As the release of Man of Steel slowly approaches, it’s becoming more and more evident just how high the filmmakers have aimed. Not only is the film attempting to introduce a new Superman, a new origin story, and lay the foundations of a Justice League universe, but it’s also trying to do justice to serious real-world issues.
Superhero movies have had varied success when it comes to teaching the audience about life, love, and anything other than CG set-pieces and cool costumes. But according to producer Deborah Snyder, from its leading men to the wardrobe department, the effort has been made to keep old fans on board as they take the character to some groundbreaking places.
Much has been made in the past few weeks of the many kinds of story Man of Steel will tell – with ‘superhero’ not largely claimed to be among them. Screenwriter David S. Goyer has explained how his experiences make the movie a story about fatherhood and how the realistic approach makes it a ‘first contact’ story, and now producer Deborah Snyder is adding her own take.
In an interview with SFX, Snyder explained that even though Superman once stood for ‘truth, justice and the American way,’ he is the quintessential immigrant, and helps form a very different idea of family:
“Someone said to me it’s the greatest adoption story in all of history. I think that’s an interesting way of looking at it – maybe because I was just in the process personally of adopting my two children. The people of Earth adopt him and he adopts us, as well. A lot of the messaging in this film is about family, and who makes you who you are.”
While Snyder’s comments reiterate Goyer’s claim that above all, Superman is a character who embodies hope, they also prove that the filmmakers are trying to add something new to the Superman mythology for a modern audience. It’s true that these same themes have been explored in recent years by several comic book writers (be sure to read our Man of Steel comic checklist), but for many casual fans, the more dramatic facets of the character aren’t well known. Hopefully, that’s about to change.
Looking the part of Superman is ultimately a task that falls on the shoulders of star Henry Cavill – shoulders significantly bigger than the actor has ever sported. Zack Snyder clearly prefers that his actors match the physique and size of their comic book counterparts, and Cavill has obviously done everything possible to evoke the ‘body-builder’ look of modern Superman comics.
But Snyder explains that for both 300 (2006) and Man of Steel, having actors in peak physical condition isn’t just for looks – it’s all about performance. It also helped fuel the rivalry between Kal-El (Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), even if Cavill’s muscles didn’t allow him to coast once the shooting started:
“He’s a giant, but we really put him through the motions. The training for the role was so much a part of the process of making the film. The guys carried themselves differently as they went through their process of transforming their bodies. It was a really important part of the preparation. You saw Michael’s posture change. As we went along in prep he kept becoming more and more Zod-like, and I’d say the same thing about Henry too. It’s like they would carry themselves differently. It wasn’t that they were wearing a padded suit, they actually filled the suit, but it did something to their performance at the same time, and I think helped them get in the head of their character.
“Mark Twight, who trained them, usually pitted them against each other and would post their scores on the board. They’d do the workout and the timings or the weight would be up there for everyone to see. It keeps everyone kinda honest, I think, but also competitive.”
The most recent trailers have shown that even if Michael Shannon’s history as a character made him an unlikely choice for Zod, he’s bringing something new to the iconic villain. Threatening Earth is hard to pull off in any circumstance, so the fact that Shannon could do it while wearing a skintight motion capture bodysuit is even more impressive.
As Snyder explains, Shannon may not be the most well-known of the film’s star-studded cast, but he was the perfect choice in the end:
“Michael Shannon is again such a respected actor. He had never done something of this physicality before, so it was challenging for him. All his armour is CG, so he embodied this role by looking at the pictures of what he was going to look like, and how he would move in his armour when he was in a mo-cap suit. You need someone who’s super-seasoned as an actor to pull that off, and he really does.
“It’s funny, because he’s the nicest guy, but sometimes on set he would be super-serious. He’d be in character and I’d be like ‘Oh my goodness, he is super-scary!’ And then all of a sudden he would finish the scene, he’d break a joke and you’d be like ‘Oh, that’s Michael, he’s funny…’ I forgot that because he’s kind of terrifying too! He just has this intensity that he brings to the role.”
Both actors seem to be rising to the occasion and are more than happy with how it’s turned out. Balancing big action and big drama is always a difficult task, and fans won’t have to wait much longer to see how Snyder and co. have managed. If it all works out, the sky is the limit for the creative team. First things first, of course.
What do you think of the multitude of themes encapsulated in Man of Steel’s story? Are there any aspects of the film you’re still not sure of, or are you counting the days to release? Share your own thoughts in the comments.
Man of Steel will be in theaters on June 14th, 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.