How Do You Make Superman Realistic?


During the past few weeks, I have read interviews from director Zack Snyder about the upcoming Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” and one word that I thought I would never hear in a sentence regarding Superman keeps popping up: realistic.

Here’s is one of those interviews with Snyder (with Screen Rant):

    I think the visual style of “Superman,” though I can’t say for certain as it’s early, but I kind of feel like — and I did say to the studio – that what’s cool for me and interesting, and odd, is that “Superman” is probably going to be the most realistic movie I’ve ever made. It’s kind of fun that the most realistic movie I probably will make is a movie called “Superman.” Which shows how crazy my other movies are. Because I guess for him to be credible … He gets more credible by the reality that you can bring to him, you know emotionally, and visually, I think.

I was almost speechless when I saw that sentence — how do you make a super-powered alien from another planet “realistic”? I know that Christopher Nolan is part of the movie and something tells me that the decision and idea of making Superman realistic was something that he could have been part of.

First of all, I admire Nolan greatly. He made Batman come to life — as in, he made Batman a realistic character. But making a superhero such as the Man of Steel realistic — is that really a good idea and, more importantly, is it even possible? It’s pretty clear that Nolan and Snyder are out to reinvent Superman (an idea with which I am 100 percent OK). I do agree that Superman may need a bit of a makeover to fit him in with a new generation (as opposed to the Christopher Reeve generation).

I’m going to give you an example of a successful Superman story where the intention was to do a reinvention while adding a bit of realism — “Superman Earth One.”

In this story, writer J. Michael Straczynski made Superman a more modern, realistic character, but he still stayed true to the comic book world. In the end, he balanced it in a good way. Clark Kent was portrayed in this story as a struggling 21-year old man trying to find himself in society. Like I said, it was a reinvention, but it also felt natural to see that character develop into the world’s greatest hero in a different way from previous Superman incarnations.

In an interview with, Snyder again expressed his desire to make Superman realistic, but unlike Straczynski, Snyder does not want the hero to belong to his “stylized world”:

    Thing that I find interesting is that, being able to release the character from that world, that stylized world where he has been stuck and chalked and bring him to our world and see what he does.

One thing that makes Superman such a beloved, popular character is, in fact, that stylized world in which he resides. To erase that part of him is one of the worst things I can imagine for the character.
There is a huge difference in going “realistic” with a character such as Batman vs. doing so with the Man of Steel. Superman has a vast number of fantasy elements in both his character and his surroundings that I would find very difficult to make realistic.

With Nolan’s Batman, if you take a look at most of the villains, they can be seen as reflections of criminals from our society, with some comic book influences added for flair. As for the hero himself, it’s far easier to envision the reality of a man with seemingly unlimited financial resources dressing up and fighting psychopaths than it is to comprehend the reality of a super-powered alien with amazing abilities gifted from the sun fighting other aliens.

With “Man of Steel,” I hope that I’m underestimating Nolan’s role in the movie’s development. Maybe he and Snyder will be able to make this idea of a realistic Superman work. But I don’t see why the idea is worth pursuing in the first place, when a slight reinvention is probably what they should be focusing on. By putting Superman in a world other than his own, you risk robbing the character of that which makes him “super” in the first place.

“Man of Steel” is scheduled to fly into theaters in December 2012. In the meantime, discuss and leave your comments to the right. Do you want a “realistic” Superman? How much faith do you have in Snyder?

And click here to read more of our coverage of Superman.

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6 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Adam P #

    It is hard to judge what Snyder means by “realistic” so until more is known about his concept and execution I will not judge, but the fact that Nolan is involved might be the saving grace Snyder needs after the disaster that was “Sucker Punch.”

  2. 2

    Writers always think they are going to be the ones to “crack” Superman and make him “relevant.” The heck with that. Make him entertaining and we’ll be there to see it.

  3. Josue #

    “Man of Steel” is not a realistic title for the movie. LOL

  4. moviefan #

    I think folks are getting hung up on just one little word that doesn’t really mean much. Snyder probably wants to present the world superman is in to be like a real world. Just where crazy things can happen in it. Plus I doubt it will end up as a ultra realism thing like batman. Nolan has said many times in the past he gets and understands the differences to superman and batman. So I don’t think we have anything to worry there.

  5. Jedijax #

    I’ve never, ever liked Superman, mostly because he is an old character based on an old concept, and most authors (whether it be in comics or movies, or tv shows)tend to portray him as a superhero of the fifties, and even as Smallville and other projects try to move him unto the new world, they can’t seem to make him fit, so he keeps being the same type of one-dimensional hero, just in a new age. Hopefully this will change with the new movie, and Superman will gain edge, relevance and personality, as well as a good suit, not the atrocious and ridiculous tights he’s had since, yep, you guessed, the 30’s!

  6. Veronica #

    Which one do u think is stronger Hulk or Superman?