David S. Goyer And Mr. Beaks Talk MAN OF STEEL Spoilers! DA VINCI'S DEMONS,100 BULLETS And JUSTICE LEAGUE Also Discussed!
This is the second part of my interview with MAN OF STEEL screenwriter David S. Goyer. As promised in part one, it is a spoiler-heavy discussion of what I believed at the time to be the key moments in the third act of the film. Had I known Twitter and Facebook were going to blow up with arguments about the potential of massive human fatalities during the final Superman/General Zod brawl, I would've certainly asked Goyer to address this issue; however, I thought the most divisive moment in the film was going to be Superman's rather brutal dispatching of Zod. Over the weekend, I requested comment via Goyer's publicist, and was informed he is currently unavailable. This is fair. It's time to let the film stand on its own, and let viewers debate its merits. But should Goyer suddenly become available, I will update this article.
After the spoiler discussion, I moved on to Goyer's other projects: his Starz series DA VINCI'S DEMONS, a proposed TV series based on Brian Azzarello's excellent graphic novel 100 BULLETS, and a new film adaptation of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. As I wrapped up the interview, I tried to extract information on where he might go with a MAN OF STEEL sequel (which had not yet been set in motion), and what he thinks about Warner Bros and DC's determination to make a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie.
One more time for the cheap seats: this portion of the interview is filled with spoilers. Do not read it until you've seen the film.
Mr. Beaks: So let's talk about Lois knowing Clark is Superman.
David Goyer: I just thought it was silly. If you're going to make her smart, if she's going to be Superman's love interest, Lois needs to stand on her own as a character; she needs to be really smart and have a lot of gumption, and she can't just be the damsel in distress, or else why is Clark/Kal interested in her? People say that a hero is only as good as his or her villain, but I also think the same is true of his or her love interest. It strained credulity for me that it took Lois ten or twenty years to figure out that Clark was Superman. I call bullshit on it, especially if she's sleeping with him. That was something that we talked about with DC, and said, "Maybe it's time to move on from that." And maybe there are even people in Smallville that know. It's not explicit, but we imply that maybe people in Smallville have put two and two together.
Beaks: The "Welcome to the Planet" line is terrific. Was that always there, or did that come along later?
Goyer: That was in the first draft. I was trying to figure out how to end the movie, and it was one of those heaven-sent things where I realized that there was this incredible double entendre just sitting there. The film was always kind of about the world's introduction to Superman, why Clark chose to put on the costume and say, "Hey, I'm Superman." Also, in a way, the movie is about the world accepting him, and him firmly and fundamentally accepting Earth. And I just thought that was the perfect way to end the movie, to have that play in two different ways.
Beaks: The brutality and shocking finality of Superman snapping Zod's neck. How did that come about?
Goyer: That was something that we had a lot of discussions about, and I know that originally Chris felt... that was not in the first draft. It's something that Zack and I wanted to do, and initially there was a lot of resistance, which I completely understand. One of the things that we've always tried to do with the Batman films and the Superman film is never accept something just because that's the way it's done in the comic books. That was never a good enough reason. It always had to make sense within our own universe or within the rules of our universe. So I understand why the editors at DC would say "Batman doesn't kill" or "Batman doesn't use guns".
One of the the things that I like to do as a writer and director is put my heroes in the most difficult situation as humanly possible. I always say, "What's the worst thing that could possibly happen to our character?" Or the biggest obstacle that you could possibly put in that character's path. If you can come up with it, and then figure out a way for them to subvert that and get around it, then that's an exciting place to be in terms of the writing. We tried to come up with a couple of scenarios like that for Superman as a kind of mental exercise. I think if you can do that, and come up with something that the audience is surprised by but accepts, then I think they're more emotionally engaged. So what happens with Zod... I feel like virtually everyone who's seen the film accepts it, but Superman is not happy about it. He cries. That's also the last link to his people. If you can get the audience to tear up in a Superman film not just out of nostalgia, but because they're actually emotionally invested, then I feel l like you've got them in a way that maybe some other iterations of Superman haven't had them before.
Beaks: Talking with friends post-screening, the geek started to come out, and we were wondering, "What's going to happen to Zod's body? Perhaps Luthor could find a use for that."
Goyer: I can neither confirm nor deny. But I will say that I did intentionally leave some loose ends, not as sequel bait, but just because I thought they were interesting. I don't know if anyone that's viewed the film has picked up on this yet, but when Clark goes into the scout ship, which sort of becomes the Fortress of Solitude, you see four cryogenic sarcophagi for the crew that piloted that ship 18,000 or 20,000 years ago. There's a shot there - and, it's funny, at one point Zack took it out, but I cried "Uncle!", and he put it back in. But you see there are four pods: three of them have skeletons in them, but one is open and there is no skeleton. Zack had missed it the first time he read the script. I pointed it out to him, and he was like, "Okay, that's interesting. That's an interesting loose end."
Beaks: The first season of DA VINCI'S DEMONS is wrapping up. How do you feel about how the first season progressed, and building off that for the second season?
Goyer: Pretty good. We're already shooting the third episode of the second season. Overall, I think the reviews were quite good; they're the best that Starz has had. We got relatively big numbers for Starz on the first episode, then we dipped quite a bit by episode three, but we've been recuperating. I don't think we'll be quite back to where we debuted, but we'll be higher than any of their new shows have been since SPARTUCUS by the end of the season. They're quite happy with it. It seems to be building its audience and building acceptance. There are certain metrics that you can gauge on social media, based on how many people are on Facebook or Twitter, but it's higher than shows like BOSS or MAGIC CITY, and it continues to build and build. We're hopeful.
Beaks: What about incorporating historical figures like Vlad the Impaler? Are you going to do more of that?
Goyer: Yeah. For me, that's part of the fun. It's something that people do in comic books a lot. We have Vlad the Impaler, Torquemada has a brief appearance in episode five... this is a tiny spoiler, but we meet Amerigo Vespucci in the second season, and some other famous or infamous historical figures. For me, that's part of the fun of doing this secret history. At first, I think some people embraced the tone and others weren't sure what to make of it, but the longer it's gone on, people have settled in.
Beaks: Would you take Da Vinci to the New World?
Goyer: At the end of episode two, he sees a map of South America, so yes. There's pretty conclusive evidence now to support that Columbus definitely wasn't the first foreigner to discover America. I mean, there were the Vikings, and there's a number of theories now that Chinese explorers were in America 100 years before DA VINCI'S DEMONS takes place. There are a couple of maps out there that predate Columbus's exploration of the Americas. I find all of that stuff interesting. History is written by the winners, but the historical record is filled with all sorts of anomalies. I firmly believe that various inventions might've been discovered sometimes hundreds of years before they were officially discovered. Some of that is because there was a bias against anything non-Western in Europe at the time. There were all sorts of medical discoveries and engineering discoveries made by the Muslims that Christian Europe discounted because they were considered heathens or whatever. I don't know if you've ever heard of the Baghdad Battery. There were these out-of-place artifacts, and one of them is this thing called the Baghdad Battery. They seem to be working batteries that were found in Iran or Iraq that date back 1,800 years, and they seem to have conveyed electricity. There seems to be no other use for them.
Beaks: How are things progressing on 100 BULLETS?
Goyer: 100 BULLETS got incredibly close at Showtime, and I think they were somewhat scared off by the shootings. Although I think 100 BULLETS... it's very much about America's obsession with gun culture, because most of the guns don't end up helping the people that use them.
Beaks: It's so timely. It seems like a no-brainer to me.
Goyer: I think it's as timely as ever. I needed to come back from Wales and prepping season two of DA VINCI'S DEMONS, and doing [press for] MAN OF STEEL, but we're going to try to take it out to Cinemax and Netflix, and see if we can get it going. It got very, very close, and it was frustrating. At one point, I thought it was going to happen at Showtime. It got to the three-yard line.
Beaks: Are you hopeful it could happen?
Goyer: I am hopeful, and I think the fact that DA VINCI'S DEMONS is doing well and got a second season helps with my stock in TV. Hopefully, MAN OF STEEL will do well, and I'll catch some wind from that.
Beaks: Where are you with THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO?
Goyer: I just got a new draft of that today, and I'm going to read that. We're going to budget it, and I've got some casting meetings this week, so we'll see.
Beaks: Lots of planes on the runway.
Goyer: But that's the way it works. I usually have four or five planes on the runway, and, if I'm lucky, one or two of them will go. As it happened, about four years ago, after FLASH FORWARD went down, I did three or four of those, and they all happened. It was the BLACK OPS stuff, DA VINCI'S DEMONS, this book I co-wrote called HEAVEN'S SHADOW that I set up at Warner Bros, and MAN OF STEEL. That was one of these crazy things where every iron got hot and became something.
Beaks: When do you anticipate sitting down and thinking about MAN OF STEEL, provided it's as big as I think it's going to be?
Goyer: It hasn't been offered to me yet. [Ed. note: It has now.] There's no official anything yet. Knock on wood. Everyone's waiting to see how it does. I would love to do another one, and I know Zack would, too, but I've been working on the film for four years. It feels good, but you never know until it comes out. Hollywood can still be surprised, in good ways and bad ways, by how films do. We've seen situations before where a film is tracking well, but does half of what they were tracking. And sometimes they do double. It's hard to say.
Beaks: The last time I talked to you, we were two months out of release, and I was already hearing ecstatic buzz from people who'd seen MAN OF STEEL for long-lead or whatever. At AICN, we started to convey that to our readers, and many of them weren't buying it.
Beaks: Right. And it's tough when the buzz upticks like that, because you've then got to deliver on it.
Goyer: Well, we've talked about this. Now the buzz is high, but you want to mitigate expectations. I'm incredibly proud of the film, and I've been doing this a long time. There are films I've been proud of, films I'm so-so on and films I'm embarrassed by. This is one I'm proud of. But you don't want to get in a situation where expectations are so high that you can't deliver no matter what. If it doesn't do AVENGERS [at the box office], will that be a disappointment?
Beaks: And the added expectation that, because Marvel has already made THE AVENGERS, you've got to hurry up and get to JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Goyer: Obviously, Warner Bros has tried. They're not making that a secret.
Beaks: But does that influence your work on MAN OF STEEL, and might it going forward?
Goyer: It didn't influence MAN OF STEEL at all. We have to thank Chris the most for that because he really did protect the process. He just advised us, we took that advice, and he kept Warner Bros at bay a little bit. He said, "You've got to make this film, make it as good as humanly possible, and put all that other stuff out of your head." It's impossible to put it completely out of your head. By the same token, I know that he said that to Warner Bros in terms of pressuring us. Then it becomes this impossible mountain to climb. You can't think about how many merchandising deals they've made, or how much ad support they've got. You just can't think about it. Otherwise, you won't be able to make your movie.
Beaks: I think Warner Bros and DC have to take their time with JUSTICE LEAGUE. You can't force it, which is what it feels like they're trying to do.
Goyer: You can't force it. The DC characters are different than the Marvel characters. They've been around much longer, particularly the big three: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The Marvel characters that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko came up with, they came along, in some cases, thirty years later. The DC characters are deeper archetypes, and those Marvel characters were in reaction to these archetypes. My grandmother is ninety-six, and she has an emotional attachment to Superman. She doesn't have any attachment to Spider-Man or Iron Man. They have to be treated in a different way, particularly the big three. Done right, like Chris did with the Batman films, they can reach an even bigger audience. But I also think there are more pitfalls because people have more preexisting expectations.
Beaks: Could you ever see introducing Mister Mxyzptlk into your MAN OF STEEL universe?
Goyer: Wow. Never say never, but I'll admit that's always been a tough character for me to digest. Even the Grant Morrison version that he's been playing around with recently. That's just been a rough character for me. I think Grant Morrison also played around with it in his version of JLA. I think of all the Superman villains, that's really tough. Do you think there could be?
Beaks: There could be, but I don't have the slightest idea what he'd look like?
Goyer: I'd hate to be given that task. I can't even imagine the gymnastics I'd have to go through to make that make sense. I feel like the whole thing would collapse underneath its own bullshit. When you start talking 5th dimensional imps... is that the same dimension Bat Mite is from?
Beaks: I think so, yes.
Goyer: My kids were watching an episode of [BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD], and Bat Mite was on it. They were asking me who Bat Mite was, and I was trying to explain it. I was sitting there watching Batman interact with Bat Mite, and was like, "This is the dumbest thing of all time," so I cried uncle. Never say never, but I hope that is a problem I never have to contend with.
Beaks: I've always been a fan of Man-Bat.
Goyer: I like Man-Bat, but there is a vast continuum between Man-Bat and Mister Mxyzptlk.
Beaks: What about Superboy or Krypto?
Goyer: That's a tough one, too. How did that dog get here at the same time in a separate pod?
Beaks: Who's the villain you'd really like to take a crack at?
Goyer: I would love to answer that, but they'll poison me with kryptonite if I answer. I will tell you a funny anecdote, though. On Russell Crowe's first day of shooting in Vancouver, I was on set, and we were waiting for him to come get in his Kryptonian armor. I was joking around with the crew, and we were talking about the various superpets that had been introduced in the 1950s. There's Krypto, Streaky the Supercat, Comet the Superhorse and Beppo the Supermonkey. They crew said, "There's no way those characters exist," so I showed them pictures of Beppo on my iPhone. Then I met Russell Crowe. He was in the Jor-El armor, and it was very intimidating. We were sitting there waiting to shoot the first scene, and I said, "You know that you're shooting this scene with Beppo, right?" He was like, "Who's Beppo?" I showed him the picture on my iPhone, and I said, "He's going to be CG." And there was this moment where you could see him looking around and thinking, "What the fuck?" Then he just said, "You're kidding, right?" And I was like, "Yeah."
And that's all the Goyer I've got for now! MAN OF STEEL is currently in theaters. The second season of DA VINCI'S DEMONS is currently in production, with comic book writers Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction now on staff.
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