David S. Goyer Says He Wrote MAN OF STEEL “As If It Were Real,” Not a Lowly Comic Book Movie

     January 28, 2013


David S. Goyer‘s resume is a mixed bag, ranging from a story credit on the stellar The Dark Knight to full authorial control as writer/director of the tepid The Unborn.  Goyer conceived the story for Man of Steel with Christopher Nolan and wrote the screenplay.  The latter fact may be cause for concern when Goyer says things like this:

“We’re approaching Superman as if it weren’t a comic book movie, as if it were real.”

That’s the kind of sound byte that makes Matt Goldberg want to punch things, but I will try to give Goyer the benefit of the doubt.  What I hope he meant is that he wants to take Superman’s world seriously, to ground a larger-than-life story in genuine human emotion.  The problem is what he actually said, distancing his serious work of art from the lowly comic book source material.  That’s silly: Superman is the most comical of comic book characters, a superhero with every strength and practically no vulnerability.  An accomplished screenwriter should be able to distinguish between treating the comic as a real world and the real world.  Of course, Goyer did elaborate, so hit the jump for the full context.

david-s-goyerIn the latest issue of Empire [via CBM], Goyer compared his take to the two Richard Donner Superman movies:

“I adore the Donner films. Absolutely adore them.  It just struck me that there was an idealist quality to them that may or may not work with today’s audience.  It just struck me that if Superman really existed in the world, first of all this story would be a story about first contact.”

I don’t know that I want someone who uses the phrase “today’s audience” and implies there’s no room for idealism in a modern fantasy movie writing modern fantasy movies.

Thankfully Goyer followed up with a more reasonable pitch:

“He’s an alien.  You can easily imagine a scenario in which we’d be doing a film like E.T., as opposed to him running around in tights.  If the world found out he existed, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened in human history.  It falls into that idea of trying to humanize the inhuman.  He’s made out of steel, he’s not made out of flesh, metaphorically speaking.  We are portraying him as a man, yet he’s not a man.”


This I can get behind.  Superman has a crazy premise, and Goyer should embrace the supernatural rather than sand off the edges.

And then Goyer brought it home:

“It is obviously a much longer process with a character like Superman.  It is much easier to do a realistic take on Batman.  You know nothing can hurt Superman, presumably other than Kryptonite.  The challenge was simply: can we figure out a way to make those elements work, quote unquote, in the real world?  It’s very much a story of a man with two fathers.”

The father-son dynamic has been explored pretty thoroughly on screen, but once you acknowledge your central character is an invincible alien, it is a great idea to build on such a simple, relatable theme.

So there you go.  Goyer has some good ideas and said some stupid things—maybe that’s just who he is.  Here’s hoping director Zack Snyder harnesses more of the good than the bad by the time Man of Steel hits theaters on June 14, 2013.

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