In case Man of Steel excitement levels were starting to drag just weeks before release, the most recent Zod-centric trailer helped build buzz among some fans who were still skeptical. But for any Superman story to succeed, the meaning has to go deeper than special effects or an impressive suit.
In a recent interview, Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer opened up about what the hero means to them, and without naming names, why Snyder is less than impressed with recent portrayals of the character.
Not known as a man to bite his tongue for fear of offending, Snyder explained to the NY Times that his enthusiasm for Man of Steel‘s take on the hero’s mythology is needed now more than ever. Not only Smallville, but some of DC’s own comics, according to Snyder, have been missing the point:
“When they try to dress him up…put him in jeans and a T-shirt or a leather jacket with an S on it, I go: ‘What? Guys, it’s O.K. It’s Superman. He’s the king daddy. You should all be bowing down to him.’ ”
Reinforcing his previous position that Superman shouldn’t be apologized for, but honored, it’s obvious to all just how important it is to Snyder to do the character justice. Smallville, Superman Returns (2006) and some of the more…interesting comic book treatments are all well and good, but clearly Snyder feels they’re not telling the kind of story the world needs at this moment; one only Superman could tell.
So if Superman is supposed to embrace the wonder, the fantasy, and the title of the ‘king-daddy’ of all superheroes, how can audiences be expected to relate? If nothing else, the main goal of Smallville (besides showing off an S-embossed leather jacket) was to humanize Clark Kent, and make him more relatable to younger audiences.
For Snyder, simplifying a walking conundrum, and child of two different worlds is missing the point entirely; his turmoil and complexity isn’t what makes him alien, it’s what makes him just like us:
“He’s a really cool mythological contradiction…He’s incredibly familiar Americana and alien, exotic, bizarroland, but beautifully woven together…All of us, in a weird way, are that same kind of contradiction — no one’s that simple.”
While it may be abrasive, Snyder’s unquestioning dedication to the source material is one of the main reasons comic book fans are optimistic that Man of Steel will succeed where other adaptations have failed (if he cares this much, his standards must be higher, right?).
It’s that dedication that has also sky-rocketed Snyder to the top of the list of potential Justice League directors. But it wasn’t simple fanboy enthusiasm or comic book knowledge that convinced executive producer Christopher Nolan to hand him the task of rebooting Superman.
After turning it films like 300 and Watchmen, Snyder’s knack for spectacle and action were apparent. But it seems odd that Watchmen – a cynical deconstruction of everything superhero comics supported – was what landed him on Nolan’s radar.
Why would the man who re-imagined Batman for a modern age go after such an outlier? Simple. Nolan wasn’t looking for someone to copy his formula, he just wanted something different:
“That was what a new approach to Superman required…He understands the power of iconic images, but he also understand the people behind them.”
“It’s ironic but it’s a very productive irony…You’re dealing with a filmmaker who has deconstructed this mythology and now has to reconstruct it. That’s a fascinating challenge for him.”
Of course, the actual story set to be told is largely the work of screenwriter David S. Goyer, shifting from Batman to Superman despite the fact that as a child, by his own admission, “I used to imagine that I was Batman… not Superman.” Nevertheless, the overarching themes of fatherhood is no coincidence – the film is, in Goyer’s words, a story of a man with two fathers.
Over the course of the script and film’s production, the article explains, Goyer became a stepfather, a father, and lost his own father. Those experiences have undoubtedly informed his writing, with Goyer pointing out one scene that was especially rooted in his own experience:
“There’s a scene in the movie where a younger Clark basically says to Jonathan Kent, ‘Why do I have to listen you? You’re not my dad.’ Which is exactly what my stepson said to me.”
That kind of drama certainly promises something new for the stereotypical Superman adventure. After all, the script was strong enough to convince Snyder – while Nolan and his wife/producing partner Emma Thomas waited in his driveway – to take the job. Yet Snyder has also added a few updates, making the assumption, for instance, that “Clark Kent is not a virgin.” How you feel about that depends largely on your reception of Snyder’s past writing.
The pressure may be on Zack Snyder as one of the few risky bets among a host of proven talent. But despite the pressure, Snyder revels in the fact that Man of Steel isn’t just the origin story of the father of all superheroes, but a chance to do something completely different in his own career:
“I feel like my movies have always been very subversive, even when people haven’t perceived how subversive they really are…For me, what’s subversive about Superman is that it’s not subversive.”
We’ll leave you to ponder that one on your own time.
So what do you think of Snyder’s criticism of recent adaptations? Is he being his usual outspoken self, or does Man of Steel feel like the Superman origin story that you’ve always hoped to see on the silver screen? Give us your thoughts in the comments.
Man of Steel will be in theaters on June 14th, 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: NY Times