‘Man of Steel’ Interview: General Zod is Not a Villain, Superman Is Down to Earth

Published 2 years ago by

Man of Steel Poster Man of Steel Interview: General Zod is Not a Villain, Superman Is Down to Earth

Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel will hit theaters in three months, and 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.”

Michael Shannon as General Zod Man of Steel Interview: General Zod is Not a Villain, Superman Is Down to Earth

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.

Man of Steel will be out in theaters on June 14th, 2013.


Source: Total Film [via Comic Book Movie]

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  1. So why is it that, with over 70 years of rich villain history to select from, that Superman movies continue to reuse the same villains over and over again in their movies? Are Lex Luthor and Zod the ONLY villains Supes can face in the movies? Isn’t it kind of ridiculous that EVERY Superman movie ever made includes one or both of these guys? What is it with non-comics movie moguls – what draws them like moths to the flame to these two? Luther you can understand, but people forget that Nolan did NOT use the Joker in two of his three Batman movies (which made both them, and Joker’s actual appearance even more effective). How can they expect to change the fundamental impact of a Superman movie when tying it to the same, old, boring villain remakes, inviting comparisons? Just a frustrated comment from one expecting so much more from another attempt to differentiate the Man Of Steel. Frankly, he deserves better.

    • Superman III had neither… Just a scary robot lady and a bad Supes who flicked peanuts at bottles. Mmmmmmmm. Peanuts.

      • Actually Superman III had Kryptonite in it. Once it was Kryptonite was created with an tar because they couldn’t figure out the unknowm ingredient to add to make it pure Kryptonite, which was similar to Black Kryptonite. Also the huge computer had a Kryptonite ray that weakened Superman

      • Superman III’s Computer was supposed to be Braniac. I d/n recall why they dropped that angle, but they did.

      • What are you talking about? He re-used Bane, Joker and Catwomen! Zod and Lex Luther are marquis characters in the Superman universe! So calm down fan boy!

  2. It’s not that I don’t like change. It’s just I enjoy what I enjoy modern or classic. I’m still not 100% sold on the new costume. It still looks incomplete. I’m also not digging all this talk about a more realistic Superman ( Who is apparentley a weaker version )I find it funny how the production says it’s time for a change and to move on, yet we are doing another origin story and general Zod and crew. I’m hopping for the best.

  3. Dear Readers, Jerry Seagull and Joe Schuster were the creators of DCComis Superman who is The Man of Steel. They were from Cleveland Ohio and they were responsible for establishing his whole lieneage. Superman The Movie of 1970 was directed in unison by WarnerBrothers and DCComics staring Christopher Reeves was all aproved and overseen by the Original creators. I am a resident of Cleveland Ohio and a faithful fan of Superman from day one. ZACK SNYDER’s problem. is.. to regretfully misinterpret SUPERMANS orgins, the mission statemant of what Superman stands for and completely misrepresents his entire* story apoved by the Man of Steel’s creators and founders. To claim that superman was broken in the first place just goes to show your lack of knowledge on the subject of Superman.

    • Jerry SIEGEL! Joe SHUSTER!
      For crying out loud…

      Even worse after making this whole half informed statement of “I am from Cleveland I know better”.
      Actually the only and single reason the seventies movie gave any attention and credit to them is because at the time Jerry Siegel was working in a supermarket, had no money and a very bad eye problem. Jerry Robinson ( co-creator of the Joker with Bob Kane ) convinced and helped him and Shuster to SUE Warner Brothers and DC comics because there were plans for the movie to come out and nobody bothered to tell them.
      Because the rights of Superman have been such a long and never ending legal drama, at the time, Warner settled out of court otherwise the movie could be made and it was accepted that every Superman story ( to this day ) should include the name of the creators.
      So there was no “good will” from the film studios towards the creators. They were FORCED to recognize their existence.

      • *otherwise the movie could NOT be made


        The current movie have been going through the same legal drama with the creator’s families.
        Depending on who you ask some say the name “Superman” was not used because the rights to the name were in dispute at the time of production. David Goyer says otherwise but I can’t really see him openly stating “tge creator’s families are suing us” and attracting worldwide attention to the thing.

        • Jerry “Seagull”… hahahaha

  4. As a fan who grew up on the comics and Christopher Reeve movies, I am actually not tired of Zod or Lex Luthor as villains. I am looking forward to a new origin story, but I would like to see Lex make an appearance. Especially if it means there’ll be a big showdown in the possible third movie. Maybe a more hands-on Lex, such as him in the Kryptonite-powered armor suit, or even maybe LexCorp unearthing Doomsday for the final installment to give a real shot at a live action “Death of Superman” movie. I admit that when images from this movie were first released and the costume had obviously changed (r.i.p red tights) I was disappointed, but if anyone can make a realistic and good Superman movie, it would be Goyer (with the help of Nolan, of course).

    • I always thought that the reason why people didn’t recognize Kent as Superman was psychological. Kent was so meek and awkward it was impossible for people to see him as Superman—the epitome of power and confidence.

  5. General Zod really takes care of one of Superman’s biggest problems: he’s too invincible. I always asked, why doesn’t Superman take out Lex Luther with a flick of his finger? At least Zod has the same powers as Superman. Shannon is great to be Zod. I see him on Boardwalk Empire. He just looks insane.

    Zod also takes care of another q I always had: why doesn’t Superman just take over the world? I mean, who could stop him? Zod represents something Superman rejects.

    • @Zob_Rombie: There are Elseworlds stories in which Superman does indeed take over the world. Those stories involve the basic morality instilled in him by the Kents being overridden by something else, basically.

      Supes doesn’t just ‘take out’ Luthor and his enemies because he plays by the rules – big, blue Boy Scout and all that. This has been criticised, deconstructed etc, but personally I like it. If I want an antihero or a more “realistic” (yeah right…) hero, I’d rather go to someone else.

  6. I don’t think that lex luthor should make any appearance in the superman movies they should have him appear when the justice league movie is made!

  7. I just saw the movie and it’s my favorite Superman movie ever. Some may not want to hear this, but it is bursting with theological themes and social issues related to our world today. It’s a great portrayal of how people who have a very legitimate cause, but take that to a level of utter destruction of innocent people and property. Zod was programmed to save Krypton from destabilization resulting from mining too much of their core resources. What are we doing to our core resources?? That was his one mission…he just went about it in an immoral fashion. What about the genetic engineering of Kryptonites to the point of a natural birth being the anomaly? We play with genetics and selection of infants FAR too much for the good of our people. I love the end when Cal-El (Clark) (Superman) brings the surveillance drone crashing to the earth. THAT was a very timely message when our own government has been found to be spying on us more than we knew! GREAT movie. Superman weak? I think he was stronger than ever.

  8. I have seen the new movie and its amazing to read this article from 6 months before the films release and see how on point the movie maker’s were. I may be over reacting here, but I feel the film was relevant on so many levels, I saw it as an evolution in comic book movies, if not film making overall.