Zack Snyder Says Anything Superman Does Is a Visual Effect

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 1st, 2011 at 8:51 am,

Superman Man of Steel1 Zack Snyder Says Anything Superman Does Is a Visual Effect

Detractors of Zack Snyder’s most CGI-saturated films – for example, Sucker Punch – will no doubt be wondering how the man plans to handle the more unreal elements in Superman: Man of Steel (and more specifically, the gravity-defying, super strong, nigh-on invulnerable character of Superman).

Because Sucker Punch was just released, Zack Snyder has been talking left and right about the forthcoming Man of Steel and what he plans to do with it, going so far as to call it his “most realistic film” yet. Recently, Snyder discussed how he plans to handle the man of steel himself with regard to visual effects.

Cinema Spy asked Snyder – perhaps due to the revelation that Man of Steel would be “realistic” – if the film would be more character-driven than special-effects driven, to which Snyder said:

“Let me just say one thing about Superman – he can’t do anything that’s not a visual effect. He can walk around and talk, but if he’s going to do something physical, that’s a visual effect, because he’s Superman.”

Snyder then compared his Superman to previous franchise outings:

“I think in the past people have tried to figure out how to do that with strings and putting cars on hydraulics and having him stand under it, but we’re really trying to work on a way of doing this [with visual effects] that really makes that feel real. [We're] trying to understand the actual physics of what would have to happen for those things to happen. It just brings reality to that whole concept of picking up a car or whatever. That’s gotta be completely based on reality.”

Obviously, a film like Superman: Man of Steel can’t be made without visual effects, but I think the question is – does Superman himself have to be CGI? And if that answer is yes, then the question becomes – how much of Superman has to be CGI? How often throughout the film does the man himself (his head, his arms, his skin, his eyes, et cetera) have to be CGI?

I’ll never forget how The Matrix Reloaded burly brawl devolved into a CGI-fest with pure videogame physics. Seriously, there was CG Neo, there were CG Agent Smiths — even the cinematography was CGI. Suddenly, any and all consequence was jettisoned from the film. Instead of being impressed by the stunt work and choreography of the fight, all I could think was, “Wow, those animators sure did a … sub-par job, didn’t they?”

Check out the burly brawl (which starts out pretty swimmingly!) below:

The worry – or at least mine – is that this sort of thing could happen to Superman. I’m fine with whatever Superman is interacting with being entirely CGI – go ahead and computer-generate some cars for him to throw, or some monsters for him to punch, or some gigantic buildings for him to crash into. But I would like to see as much of the actual, real-life Henry Cavill as is possible, because I’ve yet to see an animator convincingly replicate a human being’s physical movements (let alone their eyeballs).

That said, as much as I was disappointed by Watchmen, the special effects were pretty convincing, so maybe Zack Snyder has it in him to do the same with Man of Steel.

Superman: Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill and Amy Adams hits theaters December 2012.

Source: Cinema Spy

Superman header image by Jim Lee

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. So if he scratches his head or takes a crap, it´s CGI? Lame.

    • haha

    • Picking his nose? Hope he doesn’t flick that sucker. :-D

  2. Is that a real interview?
    Snyder has done so many it would be easy to fake one for April Fools day.

    • Yes.

  3. I’m not worried as he knows how to handle visual effects properly. The question is however,how is he gonna implement it so ppl won’t just brush it off as “another cgi shot”?

  4. I think Superman Returns did an excellent job of how CG should be used for Superman.

    • Then again, there wasn’t a whole lot of Superman action going on there, hence the reason for this reboot.

      • But what I’m talking is Singer used CG in all the right places.

        • Exactly. The plane crash scene was the best thing about this crapfest.

          • agreed

            • I also agree that sceen was amazing, but if Superman has unlimited strength(as far as we know) than he should not have struggled with it at all. As soon as he got in front of the plane it should have been in his control, instead of waiting till the last second to slow it down. right?

              • Depending on the version, Superman does NOT have unlimited strength.

              • While one can presume that Superman’s strength is “limitless”, the laws of physics are not. A large mass like that airplane STILL has momentum, and is in all actuality not “solid” enough to handle a sudden deceleration of the type proposed by our Kryptonian strongman.

          • I loved the film, but like I said, Singer knew where to use CG, and where not to use it. Snyder doesn’t seem to get it.

            • Except for that inexplicable and horrendous close-up shot of the CGI model of Supes flying amongst the clouds at the end of the movie setting up the classic Reeve fly-by. Absolutely no reason in the world why they couldn’t have incorporated live-action Routh for the close shot and gone back to the model when he moved away from the camera.

          • I disagree, I feel like that Superman Returns plane crash scene jacked costs WAY up for the movie and was completely unnecessary.

            Nobody has considered showing super feats from the perspective of the average viewer: imagine looking up and seeing a plane burning and falling out of the sky, and then seeing this red blur in the sky and suddenly the plane his gliding to the ground on the back of this red blur. Something that happens so fast it’s like the hand of god reached down; divine intervention. A miracle. A Guardian angel.

            THAT, to me, is how you present Superman in a fresh way that’s relevant to modern times: the idea that just like that, when all seems lost or doomed, a miracle can happen and salvation can be found. Jimmy Olson snaps a photo and it ends up on the Daily Planet front page. Superman is an instant icon.

            These close-up sequences of Superman performing his flying and super feats (like in Singer’s film) have gotten to be so…masturbatory. (Aw yeah! We’ll build a 50$ million rig and set and shoot all these close-up 3D angles! Aw yeah!)

            Using more long shot Sequences of Supes in action I feel works better because:

            A) You can make very “picturesque” CGI sequences without breaking the reality of the film.

            B) It’s an actual fresh way of approaching a Superman movie.

            C) It will make for some truly ICONIC superman visuals.

            D) It makes the stylistic choices of the film fit with the themes of the story.

            For any of the super-powered slugfests, you would still film those close up, and use more practical effects like “brick buildings” made of break-away material that the actors could knock each other through and all that.


            • Kofi, I like your “less is more approach” nice job man.

          • I didn’t think it was a crap-ANYTHING. I enjoyed the film, for the most part, and thought it did a great job, effects-wise and character-wise with showing Superman in our world.

            That plane catch (including the chase down to the ground, leading to the catch) was fantastic,especially when the wing broke off (showing the “real” difficulties of slowing an object of that size with that downward momentum) and the rippling effects of the actual catch and lowering of the plane onto the baseball field. Was it Physics 101? No, of course not, but it was beautifully done Comic Book Physics 101.

            I think, from what I’ve seen of Snyder’s work and heard of what he envisions, that S:MoS can and will show an epic Superman…

    • Idk the fact that he says they have to figure it out with visual effects to make it seem real, I think we may be in for something new.

  5. And this is the same guy that dissed Thor? Sounds to me like he wants to make a 2 hour cartoon.

    • he didnt dis Thor, read the article

  6. Yikes! I have tried hard to forget about the final Matrix. But I think even Snyder’s critics have to admit that when it comes to effects and CGI the guy knows what he is doing. So I guess I would say on a scale of 1-10 my level of concern would be at about a 3.

    • thats the second. and cgi has come a very long way. and look at avatar. being worried about the cgi is the last thing im worried about when it comes to this film. i dont want anything in the movie to even come close to the opening scene of sucker punch. it made me cringg

      • Second matrix* and the best one imo

    • I disagree. I find a lot of flaws in Zack Sndyer’s films when it comes to the Visual Effects. Compare Watchmen to Dark Knight. Dark Knight had over 800 VFX shots. Think about it. He needs to use a VFX super power house with an Oscar winning VFX Supervisor from Weta or ILM imho.

  7. He wants to apply real physics to what Superman does.
    Whats the harm in that?

  8. Hey Screenrant, I”m still pretty new to the site but I was wondering if there has been a pole done yet of what people are the most excited for come summer 2012? Superman Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises? Because every time a new piece of news comes out on both the amount of comments surpass everything else bye what seems like a mile…

    • Me I cant wait for dark Knight its a proven product so I am eager to see what Nolan has in store for us, Supes Im still intrested in seeing but , Im mostly more intrested in the Avengers over everything else this is the pinnacle of CBM , IMO. this will be the end all question as to if Marvel are the Geniuses we all hope they are

      • Ditto!

    • Kevin,

      Seems a little early for a 2012 summer movie poll…


  9. april fool… fool

    • You make it like we’re hanging on to the film because it’s all we’ve got. We say good things about it because we like it. It’s a fantastic film in my opinion. You don’t like it and that’s fine. Not sure about you, but I don’t toss away great older films just because a new one is coming along.

  10. I like the idea that the effects will be reality based — so no more swooping in to catch someone with a force that would kill them realistically, or maybe trying to throw a car by the bumper and having the bumper tear off instead, if there’s a midnight rendevous in the sky at 6000 ft., maybe Lois will actually get cold… I’d like to see these things. The plane scene in Superman Returns is a perfect example – that’s why it was so memorable IMHO.
    I remember a comic in which Superman is trying to prove to a blind boy that he’s real, so he picks up a metal door-stop and the boy puts his hand on it to feel Supes stretching the steel, but it gets hot (as it really would) so the boys jerks his hand off, then thinks he’s been tricked because with his hand off it could easily be replaced by another different door-stop. That sort of reality would make it interesting.

    • Sorry, but it was absurd that Lois Lane came out of that plane without a single bump or bruise, when your average person would have been dead (if not in a coma) after being thrown around the cabin like that.

      • What’s to be sorry about? It was also ridiculous that he set the plane down without it breaking in 2 after the beating it had just taken. But up to that opint, it was pretty good (still issues throughout the scene if you want to pick nits… but still closer than alot of other happenings throughout superhero movies)

        • I do tend to suspend my disbelief when it comes to any superhero movie, even with ones that strive for realism, such as Nolan’s Batman flicks. “Sorry” was my polite way of saying I was going to disagree.
          I had read your post as saying you thought that the plane scene was a great example of realism. Perhaps I’m reading not reading that part correctly?

          • *oops, I meant to say: Perhaps I’m not reading that part correctly (had an extraneous “reading” there)

        • you mean more ridiculus that your are arguing about the plane not falling apart or the fact that its in reference to a man who can fly, shoot heat rays out of his eyes, and can lift a large content. lol. He is a comic book hero and he is suppose to be SUPER MAN, lol, so you kinda expect to see him do SUPER things, lol

  11. Why were you disappointed with watchmen???

  12. I know im off subject, but in what way was Watchmen dissapointing. I mean this guy took a very difficult graphic novel and turned it into a 3 hour film, with many to almost every scene ripped off the source material. You people do say movies should follow its source material, how close should these movies be for you all to be satisfied???

    • I second this. watchmen was so far from a disappointing film. it lived up to 99% of my expectations and I understood why some things did need to be changed.
      after seeing that work, I am confident that this movie will succeed.

      • I loved Watchmen, but people keep forgeting that film was based off the graphic novel. It’s already been said this film won’t be based off any particular story, and will be from David Goyer, who is hit or miss, imo. How hard is that for people to understand?

  13. I think some of you are missing the point of what he was saying. Real physics for example, how does a 6 foot 2 200 pound guy lift an air plane without it splitting in half? The weight of the plane based upon the small surface area supes would have to hold it on would mean that the plane would break in half. Things like that. He can’t pick up a building from a physics perspective without it crumble because the structure was weakened. That is what I took from the interview. A more realistic CGI approach to what would actually happen.

    • Or picking up a car by the bumper… That was always the one thing I didn’t like about Smallville

  14. If i see an over abundance of cgi-slo-mo action effects in any previews of this film, I wont be paying money to see this.

  15. “Visual effect” does not necessarily mean “CGI”.

      • Well he did say they are trying to figure out a new way of doing those stuff with visual effects to make them feel real, so who knows could be something new.

  16. I’m not too worried if this is a big budget film. They usually have special effects where everything looks real in big budget movies (if you don’t look too closely). As for the realistic physics, yes, nice way to go.. Also, I hope the movie has more than just 10 minutes of action. I go to theatres to watch the action, not the bloody talk they seem to be doing most of the time in action movies these days (Iron Man 2, Tron Legacy come to mind). I want story and character as well, but don’t reduce the action drastically for that, which has been happening a lot lately.

    Movies like Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar (this was of much higher budget though) had great effects, so I’m hoping they go with ILM. My favourite special effects company (even though others are very good)..

    And yeah, just no Matrix Reloaded’s CGI Neo type Superman please, just keep that out :P (i love the film though)

  17. i kinda hope when spiderman fights the lizard swat team in the web reboot it looks something like that matrix fight posted here, but better, that would be so cool to see spidey fight like that against multiple villains. oh, and yea the red blue blur miracle idea kofi? thats been dragged out over the last few seasons of smallville as a cost effective method to show clark use his powers, so its not anything new. its snyder, itll probably have elements from the sucker punch samurai scene, which was the films standout action sequence. ive liked all snyders work so far (enjoyed sucker punch but didnt think it was a great movie, i mean, hot chicks dragons zombies awesome music, thats all it was, but thats what i expected) so he’ll deliver something enjoyable.

  18. You guys also have to be aware of which Visual effects company this film will be using. If it was my choice i would have ILM or Weta Digital to handle all the heavey visual effects. Weta digital does really good at creating CG characters. example: Avtar, Lord of The Rings, King Kong…a good fit to create a CGI Superman. But For ILM, they are really good at creating structures that have edges and shiny hard surfaces, and buildings, things of that sort, example: Transformers, Star Trek, Iron Man, Star Wars…u get the pic. So if I was Zack Synder I would deff pick one of those companys, or heck PICK BOTH.

    • Agreed! ILM and Weta Digital.. pick either one, I’ll be happy (like ILM more though). Transformers 1 had near perfect special effects in my opinion.

  19. The visiual in Superman Returns, where is lifts the suttle into space, Superman himself is TOTALLY CGI! Could you tell? I sure couldnt!

    • I strongly disagree. Have you seen Kung Fu Hustle? Or as I prefer Kung Fu as it is called in Asia. I hate the re-titling by Taratino. What a hack.

      • Not understanding how KungFu Hustle has any bearing on my post. Could you please elaborate a bit?

        • There are scenes in the movie (which were released back in 2003) with massive fight scenes with stunts comparable to that of “Matrix Reloaded”. And for a film of that budget to do the same thing so much better, is just sad on the Matrix’ part.

          The Matrix (2 and 3) were bad movies for their storyline and characters, but the effects used were in no way helpful to redemption. The first movie introduced groundbreaking work in computers and the sequals either used the exact same effects or tried to do more than what was possible.

          Good effects dont always mean realistic CGI, it means not being able to tell what was done with good directing and visual tricks, and what was done on a computer. And The Matrix was all computer.

          We hope that “Man of Steel” isnt going to be a Computer program on auto-run. That him lifting a car will seem so real that you think, maybe he worked out enough and the car was light enough that he’s actually lifting a car. The longer a movie keeps the suspended disbelief, the longer people will enjoy it.

  20. This film is a lost cause. But whatever Zack decides to do please do NOT use Sony Imageworks as the main VFX House. And please find a better Visual Effects Supervisor. Get someone from Weta (Avatar) or ILM.

    • Too right. Never liked Sony’s visual effects. never liked the effects in Spiderman much. ILM or Weta Digital it should be..

      • Vic…

        Both it and THE SCIENCE OF SUPERHEROES do a wonderful job of explaining the wide variety of Superman’s abilities…both are great reads.

    • >>If it is to be grounded in the real world and using actual physics to explain how he is able to do what he does then forget it…

      Snyders comments dont say anything about explaining how hes able to do his tricks. He only says that it should look like it could be real. If there was a man would could lift cars with ease, then how would it look when he lifts that car, and what would the effect on the car be?

      Superman himself doesnt have to be realistic, his powers dont have to be explained, but the effects what his powers have on his surroundings, should be. Thats what i understand snyder said with his comments.

      • Five apple,

        EXACTLY what I take away from the statement.


  21. i have faith in him, people bashing on snyder should just go back under their rock (the comics). HE’S THE DIRECTOR NOT THE BLOODY WRITER OR PRODUCER GET THAT INTO YOUR HEADS ALREADY !!!

    when he says realistic i’m sure he doesn’t mean having actual physics he probably means the way the muscles contract and expand and how the car is taken into the air. he’s a good visual effects designer and a great editor i’m sure the movie will be great to say the least.

      • wow , you never say anything that isnt taken out of context , or use the wrong word to describe what it is you are looking for, cause I mean everything you say is analzyed by hundreds of fanboys, when some one jumps in front of you and asks you a question. I think people read to much into some of these things, its laughable. It really doesnt matter what he says only what he does, so if everything is going to be done through Cgi or through pratical Fx work we will have to wait and see, until a trailer or some footage is leaked.

      • snyder’s renown for his epic special f/x just watch the battle scenes from 300 and you’ll get a good idea of what the visual style and the action will be like.

        most people refer to realistic as something they would/could see in everyday life. my interpretation is that they aren’t just gonna make him more grounded but human like, to show that even though he’s an E.T he’s not to different from the average human. they’re going to show this by giving him a more human like physic which tenses and strains at times to convey realism as opposed to him just flipping a car without showing an signs of muscle movement etc (which imo makes him seem like a robot).

        throw your comics out of the picture for a sec and think logically, you’ll probably be more sceptical about the movie that way and will appreciate the fact that snyder is going to do the best damn job of an interpretation as he can… the script is what will ultimately decide the fate of the movie, b/c snyder is a pretty decent director.

        • Superman picking up a car should be tantamount to a human picking up an apple. You wouldn’t see our muscles contract picking up an apple so you shouldn’t see Supes do that. The guy lifted a continent; lifting a car or a building should be child’s play.

      • Thats what i didnt like about CGI Superman when they could of did it on srings like Donner and looked more realistic.

      • When he said it would be realistic that was in response to a question about the visual style of Superman. Really compared to his other movies this would be the one without a lot of CGI environments unless he goes into space or another planet or something to that effect.

  22. superman was doomed the second Snyder got signed on.

    • When I saw 300, I said then, THIS is the director we need for Superman!

  23. I’ll preface by saying I’m not a fan of Snyder’s nor have I been wowed by anything that’s come out about this film, particularly the casting. That said, there is nothing in his quote (or the interview) that explicitly states that everything Superman is going to do is going to be CGI. Visual Effects cover the entire scope of work from computer generated effects to physical (“practical”) effects. He’s saying that the physical things Superman does require visual effects and he’s right. They’re trying to figure out the physics to make that as realistic as possible in any effect they use.

    It’s a lot of assumption and conjecture to think that means flat-out everything the character does, aside from dialogue scenes, will be CG’d.

  24. when superman flies down to save Lois Lane from falling, will his arms of steel cut her into 3 equal parts like physics says?

  25. 1. He is right. Superman’s powers being portrayed with VFX would be able to amp up the awesome of them, as long as the CGI is fantastic. And I trust Snyder with at least that much.

    2. He never said “Superman is going to be CGI.” So stop attacking something you are assuming.

    3. The Matrix scene. The CGI was good for the time. It sucks now, but the action in the fight got 100% more awesome the second the CGI started. And I want my Superman 100% more awesome than the cable, crane, hydraulic assisted Superman that Singer gave us.

    • On the 3rd point, I will agree with you. When I watched it in the theatre in 2003, I didn’t realize that everything had just gone CG in the scene. I had only realized that this scene is awesome.. It was after a year or two that I realized after watching the scene again.

      As long as everything looks real (or close to it), it’ll be fine.

    • Also there are other types of visual effects than CGI and if anyone could think up a new way of bringing Superman’s amazing feats it would be Snyder ;)

      • I meant *bringing Superman’s amazing feats to the big screen.

  26. Lol, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie flops. Pity Snyder had Nolan lend him pretty much the director’s chair.