13 Things We Learned from the Epic 'Man of Steel' Blu-ray Commentary
(From Warner Bros.)The Man of Steel Blu-ray is out, and if there's one good reason to run out and buy it, it's definitely the commentary. With a three-hour split-screen version of the movie that goes beyond the traditional commentary track, Zack Snyder, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, and loads more people who worked on the movie break down exactly how they pulled it all off. Here are some of the coolest things we found out.
1. The Kryptonian Language Was Painstakingly Fleshed Out
Our doorway into Kryptonian culture has always been the big "S" on Superman's chest. Ever since Richard Donner introduced the idea that the "S" was actually the Kryptonian glyph for hope, and the crest of the House of El (Superman's real name is Kal-El or Kal of the House of El), newer incarnations of the character have dived deeper into what it all means. In Man of Steel, not only do we see the "S" glyph, but many more Kryptonian pieces of writing scrawled all over their columns, weapons, and even clothing. In an age when a Game of Thrones fan can actually learn to speak Dothraki, perhaps we shouldn't be suprised to learn a linguist was brought into flesh out the Kryptonian language, and if you know it, you can read it all over the planet.
(From Warner Bros.)
2. Zod's Battlesuit Was Totally CG
In a small wonder of visual effects, Zod's battlesuit looks 100 percent practical onscreen, but Michael Shannon was actually wearing a multi-colored unitard while filming his scenes with the suit. When he and Russell Crowe fight on Krypton, both are wearing motion capture unitards and the battlesuits were added later. The motion capture wizards at WETA (the visual effects studio behind Gollum) was brought in to perform this feat, and while many effects in the movie are more impressive, this was one touch we didn't notice the first time watching the movie.
(From Warner Bros.)
3. Henry Cavill Has Great "Sea Legs"
In a movie that relies heavily on CG effects, director Zack Snyder still managed to get his star out on an actual crab fishing boat. About "two thirds" of the crew is said to have thrown up while enduring 20-foot swells on a trip from Seattle into crabbing territory, and even Cavill says he eventually had to "head to the back of the boat" to lie down. Still, he says the experience was "truly epic," and he impressed the boat's actual crew, as well as the film crew, with his seafaring abilities.
4. The X-Ray Vision Is Sort of an Homage to They Live
While working out young Superman's X-Ray vision, the visual effects team repeatedly looked back to the classic John Carpenter movie They Live to get just the right kind of creepiness in the skulls he was seeing in his schoolmates.
(From Warner Bros. | Universal)
5. The Superman Suit Is Kryptonian Underwear?
Superman's tights have long been jokingly compared to underwear, but the commentary's explanation for his suit kind of, strangely, suggests that's what they are. While talking about the design for the suit, Zack Snyder compares it to the chainmail medieval warriors would wear under their armor. So the Superman suit is actually meant to be worn under the Kryptonian armor, which kind of makes it underwear.
6. The Kryptonian Battlesuit Was Empowering
Amy Adams describes the Kryptonian battlesuits as "really foxy," and says she's "a little jealous" of the actresses who got to wear them. Antje Traue, who plays Faora-Ul, says she was glad she got to wear a real Battlesuit instead of a CG one because it felt "empowering" as she approached tanks and helicopters to take Superman aboard Zod's ship. Of course, she said pretty soon she was jealous of Michael Shannon's motion capture unitard because her costume was "tight, and heavy, and hot."
(From Warner Bros.)
7. Jor-El Resolves the Tension Between Superman's Kryptonian and Earthly Heritage
An ongoing theme in the various incarnations of Superman is the tension that exists between his Kryptonian heritage and the people of Earth. Where do his loyalties truly lie? In Man of Steel, he has an opportunity to help bring about the resurrection of the Kryptonian race, which was all but wiped out when Krypton was destroyed. But as Zod explains, making Earth comfortably habitable for Kryptonians would mean wiping out the humans and rebuilding the world with a Kryptonian atmosphere. While escaping from Zod's ship, Superman encounters the A.I. version of his father, Jor-El, who resolves the tension by telling him he "can save [Lois Lane]. You can save all of them." This is basically Superman's dad giving Superman his blessing for putting the human race first. Unfortunately the commentary doesn't really address the most talked-about moment of this scene, which is Superman floating himself through the broken wall of the spacecraft looking like Jesus with his arms outstretched in a crucifix pose as Jor-El tells his only begotten son, "You can save all of them."
8. They Found a Real Town to Stand In for Smallville
In Man of Steel, Smallville is demolished during a fight between Superman and the Kryptonians. While it might seem easier to destroy a fake city on a backlot, the commentary reveals that location scouts scoured more than 50 small towns near Chicago to find Plano, Illinois, which stood in for Superman's hometown. Then they brought in things like window decals celebrating the Smallville Spartans to make it feel real before smashing windows, hauling in wrecked cars, trucks, helicopters, and even a train to seemingly reduce much of the small town to rubble.
(Warner Bros. | Google Maps)
9. Zack Snyder Basically Made This Movie Twice
The split screen commentary often reveals the rough computer animated sequences created ahead of the movie's key action scenes. After a while it becomes clear director Zack Snyder basically needed to make this movie twice — once in a computer generated environment, and again on film.
10. Zombie Prank!
Snyder pranked Amy Adams and Henry Cavill by bringing some zombies on set during their big kiss. While Laurence Fishburne and his fellow Daily Planet refugees are supposed to catch Superman's attention as they emerge from the rubble of a fallen building, Zack brings in three zombies instead, and everyone has a good laugh. Now get back to making out you guys!
11. City Ripped Apart
One of the most controversial aspects of Man of Steel is the destruction of a wide swath of Metropolis at the hands of the Kryptonians and even Superman himself. No one in the commentary bothers to address arguments that Superman would have never allowed, let alone taken part in, such widespread devastation, but they do go into some of the specifics of how they laid waste to the city. Since they knew "we were going to have to rip this city apart like no other movie," 32 miles of Metropolis were built inside a computer generated environment, and after that it was up to the visual effects team to do the rest.
(From Warner Bros.)
12. Michael Shannon Is an Amazing Actor, But Maybe Not So Great at Commentary
Shannon looks uncomfortable every time he pops up on the screen to talk about the movie, even giving the impression maybe he thinks this is all a lot of silliness. Near the end of the movie he pops up to talk about his final fight with Superman by dryly announcing his presence, "Well I'm back, and Superman and I have got into a bit of a predicament." He does, however, reveal some of the inspiration behind that last showdown: the saloon fights in old Western movies. Still, he can't help pointing out the final version "is nothing like a Western bar brawl. It's more like a city being torn to pieces."
13. Henry Cavill Brings Emotion to Superman
Cavill seemed to impress everyone on the set of the movie, and particularly affected the crew as he filmed the end of his fight with Zod — which ends with him killing Zod with his bare hands by breaking his neck. Superman didn't take this death lightly, and lets out a wail after Zod falls. That wail — which echoes through Chicago's Union Station without the ais of special effects in the raw footage — is described as "haunting" in the commentary.