Henry Cavill as Superman in 'Man of Steel' (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
How do you make one of the most famous visitors from another planet a little more, well, down-to-Earth?
That was the challenge director Zack Snyder, producer Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer set for the themselves when they took on "Man of Steel," this summer's comic book blockbuster that looks to re-imagine one of the most longstanding and beloved characters in all of pop culture history.
"Our approach was not to do a comic book Superman, it was just to do a more realistic Superman -- a Superman that exists in the real world," says Goyer in a new behind-the-scenes featurette that covers several aspects of production on "Man of Steel." A longtime comic book fan, Goyer has been praised for his realistic approach to Batman -- which is admittedly something of an easier task -- in Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy.
Watch the 13-minute long 'Man of Steel' featurette:
"He's one of the most powerful but also most vulnerable superheroes you can imagine," says Snyder. "What Chris and David did was 'Let's let the audience participate in the experience of being Superman without breaking the things that make him Superman.' They were able to make him sort of relatable, ground him and make him feel real."
While most big-budget action films are multi-camera affairs, Snyder shot "Man of Steel" with a single camera, creating a sense of realism and immediacy while he crafted each shot down to the finest detail.
"He wanted to give the film this feeling that even though we're dealing with a superhero, this could be going on, or maybe it could happen tomorrow," says co-producer Charles Roven.
This meant that Superman had to be part of world that was immediately recognizable, not a land of make-believe.
"This story is a very realistic mirror," says production designer Alex McDowell. "It's a very 2012, 2013 world."
"We wanted to have real places -- we didn't want Superman to crash into a fictitious location," says co-producer Deborah Snyder. "We wanted everything to feel as real as possible."
Ultimately, though, the most important aspect of "grounding" Superman was having a strong central character -- one that can relate to audiences by displaying the vulnerability that Snyder mentioned along with his heroic acts of super-strength and super-speed.
"He's a very conflicted, lonely and lost person," says the Man of Steel himself, Henry Cavill, referring to the film's "stranger in a strange land" approach to the Last Son of Krypton. "Clark [Kent] is ultimately an outsider, throughout all stages of his life."
"'What world do I belong to? Is it this one? Is it another? Who am I?' Starting the film from that point of view allows the audience in because they share those same questions and insecurities about their places in the world," says Snyder.
However, even with all the new angles, the Superman we know and love will still be on display in "Man of Steel" -- meaning Cavill will be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. And what Superman has stood for all these years remains the same -- and just as potent as it ever was.
"It's about the potential for every person to be a force of good," says Russell Crowe, who plays Jor-El. Spoken like a proud papa.
"Man of Steel" opens June 14.
- Zack Snyder