[WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR MAN OF STEEL SPOILERS!!!]
Look around the Internet these days and you’ll hear a buzz about the new Superman reboot movie Man of Steel, and aside from some pretty divisive opinion about whether the movie is good or not (read our review), one of the biggest topics of discussion is the climatic battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), in which Superman is faced with the choice of watching Zod vaporize an innocent family or killing the ruthless general – ultimately (and controversially) choosing to do the latter.
There’s been vocal outrage on the part of some fans who feel betrayed by the notion of a Superman who kills – but is the outrage legitimate?
In recent days we’ve heard from Man of Steel director Zack Snyder and writer David S. Goyer, who revealed to Empire that in an original version of the script, Superman returns Zod to the Phantom Zone prison where he belongs – until Snyder convinced Goyer and producer/story writer Chris Nolan that Zod’s ending should be more permanent:
….David, Chris and I had long talks about it, and I said that I really feel like we should kill Zod, and that Superman should kill him. The ‘Why?’ of it for me was that if was truly an origin story, his aversion to killing is unexplained… I wanted to create a scenario where Superman, either he’s going to see [Metropolis’ citizens] chopped in half, or he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.
Collider and other sites have been critical of such reasoning – and even Mark Waid, writer of one of the comic books that influenced Man of Steel‘s story, stated on his blog Thrillbent that he was NOT happy with that moment of the film:
Superman wins by killing Zod. By snapping his neck. And as this moment was building, as Zod was out of control and Superman was (for the first time since the fishing boat 90 minutes ago) struggling to actually save innocent victims instead of casually catching them in mid-plummet, some crazy guy in front of us was muttering “Don’t do it…don’t do it…DON’T DO IT…” and then Superman snapped Zod’s neck and that guy stood up and said in a very loud voice, “THAT’S IT, YOU LOST ME, I’M OUT,” and his girlfriend had to literally pull him back into his seat and keep him from walking out and that crazy guy was me. That crazy guy was me, and I barely even remember doing that, I had to be told afterward that I’d done that, that’s how caught up in betrayal I felt. And after the neck-snapping, even though I stuck it out, I didn’t give a damn about the rest of the movie.
To be fair, Waid does go on to give a more level-headed explanation, saying he thinks the film failed to establish Superman’s concern with ordinary people to with enough emphasis to “earn” that moment of snapping Zod’s neck, though he did acknowledge the character’s anguish in the aftermath (that now infamous scream). Superman’s lack of concern for collateral damage has been something MANY people have criticized Man of Steel for – so Waid (who knows the character pret-ty well) does have a point, perhaps.
…But I ask again: Does NOBODY remember Superman II?
The Superman II Hypocrisy
Richard Donner’s sequel to Superman: The Movie told a darker tale that centered on Superman wanting giving up his powers in exchange for a normal life with Lois Lane – until evil Kryptonians General Zod, his lieutenant, Ursa, and brute enforcer Non all start using their newfound super powers to wreak havoc on Earth (sound familiar?). The movie ends with the now famous scene of Superman, Lois, Lex Luthor, Zod and his minions all having a Mexican standoff in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman craftily uses his de-powering chamber in reverse, restoring his own powers and stripping the bad guys of theirs. He then proceeds to murder General Zod!
If you’ve (somehow) never seen it, watch the climax of Superman II for yourself:
Just so we’re clear: this movie has Superman and taking a man he knows to be weak as your average human, crushes his hand, and throws him into a bottomless pit. That’s not even mentioning Lois Lane also knocking a now-de-powered villain off a cliff. In short: Superman does and has killed the exact same guy on film before – so what’s all the controversy about?
In Man of Steel Supes is clearly tormented by his actions and needs Lois for comfort; in Superman II, Supes and Lois smile through their double homicide and crack wise. Is the latter okay because it’s more of a fantasy world with a John Williams theme song playing when Superman does his dirty deed? Is Man of Steel‘s treatment of death and destruction more unpalatable than cheers for a re-powered Superman crushing a man’s hand and Lois Lane cracking one-liners before killing someone? I don’t get it.
What is there to split hairs about? Superman killed Zod in both films – so how does the notion of “Superman Does Not Kill” even hold water? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below – and/or vote in the poll:
Man of Steel is now in theaters.
Superman II has been around for thirty-three years. See it if you haven’t.
Dark Superman Image Courtesy of Eliaskhasho on DeviantArt