David S. Goyer: ‘Man of Steel’ Being Approached ‘As If It Were Real’

Published 2 years ago by , Updated March 9th, 2013 at 2:04 pm,

Hanry Cavill Superman Man of Steel David S. Goyer: Man of Steel Being Approached As If It Were Real

Ever since Man of Steel was announced as being written by David S. Goyer and executive produced by Christopher Nolan, the claims of the film being a case of Superman getting ‘the Dark Knight influence’ have persisted. Even though the two men come from, literally, entirely different worlds.

But according to Goyer, this incarnation of Superman (Henry Cavill) isn’t going to be trading realism for fantasy, or hard questions for special effects. In fact, Man of Steel isn’t being approached as a comic book movie at all.

While Marvel may have found success developing comic books into movies without removing much of the humor and wonder seen in the source material, Goyer and Nolan did something different with their take on Batman. Removing or re-imagining elements in order to update an aging story or to help the material speak to modern audiences may be seen as blasphemy by some, but to Goyer, it’s all in the service of a stronger story.

In the latest issue of Empire Magazine (via CBM) Goyer outlines his approach to a story familiar to nearly everyone. While staying respectful of the films that preceded Man of Steel, fans should expect something very different this summer:

“We’re approaching ‘Superman’ as if it weren’t a comic book movie, as if it were real… I adore the Donner films. Absolutely adore them. It just struck me that there was an idealist quality to them that may or may not work with today’s audience. It just struck me that if Superman really existed in the world, first of all, this story would be a story about first contact.

“He’s an alien. You can easily imagine a scenario in which we’d be doing a film like ‘E.T.,’ as opposed to him running around in tights. If the world found out he existed, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened in human history… It falls into that idea of trying to humanise the inhuman. He’s made out of steel, he’s not made out of flesh, metaphorically speaking. We are portraying him as a man, yet he’s not a man.”

The scriptwriter pulls no punches in his characterization of Superman as an alien (his suit already makes that clear), and not the simple embodiment of “truth, justice and the American way” to which he is so often reduced. However, in the process, Man of Steel seems to be as much a story about societies and how they view outsiders. Specifically, how the entire human race would view something as ‘outside’ our own experiences as a full-blown alien entity.

Superman Man of Steel Not a Comic Book Movie David S. Goyer: Man of Steel Being Approached As If It Were Real

It’s not hard to see the themes of immigration, belonging, and communal identity that Goyer is driving at (claiming that this is a movie he feels “the world needs right now“), but conceiving of a Superman who is so markedly removed from mankind takes this reboot into entirely different realms. As Goyer alludes to, Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) never concerned itself with showing how the government or people on the street would react to an alien revealed to have been hiding among them.

Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) jumped even further into acceptance of Superman as a celebrity, not just a superhero. But Cavill’s closing lines of dialogue seen in the full Man of Steel trailer posed the question to all viewers quite plainly: “My father believed that if the world found out what I really was, they would reject me… what do you think?

That willingness to face prejudice, fear, paranoia, and even hatred without sugarcoating humanity’s, shall we say, less flattering tendencies, promises a film that is at least new, if not universally-pleasing. The themes at work have impressed executive producer Christopher Nolan, as has director Zack Snyder’s vision for the big screen. But how do you tell such a serious, grounded story about a superhero from another world?

Russell Crowe Talks Man of Steel David S. Goyer: Man of Steel Being Approached As If It Were Real

That’s a question that has yet to be asked by DC superhero movies, since Nolan and Goyer’s previous work on Batman was an extremely personal story of suffering and trauma. The task is a more difficult one, but at the end of the day, the story of Superman can be reduced to one core question of identity. A question hinted at in the pair of teaser trailers, but hinging on the ability to make it feel real:

“It is obviously a much longer process with a character like Superman. It is much easier to do a realistic take on Batman. You know nothing can hurt Superman, presumably other than Kryptonite. The challenge was simply: Can we figure out a way to make those elements work, quote unquote, in the real world? It’s very much a story of a man with two fathers.”

Nobody ever accused David S. Goyer or Zack Snyder of making things easy on themselves. And as if pairing such a personal struggle alongside massive” action and backdrops, the word out of Warner Bros. is that much of the direction and feasibility of any Justice League movie will rest on how Man of Steel is received by the public.

The report comes from Variety, with Warner Bros. President Jeff Robinov explaining that the studio is “awaiting the results” of Snyder’s Man of Steel before moving forward. That fact has been assumed to this point, but this certainly puts a damper on anyone expecting massive secret announcements at Comic-Con 2013.

What do you think of Goyer’s approach to grounding Superman, and facing the world’s reaction to his presence head on? Is this the story you’ve been waiting to see told (on film) or the wrong direction altogether?

Man of Steel hits theaters June 14th, 2013. Pick up Empire‘s March issue on newsstands this Thursday.


Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Empire [via CBM] & Variety

Follow Andrew Dyce on Twitter @andrew_dyce
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  1. I like what I’m hearing.

    My excitement continues to grow for this movie!! Can’t wait till June cuz ill be there opening night!

  2. Not at all trying to continue the Nolan-verse, huh? that’s going to be the new catch-phrase instead of “darker in tone” it’s now going to be “if it really happened”

    But I get the difference between that and, say, Raimi’s Spidey which was a somewhat life-like cartoon.

  3. This is the movie I thought they were going to make back in 2006. I wanted to see it then, and was sorely disappointed. Looking forward this time around.

  4. I’m getting the feeling the Justice League movie will follow this same path — dark, realistic, and maybe just a bit too serious, especially compared to the more colorful, energetic Marvel films.

    Interesting to see the vastly different approaches…

  5. I am glad they are taking the realistic approach to the Man of Steel, because may allow for a Batman cameo. I just hope the story is just as good as the visuals Synder will put on the big screen. Since they starting from the beginning, hopefully the running time will like Nolan’s Batman films and they don’t cut movie short.

    • I just want to cut the film that would be necessary for the story to be told. Honestly, I thought both TDK and TDKR were too long and could have been cut short.

  6. -tt- I am excited to watch this movie, but think the question is; Why does DC insist on making COMIC book movies seem as if they were in the real world?The Batman movies were great (but still EXILLERATED for DC to reboot the crap out of it, and make
    It more like the comics). But with Man of Steel, DC literally cleared their slate. They can do what ever approach they want to make a shared movie universe (for a comic) and they choose REALISM for the them…?! There is no way they can make a Flash, Aquaman, Suicide Squad, Green Lantern, Metal Men (etc.) movie and base them as if they were in real life. Marvel has prove time and time and time again you don’t have to take a darker approach to build a FANTASTIC movie universe. Hopefully in 30 years they can hire better script writers/producers/directors and reboot the living hell out of it…but hey…at least the New 52 comics are still pretty good.

    • Probably cause they want to be diffrent than marvel

      • EXACTLY Trey, I think if done right it can work!

        Ironman was made the same way! it is more of a what if kind of thing I think.
        I dont understand why a Flash or Green Lantern or WW could NOT be made the same way? if they can do it with Superman then it CAN be done with ANY character… REALISM in a What if kind of way!
        People are getting way to out of control with this! OMG it is still a movie, and Hopefully IT IS different than the MCU or everyone will say they are copying what Marvel did! IF they do it right it could be GOOD, but I think ppl are getting to SERIOUS about this movie…

    • The darker tone of DC movies work for them even the original Batman movies were dark for their time. Marvel has the advantage of having their big know heroes and teams ,who could be turned into movies, be more light and family friendly the most drama you’ve seen in marvel movies is that guy dying in the avengers. But DC comics, Detective Comics are dark and gritty and sense they can’t really explicit like the comics they work with what they have. That’s one of the many reasons The Green Lantern failed it didn’t stick to the true nature of DC comics it tried to be like marvel’s movie.

      • Superman 1 and 2 were family friendly and those films didn’t fail.

        • DC comics were different back then.

        • DC comics were different back then

        • The world was different back then. I seriously doubt that Superman 1 and 2 would succeed had they been released in the present day. (IMO, of course).

          • Correct… I saw the 2nd Superman film a short time ago and thought to myself, “How campy is this…” People have harder edges and expect more realism.

            D.C. characters always required the reader to like the character. The only Marvel character I could feel a kinship with was Peter Parker.

            Dark or darkish characters or stories allow the audience to connect with the protagonists emotions.

            This works for D.C. today where blind patriotism and trust in the intrinsic goodness of all are not encouraged.

    • I’m really glad they’re not taking the Marvel route, if we want a heavy comic book and light drama film, we can go for The Avengers, but if we want a serious and gritty film, we’ve got the Batman and Superman films and maybe the Justice League film. It may be harder to combine all these heroes in one gritty like theme film for Justice League, but if they succeed, I’m sure it will be well worth the trouble.

    • I think it helps to push the boundaries of the genre in general. With the nolan batman series, we saw that we could get stories based on comic book characters AND have performances that are oscar worthy. That’s an incredible accomplishment and I’d like to see more of it. Sure, Marvel has done a great job doing what they do and lets face it I’ll be among the first in line for the new Avengers movie because I love that as well but there’s nothing wrong with some diversity.

  7. I welcome a more realistic treatment. I love all of the Superman movies, but I walked away from all of them thinking that my intelligence had just been insulted.

  8. I am so sick of the idea persisting that the Marvel films are great because they are “light and full of energy,” whereas the DC ones are too realistic. Both can and do work. All of these characters have existed for decades and have had tones that vary across the spectrum. If the execution is done properly (ala the Dark Knight Trilogy), Man of Steel definitely will join the pantheon of great superhero movies. On the other hand it can be too serious ala the Hulk.

    In contrast, the notion of “universe building” has hindered the Marvel movies, were Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America felt like $150 million commercials for the Avengers. So, it is safe to say there is room for numerous types of treatments.

    • “In contrast, the notion of “universe building” has hindered the Marvel movies, were Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America felt like $150 million commercials for the Avengers.”

      That is the best thing I have read so far as a comparison to their movies. An overpaid commercial. Priceless

      • regardless, it worked……scoreboard! Marvel has out done WB/DC at every turn.

    • Could you take a bit of time to explain how the Marvel movies were hindered? Or better yet how you think they were hindered.

  9. It’s going to be great. :)

  10. Personaly I think that the “realistic” approach could work great for a Superman film. Not only will we see how the world would react, we will see how Superman is effected mentally. There really hasnt been a character study in film on what it is like to be Superman and (I mean if he wanted to, he could rule the earth, yet he chooses not to). I think this could be a fasinating aspect in Man of Steel.

    • Uh, not if we knew it was indestructible.

      • Obviously, but if you dont shoot at it how would you know?

    • great way to put it!!! BRAVO!! finally someone gets it!!

    • THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! This is what I think is the best way to think of a realistic super hero movie. I mean could you even imagine how American media would react to a super being coming to the earth? It would most definitely would cause immediate panic of the possible “terrorism” and threats of safety for the American people from contact with super villains. Superman would probably be hated as much as he would be loved in the beginning of his career. There have been some attempts to show this in the second movies of iron man and transformers. Yet the true fear/hate reaction of people towards Superman needs to be portrayed in this film.

      • oh BTW im not the same Pat as the guy who made the comment above, Im not saying im for or against him im just saying so there’s no confusion if anyone even took the time to notice lol

  11. Being a huge fan of comics im really happy about Snyder directing this. I thought he did a brilliant and much underrated job on the watchmen. I’m really pumped for man of steel, hope it doesn’t disappoint.

  12. Man of steel is gonna be the superman we have been waiting to see from the start :)

  13. Boy I cant wait for this, I cant remember the last time ive been this excited to see a film, it looks friken epic! im there opening night no question, I much prefer the darker and real tone that DC are doing with their movies, im probably bias being a massive DC

  14. Man of Steel will be epic! Finally a Superman movie that is not cheesy! I hate all the older Superman movies complete garbage!

    • I completely agree. I remember being upset by the insertion of the Otis character in Superman: The Movie back in ’78. While there’s been plenty of periods of silliness, MY Superman has always been as real as anyone in the news to me, a character that’s never been treated with the respect he deserves in films. I think Chris Reeve wanted him to be that way. If you can stand to watch Superman IV The Quest for Peace, you’ll see a decent concept that Reeve scripted himself about how a real Superman would try to stop nuclear Armageddon. Sadly that was wrapped up in a trashy package of utter crap, but the thought was there. This time, maybe we actually get the Superman people like me and, I believe, Reeve, have wanted all along.
      If so, the rest of the CBM field will bow to his magnificence.

  15. @Aknot! Evidence for continued nolanverse is stacking up no-matter what is being said to the contary. It’s all unfolding before us like some grand master-plan.

    • Its like my ears were burning. As I said in the other thread I HOPE it doesn’t happen.

      And while I respect the peoples view here for some reason everyone I speak to is quite amazed and dismayed about this. Comic fans and regular joes alike.

      I need to finish reading the article before I comment on it overall, just had to ack you MB. :D

    • WB/DC has no master plan, THAT’S the problem. It’s just a bunch of random movies with not inner connection. They seem confused, or like they are going several diffrent directions at the same time.

      • Your right… they throw out GL and BOMB that failed so now they know how good nolans batman has done so NOW THEY ARE GOING TO TRY THAT WITH SUPERMAN, and if it works, Then you will know which direction they are gonna go! If it dont work, then we also know which direction they will go, as stated in the article… ALL WILL FALL ON THE SHOULDERS OF MOS, how fitting!!!

      • @Stark, well after a period in limbo, Warner Bros finally has a CEO. So maybe things can get moving.

  16. While I think Man if Steel will be awesome, the idea of making comic book movies ‘as if it really happened’ seems a bit crazy to me, the reason these ideas were so appealing in the first place is because these types of Heros and scenarios would never happen and allowed people’s mind to run wild, that’s why they exist in literature and need movie magic to bring them to life, the society that exists with the comic book world are clearly not on the same level as our own, if the Attack on New York from The Avengers happened in real life the world would go into melt down, especially with the way our media is and the extreme nature religion can take!

    Look what happened with The Bible and The Koran, people take the fantastical stories and fairytales from those books seriously and look where that has got us!

    Our comic book Heros are no different than the stories from Greek mythology etc it’s just we actually know these things are made up!

    All I’m saying is that it’s an interesting approach to take but if this did happen in the real world people are more likely to go nuts, riot and kill themselves over alien contact than they are to embrace it, you can’t even introduce democracy into many countries without them imploding!

    Still, I can’t wait to see Man of Steel and one of the ultimate comic book stories Noah next year, sorry for the blasphemy

  17. This version of Superman in Man of Steel works for me. It already seems much more promising than the new Wolverine movie.

  18. It will be an emotional and spectacular film. I can’t wait!

    I have a feeling it will generate the same frisson of excitement that i felt all those years ago in Donner’s movie when Clark ”became” Superman.

    Cavill looks incredible in the suit!

    This film will elevate your humanity.

    ‘Up, up and away’!

  19. Surprisingly, I am not upset by this. I thought I was going to read something stupid like where he isn’t an alien and other “grounded” and stupid Nolan references. But instead I read something that is quite re assuring. This movie is the beginning of a cosmic adventure. It introduces aliens to our earth. It shows the human race react to first contact. This only means good things. Its the pathway to what JL needs to have already established. That way we don’t need to explain much more. With Superman coming out of hiding and being known ACROSS the ENTIRE world, this will allow the other cosmic heroes of DC to show their faces and powers. Atlantis can rise, The Flash can run, the Corps can patrol, Martian Manhunter can show his true form, and the Amazon can expose its protected island once again. Too easy. My faith is restored once again in this series.

    • Wow. I think you really just figured it all out. Kudos.

  20. David S. Goyer: “We are portraying him as a man, yet he’s not a man.”

    Linkara: “I am a man!” *punch*


  21. Typical, i was waiting for someone to finally admit this film would have have Nolan’s Batman films tone. Goyer finally comes out with it. I prefer the more fantasy approach with the MOS. But hey, with route maybe we can even get crossover films like Batman Vs. The Predator or Superman Vs. The Terminators or Aliens,etc. BTW im being sarcastic.

    • From what I gathered, it seems like they are opening up a new segment to their reality aspect. I am with you 100% of this being more fantasy but with them treating this like an alien invasion movie, I see it opening the doors to that fantasy element. To introduce this as first contact with alien species will allow endless possibilities to the universe that we want. And to keep a “grittier” element, if that’s even a word, leaves it to be challenging for our worlds forces to help out à la needing Supes and the introduction of the JL to take charge.

      • If you’re sayin what i think you’re saying, i hope this is just the beginning of a universe that could use more fantasy to it in it’s own way. Im not askin exact copy of Marvel’s universe but balance between reality/fantasy. Something along the lines of the “Timmverse” from Batman:TAS thru Justice League Unlimited series by example.

        • I want nothing to do with Marvel’s universe. I am not a fan of that series. With Thor being the exception. But I would love a replica of the JL to JLU series. I own them all and have watched them several times.

        • What I really dislike about Marvel’s series is Shield. Their secret band of warriors and technology. I am hoping that with DC, we don’t have this. In the series, they had our military. Specifically, the marines. I want that.

          • Im confused. Doesnt DC have a few organization that can be compared to shield?

            What is secret about shield? Except for the people that truly pull the strings (or try) I believe shield is portrayed like any ‘secret’ government agency.

            hahaha then I see your moniker and realize what this is all about… :D

            • FBI/CIA/NSA, bring it on. Shield/Sector 7/Ghostbusters, keep it elsewhere. Cadmus and Amanda Waller werent really a secret. They were known.

              • I believe SHIELD is known. Heck they have numbers in the phone book for their local offices.

                They had a small aircraft show up in Germany in front of a large group of people. They have (at a guesstimate) 100s of thousands of employees.

                SHIELD is known.

                About as much as the public would know about Cadmus probably less since Cadmus did Cloning and such work which a lot of people dont like.

          • What i like about Shield is what is id like to compare them to the likes of Amanda Waller/Cadmus but different of-course as Waller would see the Justice League as loose cannons & would pull strings to keep them in check or convince the government to eliminate them.

            I loved what they did with Waller/Cadmus in JLU series arc & tied it back to Superman:TAS even. Loved how they kept it in the shadows & their worst fears would be the League would overthrow the government.

      • I see it as MOS will be the first alien contact leading to the other heros who also have powers, if they trust superman he can get them to trust the flash and others

  22. Cannot wait to see this film now, it looks like it will exceed my expectations as well scriptwise. After watching Batman – The Dark Knight Returns part 2 with the dark gritty rendering of Superman or “Him” in that the thought of seeing a live action equivelant is somethign to really look forward to.

  23. I’m liking this approach.

  24. This movie will take epicness to a whole new level. I don’t think people are realising how beautiful this movie will be.

    Time for me to get a Superman tattoo!

  25. Sounds very interesting. If done right this will be simply awesome.

      • ‘A realistic take on the fantasy that Superheroes would bring to real life’

        Love it!

        • After all the different stuff being said about this film and after reading every other post thats what I got from this whole thing!

  26. He lost a ticket sale from me with his comment about the original Superman film. Supes . Is. Meant. To. Be. Idealistic! Ths isn’t Batman for crying out loud! Stop making everything ‘realistic’ and gritty. For f**ks sake, I remember when films were excapist and you’d come out on a high. Families of all ages could see it, didn’t feel like you’d just switch on the news and watched something dark. It felt like you’d escaped the confines of this world and entered another. You’d flown with Supes! What next? Let’s ‘ground’ comedies as they’re too funny? Let’s make Star Wars realistic?!

    You can keep your modern day post 9/11 nihilistic gritty doom & gloom b******* superhero films. I’ll stick with the classics from an era that knew how to have escapist fun and enjoy it!

    Listen to the first few bars of John Williams’ Superman fanfare – does it send a tingle up the spine? THAT’s what’s missing from films today – that sense of unabashed awe and wonder.

    Cynism is rife in movies these days – too self conscious and scared to dream again…

  27. I continue to ask myself, even inspite of the batman trilogy sucsess, was Nolan good for the comic book/super hero movie industry? I’m really beginning to wonder. Thank God Marvel can think on their own and for themselves.

    • @ Stark

      I agree. I even recall Marvel’s films seem to have their own “real life” touch when see clips of the Mad Money guy, Bill O’Reilly & forget that that Fox overseas reporter in the Ironman films as if Tony Stark,etc. were in our world. Im just goin by others example of-course.

      • I for one have never bought into Stan Lee’s little gimmick of setting his stories in NYC rather than “Metropolis”. Placing them in a real city in and of itself doesn’t make the story anymore
        real; neither does using a real TV personality to talk about a fictional character. Cheap and lazy trick when compared to the lengths Nolan has gone to make every facet truly real, no matter what you call the city it’s set in.

  28. Nolan is a god. Thank goodness someone who knows what they are doing (since Donner) has taken the reigns.

    • @ Chris Fawkes

      Lol, maybe i should rephase my comment to Stark. But Whedon’s one film The Avengers out did all 3 Nolan’s Batfilms. Even the TDK

      God Bless Whedon. God Bless Ironman_ Justin Hammer

    • Am I the only one who thinks Nolan’s Batman trilogy wasn’t all that great? It was different from the earlier instantiations of Batman, some say grittier, but did the story/action/acting make sense? How can it be “grounded in reality” when what you see on screen makes absolutely no sense?

      • No you are not. We just get over taken by the other people. That is another angle to look at it.

        I mean how ‘real’ was Nolans Batman. Not really if you think about it.

      • @ Royal

        No,you’re not alone. When some people think of Nolan’s Batman trilogy being really great, they’re really thinkin TDK alone probly since thats the most praised outta the trilogy alone. Imo I found Batman Begins the better film but that’s me. Again it wasn’t all that perfect & imo didnt concluded as i hoped.

      • I enjoyed for the most part the Nolan-Bale Batman films for the most part- loving the first two films and liking the third with strong reservations. I think Nolan worded his explanation of the films a little ambiguous when he says “grounded in reality”. There is many elements in the film that is not “realistic” because the source material is not that realistic. But he treated it if it was real. They took the character seriously just as Marvel or any other director treats their movies earnestly and with heart. They just took out the gimmicks and the elements that can never work- think of the Superman spinning across the world to turn back time element in the first Superman film.

        The events in that world become increasingly less realistic and improbable as you move along each film and the overall story. It is a series of fantastic events, materials, and characters slowly appearing in our world and challenging the way we see the world. Things that can never fully exist in our world but treated if it could. Iron Man did this in his own film. It is making the world seem relate-able to the audience.

        If you can make the audience feel related to the character and believe in that world, then you allow the audience to suspend their disbelief and they can enjoy the story they are about to see. In literature and comic books this is a lot more easy to establish because the reader has a direct insight to the characters and their world. All that Nolan and Bale needed to do was to offer hints of things a little bit more fantastical such a super abilities and supernatural.

        Batman Begins offered the opportunity with all that mystical build-up in reference to the League of Shadows and Ra’s- even going as far to hint that he is immortal. Before you realize that Ra’s is in fact Ducard the audience is almost buying the fact the decoy Ra’s was real and still very much alive. The Dark Knight showed Joker almost as an all-knowing absolute force of nature. The third film has some events that could have taken advantage of these “hints” planted in the other films but they did not.

        Man of Steel seems to be made of the same cloth of the Dark Knight trilogy but with some added elements introduced to that world.

        • I enjoyed that read. I even it read it a few times. Nice work.