DC Comics fans have at least one film to look forward to in the immediate future, as Zack Snyder's Man of Steel looks to reinvigorate the Superman property on the big screen. Snyder and Warner Bros. have turned to scriptwriter David S. Goyer and executive producer Christopher Nolan - two men responsible for The Dark Knight trilogy - to help make that a reality.
Of course, Man of Steel's Superman can't possibly be as grim or grounded as Nolan's Batman, or the studio risks alienating fans of the comic book's (perceived) whimsical and more optimistic tone. It's a fine line to walk, but Goyer is emphasizing that being realistic doesn't have to mean being dark, and some aspects of Superman's life simply aren't carefree. Whether bleak or hopeful, fans can look forward to a Superman film that speaks to today's world.
Comparisons between Superman and Batman are nothing new, as the pair have largely defined the world of DC superheroes for decades. Not only are they the only two DC heroes to star in undeniably successful film franchises, but they might also the be best hope for DC to gain ground on their competition at Marvel. Fears that DC and Warner Bros. would seek to replicate their success by casting Superman as a dark, troubled, and potentially angst-ridden antihero arose quickly, with early rumors hinting that much of Superman's origin story could even be re-written for Man of Steel.
Since then neither Snyder nor the cast has dispelled the impression that Man of Steel would be noticeably different from previous live-action versions. Michael Shannon, the newest incarnation of General Zod, claimed that the new take was the same type of "edgy" as Nolan's Batman, before another actor claimed Snyder was using the comparison as part of his pitch. Before fans get the idea that Superman is going to be turned into a raspy-voiced, pessimistic shadow-lurker, David S. Goyer wants to outline some key differences.
While promoting Da Vinci's Demons at Rome Fiction Fest, Goyer was asked about his feelings on 'reinvention' in regards to Man of Steel, and how the story will compare to Nolan's past projects. Here's how the writer sees the difference:
"Christopher Nolan and I have been trying to bring the naturalism of the Batman trilogy. Our approach has always been naturalist, realistic; we always try to imagine these stories as if they could happen in the same world in which we live. It is not an easy thing with Superman, and this does not necessarily mean that it will be a dark film, but in working on this reboot we are thinking about what would happen if a story like this really happened. How would people react to this? What impact would the presence of Superman in the real world have? What I like to do are stories set in 'genres' which, however, are not cartoons, or comics. I did the same thing with Da Vinci's Demons, and I will do the same with 'The Man of Steel.'"
It's hard to think of a less innately relatable character than Superman - a being who is not only from an alien world but superior to the average person in nearly every way. Yet putting the audience into that cape and bodysuit and asking what any one of us would do with that kind of power is exactly what Snyder is hoping to accomplish. The first theatrical trailer showed that Clark Kent would be taking some time to find himself, but it's unlikely, given Goyer's description, that his travels end with some all-encompassing epiphany, with doubts or struggles becoming a thing of the past.
Goyer went on to explain that current events and political movements are likely to be explored, at least on a broad level. Many references to the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement that were sprinkled throughout The Dark Knight Rises may have gone unnoticed, but the scriptwriter's interest in what makes people these days tick will inevitably crop up in Man of Steel's plot and dialogue. As Superman is a foreigner who lives among humanity in secret, it doesn't take much imagination to see where Goyer and Nolan could take the discussion.
But given the pair's track record, it's more likely that Man of Steel will get down to the universal nature of acceptance and purpose, not the politics or ideology. Superman has emotions, despite how Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (2006) characterized the Kryptonian. And if the film focuses in on the suspicion, the doubt, fear and hatred with which today's world would inevitably view a super-powered outsider, and force Henry Cavill's Superman to face that, then Snyder will certainly have blazed a trail.
Those issues were at the heart of Mark Waid's Irredeemable comic book series (if you haven't read it, do so now) and cast DC's 'big blue Boy Scout' in an incredibly human light, so if any of that manages to work its way into Man of Steel, moviegoers will benefit greatly.
Think Goyer's desire to ground superhero stories in familiar issues is a wise way to build an interconnected movie universe? Or should Superman by definition rise above common, personal narratives?
Man of Steel will be arriving in theaters on June 14th, 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.