Nearly two years ago, I was on the set of Man of Steel on the 24th day of filming in Plano, Illinois. Today, I can finally reveal what the stars and director Zack Snyder had to say about the movie, what we saw that day, and why it's gonna be So Freaking Awesome!
1. The Action
Zack Snyder personally told me that there is action throughout Man of Steel.
Superman Returns (2006) disappointed many moviegoers partly for its story, but it was the lack of action that turned off a vocal portion of the fans.
"Yes, Superman will punch someone," said Snyder.
If the trailers and TV commercials are any indicator, we're in for quite a ride.
2. The realism
Just as with the Dark Knight Trilogy, the filmmakers want this to be a realistic film, as though it could actually happen.
Said producer Chuck Roven, "We want the film to feel that it could be real. That's really important to us. We want the drama to play real. We want the character's emotional choices to play real. So, in everything that we've done from the way that Zack is shooting the picture to the way we decided how to do our best to make sure that you're feeling like you're there both in terms of the production design and in terms of the visual effects, in terms of the practical effects, we've really tried to do our best to deliver that real feeling.
"We know that the more real elements we could figure out a way to put in there, like that craft that you saw in the barn, it's going to make you feel like, ‘Gee, we're emotionally connected to the drama.' We feel that's really important and we want to deliver that."
3. It's old, yet new
We know there will be some tweaks and changes to the Superman story, which is something that Superman fans are used to by now. Those changes are necessary in order to make Superman relevant for a wider, modern audience.
However, the filmmakers are very aware of the canon and they will honor it. As producer Deborah Snyder gave us a tour of downtown Smallville, she said,
"I think the idea of whatever changes or whatever things that we've done, it was always to honor the canon. I feel like that's always, as you know, been something very important to Zack, but also there are things in making him more relevant, things that you need to do."
Seasoned Superman fans and newcomers should have a shared experience.
4. Henry Cavill--'nuff said
In case you haven't been paying attention, Henry Cavill is awesome. He's a very talented actor who looks great in the role. He works hard and he's actually humble, like a Superman should be. For someone in the middle of rocketing to mega-star fame, he manages to keep his feet firmly on the ground … at least when he's not doing wire work
Deborah Snyder said, "I'll tell you one thing, Henry has been really awesome because he's here almost every day and his training, and to maintain the training when we're shooting is quite a big deal. So sometimes he's getting up at four o'clock in the morning and he trains before he comes to set. He hasn't complained."
Zack Snyder told us, "Henry is like, Superman-ish, you know, in his feel. He's really kind. He's incredibly humble in real life. He can project a naïveté without seeming naïve, which is really a difficult quality. I don't feel like you can take advantage of him, but he'd still help you change your tire if you had a flat tire on the side of the road. There's a fine line there."
5. Kryptonian physics
The planet Krypton has to be different from Earth. While other versions have achieved the "look" of an alien world, Man of Steel will even focus on the physics of a larger, denser planet
Screenwriter David S. Goyer told us,"We decided that on Krypton, aside from the fact that it's got a different gravity, it's got a different atmosphere than we do, it's a mega gravity planet, so gravity there is anywhere from four to 10 times the gravity on earth. If we went to Krypton, we couldn't breathe its atmosphere. The sun radiates in a different spectrum of light. Different radiation and things like that, a lot more UV radiation on Krypton. All these things come into play and they also explain why Superman has the powers that he has."
So how does that work out when Superman is on Earth?
"Zack and his team did a really interesting scale of power, how much fire power each of the....a 40-caliber bullet, a 50—you know, these kinds of things, like a shell grenade would work on a human versus a Kryptonian. You'll get the physics on all of that, so like, an M-4 would knock a human back this far. An M-4 would knock a Kryptonian back this far. The fire power from the A-10 Warthogs would knock a human back this far. It will knock a Kryptonian back this far. So there are science rules within this movie and this universe that things have to apply to, so it's not just like, magically do whatever. The Kryptonians can jump yea high in our gravity kind of thing. They can punch this hard, lift this much, that sort of thing."
6. First contact
One of the themes in the trailers has involved Jonathan Kent telling young Clark "You're the answer to ‘are we alone in the Universe,'" followed by General Zod informing the populace, "You are not alone," before invading.
Goyer spoke about his initial ideas for the script. "I realized that if the world became aware that Kal existed, it would be a first contact story, and in many ways, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened in human history. It would change the world forever, just the sheer fact that he existed on the planet and then subsequently, the knowledge of what he could do, it would force the religions of the world to respond. There would be fear. There would be awe. I realized at least cinematically they'd always just kinda jumped over that.
"So I went back. I was just curious to read the very first seven, eight, nine, ten issues of Action Comics. I was just curious to see how far we had come. It just sparked my—I think they deal with his origin in the first couple of panels and I just remember thinking, "Holy crap. This would be the biggest thing that ever happened ever."
7. The suit
The suit has a specific purpose beyond making Superman look like Superman. I know what it is, but that would be a big spoiler.
Acorrding to Goyer: "The costume has a utility and we're going to explain where the costume comes from and why and he doesn't just fly into the crystal thing and come out with a costume. There's a reason for this suit to exist that you'll see in the movie. Even the way it looks and what it does and what it's used for is explained."
As for Henry Cavill's reaction to first seeing it, "I honestly thought it was really cool," he told us. "There's something about the suit, which you don't know what to expect. You come onto a project like this and you hear about modernization and you hear about bringing everything forward to today. All you can do is hope that it's going to look cool and different from anything else you've seen before. I'm pretty sure it does. I love putting it on. I love going through all the different phases of how the suit developed."
8. Easter eggs
Man of Steel will be chock full of references to Superman's past, some of which will be quite subtle. For instance in downtown Smallville, we will see a post office called "Ezra's Mail Depot," which is a reference to Ezra Small, the founder of Smallville. In addition, young Clark attends Weisinger's Elementary School, named after Mort Weisinger, who edited the Superman comics in the 1950s and 60s.
I asked producer Snyder if there would be more of those references for the big-time fans to notice.
"I think there is. Alex (McDowell) is really great at incorporating these things. A lot of times we've called David and say, 'Okay, we need a certain name of something'—rather than just naming it something fictitious, we always go to David because he was the most expert on all matters. He'd come up with some ideas that were really historical."
Imagine having to meet or beat the performance Terrence Stamp gave as General Zod in Superman I (1978) and II (1980). That's what Michael Shannon is up against. But this isn't the same old cuddly, genocidal maniac we all love.
Goyer told us, "I loved Terence Stamp as Zod, but that was a much more arch, broad comic book type of film and character whereas what Shannon is doing with Zod isn't. We really get into a lot of his back story and he's a very complex character."
10. A brave, new Snyder
Director Snyder is best known for his work on films like 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, which have a specifically unique style involving great action, visuals and slow motion effects, but he's leaving that behind for Man of Steel and focusing on a broader, faster scope.
Says producer Snyder, "He's shooting the action in a different way. There's a certain style to it. You know, I don't think it's going to be as handheld as say like, a Bourne where it's very messy. But, it's definitely, I think you'll be pleased at the action and what he's doing, but he is doing different things."
And from Zack himself, "It's a prerequisite to go see Superman if you like comic books at all. It's not like you're going to pass on it. It's like, 'Ah, I'm not going to see that.' Frankly, a good fan boy will go see any superhero movie. They should. I mean, what are you going to do, pass on like, 'Captain America' or pass on—'Well, I don't want to see that. That looks stupid.' Really? Really? It's two hours. Go f**king see it. And then you can tell me."
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