Interview: Battle of the Super Sons Director Matt Peters on Using CGI

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with director Matt Peters about the recently released 3D animated DC Comics film Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons. Peters discussed the challenges that come with using CGI and which DC characters he dreams of adapting.

“Jonathan Kent and reluctant young sidekick Damian Wayne are burdened with saving the world from impending doom,” reads the film’s synopsis. “The two must join forces to rescue their fathers and save the planet by becoming the super heroes they were intended to be.”

Tyler Treese: The big exciting thing about Super Sons is that this is all CGI. What led to the choice of doing this and making this milestone film?

Matt Peters: Actually, it was really fun to be able to see some CG with the classic 2D rendering come to life. I was happy to be a part of it. It was something that was a challenge I know Rick [Morales, supervising producer on the film] wanted to do, and I think it turned out great.

Sometimes CGI can look lifeless, but there’s a great art style here. Can you speak to helping to figure out the style for the film?

Yeah, we knew the technical things that CG was capable of. Rick and I worked on CG films before. We’ve done some Lego projects, and there was Green Lantern as well. So we kind of knew what we could do in terms of it being CG, but this was something we wanted to make unique with its appearance. Rick worked really hard with the designers to get those characters to look the way that they do, to make sure that they would emote and get some emotion, and also be really interesting and wonderful looking. You got some great color, you got some great lighting, and the design was really fantastic. That’s the testament to Rick’s supervision. He did such a great job with them.

So what are the challenges that come with doing a CG movie compared to more traditional animation?

The challenges end up being almost a little on the dull side. They could be for technical things. There are certain things we have to keep in mind for rendering purposes. So sometimes it’s like you think you can do everything in the world because a computer will just make it for you. But the truth is, you also need computer memory to make that stuff happen. It’s what’s always at the heart of anything we work on — whether it’s traditional animation or CG — we’re all just trying to tell the story. So we put that stuff to the side and we focus mostly on telling the story that we want to tell. Then if technical problems come up, we’ll find a solution for it then, but generally speaking, the story is our number one thing. We want to make sure that works out well.

The story here is interesting because we have that next generation of superheroes. What did you find most interesting about focusing on that generational leap rather than the old heroes?

I think what I like about it is that you’ve got years of history for both Batman and Superman — the characters have been around for 70-odd years and things. It’s really interesting to be able to see them reinvent it as the next generation and to end up reinventing them. Something I really like about watching this movie is seeing Superman, and Lois together as parents, and they still have their personalities. Lois is still a tough-as-nails reporter, Clark is still like a wholesome farm boy, and so that doesn’t change. But at the same time, we’re adding different elements of their personality that we haven’t seen before. We’re getting to see them as parents, we’re getting to see their kids, and we’re getting to see them interact with those kids. So it ends up feeling both classic and new at the same time, at least for me.

It’s fun seeing Batman and Superman as fathers because it seems like the one area of their lives that they can’t fully control. They can’t brute force it or just overpower these problems that they’re having with their sons.

Yeah, definitely. You’re talking about “how do you deal with raising somebody as opposed to smacking out a bad guy?” You’re hitting the nail on the head because when you see the introduction of Batman in this movie, he’s taking out the Penguin, but then when we see him later dealing with Damian, you can see that it’s a much more complicated problem for him to deal with. It’s something that maybe he doesn’t have all the best moves for.

This is such a great pairing with Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne because they’re so different in their upbringing. Damian Wayne is very at odds with his father because of everything he went through, while Jonathan just found out about his parents and was very much wanting to see his parents more. What did you find most interesting about the dynamic of these two sons being similar in ways, but with very different backgrounds?

What I thought was really interesting in Jeremy’s script is how he wrote in this kind of discovery for each of them. You have Jonathan, who’s lived a “normal” life at home. Then he starts discovering that he’s a superhero, he’s got superhero lineage, so we follow this arc of him entering that, we see him entering a superhero world. It’s the complete reverse for Damian. Damian was raised by the League of Assassins. He’s got all this superhero lore already in his past. He hasn’t had the chance to be a normal kid or go to a baseball game or to have a friend. So we actually see him start to enter a trajectory, which is completely new for him. So they end up meeting at the crossover point for each of them, which makes both of them a little bit like guides to the other one. Each of them ends up influencing the other on how to behave as they both enter those different spheres of existence .

There’s some great humor in the film. How important was it to have that sense of like levity throughout the film?

I think it was really important. We wanted to make sure that these guys felt like kids. There’s a wonderful sloppiness to everything that they do that just feels like what everybody’s childhood is like and what it would be like to be superheroes. To me, what makes it really great is their adventures end up being arguably more fun because they’re a little more on the goofy side and they can do things like throw Batarang’s at one another’s heads and make wisecrack comments that adults just wouldn’t do.

You assembled a wonderful cast for this film. Can you speak to the performance of Jack Dylan Grazer and Jack Griffo? They really give a youthful performance to the leads and bring those characters to life.

Oh, without a doubt. I can’t believe how blessed we were to get them. They’re just such amazing talents and hearing their voices and their performances was great. We made this movie during lockdown, so we were doing everything virtually and by phone, so I actually didn’t get a chance to meet them until this last weekend at Comic-Con. It was great to finally actually shake their hands and thank them. What’s really great is that Jonathan-Jack off-camera is a really hilarious, fun-loving guy and he ends up being almost a rascal at times. He’s got a great sense of humor. Then Damian-Jack is a remarkably sweet and warm person to talk to. So in an odd way, it’s like off-camera, they end up being almost the opposite of what their characters are, which I thought was hysterical.

The action throughout the film looks great, which has become a staple of your work. What’s your philosophy when it comes to coming up with these superhero action scene?

It’s funny. A fight scene should have its own start, middle, and end. So that’s something that we focus on. It’s easy to draw a bunch of choreographed fights and punches, but we make sure that it has a start, middle, and end and that there’s kind of a point to it. So that was something that I think we really did with the final fight between the Super Sons and the Super Dads where you have each of them taking on their own parents and then switching. Once they switch, suddenly they find the advantage that they need to take the threat out. That’s a really fun dynamic to play with. You could do stunt choreography and have it look great, but it’ll be boring unless there’s a point to it. I think that’s what this film does — or what we tried to do anyways. We really wanted to make the action feel like there was a story behind it as well.

Are there any dream characters, maybe somebody a little more obscure that like you would really like to work with?

I’ve always favored the Steve Ditko characters that were introduced in the 70s. So it’d be kind of cool to do something with The Creeper, or even Shade the Changing Man, or something like that. Those are kind of weird, unique characters that I don’t feel ever get enough attention. So maybe someday there’ll be a project that comes up where I could work with those guys.

You’ve been busy, as you just had Teen Titans Go and the Injustice movie. What lessons have you learned lately that you were able to really apply here?

It’s a really interesting question. The lesson I learned in this movie is … I guess it would be something along the lines of just being fortunate enough to enjoy what you have in front of you at the time. This is probably one of my most fun projects to work on. I think it’s just remembering that, remembering that I’m getting work with these characters that I’m a fan of, and I just feel grateful. So I guess that’s honestly it. It’s just to remember how much fun it is to work in the industry I got with all of these characters. Hopefully, the audience enjoys it as much as I do.

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