‘Man of Steel’ Ending Controversy & The ‘Superman II’ Hypocrisy

Published 2 years ago by , Updated April 8th, 2014 at 7:06 am,

Man of Steel Superman II Zod Death Superman Kills Man of Steel Ending Controversy & The Superman II Hypocrisy



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.

dark superman by eliaskhasho d338bj9 Man of Steel Ending Controversy & The Superman II Hypocrisy

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

general zod Man of Steel Ending Controversy & 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:

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  1. I don’t see it being a controversy but I didn’t like the snapping of the neck. I thought they could’ve found a better way for Zod to be killed.

    • I tend to agree. Only problem is they were beating the crap out of each other for a very long time. And neither of them were so much as injured. Hard to imagine killing a near invulnerable being without being brutal to some extent.

      • That’s a serious problem. A key point about Superman in the comics is that he’s NOT invunerable: It just takes an opponent who has either the strength or the weapons capable of harming him. Zod is one such person. A punch from Zod would hurt Superman just as much as a punch from one normal human would hurt another.

        A duel between Superman and Zod should result in both combatants getting bruised and bloodies. Snyder seems to have forgotten to add injury make-up to the actors as the fighting progressed.

        • Something I did notice upon a second watch is that, when he does the neck breaking, he breaks the sound barrier like did when flying, they added in a sub-drop and the circle in the air that happened whenever he broke it when flying, I’m thinking it was the speed and velocity that allowed him to snap his neck, if that makes sense?

        • Valid point…they should have been able to hurt each other without lethal force

        • Well…

          … in the death of Superman arc, the Eradicator explains to Kal-El that the only reason he fell into his “coma” was because of his own sense of humanity.

          You see, Superman had spent so much time around humans that it caused him to falsely believe in his own humanity. The only reason Doomsday was able to do to Kal-El what he did, was that Kal-El believed it was possible.

  2. im down with it. it made him go to a place that he wanted to go to all his life… with the other kids tormenting him and stuff. when he got there, he found out how dark it was and now he knows he can never go back.

    • The argument to that though is “Superman” never goes down that path and shouldn’t go down that path. He’s supposed to be a better person than that.

      I get your point, that’s just the other side’s argument.

      • Maybe he needs to BECOME a better person… Even Superman can be a flawed character…

    • EXACTLY!! it was a something he didn’t wanted to do and that i think he will never do it again because of the way he felt after.

    • Brilliant. Right on, I felt the same way when I saw it. It’s an origin, there has to be an event that make him become the hero that never kills and now we finally witnessed it. I think it was necessary for his evolution as superman.

      • He does kill though. He killed Zod, Doomsday, and Cyborg Superman in the comics.

  3. Here’s the problem with your Superman 2 “death of Zod”. He didn’t kill them. In the TV version you can see them in custody of the police at the end.

    • I never heard of that. That was not the theatrical release.
      That sounds like some alternate ending reworking for television.

      • That’s the Donner version where they live, actually.

        • Ah, yes. Thanks. Still not the theatrical release.
          Donner did not have much footage to work with with.

          I think Dick did the best with what he had but we
          will never really know what the true Donner
          version would have been unfortunately.

        • i think you are mistaken. i have both versions of SII, and i don’t recall anyone other than lex being in custody at the end, but i guess i will have to watch it again (darn!) just to make sure, but, i still think you are wrong. if i am wrong, i will retract my statement.

          • I fired up my copy, jeffro, and you are indeed correct.
            Zod and company do die in the Richard Donner cut too.

    • But a theatrical version is considered the “official” version of a movie. Any other version (TV, or a home release) is considered just an alternate take.

      • Correctamundo.

    • There’s no TV version. That was a deleted scene added to the Richard Donner cut that isn’t cannon. As far as general audiences are concerned, for the last 34 years Superman has been a killer. That’s what happened in the Superman II canon.

      Plus he also killed Nuclear Man in Superman IV, though I guess that entire movie was an abomination anyway.

      • Yes, we do like to pretend Superman IV did not happen. At least I do.

        • Superman Returns replaces that film and the third. Superman Returns is a masterpiece in comparison to those two and rounds out that particular “trilogy better”

          • Indeed. I erase III and IV in my mind. Bryan Singer did too.
            Remember “vague sequel” to Superman 2 as he called it.

    • Seen Superman II multiple times, including several times on TV, and never seen this ending. Which is good. Revisionist history is annoying, like Lucas half ruing the “Redemption” angle of Han Solo by having Greedo shoot first.

      Personally, I don’t see an issue. Zod deliberately intended to kill over six billion people, and clearly intended to try again if not stopped. plus flat out stated his intention to destroy Superman by any means necessary as long as he lived. It’s like the Kenny Roger’s song Coward of the County. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

  4. I’m really perplexed by the backlash for Superman killing Zod. As Kofi mentioned in the article, Superman killed Zod in Superman II. I don’t recall nearly as much backlash about that. Simply stunning.

    • Apparently since he did it with a smile and a wink in Superman 2 it was just fun killing, as opposed to MoS that was real emotionally draining, dramatic killing… ;-)

    • Not to mention Zod was mortal when he killed him (in Superman 2). How much worse was that, he could have just stopped with crushing his hand and then tossed him into a maximum security prison. He had more choices in Superman II. Why not backlash to that movie ending?

  5. Honestly I’m ver happy about the movie. It was te supes movie I wanted to see be made for the most part. The snapping of the neck was a tense an intense moment that didn’t bother me. Superman isn’t batman I like to think that superman kills if absolutely neccesary. Unlike batman who never kills. In this Case it wa either save the kids by killing or let the kids die.

  6. It’s not that I didn’t like what happened. I understand why he did it, this whole movie was about decisions. Clark decision to become Superman. His decision to step into the world or continue hiding in the shadows. His decision to ally or turn against Zod. And in that moment he answered all of those questions. By snapping Zod’s neck, he proved how far he was willing to save the people of Earth. He proved he was willing to turn against Zod’s Krypton, a world where he would be with his own kind. Superman made a decision, the ultimate decision that writers for generations have been unwilling to answer or even test in the movies. A Superman who was willing to go the farthest lengths to save people, to actually kill.

    I think they handled it well. I think it will be a driving force in future movies. If he could kill Zod, why not kill all of his enemies? But if he starts to do that, what makes him any different than them? I predict for the next movie, whoever the next villain is, he won’t kill them. But it will be on his terms, and his choice not to kill. That’s character development.

  7. You are right, of course, Kofi. Superman II was actually much worse.
    Superman had alternatives. Like handing over to trial and incarceration.

    Instead Superman delivers a death penalty.
    In Man Of Steel Superman has no such alternatives.

    Zod, the relentless killing machine, still super-powered
    unlike Superman II, had to be terminated for the
    greater good; a principle of a just war.

  8. It’s just fan boys wanting something to b**** about. It happens with EVERY major superhero movie they re-boot now. I loved Man of Steel , wasn’t a real big fan of the Donner films so this one worked for me.

  9. We are splitting hairs because Christopher Reeves Superman was based off the Pre-Crisis version of the character in which killing off villains had occurred. However, there has been 40+ years of continuity including a couple of retcons that pretty much conclusively dictate that Superman will not kill. Hell, “What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, Alan Moore’s classic spin on Supes, shows Kal-El destroy Mr. Mxyzptkl. Afterwards, he permanently removes his powers with gold kryptonite exclaiming, “It’s never alright for anyone to kill, Lois. Especially, not Superman.”

    I just feel that Zod’s death wasn’t properly justified and the amount of remorse that should have been shown was immediately crapped on by a piss-poor scene involving some dumb military chick talking about how hot Superman was. Puke.

    • Except Superman did kill Lex’s crew in Superman Returns, so…

    • Absolute BS. Nearly all instances of Superman killing are from the post-crisis comics.

      He killed Doomsday and Hank Henshaw(the Cyborg Superman) in his Death and Return storylines. They later came back to life and he killed them again.

      He’s destroyed entire armies of sentient robots despite valuing sentient machines just as much as humans to the extend he held funerals for robot members of the JLA that ‘died’.

      He killed Brainiac in Superman: Unbound by forcing him to self-destruct.

      In the Superman and Justice League cartoons he tried to kill Darkseid twice and also killed dozens of invading aliens and Nazis.

      Superman’s no killing rule is not a hard and fast thing. He’s broken it several times when the circumstances required.

      • @ Robert W: Which once again is crappy writing and one of the multitudes of reasons to not like that movie. Lulz.

        @GG: Most of that stuff has been retconned out of existence. I.E. In Final Crisis(I think? Or Identity Crisis?), where Superman actively states that he doesn’t believe he has killed anyone.

        And like I said before, I have a problem with the execution of the death of Zod more-so-over than him actually dying. Show a montage of the destruction of countless cities with Superman laying broken on the ground before he does it. Then, give me the catharsis of him dealing with what he just did. Ya know? Instead of what were shown afterwards.

        • Retconned or not he still killed.

        • @Punchsplosion EXCUSES!!!!!

        • Why is that absolutely necessary? If you need THAT much to show something, you’re nit-picking. They showed enough to let the audience know that he was NOT ok with what happened. The damages to the city, etc. may be handled in the sequel.

        • Was it rectonned or did the writers just forget that Superman has killed?

  10. I don’t know what all the fuss is about either, I thought the ending was brilliant.

  11. I totally did not mind supes killing zod i thought that was the one of the most powerful moments in the movie other then John kent death.

    • Dude yesss. I think it’s one of the most powerful movie deaths ever haha. I got freaking goosebumps from it!

    • Objectively, from an artistic standpoint, you are correct.
      And an artistic justification is justification enough.
      It was high drama and very powerfully done.

  12. Wait, people are complaining about that part?

    Wow, some people….

    I thought it was kinda cool that he had to go there and then screamed in torment after because of what had just happened. Now Superman knows what it feels like to kill someone, even for the greater good, so he’ll do everything he can to avoid doing it again.

    There are legit complaints to be had about the movie but snapping Zod’s neck isn’t one of them.

    • Right, Dazz. I find the complaint out of left field.

    • Can I be the first one to bring up that Nam-Ek pops that fighter pilots head like a grape, and there is a decent amount of gore as a result?

      • Excellent point. And pop.

      • wow did not catch that, i’ll have to be on the lookout for that the next time.

          • That is really crazy, love how subtle it is but when you really focus on it it’s pretty intense. Thanks.

          • That clips made me wanted to see the film again all the more.

            • ^clip

            • ^want
              I give up.

    • Its necessary for superman’s evolution into the hero he is to become. He know knows what it is to kill, and the weight it carries. Had he not learned this important lesson in superman vs elite. He would have just killed them all. instead he did everything to avoid collateral damage and avoid killing them.

    • Can I also just say Cavill sold it completely!

      • Exactly. Henry made it real.

    • Goyer recently stated somewhere that his intention in writing this scenario is to make Superman dangerous and unpredictable for the follow-ups. He has the capacity to kill and will do it again. That changes the character a lot more. Plus I don’t understand Louis roll in comforting him: she’s killed several characters already. Its like a mature, sexually experienced woman comforting a virgin after his first try. Just weird to me.

  13. I think in the context of the new movie it makes perfect sense that he kills Zod. Bottom line, if he allows him to live (in or outside of Phantom Zone) he will continue to be a threat. Now, if he somehow conned Zod into losing his power like in SII killing him shouldn’t be an option.

    As for everyone who says he didnt give much thought about any collateral damage and the citizens, he JUST became a superhero and is not going to know how to handle certain situations for a while. Even though he did save others before becoming “Superman” he had never been in a situation where he also had to face someone as strong as him, causing him to focus all of his mental and physical energy on Zod instead of innocent bystanders. As he grows into the role of being a superhero, I see him gradually learning how to remain focused while no losing sight of the people around him. I’m also intrigued to see where they go with how he will deal with taking a life. Maybe it will come out that the reason he doesn’t is because he did one time and still regrets it.

  14. THANK YOU! I’ve been saying this the entire time! People have complaining like hell about this scene in Man of Steel, then I simply ask “…what about when he killed Zod in Superman 2?”. And then, awkward silence.

    Superman didn’t HAVE to kill Zod in Superman 2. He took away his powers, why not just have him arrested? I guess throwing him into a bottomless pit felt good at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Superman 2, and I’ve never had a problem with the ending. I just don’t understand why people are so mad about him killing Zod in Man of Steel (while having no choice) but are fine with him MURDERING Zod in Superman 2!

  15. Someone explain to me how Kryptonian heat vision works. Does it blast in one direction out of their head (through the eyes), or is it directed by where they are looking? Because no matter how firmly you hold someone’s head, their eyes are still free to look anywhere.

    In MOS Superman was holding Zod’s head, but couldn’t Zod simply direct his heat vision by looking in the direction of anyone and frying them? Or was Superman employing some kind of Super/head/eyeball hold?

    • It works eyes focused and fixed straight ahead.
      To change direction the head has to turn eyes straight.

      • +1
        I noticed that the second time I saw the film. I liked they kept that detail constant.

    • Again, alternate version. The theatrical release of a film in it’s native country is considered the official film.

    • That is not the original release of the film.

  16. This is Indeed PURE Hypocrisy. Zod in Superman 2 could have easily been sent to Jail or somewhere elese as I have said in the past: He had NO Powers. In MoS, It was the Family or the UNCONTROLLABLE Zod. Superman chose “to do what he had to do”.
    I admit that he could have flown with him or do something else however, I remembered Superman 2 and thought, Zod got what he deserved, especially after he confessed to Clark that he is the one who killed his father…
    Do not Forget, this is an INEXPERIENCED Superman and as my Screenrant’s Friend has said: “It was after he killed Zod that he took a Vow to never kill again”
    Obviously, more people need to be Aware of the Superman’s Origin Mythos. The Good thing about that controversy is that more people will find out about the time he took this code at heart. :)

  17. People forget that the cinematic counterpart is a different universe or a different vision. I think some people are applying what they “feel” about the comics and animated movies to this film.

    With that said there was an escalation of events which made super-man’s decision seem out of character. Had this been doomsday no one would have had any issue with super-man trying to snap his neck because doomsday comes off as some kind of mindless beast and death is the only option but Zod on the other hand is a being trying to do what he thinks is the right thing even though he has become blinded by it. Despite everything Zod did people expected super-man to offer him one definitive moment for atonement.

    That scene could have remained exactly the way it is but the moments leading up to it should have played out differently establishing the merciful superman before the avenging superman.

  18. I would have preferred the returning to the Phantom Zone ending. After all, Zod & his minions versus the Justice League would have been a great movie.

  19. I’ll admit i was surprised by the neck snapping never had i seen a superman movie when he actually kills the bad guy by snapping his neck and i love how it was acted out by both Cavill and Shannon i think the scene was good overall in the originals it was different i think because i think Superman was more of a do less wrong kind of guy in this they wanted to make it a little bit deeper and realistic so when he killed him he was a lot more traumatized than Reeve was in his originals. Overall i liked the film i had a lot of fun with it.

  20. Here was my problem with that scene. The family (as far as I could remember) had a clear path straight towards Superman and Zod to run to and then get around the rubble. Also, why did Superman have to keep Zod in place where he was? Why did he not just fly up with Zod still in the choke hold? That surely wouldnt have killed him. I think killing Zod was unnecessary at that point in time.

    That being said, and reading these comments, I like what Brian said about the Character Development. Superman has now done the unthinkable, and he knows he never wants to do it again, and from this point on, he will never kill (hopefully). Good job to sway someone on the fence about it Brian!

    • I think, while not totally obvious at first, both combatants were weak and fatigued relatively yet equally locked. Thus, lowering the amount of alternatives Superman could do. Even so, what then?

      In terms of pure character development yes, I can definitely see that played out in the sequel and just character in general.

    • The thing people keep coming to is an alternate to killing him. It was now impossible to send him to the Phantom Zone. Zod was slowly getting all the benefits of his powers and made several things very clear:

      1) he made it very clear to Superman that one of them will have to die for the battle to be over.
      2) he told Kalel that he destroyed his purpose in life (go back to the beginning scene stating that every Krpytonian is created for a singular purpose.)
      3) He told Kalel that he destroyed his soul therefore he will punish every living thing on Earth to make him suffer.
      4) Kalel begged him to stop but Zod refused.

      He could fly up, down, left or right. That may have saved that family but no matter what he did, he would come back. There was no alternative. If you don’t understand that, go watch the movie again and pay attention to the dialog. They set this up from the beginning so that when the time came and Superman destroyed the birthing ship, this was going to have to happen.

      He had to kill Zod.

  21. So Snyder is to blame. Considering the butchery of Watchmen that he presided over, that is not too surprising.

    • how is a nearly panel by panel from comic to movie a butchery? oh, you didn’t like it, therefore it’s butchery. now i get it.

      • Yes. Watchmen was essentially a comic transfer to film.

      • More than likely a Alan Moore disciple. Worried about a starving artist not protecting himself from a huge company. Apparently his magic doesn’t work on contracts.

  22. it’s make-believe!

    • Thanks for making me laugh, richie :D

  23. Superman doesn’t kill but if u watch the movie there were ppl getting killed,so wat was superman to do leave zod kill ppl till he got a plan together,he took the choice to kill zod and it will haunt him for it,just remember this is his frist time saving the world wat would u do to protect the ppl close to u,plus it’s only a movie a bloody good one at that too

  24. I didn’t mind him killing Zod. I like a lot of the ideas and designs of MOS, but I still thought it was a bad movie. I love the Donner version, but I was open to a new take on Superman. I thought this was a mess though.

    • I love Donner’s movie but prefer Man of Steel as I just cannot deal with some parts of it.

  25. While the scene was surprising, my thinking was more like ‘COULD that have happened?’ As in if the roles had been reversed would Zod have been powerful enough to snap Superman’s neck?

    I suppose you could argue that Superman would be stronger since he’d been exposed to the yellow sun longer. I’m no Superman expert though.

    • I do think that a lifetime of acclimation to Earth and its Sun as
      opposed to Zod’s just getting adjusted gave Superman the edge.

      • ^ I agree but if Zod had lived, even for a few minutes, Zod could have potentially become an even bigger threat due to the control and training Zod has wherein Superman lacks.

        • Right. Zod was already showing growing power.
          Zod had to go and go at that point in the fight.

          His potential threat was enormous to the point
          he could possibly overwhelm Superman and thus
          put Earth itself at risk of Zod’s control and use.

    • yeah i think Superman is stronger but not by a huge margin.

  26. wtf people? batman even kills harvey dent and i dont remember the backlash then and batmans number one rule… never kill. lmoa, this reaction is a dan joke. i can see it now, people are probably saying let that family die, its that really what everyone wanted? i would hate superman if he let that happen.

    also wanna point out tony stark, without iron man goes on a killing spree in im3 before he meets the mandarin lmao.

    • i will admit though i was shocked when it happened. i was not upset or anything but it caught me of guard but the reaction its getting is pathetic.

      but i guess everyone needs a moan about something. even the mandarin got people moaning yet it was acceptable for me. mandarin in the ultimates is a computer lol.

    • Plus the killing spree at the start of IM1 he wipes out what 50 dudes during his escape.

      Tim Burton made Batman a killer in his films etc. no matter where you look all the major heroes will have killed at some point in there portrail even though “Cannon” says they don’t/haven’t

      Depends on whether the author/director/write of that perticular story wants to take the hero down that path.

      The only thing I would say is that if it’s cannon that they don’t kill then if there’s a portrail where they do the aftermath of that CHOICE needs to be explored (Burton didn’t do that, nor Fav really)

  27. Everyone calm the f**kdown. Stop complaining. It doesn’t matter what he would of done or should of done or could of done. People would always find a way to complain. This is the best rendition of Superman Since the Christopher Reeve era. Will this be the last Superman? No. So I think what we got here is big potential. Calvil did a great job! The action was mind blowing, the story was down to earth and for the first time, we see a superman that will not always save the day and will do what he has to do! All in all, a great film and cannot wait for the sequel. For all you haters, go back to your basements and go cry a river.

    • +1

    • +1 Too

  28. He also killed a general zod from a parallel universe, in the comic book. So killing Zod is nothing new. John Bryne wrote that story, mark Waid was one of the writers that choses to ignore thta story.

    • Waid’s blog entry was amusing… the only thing betrayed was his fragile ego. Suck it up buttercup.

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