, Traue says, is a soldier without fear:

“As a woman, we always certain doubts and we think too much sometimes about ourselves… and all these things, they’re not there for Faora. She’s a bred warrior… Fear is a chemical reaction that was bred out of her and she doesn’t have that. It’s liberating to actually really think about it, that you’re just a one-track mind, there’s no filter, and there’s no double meaning. She gets orders and she answers those orders without a question, and that’s all she does. I tried to stay quite socially unattached, I spent a lot of time by myself shooting this movie, and just being focused on the training physically, being focused on my disciplines. It was more like the life of a soldier [than an actor].”

Check out that interview below (Traue talks about Faora’s focus and fearlessness from the 0:48 – 2:08 mark).

While it might be argued that a set of purely evil antagonists work better in the context of a superhero movie, Traue and Shannon’s descriptions of their characters actually suggest a far more interesting take on the clash of the Kryptonians. Previous trailers, as well as a tie-in book for the movie, have suggested that Zod will attempt to lure Superman over to the side of his own warriors, and that the hero will be tempted by the scope of power at his fingertips to rule over Earth with an iron fist (or perhaps a steel one).

For moments like that to seem real, it would actually be better if Zod and Superman’s characters were not so distant from each other. They are both, after all, only doing what they consider to be the right thing. What separates them is really how they act and what their values ultimately are. In a recent Man of Steel TV spot, Zod is heard claiming that everything he does is for the greater good, and is subsequently called a “monster” by Superman. Yet many would say that “the greater good” is a noble thing to fight for.

Do you think that it’s a good idea to have morally ambiguous villains in comic book movies, or do you prefer someone who you can really hate? Tell us what you think of these hints about Zod and Faora’s characterization in the comments.

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Man of Steel opens in regular and select 3D/IMAX theaters in the U.S. on June 14th, 2013.

Source: CBM

TAGS: superman man of steel

40 Comments

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  1. Morally ambiguous? A villain who is doing what they believe is the right thing? Kind of sounds like Bane from the Dark Knight Rises. I think Nolan’s fingerprints are all over the characters …which is good since he co-wrote the script. I thought the moral ambiguity of Bane and to some extent Batman was brilliantly displayed. It moves away from the paper cutout caricatures of villains we have become used to.

    • Dunno about the moral ambiguity in Bane’s case. He and his followers seemed to be all about getting revenge on Bruce for what happened in Batman Begins and finishing what Ra’s Al Ghul started(by bringing Gotham to a state of chaos and eventually destroying it). There was none of the posturing Ra’s gave us in the first film about correcting civilization’s mortal decadence and eliminating a corrupt society.

      As for Zod… Even after all the TV spots none of us actually know what his story here is and what he’s planning to do, so I’ll wait and watch before making a judgement.

      • For Bane, it was about continuing the work of Ra’s while also doing what the vengeful daughter wanted by going after the man that killed her father.

        He was more or less a soldier, not just in look but in the way he conducted himself as if he were in charge of an army (which he was of sorts).

        Similarly, Two-Face wasn’t evil, he just wanted to hurt those who he felt hurt him and took Rachel away from him. I don’t even think of The Joker as being evil either, just unbalanced.

        I’ve always preferred to read, watch and write morally ambiguous characters. They make it more fun because they do reprehensible things but for reasons that make complete sense to them.

        It’d be like somebody wanting to rid the world of people like Snooki to save humanity from becoming even more dumbed down but doing it by actually murdering these people instead of switching off and letting the ratings do the talking.

        It’s also a big reason I love Game Of Thrones because the good guys become villains and the villains become good guys for a variety of reasons.

        Setting a fixed scale and having characters placed permanently on different sides of it are boring. To me at least anyway.

        • Well stated! …except the part about Snookie!

      • Well Bane did save Talia while in prison and was attacked because of it and was more than willing to die to carry out his plan. In one scene Alfred even says that he sees in Bane “the power of belief!” That sounds to me like someone who is dedicated to a cause and not some selfish reason to commit crimes.

        Good point about Zod! I was just going off of what was implied in the article.

  2. Can’t wait to see Shannon in this movie, I find he’s going to be one of the highlights and one of the top villains on the big screen, next to Ledger. Really like what I’m hearing about his character.

    • Definitely, he does evil very well

      • For sure, he could be ridiculously intense in some of his performances.

    • Next to Heath Ledger might be a bit of an overstatement. Ledger held you entranced in every scene he was in – we held on to his every movement, every twitch and shrug and tongue flick; he told us about the dark side of ourselves; he was clever and manipulative in everything he did as a character. He’s inspired multiple videos and years of imitation of his unique personality, voice, demeanor. And he did it from the get-go, from the vidoes.

      Hard to see quite the same impact with Mr. Shannon here.

  3. Oh, Antje Traue!!! She is so beautifully German! Check out those eyes. I’d be willing to kneel before her anytime….

    Faora Rocks!

    • Isn’t she? Wowzer!

      I’m super excited to see her go to work in this film. I have a feeling she’ll be talked about as much as Shannon when it opens.

      • +1

        • I agree also. I’m really looking forward to seeing her run things.

      • Right on. My significant other is German and she also has an accent. I suppose I love all things German.

        And very happy for Antje. She seems so humble and down to earth. ( actually , everyone involved with MOS seem happy and sincere about working on the flick )

        She was the only good thing about Pandorum , IMO. She was really good in that and when I first heard she was cast in MOS I immediately thought it was because of her character in that flick.

        She’s done other stuff, smaller independent things like “5 Days Of War.”

        She’s already been cast in “Seventh Son” and things are getting big for her. That’s so cool.

        Supposedly Faora gives Supes a good butt kicking. Can’t wait to see that.

        • Lucky man!!

        • you like stupid mustache-just-below-the-nose style?

    • She is all woman and all feminine charm.
      Resistance is futile. Surrender is by default.

  4. “Previous trailers, as well as a tie-in book for the movie, have suggested that Zod will attempt to lure Superman over to the side of his own warriors, and that the hero will be tempted by the scope of power at his fingertips to rule over Earth with an iron fist (or perhaps a steel one).”

    Really? Supes will be tempted? I hope that’s not true, because that’s not the superman I know or want to see.

    • The key word is “attempt” to lure superman

      • Without spoiling, Zod wants him to have a better sense of patriotism towards his krytonian heritage

        • I don’t know why he wouldn’t wanna see it because of that anyway. Seems silly.

          Imagine that kind of movie, where Superman feels no pain, has no emotions or feelings and is never tempted to join the dark side and embrace what he really is instead of thinking of himself as human?

          THAT is something I wouldn’t wanna watch and would perpetuate the notion I’ve always had that Superman is a boring character. This temptation thing is exactly one of the many reasons I have to be excited for this movie because it’s realistic and has shades of grey and ambiguity. None of this “he is good, he is bad” crap.

          Only the most generic, cliched and boring stories fit that ideal. Luckily for all of us, MOS is written and directed by people who aren’t interested in simple cliches.

          • +1 times a million. I agree with every word. No man is perfect, and hopefully Snyder and Goyer show it in this film, especially with a character like Superman.

    • This kind of reminds me of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the dessert.

      • Lol That’s just how they described it

        • In some articles that is

    • I love to hear that’ll he’ll be tempted.. I mean lets be honest, we all know how this story ends.. And it’s not him crossing over to the “Darkseid”. It adds to the dynamic of the story and lets us in a bit more. Plus it’s a natural feeling.. Being that powerful and being as strong morally is a difficult thing.

  5. Hoping this one will be good…!

  6. Not s single dishonest or disingenuous note in any interview.
    One has to be impressed with the candor of this cast
    and their belief in the characters they are playing.

    Considering the high quality of this ensemble this
    represents some of the best evidence the film’s story
    and script as well as production is of high quality as well.

    • Every time I get this hyped for a film, it’s weird, but I sometimes try to find flaws somewhere so I can restrain my excitement. Sometimes it’s in the cast but not this time. Every interview I watch it just pushes my excitement even further. Each one of them know their character inside and out, and I’ve been hearing they don’t even refer to the past incarnations so it gives them more of a chance to make it a completely different and fresh take.

      • Isn’t that cool? You’re so right. They ALL sound so genuinely thrilled themselves. Even the heavy hitters like Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner. It’s as if they are all so respectful to the symbol that is Superman and the movie they made.

        Zack sounds like an excited kid. So does Henry Cavill.

        I kind of already know what’s going to happen in MOS and I know the spoilers ( A friend of mine in the industry in LA gave me the whole rundown) it it unbelievable and yet I STILL HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!!!!!!!

  7. Make her wonder woman.

    • You are on to something there. She gets my vote too.

    • She may not be Wonder Woman, there’s other actresses who will play her.

  8. Shannon will be the Ledger of MOS, Hes the perfect Zod, I WILL FIND HIM!

  9. MAN OF STEEL will make Over $1 BiLLiON Dollars Worldwide, Henry Cavill is a Great Actor & Amy Adams is a Multi-Oscar-Nominated-Actress & Very Beautiful Plus Multi-Oscar-Nominated: C-NOLAN is The Writer & Producer, i think The New Suit Looks Great & Much Better than The Old Light Blue Suit that Looked Like a SMURF & with The OutSide UnderWear was Real Bad, i Will See MAN OF STEEL in 3D.

    • If she is as good as advertised, maybe she should have played Rachel Dawes. The weakest link in the trilogy.

  10. So Faoro has had “fear” bred out of her and she’s a genetically engineered Kryptonian soldier…

    Sounds like Dante in Devil May Cry series. And that’s probaly the chief thing that I can’t stand about that character. He’s dealing with all this freaky otherworldy s***, but he’s just as cool as a cucumber.He’s never unnerved or creeped out or doubtful of his ability to live up to his fathers legacy. And that makes him pretty lame and unrealistic in my book.Or maybe his lack of a normal human psychological range is a direct result of his half demon inheritance.

    He’s more inhuman than superhuman. As stated in The Dark Knight Rises and elsewhere “Fear” can actually be an ally not just an adversary. Fear can cause you to act or hesistate.Fear causes us to consider a negative outcome.It makes us aware of our falibilty and limitations. A person without fear is a person without courage.

    But kudos for Antje Traue giving a shout-out to The Never Ending Story. That’s one of my favorite childhood films as well. It was probably my 1st true introduction to the concept of eternity :)

    • Fear is an emotion. Emotion never beats logic. She’s logical.

  11. I have yet to see an interview with the SUPERMAN actor.

  12. Michael Shannon is freaking awesome!!! http://comicaper.blogspot.in/2013/06/man-of-steel-movie-marathon-with.html

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