The makers of Man of Steel had to start thinking like a cadre of supervillains: how do you get under Superman’s invincible skin and really make him hurt?
This week’s cover story reveals how the new film (out June 14) attempts to humanize the superhuman by finding new flaws and vulnerabilities. The most common one, however, was off the table: “I’ll be honest with you, there’s no Kryptonite in the movie,” says director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) Those glowing green space rocks – Superman’s only crippling weakness – have turned up so often as a plot point in movies, the only fresh option was not to use it. Anyway, if you want to make an audience relate to a character, a galactic allergy isn’t the way to do it.
Henry Cavill (Immortals), the latest star to wear the red cape, instead plays a Superman who isn’t fully comfortable with that god-like title. This film reveals that even on Krypton, young Kal-El was a special child, whose birth was cause for alarm on his home planet. (More on that in the magazine) And once on Earth, his adoptive parents, Ma and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), urge him not to use his immense strength – even in dire emergencies – warning that not every human would be as accepting of him as they are. So Clark Kent grows up feeling isolated, longing for a connection to others, and constantly hiding who he is. As a result, Man of Steel presents the frustrated Superman, the angry Superman, the lost Superman. “Although he is not susceptible to the frailties of mankind, he is definitely susceptible to the emotional frailties,” Cavill says.
That’s just the set-up. Once the Kryptonian villain General Zod (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon) arrives to threaten the Earth, eventually the passionate Superman steps forward, too. It helps that he has a reason to care about the home he’s defending, and we can all thank Amy Adams’ Lois Lane for that. “I think she’s very transient. She’s ready to pick up and go at a moment’s notice,” Adams says of the hard-bitten journalist. “I think that definitely could be part of what she sees in Superman – not really laying down roots, not developing trust.”
Based on footage EW has seen, the film (which was directed by Zack Snyder and shepherded by Christopher Nolan) has plenty of building-smashing, train-slinging, heat-vision-blasting battles to cut through the emotional heaviness. “You want to give the audience great spectacle. You want them to go to the movie, be eating their popcorn and be like, ‘Wow!’” says Man of Steel producer Charles Roven, who also worked on The Dark Knight trilogy. “But it’s just not good enough to give them the ‘Wow.’ You want them to be emotionally engaged. Because if you just have the ‘wow,’ ultimately you get bludgeoned by that and you stop caring.”
Those who’ve long felt the super-confident, super-controlled Superman has gotten super dull may be glad to see him finally challenged in ways that go beyond bullets bouncing off of his chest.
For more on Man of Steel and 108 other summer movies – including Johnny Depp’s views on playing The Lone Ranger’s Tonto (“He’s damaged. He’s just looking to get back on track”), Jennifer Aniston’s prep work for the comedy We’re the Millers (“This fabulous dance instructor just pulled the inner stripper out of me,”), and Sandra Bullock’s first impressions of working with Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig on The Heat (“The first week I was like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’”) – pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands April 12th.