In a recent interview with Empire Magazine, Man of Steel director Zach Snyder and writer David Goyer offered an explanation for what they hope to bring to their upcoming movie that hasn’t been seen in any of the previous handful of films based on DC Comics’ most famous superhero.
“We’re approaching Superman as if it weren’t a comic book movie, as if it were real,” Goyer claims. “It just struck me that if Superman really existed in the world, first of all this story would be a story about 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.”
Whereas Goyer is focused on the immensity of Superman’s alien origins, Deborah Snyder (wife of director Zach Snyder and a co-producer on Man of Steel) remains focused on what this all means for the would-be Clark Kent’s internal struggle. “He is looking for his place in the world,” Snyder states. “He is a little lost when we find him, trying to figure it out. That makes him very real. You can relate to the humanity in him.”
Despite this acknowledgement that Superman is decidedly not human, director Zach Snyder believes that the ultimate goal of Man of Steel is to explore whatever alien version of humanity the Big Blue Boy Scout might have hidden behind that iconic chest emblem. This concept is as clever as it is unoriginal: Every Superman film created to date attempts to humanize the character. Superman Returns, for instance, featured a striking number of scenes in which the most powerful being on planet Earth spends his evenings moping over a failed relationship instead of, say, preventing the deaths of millions. And while that’s generally a safe approach to weaving a story about Superman, it’s also the reason why so many Superman films have failed.
Past directors, in attempting to humanize the character forget to include an ample amount of superheroics alongside the emotionality and super-powered existential ennui that’s almost never seen in Superman’s comic book origins, but appears far too often in his cinematic incarnations. When the average person goes to see a movie about Superman, they don’t want to see him weeping over an old flame. Instead, they’d like the Man of Steel to live up to his moniker by outrunning locomotives, stopping bullets with unrealistically adamantine parts of his anatomy, and leaping over tall buildings in a single bound.
Fortunately, Snyder seems to realize this. “We’re not trying to take the super out of Superman,” he says. Then again, based on Snyder’s previous works that have been criticized as being bombastic-yet-shallow (like 2011’s Sucker Punch), nuance is not Snyder’s strong suit. Goyer has the chops to make Man of Steel a hit (his list of credits includes such successful superhero movies as The Dark Knight and Blade II), but if Snyder go with a “visuals first, story later” approach to movie making, there’s not much even the best script can do to salvage the project.