Riding high from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, with the Marvel wagon yet to really start rolling, Warner Bros. and DC weren’t just big in the superhero movie game. They were the superhero movie game.
So they turned their attention to Superman and ran face first into the dilemma that has tripped up many creatives since Christopher Reeve left the role. How do you make a super-powered God relatable, and how do you make him interesting to a more modern audience? With Nolan and Bale using Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to demonstrate the world wanted heroes with at least one foot in something resembling reality, Nolan and his writer brother Jonathan worked with David Goyer to come up with a new take on Superman.
What would it really be like growing up with those powers? How would you live with your secrets? How frightened would your adoptive parents be of the secrets being discovered? How would the world really react to a superhero living among them? Finally, what type of threat would make a hidden hero reveal himself to take his place as a defender of humanity?
That central idea became Man Of Steel but, taking a break from superheroes, Christopher Nolan chose to produce instead of direct and they picked Zack Snyder to take on those duties.
The rest is history. Man Of Steel was criticized for not showing a hopeful and optimistic version of Superman with the “Big Blue Boy Scout” part of him seemingly non-existent. Superman fans could not accept this version of the hero that had not yet come to embody truth, justice and the American Way. A world fearful of a superpowered God who could rule, should he so desire, did not resonate with those who liked their comic heroes clear cut.
One of the most controversial scenes comes near the climax as a fight between Superman and General Zod has leveled an entire city block and ends with Zod about to use his heat vision to kill an entire family cowering from him. This forces Superman to snap Zod’s neck and kill him to protect the family.
Now writer co-writer David Goyer has gone into detail about what their intentions are and specifically addresses the destruction during the fight, and that infamous neck snapping scene. He spoke with Collider and said:
“We were trying to – if you track the story all the way through in terms of this character emerging and his maturity and fully understanding the kind of power he has, and when they fight the kind of devastation that is caused by it. It’s not some frivolous fight, it’s almost like 9/11 when they fight.
We were trying to come up with a stalemate where he couldn’t – there’d been a [comics] editorial decision in which Superman doesn’t kill, it was a rule, but that’s a rule that’s imposed on a fictional world and we just thought but sometimes, whether it’s a soldier or people in law enforcement, and again an immature Superman.
This is the first time he’s ever flown in that story. He’d just flown for the first time days before that. He’s not aware of the extent of his powers at all. He’s finding somebody who’s said, ‘I won’t stop,’ who’s said, ‘You can’t put me in a prison I won’t ever stop’. We wanted to put him in a stalemate
I absolutely understand a lot of people had problems with it. When I have had a hand in adapting these things, you wanna be as respectful to the core material as possible but you also can’t protect against failure. You have to take big swings. With big swings there are big rewards.
We took enormous swings with Batman Begins and with The Dark Knight that turned out to be well-received, but we were trying to tell a different kind of Superman story, a Superman story that hadn’t been told before and it required us taking some big swings. We talked about it. We talked about whether or not people would accept it, and the editorial staff at DC had accepted it.
It doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake, but if you sit there and you say, ‘I don’t wanna take any risk. I’m worried I might offend a portion of the audience,’ I don’t think that’s a particularly healthy way to try to make a film or a television show.”
He adds that there was a scene they wrote and didn’t film in which a young Clark is taken hunting by Jonathan and they kill a deer. Clark is devastated by the act of killing and Jonathan explains to him about killing, and they have a discussion about sometimes it being necessary to take a life.
The hardcore Superman fans won’t like it, but he’s talking a lot of sense.
In the same DC related hubbub that is going on in the wake of Justice Con, filmmaker Zack Snyder has revealed that he’s not getting paid for his work on the new version of Justice League. He’s working on the film every day and just see’s it as finishing his work from the first time round and getting his cut:
“It’s exciting to get this chance and I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and I love working on it and I’d do it for free. I am!”