If buzz and anticipation are any indication, the new Superman is about to conquer the world.
But first he had to survive Edwards Air Force Base.
"Man of Steel," which hits Bakersfield screens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, was shot on location at the east Kern military base in early 2012, said Joanie Haenelt, film liaison with the Board of Trade, which oversees filming in the county.
"I think the reason is that Edwards is film friendly," Haenelt said.
"That's why they get used quite a bit. You'll see the fighter planes, and Edwards personnel actually were extras."
Though Haenelt noted that Warner Bros., the studio behind the release, is typically "hush-hush" about details of its projects (the film permit was pulled under the pseudonym "Autumn Frost"), the base is featured in trailers promoting the film. In one scene, Henry Cavill, the latest square-jawed stud to don the legendary red cape, is seen hovering heroically above as tanks and heavily armed soldiers take aim.
"They present it as a military base," she said. "They did special effects there too."
Production crews filmed for nine days at the base, and did 20 days of preparation work before that, pumping an estimated $2.3 million into the east Kern economy, Haenelt said. Film crews pay nothing to film in the county or at the base, but they do spend money on lodging, food, recreational activities and other needs.
"Man of Steel" is the second of two recent popcorn flicks filmed partially in eastern Kern County. But unlike the disappointing "Hangover Part III," which ended the men-behaving-badly franchise with a whimper, the reboot of the Superman saga is expected to soar.
Meanwhile, Haenelt reported that no other potential blockbusters are being filmed in Kern at the moment, but there are a number of commercials and independent films being made. She said Kern averages about 20 productions a month, though March saw a surge with 40 film permits filed. The film commission reported $18.8 million in filming revenue in 2012, down from $19 million in 2011.
"We try to give film crews whatever they ask for, but there's some things we just can't do," Haenelt said, using as an example the film "The Lone Ranger," starring Johnny Depp, set for release July 3.
"They were looking for a desert with big river going through it. We tried, but we just couldn't do it."
The most in-demand Kern locations include the wind turbines around Tehachapi, the desert landscape, Tejon Ranch and Willow Springs International Raceway in the Rosamond area.
"We're excited about the new race track," said Haenelt, referring to Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield. "We'll be promoting that."