Man of Steel destroys Chicago, rural Illinois on the big screen

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  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

  • Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius

Courtesy of Gregory Zonsius


Warning: This post contains spoilers to the plot of Man of Steel.

What is it about Chicago that makes it so attractive to filmmakers bent on destruction? Is it the location, nestled in the unassuming, generically American Midwest? All those gleaming skyscrapers just begging to be smashed by extraterrestrials? Or is it simply the sweet tax credit producers get for filming here?

During one of the many fight sequences in Man of Steel, the highly anticipated (and high-octane) Superman reboot in theaters June 14, our chiseled hero is thrown through the glass roof of Chicago's Union Station. In his spandex-meets-chainmail suit and blood-red cape, Henry Cavill's Superman plummets to the floor of the train hub's magnificent Great Hall, which on a normal afternoon is quiet, save the whispers of a docent leading an architectural tour.

It's just one instance in which Man of Steel is not kind to our fair city. Indeed, after Krypton explodes early on and General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his henchmen begin the hunt for Superman, Chicago and rural Illinois—which stand in for Metropolis and Smallville, Kansas, respectively—become the film's battlefields. With director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) at the helm, this isn't quaint "Up, up and away!"–era Superman. Aside from a handful of sentimental scenes—particularly the golden-hued pastoral flashbacks of young Clark Kent with his adoptive Earth parents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane—Snyder is mostly in demolition-man mode.

As good and evil (and the bumbling U.S. military) duked it out during last night's advanced screening of Man of Steel, I began keeping a tally of all the destruction. Super-powered punches send Superman and his enemies flying into skyscrapers, raining terracotta, glass and steel onto downtown streets. Computer-generated buildings topple like dominos as Zod attempts to use a "terraforming" mechanism—which emits a grinding gurgle not unlike a Skrillex sample—to make the Earth's atmosphere more like Krypton. In panorama, the CGI Metropolis is indistinct and anonymous. But in reaction shots on the ground, locals will find it easy to spot Chicago signposts.

The film was also shot in California and Canada, but perhaps wreaks the most havoc on Plano, Illinois. The aptly named town of 11,000 about 60 miles west of Chicago makes a perfect Smallville to turn into rubble. Along the way, locations of 7-Eleven, Sears and IHOP incur damages. The Kent home—a set erected by crews on a piece of property in Oswego, Illinois—gets a pickup truck tossed through its roof.

Although Man of Steel hasn't been released, Plano is gripping tightly to its new association with the film. In conjunction with the premiere, the tiny town is hosting the grand opening of the Smallville Museum, which will display props and sets. And for the second year, the city will put on Smallville Superfest August 16–18. By getting nearly wiped off the map in a movie, the tiny town hopes to land on the tourism radar.

Man of Steel is in theaters June 14. Stay tuned for our review next week.


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