We aren’t likely to see another movie come out this year that will stir up as much excitement as Man of Steel. As pumped as fans might be for Brad Pitt’s forthcoming zombie epic World war z, the second chapter of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, or Katniss’ next go at survival in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Superman reigns supreme among fanboys worldwide. And it is this passion that not only results in devoted attention to and conversation about the new film, now in theaters, but also tons of half-cocked creative exploits and harebrained theories — you know, the fun stuff. The stuff that even the top bananas on the Man of Steel set love. Producer Charles Roven, for instance, is totally on board with all of the trailer mash-ups and off-the-wall predictions we can muster.
Responsible not only for Warner Bros’ latest Clark Kent feature but also each of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, Roven is no stranger to an adamant fan base. And while some filmmakers might grow weary of the rumor mill that inevitably engulfs movies like these, Roven champions the passion. “I love the interest. Because of the interest, you have these fans who really make the film this big, huge cultural phenomenon,” Roven tells Hollywood.com. “You need fans like that. You need fans who hang on all this stuff. I’m happy that they take our trailers and make their own. I love the fans.”
But this doesn’t mean that Roven is participating in every Internet conversation about the comic book characters, like Batman and Lex Luthor, suspected of making appearances in Man of Steel. “Quite frankly, if you responded to every rumor, you’d be non-stop responding. The one thing we didn’t want to do, we didn’t want the rumors to influence what we were doing. So we responded to none.” Roven also considers this closed-mouth approach a service to the fans. “I want them to be happy. But part of them being happy is them not knowing everything that’s going to happen before they walk into the movie theater. That makes it easy, also, to not respond.”
Despite his stoic attitude, it can’t be easy for Roven to face the sea of fervor that surrounds Man of Steel. After the mixed reception of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006, Man of Steel has a pretty big weight on its shoulders: the recreation of Superman for the modern era. “My interpretation of Superman Returns … is that it was really an homage to Superman: The Movie, the Dick Donner picture.” Roven adds, “[Singer is] a really smart filmmaker … But that did leave the door open to reimagining the character, which we felt that the character needed. And that’s how we approached the movie. We talked about it amongst ourselves, and said that if we were going to do this, we’d just need to play it like there’s never been another Superman movie. Even though we were all raised on Dick Donner, and love the Dick Donner movie.”
According to the producer, the Superman of today needs to serve a different purpose than that of eras past. “The ’50s were a rather calm period in the world. Things were really black and white, and relatively simple. So the character Superman could be that and still be relatable,” Roven says.
He continues on this theme: “Things are more complicated [today]. So you have to have a character, if he’s going to be relatable to the broad range that you want, he has to not necessarily have everything clear cut for him. He needs to get there. He needs to have choices that he has to make. He needs to have emotional ground that he has to cover. At least that’s what we felt.”
Those unsure of how Superman’s evolution will translate have looked to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which revamped Batman for sophisticated modern audiences. But Roven promises there will be a distinction between his Bruce Wayne movies and what we’ll see with Clark Kent. “We tried to make sure that we didn’t take the character in the Bruce Wayne dark direction. Because Bruce Wayne is completely different from a character standpoint,” says Roven. “Even if you’re talking about the comic genre, he’s a completely different character.” Roven continues, “With Bruce Wayne, Chris focused on having the character develop from that personal tragedy that happened in his life. Clark really didn’t understand the personal tragedy that happened in his life. He was trying to figure out where he came from. That’s also completely different.”
“But still, being true to the character, we wanted his choices to be emanating from whatever life experience he had,” Roven says. “It was only natural that he would want to know who he was. And go on a trip, soul searching to discover who he was, what his purpose was. And then we loved the fact that he had a very complex decision to make. Because who he was and what he needed to be were in conflict.”
So to tally up all of Man of Steel‘s goals, as elucidated by Roven, we have: the illustration of this internal turmoil, the evolution of an iconic American character, and the preservation of all the passions inhabited by countless fans? No defecit of marks to hit. But with creative forces like the passionate, fan-loving producer, Batman mastermind Christopher Nolan, and comic aficionado director Zack Snyder, Superman might have that fighting chance in his newest go at the big screen.