‘Superman’ has long been a valuable asset for Warner Bros. Studios. The fictional comic book superhero, who featured in DC Comics publications as far back as the 1930s, is considered an American cultural icon.
The earliest Superman film came out in 1951, but the film rights were re-acquired in 1974, leading to director Richard Donner’s epic blockbuster Superman in 1978. Several sequels of diminishing value followed throughout the eighties. Warner Bros. attempted to reboot the franchise in 2006 with Bryan Singer’s take on the mythical ultra-American hero, but audiences failed to respond. The costly popcorn flick struggled (and failed) to recoup its budget, taking $200 million at the domestic box office (though it reportedly grossed almost $400 million worldwide).
Now Warner Bros. has gone back to the drawing board (once again!) to release yet another glossy, expensive and spectacular movie release, Man of Steel. The action adventure enjoyed a sweeping, coordinated International release commencing in June 2013.
The fictional comic book superhero, ‘Superman,’ featured in DC Comics publications as far back as the 1930s and has endured as a beloved American cultural icon. Donning the red, yellow and blue suit, majestic cape and girly tights is British actor Henry Cavill, leaping into his first major role in a motion picture as the titular Man of Steel.
Born on the island of Jersey, the fourth of five boys, the young soon-to-be megastar has been slogging away at a professional acting career for the past eleven years. Now 30, Cavill gained his career break at 17 when he was cast as teenaged swashbuckler Albert Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). Small parts followed, including one as a buff hero in the Greek epic fantasy Immortals (2011), until he was cast in the TV series The Tudors, appearing on the steamy drama between 2007—2010.
Breathtakingly handsome, with piercing blue eyes and a quiet, humble demeanor, Cavill conveys the magnitude of the role. Surprisingly, Man of Steel is Cavill’s second crack at the superhero part, having been cast by McG for Superman: Flyby back in 2003. He held the leading role until the director was replaced by Bryan Singer, which led to Cavill being ousted in favor of Brandon Routh. Considering that franchise re-boot fizzled, no doubt Cavill is happy with how things turned out.
Action and visual stylist Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) was on board as director since late 2010. The project was overseen by a raft of producers, notably Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception). Nolan developed a new script with screenwriter David S. Goyer and then handed over the reins (and reportedly all creative control) to Snyder.
Nolan and Goyer’s screenplay is a solid and reverent origins story. Additionally, Snyder focuses on the human element of his central character’s story, with far less of the sci-fi flash of, say, Avengers or Iron Man. Snyder has reportedly shot some IMAX footage, and a post-conversion to 3D of the entire picture is planned.
When a young journalist named Clark (Cavill) becomes an adult, he struggles with a disconcerting sense of alienation and a baffling incomprehension of his super-human abilities. His search for answers to these conundrums—as well as an answer to the ultimate question ‘Why am I here?’—leads him to the discovery of the planet of his origins and the recognition of his true purpose.
Confirms Cavill, “It’s very much an origins story. It’s the discovery of Superman for the audience. It’s also a story of hope,” Cavill adds, “The hope of victory against adversity, which is what Superman represents.”
Cavill emphasizes how the filmmakers have kept the original comic books as their ‘North star,’ explaining, “Well, we’re taking a lot from the source material and being true to it, but we are also recreating what the franchise is, and bringing it to the modern world. There’s no particular comic book we’re pulling from directly; we’re taking it from all the sources.”
Snyder released a statement that indicated the magnitude of the gig. “In the pantheon of superheroes, Superman is the most recognized and revered character of all time, and I am honored to be a part of his return to the big screen.” The director added that he and the studios were excited about the casting of British actor Henry Cavill, claiming, “He is the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield.”
But is he? With Christian Bale cast as Batman, and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, ironically Henry Cavill is now the third British actor to portray an American comic book superhero. Cavill counters any perceived flack with a breezy, “When it comes to acting, I mean, aren’t we all playing characters? Superman is not really American. I mean sure, he’s an American citizen, but he came from another planet, so it doesn’t necessarily need an American to be cast.”
On the human storyline, Cavill explains, “Ultimately we just wanted to make it very real. As realistic as one can when talking about an invulnerable alien which can fly,” he jokes, before adding, “The tone of the movie will be familiar in that you’ll recognize the realm you’re in, but it will be very refreshing and new.”
Man of Steel also boasts a sterling cast that includes Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Clark’s adoptive parents, Russell Crowe as Superman (Kal-El)’s natural father and Amy Adams as fellow journalist and love interest Lois Lane.
Cavill reveals he felt “fantastic” the first time he donned the completed costume and saw the iconic ‘S’ emblazoned on his chest. “There’s no other feeling like it. It’s all very surreal until it really happens. I mean you’re doing costume building and you’re doing costume tests, and you’re popping in and out, training very hard and doing meetings with the directors and producers. Then, when it’s all finished, and you put that suit on, that’s when it became real. That’s when I went, ‘Oh wow, okay, this isn’t just a fun training holiday. This is a dream. And suddenly I can fly!’”
Man of Steel is now playing in cinemas everywhere.