Zack Snyder says Man of Steel (2013) is real and Superman (1978) is not
Forbes interviewed Zack Snyder in April 2014 about Superman, Man of Steel (2013), and the upcoming sequel, and his answers nearly gave me a conniption fit. In this interview, he comments on a lot of Superman related topics, but openly wondered why everyone was stuck on the 1978 version, as opposed to a realistic take like his. You’ll note that Snyder didn’t reveal pictures of “Superman” on May 13th, even though Batman vs. Superman is a Man of Steel sequel. I wonder if he doesn’t like Superman?
Zack Snyder seems confused that people today believe there is one way to show Superman. Superman is helpful. He’s a hero. He’s a gentleman. This is what Superman (1978) gives us. It is not what the comics give us, not all the time anyway. The Superman of the comics has killed before, he’s been mad, and he’s even left Earth for some time in 2009. There have been many takes on Superman, but Snyder just didn’t understand why he was criticized for his take. He was doing what everyone liked, right? People like lots of explosions and destruction, right? People like superheroes punching stuff over and over, right? NO!
Snyder is stuck on the realistic tone and gave the public something deeply contrasting the 1978 version. Man of Steel doesn’t have any humor, doesn’t have a news strip or old style tone, and doesn’t have much of anything else. Perhaps because Christopher Reeve embodies the myth of Superman so-well and so-successfully that seeing a deep contrast is hard to take. Let’s be honest, almost everything about Man of Steel (2013) is different in tone than Superman (1978).
I think with Superman we have this opportunity to place this icon within the sort of real world we live in. And I think that, honestly, the thing I was surprised about in response to Superman was how everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, you know? How tightly they cling to those ideas, not really the comic book version but more the movie version… If you really analyze the comic book version of Superman, he’s killed, he’s done all the things– I guess the rules that people associate with Superman in the movie world are not the rules that really apply to him in the comic book world, because those rules are different. He’s done all the things and more that we’ve shown him doing, right? It’s just funny to see people really taking it personally… because I made him real, you know, I made him feel, or made consequences [in] the world. I felt like, it was the same thing in Watchmen. We really wanted to show it wasn’t just like they thought, like the PG-13 version where everyone just gets up and they’re fine. I really wanted to show the violence is real, people get killed or get hurt, and it’s not fun or funny. And I guess for me, it was like I wanted a hero in Superman that was a real hero and sort of reflected the world we live in now…
—Zack Synder, Forbes 2014
This quote by Zack Snyder presupposes that the movie version of 1978 is not realistic. He’s saying Man of Steel is. He’s saying that Man of Steel reflects our world and Superman in Man of Steel reflects people living in the world of today. I don’t see how. A guy who hides from the public, doesn’t save his dad from death, and completely destroys the entire city of Metropolis is reflective of society of today? I have to call shenanigians on that one.
Zack Snyder also assumes that the 1978 movie version of Superman is reflective of thinking in 1978. I mean, that’s what he says. He says he made Superman a “real hero” and reflective of “the world we live in now”, and I think he’s implying that the 1978 was inferior. I don’t think this is fair. I do think there are preconceived notions about Superman and what he stands for, that’s pretty obvious.
Zack Synder opened himself up to criticism by contrasting many of these preconceived notions, which is not necessarily a bad thing, because he sounds like he can handle it, but man, stop whining. Man of Steel (2013) accomplished what Snyder wanted to bring to the character of Superman, but why complain even more about Superman 1978 being more successful than you.
I don’t think it’s about “realism”. It’s about what Superman really represents. Zack Snyder can do whatever he wants, but if someone gives a machine gun to Mickey Mouse in a new cartoon, there’s going to be criticism. That’s just the way society views Mickey Mouse. The same thing for Superman, although probably to a much lesser extent. Society can get past these preconceived notions about what things “should be” if the movie is actually good, but some things we have a hard time with.
Zack Snyder just has the stupidest counter-argument ever. Okay? It’s real. It’s a realistic superhero movie. Great, good job fitting in with dozens of other superhero movies. The brave thing to do would have been to present a more classic Superman, but then again, you could argue that Singer’s Superman Returns did that in 2006 to heavy criticism too.
In the end, Zack Synder doesn’t give us a redone Richard Donner version of Superman, but it really does play it safe in other ways, such as in the use of lots of CGI and the use of a realistic tone. That’s what works and makes money, so that’s what he does. In fact, I might go so far as to say that his take doesn’t mature much and doesn’t do anything more than what was already done in The Dark Knight, which was another movie more successful than his.
I could go on and on, but nobody wants to read that, so I will wrap up by saying I still think the 1978 version of Superman is definitive. It looks as if Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is coming to the big screen in Batman vs Superman, so this fits right in with Snyder’s realism overload. I mean, that’s what all the pictures look like. The suit is simply copied from Frank Miller’s book. I wonder if they talked to Frank. I really want to like Batman vs Superman, but I guess there’s a reason Superman gets second billing in his own movie sequel.
Lastly, Superman (1978) panders to me just fine and gives me lots of things to like about Superman. It is not the version I grew up with, but it’s close enough to be fun, entertaining, and heroic. You want to cheer for this Superman, and best of all, you celebrate him.
With this in mind, these are my top 3 greatest Superman moments ever:
Undoubtedly, one of the most memorable Superman moments in history occurred when DC Comics killed Superman in 1992. Superman #75 sold around 3 million copies. In terms of a historical moment, this is it, but the move received a lot of criticism as a publicity stunt and merely a blip on the radar in the failing comic book market. Superman later returned.
Superman is a son of Earth
John Bryne has received a lot of criticism over the years for bad stories and poor writing, but I think he did a good job completely rebooting Superman in 1986. He tossed out all the Silver Age crap, all the hokey stuff, and all the in-jokes that Superman accumulated after 50 years, creating his own Superman. This was the Superman I grew up with. He was a hero. But he wasn’t an alien. He didn’t brood or complain about losing the planet of Krypton, because he never knew it. He felt like Earth was his home, and it was his job—his duty—to protect it. The series was entitled The Man of Steel in 1986 and described the modern origin of Superman, quite ironic considering what I already said about Zack Snyder. It did receive criticism, but most people praised it as the definitive Superman origin for years and years. It sold over 200,000 copies to prove it.
Superman saves Lois
The number one most memorable Superman moment for me is from the 1978 movie. It is Superman’s first costumed appearance, which is arguably the best scene in the movie. Superman saves Lois from falling from the top of the Daily Planet and catches her helicopter from crashing to the pavement below. It is a scene ripped from the pages of a newspaper strip, but I don’t mind.
The build up is somewhat suspenseful, as the scene begins with Lois having an accident on the roof. Clark comes out of the building way down below on the sidewalk and sees her in trouble. He wants to rush to her rescue, but has to take a moment to change into his costume, a moment that gives us some comic book and George Reeves flashbacks. That moment of pause is enough time for the helicopter to tumble off the roof, but Superman soars up there to grab her and snatches the helicopter out of midair to perhaps the most rousing superhero music ever. The theme proclaims his success and the moment almost forces the audience to cheer out, “Yes!” in celebration. Sorry Zack Synder, Superman really is the classic hero.