You’re gonna go to war?
That sonofabitch brought the war to us.
In bringing Batman and Superman together in one film, the filmmakers decided that, rather than have the action take place in one or the other’s home turf, they would utilize both iconic cities, Gotham and Metropolis.
“We thought the dynamic of creating two environments as rival cities played nicely into the antagonistic relationship between Batman and Superman,” Charles Roven states. “Metropolis and Gotham as sister cities, across the bay from each other, a little like New York City and certain parts of New Jersey along the Hudson. Metropolis is more cosmopolitan, while Gotham is a tougher town.”
Production took place in and around Detroit, Michigan, with some scenes accomplished in the Chicago, Illinois, area, and scenes at the Clark family farm filmed once again in nearby Yorkville. With Zack Snyder’s preference for the practical, much of the movie was shot on location or on large builds, the largest set being the Batcave, a feat of engineering that would impress the most daring architect.
“The main concept for the cave is that everything is suspended,” explains Tatopoulos. “It’s all hanging, like a bat—there is nothing with structural support from underneath. Even inside the workshop, every workstation hangs in space; the only thing that touches the ground is the chair. The building is not even touching the ground, it’s all cantilevered on the outside.”
The cave is composed of a series of cubed spaces connected by a floating staircase and surrounded by glass walls that are suspended using a spider system, which is a series of brackets that hold up the glass, only at the bottom and top. The brackets are held by steel pipes, painted to disappear into the dark slate color of the untouched cave walls. Water flows down the cave wall and into a small pond beneath a bridge, between two glass cubes. The effect is that of glass cubicles squeezed inside an existing cave. The designer was going for a feeling that is organic, minimalist and claustrophobic, built by a man who has become one with his animal nature yet feels crushed by it.
This minimalist theme continues above ground in the small glass lake house that lies in the valley below a hollowed out, decaying Wayne Manor. “The glass house reflects the same idea of a very low footprint,” Tatopoulos says. “The house sits in the middle of nature, as if it’s almost not there; wherever you look, you’re in nature. I was inspired by the architecture of Mies van der Rohe and the house was crafted around the idea that Bruce’s father could have had van der Rohe design it.” Inside, the house bears minimal furniture, and only essentials line the kitchen walls: a wine rack, fridge, sink, stove, and coffee machine. An austere environment for a man with a singular vision, fighting crime, and who has almost nothing else to bind him to the world at large.
The glass house was built on an old Girl Scout camp in Michigan, which is where the bulk of the movie was shot. The city of Detroit also provided the filmmakers with the freedom and space to shoot more of the film outdoors, on real streets. “We did a lot of the locations for Gotham in downtown Detroit,” Deborah Snyder states. “There was something so real about the wear and the tear of the city, the buildings that have been there for a long time and have seen so many things. I think the reality of these locations would have been hard to match by building a set.”
A sequence involving an extensive car chase was shot over seven days and incorporated a Detroit oil refinery and docks. “It was a gritty, dark location with a little bit of rain that looked really good on film,” she continues. “We shot as much practically as we could, right down to the explosions and the car flips.”
The Broad Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing doubled for Lex Luthor’s mansion; the Wayne County Courthouse, built just after the Civil War, was used for sequences in both Gotham and Washington, DC; and the old Grand Central Station was the setting for a climactic battle scene. The film also shot briefly in New Mexico, which stood in for North Africa, and Bora Bora, which became an island in the Indian Ocean.
To capture this epic world, director Snyder turned to director of photography Larry Fong, with whom he’s worked several times. “It was exciting developing the look for the film,” Fong says. “Zack definitely has his own style but he’s not afraid to try new things as well.”
While the camera work on “Man of Steel” was mainly handheld, Fong says for this film Snyder wanted to change it up. Therefore Fong took a more classic approach, with mostly dolly, Technocrane and Steadicam moves. “Designing the shots with these tools was good discipline. We wanted a naturalistic look, but with a heightened reality. That was the feel we were going for.”
The variety of shot designs was only dwarfed by the variety of formats. “When we first starting talking about format, Zack was immediately drawn to 35mm anamorphic with single-camera coverage. But by the end, we had shot in 16mm, 35mm anamorphic, 35mm spherical, 65mm, GoPro, digital and IMAX,” Fong laughs.
IMAX presented one of the biggest challenges, according to the cinematographer. “IMAX cameras are big and heavy, with very shallow depth of field. Zack likes to move the camera a lot,” he adds “so we really pushed the limits. We attempted some very elaborate camera moves and even handheld shots with it, and our camera operator, John Clothier, and first assistant camera, Bill Coe, were incredible. The results are amazing. You can really feel the immense scope of the format.”
Enhancing the impressive scale of the film is the score created by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, who worked as a team to bring forth a composition worthy of the iconic Super Heroes on the screen. To begin their process, Zimmer says, “Everything starts with Zack coming into the room and saying, ‘I want to tell you guys a story.’ For us, that’s a great way of entering that world.”
Incorporating the musical themes from “Man of Steel” for the Superman and Clark and Lois scenes was key for the composers, who wanted to give audiences that familiarity in the hero’s expanding world. “We brought back Hans’s concept for Superman in the last film, including the steel guitar and drum circle, which really celebrate the power of that character, and that’s a big discussion in this movie,” Junkie XL states. “We redefined it a bit and I think we were both pleased that it worked so well for this film.”
Together, the composers worked out the new themes for Batman. Zimmer says he found the character easier to approach by focusing on his alter ego. “I paid a lot of attention to Bruce Wayne. There’s so much anger inside of him and he’s so compelling, that it became a mission to serve those emotions. I tried to work out how to write a theme that is full of ambiguity and still gives a shorthand into this unstable character, to show that the dark can be light…you never know.”
For Wonder Woman’s debut, Zimmer and Junkie XL composed a tribal theme highlighted by the distinct sound of an electric cello, with cellist Tina Guo playing the part. Notes Zimmer, “Like Diana Prince, Tina is elegant, and she then picks up her cello—her sword—and becomes the most ferocious banshee, unleashed, a warrior like Wonder Woman. The first time I played the piece for Zack and Debbie, they were visibly shocked in the very best way, and that’s what you want, just that right amount of surprise.”
With all the elements of the film in place, Zack Snyder finds, “The thing I’m most excited about is that we get an opportunity with ‘Batman v Superman’ to take the biggest icons in comic book history and bring them together on the big screen in a single, coherent world where each of their back stories and different adventures can now create a tapestry within the richness of the DC universe. When you say Batman, when you say Superman, when you say Wonder Woman, these are names people know and love. To see them now getting a chance to interact and have their adventures intertwined, well…that’s just an incredible thing that I think everyone is going to be super psyched to see.”