I also love the fact that you guys went for a nonlinear narrative, because it actually, in many ways, it reminded me of Batman Begins too, because it’s very similar in the sense of having the character’s history informing the present. We’re you consciously thinking about how you guys approached Batman Begins when you were working on this script or were you completing treating it like a separate entity?
I mean, it was a separate entity, but Chris and I both have done a lot of nonlinear storytelling. I mean, I worked on Flash Forward and Da Vinci’s Demons, is completely nonlinear right now. It’s just that kind of storytelling that we are comfortable with, that we enjoy and especially when you’re dealing with a character that is so iconographic, where some of the lore has already been told, I think if you can tell a story in a nonlinear way, it liberates you and it can be kind of more encompassing and so, even very early on, I thought it would be interesting to cut from Krypton to 33 years later and just jump over those intervening 33 years and then kind of dip your toe back into them later on in the story.
Was also part of it that you didn’t want to have that chunk of backstory and exposition that veers into familiar territory?
Well, some of it is the story we’ve seen before, but I would also argue that a lot of the stuff that we portrayed we’ve not seen before. But we were cognizant of the fact, I had the same experience, and Debbie has spoken about this as well. Zack and Debbie took their kids to the 2006 Superman Returns and that movie assumed that everyone in the audience knew the whole story and a good chunk of the audience didn’t. Certainly, my kids didn’t. And I think it’s easy to fall into the trap that everyone just knows the story. Here we are in 2013 and by far, I don’t know, 60 or 70% of our audience won’t have been alive when the Donner films came out and my kids haven’t seen the Donner films. So, they don’t have that point of reference. They don’t know the John Williams score. The Superman score that my kids know is Hans’ score, because I had his demo eight months ago and I would play it in our car. They would say, “Play the Superman score,” and it’s Hans’ score. It’s easy to forget that.
I also want to ask about the kind of hyper-reality that this movie is set in. That’s an idea that was used a lot in describing your Batman movies, and I think that element exists in this film as well. You do feel the world in this film could be real, even with these intense sci-fi elements.
Well, we wanted the phrase that Chris [Nolan] has used - or the word Chris has used was, “relatable,” which I think is really important. Real is relative, especially when you’re dealing with a character that comes from an alien world, that can fly, that can lift buildings and things like that. Real is relative, but relatable, I think, is important, because if he’s not relatable, there won’t be any heart to the story. I’d seen 300 and I’d seen Watchmen and Zack told me early on in the process that he was thinking of shooting the bulk of the movie handheld, and I thought, “Wow,” and I’d seen some early camera tests and that completely liberated everything because it was just an incredibly smart decision on Zack’s part, because if you shoot it in a verite style, it makes all of these fantastical things suddenly seem more real. And he spoke in the press conference about the fact that he wanted the camera to be imperfect. I remember we talked about some of the cameras that were mounted outside, you know, the Gemini rocket going to the moon and you see how shaky it is and Zack talked about how if there were a camera tracking Superman as he was flying, it would be like that. It would not be perfect, and I think the idea that we could even shoot all of this crazy stuff on Krypton handheld, it was a really liberating experience, because it instantly grounded the film in a way I think people found arresting, and I know when Warner Bros. released the first teaser trailer, people were kind of shocked. They were comparing it to a Terrence Malick film.
Not to get too geeky and detail oriented, but there are actually some parts of Superman lore that I’m curious about hearing your explanation for. The first is Clark Kent’s glasses and the idea of keeping his identity secret even when the world knows his face. The other, and this is kind of weird, but if Superman jumps to start to fly, as we see in this movie, how does he move faster when he’s in the air?
Well, first of all, with the glasses, and people have asked us about that, and when you see the film, you understand that we were able to kind of artfully sidestep that issue up until the end and that will be, if there are other films, a problem for the next people to handle. So, it wasn’t really an issue in this, but you know, I thought it was interesting, even in the first script, Clark has a beard when you first see him, which I thought would be cool.
Moving faster when he’s flying.... well, I can’t even remember if it made it into the final draft, but Clark doesn’t know. Kal doesn’t know how he flies. He doesn’t even know that he’s capable of flying until he speaks to Jor-El’s ghost. In our minds, he manipulates gravity waves and in one of the early drafts, some of the scientists, when they have Kal in custody, theorize that that’s how he’s able to do what he’s doing and also if you think about it, that’s probably how he’s able to lift things that are very big, to be able to manipulate mass.
That makes a lot of sense. It would also make sense why his super-strength doesn’t just lead to him destroying everything he touches.
Exactly. He’s able to manipulate mass and manipulate gravity waves.