The key to making a good comic book movie is to think of it outside of the superhero genre. It can't simply be about explosions and tights; it must go deeper than that. That's simply a process that everyone involved in a comic book movie must undergo at some point. As it turns out, Michael Shannon's preparation for his role as General Zod in Man of Steel was truly fascinating, and it involved likening the story to real world environmental issues. The actor explained:
I looked at Man of Steel as a very socially relevant movie, not necessarily a comic-book movie. Here's a story about some people, a civilization. They lived on a planet and used up all the resources and destroyed the planet, and they thought the way to solve the problem was just to go get another planet. You hear people bandying that idea around these parts from time to time.
During a recent Actors on Actors appearance (via Comicbook.com), Michael Shannon opened up regarding the deeper overall meaning of Man of Steel and explained what ultimate resonated with him in the story. At its core, he viewed the film as a story about an advanced civilization that used up its own resources, and looked elsewhere for solutions rather than fixing the problem at home.
It's pretty obvious what he is trying to intimate with that explanation. In the eyes of Michael Shannon, one of Man of Steel's biggest messages is a commentary on environmentalism, and the mentality we take towards a viable solution. Shannon has seen people in his own life discussing the possibility of trying to leave Earth in some sort of Interstellar-esque grand plan -- much like the Kryptonians in Zack Snyder's Superman origin story. Look how that turned out.
That's something that tends to get lost in the shuffle whenever people sit down to examine Man of Steel. Despite the fact that it has become reviled in certain circles for its somewhat off-kilter take on the Last Son of Krypton, the film actually does have quite a bit to say. If we get passed the bleak color palette, and the fact that Henry Cavill isn't Christopher Reeve, we find that the story actually tells a fairly resonant story. It's all about the hubris of an advanced civilization, the folly of believing resources will never run out, and arrogance to believe that the civilization can simply move somewhere else.
Those themes are laid out very clearly when Kal-El meets his father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) for the very first time in the film:
What do you think of Michael Shannon's take on Man of Steel's story? Does his interpretation of the story have any effect on the way you view the first installment of the DCEU? Given the fact that Man of Steel 2 has officially been confirmed, I would definitely like to see these themes explored even further in the future. They matter now more than ever.