‘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. Not sure how I felt about the skating thing either bit it was. OK. I was just happy we got a not so geeky Peter. And yeah I really want Michael rosenbaum to play lex. His version to me wasn’t a total villain. He truly believed he was song the right thing

    • Peter? I think you have the wrong character.

  2. FWIW, I’m not nearly the biggest Superman fan, but what I liked about MoS is that they modernized the Superman story without modernizing Kal-El. This time the story takes place in a very dark and very cynical world, but Kal-El still stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way. The problem is, those concepts are becoming harder and harder to stand up for. This is a world where people don’t trust their heroes. This is a world where the bad guys will kill innocent children without hesitation. This is a world where Superman has to fight for the greater good…potentially violating his morals in the process. This is a world where Superman doesn’t have the luxury of being the Boy Scout he has been derisively called. But in this world he still retains and inspires a spirit of optimism. And yet, we aren’t talking about any of that.

    I think, perhaps, that Superhero movies are starting to have run their course. This controversy is a good example, because it raises the question of whether we want our heroes to share our world of human struggles rather than living in a more idealized realm. The answer from a lot of people seems to be, No.

    • i completely agree

    • I think it has more to do with the longtime fans having a hard time adapting to what their heroes are becoming. The stories their heroes get into is being more and more influenced by our world and it’s probably tough to deal with.

      Personally, I think it’s about time we started looking at the new generation of heroes–especially as far as DC is concerned. I’m talking about the likes of Static, Nightwing/Red Hood/Red Robin, Arsenal/Red Arrow, maybe one day we take a look at the Aqua Family, or maybe a relatively unknown like Vixen, Question, Hawkwoman, or Anansi. Stuff along those lines. It opens up a bit more, because these characters are, at times, less explained and therefore able to be fleshed out more. Just a thought.

  3. Don’t understand, I own Hundreds of Superman Comic Books and I’m pretty sure Superman has killed Villians including Doomsday in them. I don’t understand the big deal of Comic Writers and some Fans complaining about Superman killing someone as Strong as him that was a threat to Human Life.

  4. Don’t understand, I own Hundreds of Superman Comic Books and I’m pretty sure Superman has killed Villains including Doomsday in them. I don’t understand the big deal of Comic Writers and some Fans complaining about Superman killing someone as Strong as him that was a threat to Human Life.

  5. I don’t know if someone brought this up earlier in the discussion as there are just too many comments to read through at this point, but I don’t think you can compare the two Movies. In Superman 2 you assume that he killed Zod. When in fact he did nothing more than to fall down a pit. Yes he could have been killed, but it could have also been some sort of prison within the Fortress and/or a path back into the Phantom Zone. The point is you are left to you’re own speculation. With the latest incarnation of Superman you are left with no doubt, speculation or imagination. He did it right in front of you, no question HE KILLED ZOD! And I think they did a great job showing how in do so it really tore him up. Not to mention that Superman had another subconscious reason to kill Zod that Richard Donner’s Superman did not, Zod killed Jor-El.

      • For the umpteenth time! That was a deleted scene that was NOT shown in theaters and didn’t get to be shown many many years later. What do you think the audience who have seen that movie and didn’t see that DELETED scene thought?

        • I, being in that audience back then, thought that the troublesome trio were imprisoned in some sort of suspension, a local equivalent to the Phantom Zone. I thought this seeing it in the theater (since I was old enough to have seen it there) and when it finally was on HBO a few yrs later.

          Back then, before John Byrne, before Doomsday, we fans had it pretty well established by the funny books that Supes did not kill, ever. The only implied deaths were prior to 1941, and I am a bit too young to have read those contemporarily. Thus, the *natural implication* of that completely ambiguous S2 scene was that some sort of Kryptonian super-imprisonment resulted from that Fortress scene.

          Note that a director can say what he or she believes all he wants, but he or she **has no say at all in what is not shown on the screen**; if Lester wanted to ABSOLUTELY STATE the trio were killed, he would have had to have it on the screen, especially in a movie based in a the superhero genre, where ambiguity equals survival 99 times out of 100. Leaving it ambiguous allowed the scene to provide the audience a place to feel closure, in swift, certain justice after a long struggle vs. wrongdoers, yet not have blood shed.

          The reason a scene is deleted is to move the story along and not muddle the movie. It does NOT always mean that the scene did not actually happen.

      • Anyone who doesn’t think Zod died in that Superman II scene is on a lot of meds.

        • Or simply grew up with an established character who did not kill under any circumstances.

      • Yep. Zod’s hand was crushed, and he was tossed into a column, and slid dn to. . somewhere. . .

        1) His hand was still attached. Supes didn’t have to be that kind.

        2) Zod was alive when he slid, so the toss was clearly not that hard, and it was into a nearby column, not into a glacier wall. A normal human can repel people a dozen or more feet backwards in Tai Chi (or similar arts) w/o hurting them at all, and a Supes who wanted to splat Zod could have just punched him.

        3) We have no idea what lies below the FoS, but it is Supes’ “home”, full of Kryptonian gadgetry, so it could easily have been some sort of imprisonment area.

        4) Leaving the results of the scene off-screen leaves it ambiguous. Add to this, that Supes was canon-established as a non-kill character (this being prior to Byrne and Doomsday), led to an implication of imprisonment, yet the scene could thus be kept short and sweet by not dwelling on the details of the capture.

        5) The original intent *in the script*, whether or not the scene was deleted, was imprisonment. No explicit death scene was filmed, *but, deleted or not, an explicit imprisonment scene was*. Death was NOT established, and not in character with Big Blue, especially not in 1980 canon.

        6) While the scene IS ambiguous, it was (at least at that time), weighted heavily towards a non-kill implication, due to the established character canon in 1980.

        7) Just because you want to believe Zod died in S2, does not mean that it happened. There is, as noted above, considerable room for counter debate, especially as most of the arguments in favor of fatality are post-1986 storyline based, which S2 predates.

        For the record, Zod was not in tights. His clothes were rather baggy, actually.

  6. You know, I don`t know why so many people seem to be shocked, suprised and appauled at Kal-El killing Zod in Man of Steel. I meant to actually write a post on ScreenRant prior to the release of MOS detailing my impressions of what to expect in the film from the Trailers, Tv Spots and Articles I read. I meant to say this:

    “I believe that there is a high probability that Superman is going to kill in this film.” I just didn`t get the impression from the advertisments that he was going to be pulling his punches. I haven`t even seen the movie yet, but I don`t feel that reading this article is spoiling anything for me. It just confirms my prediction. And its always kind of cool to feel like Nostradamus for a day :D

  7. SUPERMAN SHOULD DIE in the Justice League movie! with all the other superheroes watching him, will make his sacrifice to be more epic. just an anxious’s fan comment.

    • Sounds like a good idea, for a JL Sequel, following The Death of Superman storyline.

    • “It is totally anti-American now days.”

      Oh, grow up.

    • I disagree. I refused to see Superman Returns because they made a point to drop “American Way” from the line and instead had Perry White asking if Superman still fought for “Truth…justice…LIFESTYLE… All that stuff”. The studio at the time said Superman was a global commodity and not just an American Hero. The comics recently had Superman renounce his citizenship because the world is too big for him to be tied to just one country. In this movie he states that “I grew up in Kansas. I’m as American as they come,” when he’s talking with the general at the end. He even smashes a drone in a very relevant political statement about our own government using surveillance drones to follow us citizens. The character comes off as incredibly patriotic to me.

    • Please check previous comments in previous pages. Cool? Cool.

  8. I’m a soldier and I’ve killed in war to protect my self and my fellow soldiers from harm and to accomplish my mission. There is a very real difference between “killing” and “murder”. Murder is the taking of innocent life, while killing encompasses all instances of morally permissible taking of life, to include killing animals for food and killing other humans/whatever to defend yourself or those who cannot defend themselves. While some were “lost” when Superman killed Zod… I was “won”. Any hero who refuses to take life is generally one that will get innocent people killed needlessly, and a “Superman” that follows this code is so utterly unrealistic that I can’t buy in. Him actually killing Zod brings a realism to the character that doesn’t usually exist, and guarantees people like me will be on board for MoS II.

    • @Eric If what you say of yourself is true than I commend you for your service and grieve for your soul. There are only two types of people in this world:

      Those who have taken human life and those who have not. You now bare The Mark of Cain (so to speak) . I always say that “One should consider themselves blessed if they leave this world with the blood of no man, woman or child on thier hands. And may God grant mercy and have compassion on those who take lives in order to save lives.” Be well Eric…

      As I`ve said before I haven`t seen MOS yet but from what I`ve been hearing it sounds like the S on his chest stands for Soldier instead Superhero. An alien invasion takes place on Earth in MOS. Zod was a high-value target and enemy combatant and Kal-El took him out. Target aquired — threat neutralized as they say. I neither condone or condemn his actions. If I were in his shoes I may have done the same.

      • I had plans for today, but now all I want to do is go up to random people in the street and say in an overly dramatic voice “YOU now bare The Mark of Cain!”

        Oh, and there are not only 2 types of people in the world. If there were, we wouldn’t have so many f**king wars.

      • Wrong.

        You have zero understanding of what you state. The mark of Cain was a response to Cain MURDERing Abel, and then LYING to God to cover it up.

        Just to be clear, there is no commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”; that is a *mistranslation*. The actual translation is more or less “Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder”.

        Eric was 100% on the money.

  9. Is it just me, or was the fact Superman was supposed to represent Jesus made the movie unbearable? I couldn’t stand all the stupid biblical references. Also, there were no transitions between scenes. The fact that he killed Zod just added to the fact this movie was terrible.

    • It grated a bit, but a lot of movies do that sort of thing (witness Tron: Legacy, tho that admittedly had justification in that Kevin Flynn WAS their creator, and this perspective was established in the original movie).

      To be fair, the creators of Supes named him in angelic fashion. “Kal-El” likely translates as “The Voice of God”, as the creators of the big S were both children of Jewish immigrants, and a name like that would definitely hearken in their minds to names like Micha-El, Gabri-El, Rapha-El, Azri-El, etc.

  10. Its like hamburgers people know what needs to be done to feed us all but they just don’t want to witness it LMAO

  11. Yes, exactly what we need from fictional characters: more realism. MOS was deeply flawed thanks to realism, the kill scene just compounded it.

  12. Superman doesn’t kill.

    He didn’t kill Zod in Superman II; Zod was arrested.

    • Yes, he does. You clearly haven’t read the Death of Superman.

  13. My aversion to killing hasn’t been explained, either. I don’t feel the need to kill someone to explain it.

    And pointing to Superman II and saying, “See! Superman’s a killer!” doesn’t make me agree with you. Superman is better than us. It’s his job to figure out a better way. If he can’t, then he isn’t Superman – he’s as bad as the rest of us.

    • Then there’s your problem. Your idealization of Superman makes it seem as if he is perfect. Superman isn’t.

    • if someone was being was being threatened by scary-ass laser eyes that would melt them to a fleshy puddle on the floor, would you not break his neck?

      Besides, the regret he showed after killing him more then justifies his pain and sorrow, he had to do it, he was left with no choice. besides who cares, Zod killed heaps of people anyway.

  14. To all the people that are upset that Superman killed Zod, what do you suggest he do instead? If he should have sent him to the phantom zone how would he have sent him there?

  15. the Christopher Reeve Superman films also featured 1) Lex Luthor as a bumbling idiot who lived in the sewer, 2) Superman’s new ability to throw a giant cellophane “S” from his chest, 3) Robert Vaughn and his robot sister hiring Richard Pryor to build a million-dollar, cave-sized Atari 7800, and 4) REBUILDING-THE-GREAT-WALL-OF-CHINA VISION. let’s not pretend those movies were perfect.

    • Supes has had powers that got dropped from, or added to canon. His ability to disguise himself was alternately due to either rearranging the flesh of his face by pushing it around (can almost hear Lara-El scolding “if you make that face it will stay that way!”), or by using glass from his crib-ship to make his eyeglasses, so their power allowed him to mesmerize folks into not recognizing him. That, and he used to literally only leap/bound (like Hulk) not fly. . Added powers are no big deal for him.

      Sewer Lex is a canon killer, indeed. It was well handled for humor, but straight up wrong for canon.

      S3 and S4 were just a mess. There is a reason Superman Returns drops them from possibility (tho some drop SR, as well).

      That said, the core of S1 and S2, aside from Lex, was mostly in keeping with canon.

  16. “Some crazy guy in front of us…”, “That guy was me…” Am I the only one who found this fake? Did you really watch the movie?

  17. I was always under the impression they were sent back to the forbidden zone in superman II

  18. Phantom zone not forbidden zone. sorry

  19. It’s funny how all the critics screaming bloody murder don’t seem a least bit perturbed by the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of innocent people were killed as Superman and Zod brawled it out.

    My perspective? Superman killing Zod was entirely consistent with the movie’s internal logic. Zod was designed to his DNA core to be who is was—he couldn’t go against his nature as the ultimate military leader and warrior. Neither could any Kryptonian—except Kal-El.

    In fact, when Superman decides to kill Zod in order to stop him, he is exerting his free will. Let’s remember that Kyptonians were apparently bound by their law and culture so they could not even sentence Zod and his minions to death, even though they had perpetrated the worst crimes against their own people. Zod was merely sentence to a long time in the Phantom Zone. He in fact mocks them for their inability to kill him. Apparently on Krypton, only those who were destined to live as a warrior were allowed to kill. Let’s also remember that Jor-el, even after defeating Zod in personal combat, did not kill him, which makes sense if you accept the idea that killing was an act reserved only for the soldier caste.

    So when Superman kills Zod, it is an act of rejection, a statement that his is different from all other Kryptonians who came before him. Entirely consistent with the message of the movie.

    So to me, the criticism of Superman killing Zod is pretty misplaced because it ignore the entire premise and internal logic offered up by the movie.

  20. The Richard Donner version of Superman II showed that when Superman turns back the world he returns Zod, Non, and Ursa to the phantom zone. So, nobody died. Superman didn’t kill anybody.

  21. I think the Zod kill established that Supes don’t kill, just because batman feels that way doesn’t mean supes does and that wasn’t clearly indicated until that point. Your bringing in to much baggage to the movie its an overall reinvention of the character so he could have been cool with killing people but know we know it hurts him a lot to do it…

  22. I think the Zod kill established that Supes don’t kill, just because batman feels that way doesn’t mean supes does and that wasn’t clearly indicated until that point. Your bringing in to much baggage to the movie its an overall reinvention of the character so he could have been cool with killing people but now we know it hurts him a lot to do it…

  23. WE GET IT!!!!!
    half of you think zod died in superman 2 and have of you think he survived.
    No one will win this argument that has been going on for over a week.
    If you have something new to say then by all means say it. But know one wants to get another email saying that someone has decide to restate one side of an argument for the 300th time.

  24. For me the issue wasn’t Superman killing Zod, for me the “problem” was the way he did it. Zod deserved a much more epic death worth of the power and presence of the character… but oh well, I enjoyed the movie.