‘Man of Steel’: Zack Snyder says Superman ‘must be taken seriously’

April 25, 2013 | 11:42 a.m.
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"Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill, left, and director Zack Snyder on the film's set. (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

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Amy Adams as Lois Lane, left, Henry Cavill as Superman and Antje Traue as Faora in "Man of Steel." (Warner Bros.)

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Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, left, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

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Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, left, and Amy Adams as Lois Lane in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

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Zack Snyder at CinemaCon on April 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Long before director Zack Snyder began making “Man of Steel,” he’d heard a little piece of comic-book trivia that stuck with him: Superman’s red-and-yellow S-shield is the second-most-recognized symbol in the world, surpassed only by the Christian cross.

“Whether that’s completely true or not, I don’t know, but you want it to be true. You feel like it could be true,” Snyder said. “And it’s intimidating to say, ‘We’re going to take on the “S” and we’re going to make it live again.’”

Reviving the world’s first comic-book superhero on the big screen — he turns 75 this year — is no small task, despite the ubiquity of that logo. The trick, says the director, was to treat the character seriously — and to have a script penned by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, major forces behind the massively successful “Dark Knight” film trilogy. The pair aimed to modernize the Last Son of Krypton and recruited Snyder (whose previous films include comic adaptations “300” and “Watchmen”) to direct the film, which flies into theaters June 14.

“In the comic-book universe, you have all these sort of minor celebrities that have been put up as the end-all, be-all,” Snyder said, including past films that have featured Green Lantern, Ghost Rider and the Punisher among others. “And then you have the fallen king who’s sadly relegated to the shadows. It’s cool to resurrect him and say, ‘Understand that this is the granddaddy of all superheroes.’”

The Clark Kent portrayed by Henry Cavill in Snyder’s film lives in today’s world, not an idyllic, sepia-tinged past nor a gleaming, glossy future.

PHOTOS: 75 images of Superman

“It’s the most realistic movie I’ve made,” Snyder said. “There’s no tongue in anyone’s cheek. I’m not apologizing for Superman in any way. I’m saying, ‘Superman is a thing that must be taken seriously and embraced and understood.’”

The filmmakers approached “Man of Steel” as though no other Superman film had been made, referring solely to the comics as source material, said producer Charles Roven.

“We had the canon that we needed to pay homage to,” Roven said. “We need to make sure that Superman comes from Krypton. We weren’t going to change that — those kinds of touchstones. But everything else between those touchstones was fair game.”

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After the bleak and gritty Dark Knight films and the slick glibness of Tony Stark and his ilk, the filmmakers believe the time is ripe for a hero as earnest and sincere as Superman, the eternal advocate of “truth, justice and the American way.” But unlike previous iterations of the Big Blue Boy Scout, Cavill’s Superman isn’t always sure what that means.

“He’s not super-perfect, and he might not always make the right decision, especially as he’s growing up and trying to find himself,” said producer (and Snyder’s wife) Debbie Snyder. “I think he’s struggling to find out what is the right thing to do.”

“We tried not to make him so predictably morally black and white,” Zack Snyder added. “We gave him some shades of gray. His inherent goodness is still there, and if you really think about it, you still want him to be right and to make the right choices and to do the right thing. I think that we all hope for that in ourselves, and I think that’s what always has made him a very interesting character. He’s a Christlike figure. There’s no two ways about it.”

By couching Superman’s intrinsic goodness in the face of the human struggle in a realistic, sometimes harsh world, the filmmakers illuminated a message that’s already omnipresent on T-shirts, jewelry, backpacks and kids’ pajamas: The glyph that Superman wears on his chest doesn’t stand for Superman as many people believe; the S-shield is actually the Kryptonian symbol for hope itself.

“It is very much is a story of hope,” said Cavill, the British actor who starred in “Immortals” and Showtime’s “The Tudors.” “Hope is strength and victory against adversity, or at least the hope of victory against adversity, and that is what Superman represents.”

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark


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22 Responses to ‘Man of Steel’: Zack Snyder says Superman ‘must be taken seriously’

  1. tony1956 says:

    I remain hopeful that Snyder and company have gotten this right. And it sounds like they have. As iconic as Superman is, he hasn’t always gotten the proper treatment befitting such a character. Even his own comics publishing company haven’t always done him justice–case in point his current incarnation. I don’t expect “Man of Steel” to be MY ideal version –or anyone’s for that matter. Superman means many thing to many people and that’s the beauty of this original super-hero

  2. Drew says:

    What is the problem??!! Why isn't Superman an American actor??!! Ridiculous and wrong.

  3. Movieye says:

    I'm looking forward to MAN OF STEEL, but all this talk about taking Superman seriously makes me remember that the first superb seasons of SMALLVILLE already explored 'Superman' angst. If this new movie can capture the spirit, earnestness and insecurity of SMALLVILLE's Clark Kent, it will hit the mark.

  4. Nathan says:

    I sure hope the movie is good despite Snyder having a very checkered history when it comes to his films. Also Cavill doesn't seem like box office material but hopefully with the right script and director he has proven capable of the role; though Synder seems to be playing up the young Clark Kent rather than the older one in the movie and concentrating more on his troubled past then his adventures at the Daily Planet. Fingers crossed the movie is successful but I dont believe for a minute that the whole DC/WB franchise depends on the movie's success. If it underperforms WB will simply come up with a new strategy and proceed from there.

  5. close says:

    description here sounds like……smallville!

  6. This movie will be taken seriously… look at the cast for God sakes… Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams…. that is serious Oscar talent and great actors all.__Will be a GREAT movie.

  7. Lang says:

    Can’t understand why people are stressing about this, this is going to be the best version of superman we’ve seen. It’s a new modern take that’s greatly required so people lets embrace this new vision, it’s going to be awesome.

  8. mtnrunner2 says:

    "Seriously" as in thinking values are important = good. "Seriously" as in relentlessly negative = me pushing the eject button. As I did with the last Dark Knight movie I watched.

  9. Brett says:

    While the best Superman will always be Christopher Reeve's performance in the first two films of his run as the character, I am open to the possibility that Cavill will do a fine job. My only fear is Snyder's tendency to overuse slow-motion "bullet time" effects for his fight sequences. Hopefully, he's abandoned that technique for this film.

  10. Straight tothepoint says:

    Shades of gray, huh! It's becoming more clear the movie is going to be gray as well. Oh we'll thankfully we have Christ. The real hero of all the universe.

  11. Mike Gipson says:

    I wish Jim Lee would get the hell out of DC Comics. His style and sensibilities always worked better at Marvel.

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