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Not all secrets are as easy to keep as Clark Kent’s true identity. Still, that doesn’t make the reveal any less rewarding. This morning director Zack Snyder hosted a watch party and live commentary of Man of Steel (2013) on the social media app Vero, followed by a fan Q&A. In the same format as his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) commentary in March, Snyder shared behind-the-scenes stories, storyboards and Easter eggs. All of this served as the lead-up to an unprecedented announcement, with a special guest, the man in blue himself, Henry Cavill. There will certainly be much to talk about in the coming months, but for now the Man of Steel commentary provides an opportunity to go back to where the DC film universe first began.
Here are the key points about Man of Steel from Zack Snyder’s live commentary:
Structures of Krypton
Snyder revealed he was very interested in the architecture of Krypton, and specifically aimed to create an art nouveau influence within its structures. The director also revealed that the phallic and yonic aspects of Krypton’s designs, pointed out online over the years, were “of course, not by accident.” Snyder was interested in the idea of fertility symbols being prevalent in Kryptonin architecture, highlighting the irony of the fact that the Kryptonians don’t have natural births, with the exception being Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer).
Snyder also revealed a fun tidbit that he and the crew used the Kryptonian chamber set, where Kal-El is born, as a skateboard park, until someone took a spill and the producer Deborah Snyder, also the director’s wife, shut it down.
Early in the film, there’s a shot of a damaged moon visible from Krypton. Snyder revealed that this damage was caused by Doomsday in the ancient past. This specific reference to Doomsday’s destruction comes from the comics in which the eventual Superman slayer was bred to be the perfect evolutionary being, dubbed ‘The Ultimate,’ and traveled across worlds wreaking havoc. During this era, Doomsday had a run-in with Prince Uxas, the Apokoliptian who would one day be known as Darkseid. Doomsday, of course, plays a prominent role in Batman v Superman, but Snyder says, it was something, like the LexCorp trucks and Wayne satellite during the battle of Metropolis, that he wanted to plant early on in order to create a larger sense of this world. “I really like that character,” Snyder said. “From the beginning I thought it would be cool to have Doomsday involved somehow in the movies.” Given Doomsday’s comic book history with Darkseid, there’s a chance that an earlier iteration of the character shows up in Snyder’s Justice League cut.
Snyder’s said he envisioned Jor-El as an outsider on Krypton, one with a relationship to the natural world that most Kryptonians had turned away from in favor of technology. Jor-El, he said, is “connected to the planet and its ancient qualities.” The filmmaker aimed to explore the duality between the natural world and constructed world through Jor-El and his use of Kryptonian technology. The codex, the ancient Kryptonian skull, was seen as a kind of “organic hard drive” technology bound to the natural world. This idea was also followed through in the holographic depiction of Jor-El that Clark meets later in the film, which Snyder refers to as the “ghost in the machine,” the natural bound to technology. This connective tissue found in the natural past and the technological future defines Jor-El, and ultimately his son’s birth and origin.
Snyder has spoken previously about the influence Joseph Campbell and his writings on the hero’s journey have had on his work. He revealed that there is a Campbell quote, written in the Kryptonian language created for the film, on the Kryptonian citadel. Snyder recited it, “and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” The quote is also on Superman’s suit in Batman v Superman. Snyder said that the quote defines the hero’s journey for him, but it’s also something he personally carries with him in his daily life.
Sea-Sickness and Aquaman
Snyder revealed that while filming Clark Kent’s intro on the fishing boat, everyone except for Cavill and the camera operator got sick. Luckily, not much of the film’s shoot took place on water. And speaking of water, Snyder addressed the popular fan theory that the whales the rescue Clark after the oil rig explosion were sent by Aquaman. The director coyly said, “I don’t know … it’d be cool.”
Clark Kent shares the same connection to nature as his biological father did. “The depiction of the natural world was important to me in reference to Superman, and frankly this notion of Superman living among us. The natural world would be his way in.” The close-up images of nature, that are reminiscent of director Terrence Malick, were Snyder’s way of highlighting Clark’s deep sense of connection to nature and his place within it, even as an alien.
Snyder had nothing but great things to say about Kevin Costner and his portrayal of Jonathan Kent. “Kevin was amazing. I really enjoyed working with him. A great guy and a really sensitive actor. He really helped us with these scenes with young Clark.” Snyder said he found the delivery of “you are my son” really moving. He was also touched by the notion that Clark couldn’t save his father out of respect for his wishes, and that moment informs his choice in his battle against Zod (Michael Shannon) later in the film.
Snyder also revealed that he had some fun on set throwing the football with Costner, and that as a fan of his work, and Field of Dreams (1989) in particular, it was a special moment for him.
On the Road
Clark’s pre-Superman wanderings were important in terms of developing the character and allowing Clark to find his place in the world. The scene in the bar where Clark defends a waitress was an opportunity to see Clark avoid a physical fight and turn the other cheek when confronted by a bully. In this moment, he has a choice to walk away. And the idea that he can simply walk away was also an interesting notion to Snyder. He admitted to being really taken by the idea of Clark Kent hitchhiking. “He could run anywhere, but he’s not in a hurry.”
Snyder had a lot of praise to offer Amy Adams, who he referred to as “our awesome Lois.” On her casting he said, “I was lucky to get her and I continue to be blessed by her friendship.” He also reiterated Adams’ fear of flying in helicopters, which he said was understandable, and was something he accommodated for with visual effects for her helicopter scenes in Batman v. Superman.
Scout Ship Mystery
Snyder pointed out the much-discussed open pod on the Kryptonian scout ship that landed on Earth 2,000 years ago. “One escaped. That was definitely by design. Stay tuned,” Snyder said. Fan theories about Supergirl entering the franchise have been long-running, and the character’s introduction into the DC film universe has long been on Warners’ docket. Snyder admitted he didn’t have any specific plans for the character but it would be great to see, leaving the possibility that the open pod could potentially belong to another character.
Actor Alessandro Juliani who is monitoring the Kryptonian ship in the Arctic (and who also played Emil Hamilton on Smallville) had a small role in Snyder’s Watchmen (2009) where he was keeping tabs on Doctor Manhattan’s whereabouts on Mars. The monitor screen Juliani is looking at is of Mars, as a small Watchmen Easter egg. Snyder admits that he thought about putting Doctor Manhattan on the monitor screen but decided it was a step too far. Doctor Manhattan and Superman recently clashed in the comic book sequel to Watchmen, Doomsday Clock.
In terms of the iconic red and blue suit that’s revealed in the Kryptonian ship, Snyder said that the idea that it belonged to an ancient Kryptonian was valid. But said that his idea was that the suit was generated by the Jor-El AI. The black suit, seen underneath Jor-El’s armor, is the family suit, but the red and blue one is the public facing suit, “the suit of optimism” according to Snyder.
Philosophy and Religion
In terms of Clark’s morality and sense of self, Snyder said, “Clark grew up in Kansas; he has these values that are culturally part of who he is.” But at the same time, he felt it was important to show that he had aspirations beyond his local Kansas community. Snyder gave Clark a philosophy book in the flashback because he wanted to show that the character was always thinking about the idea of becoming something more, and struggling with what he could become. “He has a huge respect for this place. He respects his father and his job as a farmer. It’s an amazing job. But again, his destiny lies beyond. That’s the thing he’s grappling with.”
Snyder also highlighted the scene in the church between Clark and the pastor as another moment that was really important to him. For him, the stained glass depiction of Jesus kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane that’s in frame behind Clark alludes to a couple questions. “What will be asked of Clark? What kind of sacrifices will he be asked to make if he gives himself to what is morally right?” Snyder followed up on the Christian allegory in Superman’s story in Batman v Superman and Clark’s sacrifice for the world.
Hell on Earth
During Zod’s vision of making Earth into New Krypton, Superman sinks into a pit of human skulls. Snyder said this is Clark’s concept of Hell. “I think it’s really powerful and sort of beautiful,” the director said, alluding to the notion that, for Clark, the worst possible fate in existence would his inability to stop the human casualties that would result from Zod’s terraforming. Superman’s greatest fear isn’t his death, but the death of everyone around him.
Battle of Smallville
Snyder said Superman’s fight against Zod’s army in Smallville was the most technically difficult aspect of the film, particularly Superman’s 2-against-1 fight with Faora (Antje Traue) and Namek. He said it was “a difficult puzzle. You have to previsualize how it’s all going to fit together … it was fun, but it was complicated.” There was a lot of consideration put into where the camera would be and how it could best be utilized to give a sense of what these aliens with pretty evenly matched powers would look like in a battle, and what the damage that would ensue would also look like.
The director also said that the human element was really important. On one hand there are the civilians and Superman is “trying to get everyone to lock their doors and hide. He doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
There are also characters who aren’t running or hiding.
“It’s cool to have these human characters that are doing their own heroic things alongside Superman. I thought that was really important to the movie,” Snyder said.
On the controversial amount of destruction seen in Metropolis, Snyder reiterated that this was an invasion movie, and had a lot of science fiction elements he felt he needed to make good on. As a result, there had to be real consequence to the terraforming. He wanted the World Engines to have volcanic attributes, as “world breakers and world shapers,” again going back to Kryptonians’ interesting relationship with nature and technology.
Cavill admitted that it was hard to pick one favorite moment he had shooting the film, saying that it was all really special to him and a major part of his life that he can remember every moment of. But he did note that the moment where “Supes” stands under the gravity beam and destroys the World Engine was really cool for him.
Superman v Zod
Snyder’s directive for the Superman vs. Zod fight was to envision it as the ultimate bar room brawl, where the stakes are the world.” Snyder said that Shannon took the role of Zod very seriously, and caught a few people off guard. Cavill described him as being very chill, according to Snyder. Backed by Deborah Snyder’s laughter, the filmmaker said of Shannon, “He has an incredible sense of humor” but also an intensity and “he was scaring Debbie and everyone. But then he’d break and was a really nice guy.”
Snyder once again addressed the film’s most controversial moment, in which Superman snaps Zod’s neck in order to prevent him from killing a family. Superman’s journey as an alien in this film “is also all about him ending up alone. We can debate forever whether Superman would kill Zod. But the real question is his legacy. He’s choosing. He’s choosing us.” But in the act of killing Zod, “he’s so hurt. He’s torn a piece of himself out.” And he went on to say that saving that family also makes up for him not being able to save his father.
Snyder’s hinted at the chance that Superman may not be the last Kryptonian. Beyond the open pod mentioned earlier, Snyder noted that there was still a chance to build New Krypton in the future because Kal-El still has the codex inside of him. “Who knows what’s possible,” Snyder said. There’s also a chance that Faora and some of Zod’s army cold return someday, with Zack and Deborah Snyder both saying they thought it was possible they could survive in the Phantom Zone, with the director adding “you never know …”
As for the Snyder Cut of Justice League, which is now officially happening, the only reveal that Snyder made was that General Swanwick (Harry Lennix), who he previously revealed as being J’onn J’onzz better known as the Martain Manhunter, has an arc that will eventually see him becoming secretary of defense. What happens when an alien is in one of the highest levels of office in the U.S. government? That and other questions will have to wait until Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally arrives in 2021.
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