Man of Steel is a 2013 superhero film based on the DC Comics character Superman. Directed by Zack Snyder, the story was developed by David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan, with Goyer writing the screenplay. The film serves as a reboot of the Superman film series, depicting the character’s origin story, and it is the first installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill in the title role along with Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Russell Crowe. In the film, Clark Kent learns that he is a superpowered alien from the planet Krypton. He assumes the role of mankind’s protector as Superman, making the choice to face General Zod and prevent him from destroying humanity.
Development began in 2008 when Warner Bros. took pitches from comic book writers, screenwriters, and directors, opting to reboot the franchise. In 2009, a court ruling resulted in Jerry Siegel’s family recapturing the rights to Superman’s origins and Siegel’s copyright. The decision stated that Warner Bros. did not owe the families additional royalties from previous films, but if they did not begin production on a Superman film by 2011, then the Shuster and Siegel estates would be able to sue for lost revenue on an unproduced film. Nolan pitched Goyer’s idea after a story discussion on The Dark Knight Rises, and Snyder was hired as the film’s director in October 2010. Principal photography began in August 2011 in West Chicago, Illinois, before moving to Vancouver and Plano, Illinois.
Man of Steel premiered in the Alice Tully Hall on June 10, 2013, and was released in the United States on June 14, 2013. Critics felt the film’s visually-appealing action sequences were not enough to overcome its descent into “generic blockbuster territory”, and they were divided over Cavill’s performance as Superman. It grossed over $668 million worldwide, becoming the ninth-highest-grossing film of 2013.
A follow-up titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released on March 25, 2016, and a direct sequel under various stages of development since 2014 was canceled in 2022 following the restructuring of DC Films as DC Studios.
In June 2008, Warner Bros. took pitches from comic book writers, screenwriters and directors on how to successfully reboot the Superman film series. Comic book writers Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer were among those who pitched their ideas for a reboot: “I told them, it’s not that bad. Just treat Superman Returns as the Ang Lee Hulk”, Morrison said. Waid said: “The Incredible Hulk has proven the audience will forgive you and let you redo the franchise”. Morrison’s idea was similar to their work on All-Star Superman, while Waid’s was akin to Superman: Birthright. Mark Millar, teaming with director Matthew Vaughn, also planned an epic eight-hour Superman trilogy, each installment released a year apart, similar to The Lord of the Rings. Millar compared it to The Godfather trilogy, in which it would chronicle the entire life of Superman, from the early days of Krypton, where little Kal-El witnesses his father’s tireless struggle to save the planet, to the finale where Superman loses his powers as the Sun starts to go supernova. According to Millar, Vaughn suggested his Stardust actor Charlie Cox as a Golden-Age inspired Superman “when he was a bit more of a regular person”.
In August 2008, Warner Bros. suggested a reboot of the film series. Studio executive Jeff Robinov planned to have the film released either by 2010 or 2011, explaining that “Superman Returns didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to. It didn’t position the character the way he needed to be positioned. Had Superman worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009. Now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all.” Paul Levitz stated in an interview that Batman holds the key to the Superman reboot. He elaborated: “Everyone is waiting for Nolan to sign on for another Batman, once that happens, the release date for Superman and all other future projects will follow.” In February 2009, McG, who previously planned to direct Superman: Flyby, expressed interest in returning to the Superman franchise. August 2009 saw a court ruling in which Jerry Siegel’s family recaptured 50% of the rights to Superman’s origins and Siegel’s share of the copyright in Action Comics #1. In addition, a judge ruled that Warner Bros. did not owe the families additional royalties from previous films. However, if they did not begin production on a Superman film by 2011, then the Siegel estate would have been able to sue for lost revenue on an unproduced film.
The plot of Man of Steel employs a nonlinear narrative, and tells parts of the story in flashbacks. During story discussions for The Dark Knight Rises in 2008, David S. Goyer told Christopher Nolan his idea regarding how to present Superman in a modern context. Impressed with Goyer’s concept, Nolan pitched the idea to the studio, who hired Nolan to produce and Goyer to write based on the financial and critical success of The Dark Knight. Nolan admired Bryan Singer’s work on Superman Returns for its connection to Richard Donner’s version, stating that “a lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that’s what I know how to do”, emphasizing the idea that Batman exists in a world where he is the only superhero and a similar approach to the Man of Steel would assure the integrity needed for the film. Nolan, however, clarified that the new film would not have any relationship with the previous film series, in which he commented: “Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other”.
Robinov spoke to Entertainment Weekly, and allowed a peek over the wall of secrecy surrounding their DC Comics plans: “It’s setting the tone for what the movies are going to be like going forward. In that, it’s definitely a first step.” Plans included for the film to contain references to the existence of other superheroes, alluding to the possibility of a further DC Universe, and setting the tone for a shared fictional universe of DC Comics characters on film. Guillermo del Toro, with whom Goyer worked on Blade II, turned down the director’s position on the reboot because of his commitment on a film adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, while Robert Zemeckis was also approached. Ben Affleck (who would eventually be cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the film’s sequel), Darren Aronofsky, Duncan Jones, Jonathan Liebesman, Matt Reeves (who would later direct a Batman reboot), and Tony Scott were considered as potential directors, before Zack Snyder was hired in October 2010. Casting began the following November. Snyder confirmed both Booster Gold and Batman references in the film, indicating their presence in the DC shared film universe. When Zod destroys a satellite, the words “Wayne Enterprises” are scrolled on the satellite. Snyder and Nolan considered having Man of Steel share continuity with the Dark Knight trilogy, but ultimately decided against it.
The film’s storyboard was created by storyboard artist Jay Oliva, in his first live-action feature film project, along with Snyder. Oliva has cited the Japanese anime shows Dragon Ball Z and Birdy the Mighty as an inspiration for the film’s epic battle scenes. During the film’s brainstorming, Oliva pitched the idea as “I could come up with something I’ve never seen in live-action American cinema and only in anime”.
- Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent:
A Kryptonian with superhuman powers and abilities, sent by his parents to Earth as an infant to escape the destruction of his homeworld, Krypton, and raised under the mental guidance of farmers in Smallville, Kansas, until he is inspired by the holographic message from his late father to become Earth’s greatest protector. Cavill is the first non-American actor to play the character. He was previously cast in Superman: Flyby, which was ultimately shelved, and was considered for the role in the 2006 film Superman Returns, but lost to Brandon Routh. Cavill stated, “There’s a very real story behind the Superman character.” He explained that everyone’s goal has been to explore the difficulties his character faces as a result of having multiple identities—including his birth name, Kal-El, and his alter ego, Clark Kent. Cavill also stated that “He’s alone and there’s no one like him,” referring to Superman’s vulnerabilities. “That must be incredibly scary and lonely, not to know who you are or what you are, and trying to find out what makes sense. Where’s your baseline? What do you draw from? Where do you draw a limit with the power you have? In itself, that’s an incredible weakness.” In an interview with Total Film magazine, Cavill stated he had been consuming nearly 5,000 calories a day, training for over two hours daily and plowing protein to pack on the muscle mass. Tyler Hoechlin (who would later play the character in the Arrowverse and Superman & Lois), Matthew Goode, Armie Hammer, Jamie Dornan, Joe Manganiello and Colin O’Donoghue were also considered for the role. Manganiello was subsequently cast as Deathstroke in Justice League. Cavill cited his inspiration for his portrayal for Superman was by four comics The Death of Superman, The Return of Superman, Superman: Red Son and Superman/Batman: The Search for Kryptonite. Cooper Timberline was cast as the 9-year-old Clark Kent, and Dylan Sprayberry was cast as the 13-year-old Clark Kent.
- Amy Adams as Lois Lane:
A reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper and the love interest of Clark Kent. Adams was selected from a list of actresses that included Kristen Stewart, Zoe Saldaña, Olivia Wilde, and Mila Kunis. “There was a big, giant search for Lois,” Snyder said. “For us, it was a big thing and obviously a really important role. We did a lot of auditioning, but we had this meeting with Amy Adams and after that I just felt she was perfect for it.” Adams auditioned for the role three times: once for the unproduced Superman: Flyby, and the second time for Superman Returns before landing the current role. Adams was confirmed to play Lois Lane in March 2011. While announcing the role, Snyder said in a statement, “We are excited to announce the casting of Amy Adams, one of the most versatile and respected actresses in films today. Amy has the talent to capture all of the qualities we love about Lois: smart, tough, funny, warm, ambitious and, of course, beautiful.” On portraying Lois Lane, Adams stated that the film would feature a Lois Lane who is an “independent, feisty woman … but set in a more identifiable world.” Adams said that “She has become more of a free-ranging journalist, someone who likes to be hands-on. The nature of the newspaper business has changed so much. There is so much more pressure.”
- Michael Shannon as General Zod:
A Kryptonian general with the same superpowers as Superman, bent on transforming Earth into a new Krypton under his reign. Viggo Mortensen and Daniel Day-Lewis were also considered for the role. Snyder stated, “Zod is not only one of Superman’s most formidable enemies, but one of the most significant because he has insights into Superman that others don’t. Michael is a powerful actor who can project both the intelligence and the malice of the character, making him perfect for the role.” When Goyer was asked about why Zod was chosen as the villain, he stated, “The way (Christopher) Nolan and I have always approached movies as well is you never say, ‘Hey, which villain would be cool for this movie?’ You start with the story first. What kind of story? What kind of theme do you want to tell? So we worked that out. Then, usually the villain becomes obvious in terms of who’s going to be the appropriate antagonist for that. When you guys see the movie, the only villain we could’ve used was Zod and the Kryptonians. I mean, when you see what the whole story is, nothing else would have even made sense.”
- Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent:
Clark’s adoptive father. Snyder explained his reason for his casting the on-screen couple is solely for the realism: “I think the thing you realize when you look at Diane and Kevin, in our decision to cast them so far, you sort of get a sense of how tonally we’re looking at the movie, and what you realize is that those guys are serious actors, and we’re taking this movie very seriously in terms of the tone of having those guys. You’re talking about having a situation where whatever the action is or whatever the drama of the movie is, our first priority is to make sure it’s rendered in the most realistic way we can get at.”
- Diane Lane as Martha Kent:
Clark’s adoptive mother. Lane was the first cast member to join the film after Cavill. “This was a very important piece of casting for me because Martha Kent is the woman whose values helped shape the man we know as Superman,” Snyder said in the release. “We are thrilled to have Diane in the role because she can convey the wisdom and the wonder of a woman whose son has powers beyond her imagination.”
- Laurence Fishburne as Perry White:
Editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet and the boss of Lois Lane. Fishburne is the first African-American to play Perry White in a live-action film. Fishburne remarked of his role: “[M]y inspiration really is the late Ed Bradley, who was a CBS correspondent on 60 Minutes for many years … [The] legendary Ed Bradley … was a friend, a mentor, and a role model for me, particularly because he worked in journalism, and he was the kind of guy who walked with kings, but he had the common touch. And so he was my inspiration for Perry.”
- Antje Traue as Faora-Ul:
General Zod’s sub-commander and a commander of the Kryptonian military, who is completely devoted and loyal to Zod. Gal Gadot was offered the role but declined because she was pregnant at that time; this allowed her to be later cast as Wonder Woman in the film’s sequel. Alice Eve, Diane Kruger and Rosamund Pike were also considered for the role. About the role of Faora, Traue said in an interview: “What I liked about her was that as a woman, we have certain doubts and we think too much sometimes about ourselves and all these things, they’re not there for Faora. She’s a bred warrior. So to really focus on that aspect, that fear is a chemical reaction and that it was bred out of her and she doesn’t have it, it’s liberating when you actually think about it. That you’re just a one-track mind, there’s no filter, there’s no double meaning. She gets orders and she answers those orders without a question.”
- Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van:
Kal-El’s biological mother and loyal wife to Jor-El. Julia Ormond had previously been announced as cast, but dropped out. Connie Nielsen was in negotiations for the role before Zurer was cast. Nielsen was subsequently cast as Queen Hippolyta in Wonder Woman.
- Christopher Meloni as Col. Nathan Hardy:
A United States Air Force officer, call sign “Guardian”, assigned to the United States Northern Command.
- Russell Crowe as Jor-El:
A Kryptonian scientist who is Kal-El’s biological father. Sean Penn and Clive Owen were also considered for the role. Crowe incorporates how his own fatherhood informed his reading of the script to portray Jor-El, stating that “… it was one of those things where that’s how it was connecting me. That’s the question that Jor-El faces, that’s the situation that he’s in.” Crowe also comments on his preparation for the film stating that: “When I signed on … well, one, I didn’t realize that I would be wearing Spandex—’cause you know that’s Superman’s costume—I didn’t realize that I’d have to fit into it as well,” Crowe said. “But, I also didn’t realize the type of organiser that Zack Snyder is, ’cause this was really old-school prep. This is sort of David Lean-level preparation, and I really appreciated him. And I was on the movie for three and a half or four months before I even got in front of the camera.”
June 12, 2013
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