State of the Genre – David S. Goyer on Man of Steel, and why his comments are GOOD

In his latest ‘State of the Genre’ column, Martin Deer on the reaction to David S. Goyer’s recent comments on Man of Steel…

Henry Cavill Superman Man of Steel

This week David S. Goyer has been speaking to Empire about Man of Steel as we get closer to it’s release on June 14th. For some reason his latest comments, despite being slight expansions on things we were already aware of, have caused quite a stir. His comments being:

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

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 just struck me that if Superman really existed in the world, first of all this story would be a story about first contact.

Every single one of these comments excites me, but I want to address the criticisms his comments have received, and whilst there are a few, none more so represents them on a whole than a writer at Collider referring to Goyer’s comments – and Goyer as a person – as “stupid”, and titling his article “David S. Goyer Says He Wrote MAN OF STEEL ‘As If It Were Real,’ Not a Lowly Comic Book Movie”.

Did Goyer actually refer to comic book films as ‘lowly’? I don’t think he did, so why is that being inferred? Goyer has shown repeatedly a great affection for comic books – he writes them! In the same article, Goyer goes on to give his appreciation of the Richard Donner films; add that to the fact that he was part of the most successful series of films based on comic books and I am really perplexed at why his comments are being positioned, unjustly, in to such a negative light.

These types of comments weren’t anywhere to be seen when The Dark Knight Trilogy was being made, so why now? All Goyer is trying to convey is that they are taking Superman seriously! They are going to treat Superman as if he were real and not just the “greatest comic book superhero” – they are bringing gravitas to him and his world. Ultimately isn’t that what we want? Films that aim as high as they can and don’t wish to be held back by the conventional belief that they are “just a comic book movie”? Which is exactly what they did on The Dark Knight Trilogy I might add. Aiming to be more than a comic book movie does not mean that you forget your roots, only that you try to capitalise on the character’s full potential. We should be commending Goyer for his vision.
Another comment I wanted to address was from an article over at The Mary Sue in which the writer made the following remark concerning Goyer’s comments:
It’s an approach I can understand but not one I necessarily agree with. To me, Superman is hope. Above all other heroes, he’s the one that exudes positivity and inspiration. I’ll be honest, I’m longing for a superhero film that allows the audience to suspend disbelief and accept a film where superheroes are already a natural part of the world.

I agree with the writer’s belief that Superman is hope; he is, and we have heard constantly since the beginning that this is how he will be treated, as the “beacon of hope” for the world. However for Superman to be truly seen in the world as a symbol of hope, treating him as the “first contact” is the best way to do it – and an exciting prospect at that. If Man of Steel was set in a world where other superheroes existed and then Superman arrives, why would he become the symbol of hope for our world? Why wouldn’t the other superheroes already be living up to that mantra? It works so much more as a concept if Superman is the only superhero, and if he is the first alien being we have encountered it will solidify him as that hero even more.

Think about it for a moment, imagine our world – as Goyer and company are doing – and imagine an all powerful, flying alien showing up. Goyer is right – that would be the biggest thing to happen in human history. Think of the backlash, the hatred (Lex Luthor), the fear and the mistrust. Now think of how much Superman will shine as he shows the world he is pure of heart. That he is hope. If he were simply to be taking his place as the most inspirational of an already existing super-powered bunch of heroes it doesn’t have the same impact. Nor would it have the same impact if they were treating Man of Steel as just a movie based on a comic book, instead of being based in reality. How many comic book films deal with meaningful themes and powerful story telling? I can name only three, and Goyer was involved in all of them.

Superman deserves his time in the sun right now, and he has had previous films which have been more light hearted and “comic booky” and they haven’t always fared too well. No disrespect to what Marvel are doing but I want films that will be considered great and remembered for a long time. Taking Superman seriously is how you achieve that.

Part of the problem with how Goyer’s comments are being interpreted I think has to do with the marketing that Man of Steel has received thus far. On the front of the latest issue of Empire are the words ‘Superman gets The Dark Knight Treatment’. I have said before that the association to The Dark Knight - whilst I know is necessary as it would be lunacy not to associate Man of Steel with the $3 billion Dark Knight Trilogy – would begin to get irritating. They aren’t making The Dark Knight with Superman in it; they aren’t making Superman as dark and brooding as they made Nolan’s Batman and they aren’t going to explain how everything works. Although Goyer did mention they tried to figure out how Superman flew just for their own sakes – off-screen – but isn’t that cool? Doesn’t that lead to a better film where the actions taking place make sense? But I digress. What they are doing is what they did with Batman in regards to taking him seriously. Placing him in a real world with real issues that can speak to us on many levels and won’t just be a fun popcorn movie. That is The Dark Knight treatment they refer to. Look at the synopsis, look at all of the quotes from Goyer and company and don’t just look at one comment – look at the whole picture of the world their words are building.
Right now Man of Steel is shaping up to be a great film. We’re looking at a film that will deal with deep human issues and dramatic themes, rather than just being another fun comic book movie which will slot in to 2013′s landscape. So which, when you really think about it, would you prefer? A fun movie with some cool action but barely a story to hold up against a gentle breeze, or a realistic, intelligent take on one of the most enduring and important fictional characters ever created that deals with important themes and issues and could hold against Superman’s breath itself? It’s a great time to be a comic book fan – we have films which are comic books come to life and we can enjoy them as the big fun spectacles that they are, and we have also had a great trilogy of films that aimed higher than the expectations people placed on them because of the genre that they fall in. Personally I’m glad Man of Steel is taking the latter route.

By going the realistic route and telling an intelligent story based on a “first contact scenario”, Man of Steel not only has the opportunity to tell a meaningful story on acceptance and discovering your place in the world, among whatever else in there we are yet to uncover, it has the chance to really show Superman as the greatest of them all. As the personification of the good within all of us that we should all be striving to achieve.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the Empire article which comes from Zack Snyder and encapsulates what was so exciting about the approach Nolan took to Batman and is being taken to Superman:

We’re treating Superman as though he were real. Superman exists.

Martin Deer

  • Shuperman

    Martin Deer…ur the man..amazing article…and I couldnt agree more…haters welcome! cause come June 14th…shits goona get real!!!

  • Shuperman

    Martin Deer…ur the man..amazing article…and I couldnt agree more…haters welcome! cause come June 14th…shits goona get real!!!

  • ValeGuy

    I agree, awesome article! I have a feeling that the Superman franchise is finally getting the movie it deserves.

  • ValeGuy

    I agree, awesome article! I have a feeling that the Superman franchise is finally getting the movie it deserves.

  • http://mycareersuicidenote.tumblr.com/ anghus

    Well said, sir. Very much looking forward to this. I still have that lingering apprehension about Snyder, whose films have been less emotionally engaging with each subsequent entry.

    • PandaDeer

      Cheers, Anghus. Yes I know what you mean, but with the story initially coming from Goyer and Nolan selecting Snyder I’m very optimistic that any Snyderism’s will not be seen.

  • http://mycareersuicidenote.tumblr.com/ anghus

    Well said, sir. Very much looking forward to this. I still have that lingering apprehension about Snyder, whose films have been less emotionally engaging with each subsequent entry.

  • http://twitter.com/pandadeer Martin

    Cheers, Anghus. Yes I know what you mean, but with the story initially coming from Goyer and Nolan selecting Snyder I'm very optimistic that any Snyderism's will not be seen.

  • Patrick

    It is refreshing to read this point of view. I am completely perplexed by the fan boy rage that comic book movies should reflect the surreal absurdities of their comic book source. First off that has been tried and it has largely failed. A quick look at the record…Superman 3 & 4, Green Lantern, Catwoman, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, and Hulk… ALL tried to embrace the unreal world in which the characters sprang only to be met with a lack of both critical or commercial success. No one is saying to ditch the premise of superheroes but certainly updating and reintroducing aspect of the character that make them more realistic has thus far proven to be a fairly successful effort. Not in every case (Dredd) has it met with commercial success, but in almost every case it has met with critical success. That includes the Dark Knight Trilogy and even going as far back as the Punisher, a more sterile and grounded adatation of the hero, held up fairly well with its audience (if not critics) earning a respectable rotten tomatoes 68% score in its audience rating. It is clear what audiences relate to more. It makes absolutely no sense to demand that movies about superheroes be made to reflect cartoons moreso that real life.

  • Patrick

    It is refreshing to read this point of view. I am completely perplexed by the fan boy rage that comic book movies should reflect the surreal absurdities of their comic book source. First off that has been tried and it has largely failed. A quick look at the record…Superman 3 & 4, Green Lantern, Catwoman, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, and Hulk… ALL tried to embrace the unreal world

  • shaunn

    I agree with a lot of your comments, though not all of your analysis. I completely agree with the idea of treating Superman as “real” and as a “first contact” situation. i have never been a big fan of the camp treatment and I think that there are all kinds of fascinating, disturbing and compelling things that could be done with the world encountering its first alien – and a godlike one at that. I don’t entirely agree with your take on the superhero genre, however. No matter whether or not there were other superheroes around, the fact that Superman would be the first alien would still make an enormous impact. Remember, we are trying to be real, here, right? If all the world had encountered to that point was people dressed in costumes, like Batman, the appearance of Superman would be every bit as momentous as if Batman had never existed. There is an incredible gulf between a man in a costume and a superpowered entity. On the other hand, if the world had already encountered genuine and powerful superhumans (again, depending on where the superhuman came from) Superman’s impact might be a little less powerful. But not by much. Again, aliens are something different.

  • shaunn

    I agree with a lot of your comments, though not all of your analysis. I completely agree with the idea of treating Superman as "real" and as a "first contact" situation. i have never been a big fan of the camp treatment and I think that there are all kinds of fascinating, disturbing and compelling things that could be done with the world encountering its first alien – and a

  • Guest

    Looking forward to this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karanrajmishra Karan Raj Mishra

    Looking forward to this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luisaugustogouveia Luis Augusto

    That’s why they seem to have changed Jimmy’s gender.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luisaugustogouveia Luis Augusto

    That's why they seem to have changed Jimmy's gender.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1404757385 Michael Angelo Nuñez

    This is wonderful article! It shows the shallowness of people’s acceptance of even another movie in the make. Especially an Epic. I say that because I whole-heartedly believe in Zack Snyder’s and his team’s capabilities to convey the realism of SUPERHEROES living among us in a real world. Addressing the writer from “Collider”, he clearly demonstrates someone who ASSumes that he/she knows a person well enough to even make a remark like that. How immature for one to put words in people’s mouths. Goyer’s statement CLEARLY states nothing of the word “lowly” in it so where did that come from? If you’re a writer, learn how to read.

    I am upset at the fact that people are too critical and even extreme to the point that it blocks out their mental capabilities of understanding that they have to twist other people’s words. As a writer what did he hope to accomplish? To get people to hate Goyer? As a writer he has a following and it makes no sense at all why a writer would twist the words of another writer and influence his following and manipulate them into believing that Goyer is “stupid” and for his comments on simply taking the “comical” type action and storyline and giving it a modern twist of the realism of the world’s acceptance of a SUPERHERO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1404757385 Michael Angelo Nuñez

    This is wonderful article! It shows the shallowness of people's acceptance of even another movie in the make. Especially an Epic. I say that because I whole-heartedly believe in Zack Snyder's and his team's capabilities to convey the realism of SUPERHERO's living among us in a real world. Addressing the writer from "Collider", he clearly demonstrates someone who ASSumes

  • http://twitter.com/ManofSteel_2013 Man of Steel Fans

    Excellent article!

  • http://www.manofsteelfanpage.com/ Man of Steel Fan Page

    Excellent article!

  • iPaul

    Amazing article!

  • iPaul

    Amazing article!

  • Christopher Davis

    Great Article. Hopefully they don’t adveritse it as the dark knight too much, it might bring in the general audience, but it will repel some fans. While the studio should be thinking of appeasing the general moviegoer first as it’s their money that actually accounts for a majority of the money these films make but the fans contribute largely as well. whether they love superheroes through the comics or simply through just the films and tv shows the fans can’t be ignored. The mark of a great reboot is the one that bring transcends the comic book genre without forgetting the people devoted to the medium.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004288483908 Christopher Davis

    Great Article. Hopefully they don't adveritse it as the dark knight too much, it might bring in the general audience, but it will repel some fans. While the studio should be thinking of appeasing the general moviegoer first as it's their money that actually accounts for a majority of the money these films make but the fans contribute largely as well. whether they love superheroes through

  • Nightwing83

    I more-or-less agree. I mean, the problem is that so many fans look at things in black & white. They hear the term “dark,” and find out that “the Batman guy” is making them, so they jump to these strange conclusions AND say the most idiotic things, starting with “zomg, they can’t make a SERIOUS Superman film,” when Richard Donner’s goal was to make it at-least semi-serious, even if he did keep Lex campy like the ’60s Batman show (though you have to realize, there was a market for that back then) but watch the first 45 minutes. It may not be gripping and intense, but it’s still a straightforward account of his life up to that point, and the part where Jonathan dies is still pretty moving.

  • Nightwing83

    I more-or-less agree. I mean, the problem is that so many fans look at things in black & white. They hear the term "dark," and find out that "the Batman guy" is making them, so they jump to these strange conclusions AND say the most idiotic things, starting with "zomg, they can't make a SERIOUS Superman film," when Richard Donner's goal was to make it