Though moviegoers are very much excited to see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and the rest of the DC Expanded Universe, there’s a section of moviegoers who are approaching the blossoming franchise with some trepidation. That’s because the film that started this whole thing, 2013’s Man of Steel, proved to be one of the more divisive comic book movies in recent memory. Though it became a large enough financial success to warrant followups, the professional reviews and overall fan reception were very mixed.
One of the biggest points of contention was the film’s portrayal of Superman (Henry Cavill), particularly his decision to kill General Zod (Michael Shannon) to end the highly-destructive Battle of Metropolis. Even though Superman murdering his enemies isn’t exactly new territory for the films to explore, for many it was a jarring moment. Director Zack Snyder has defended the film’s climax in the past, and now Man of Steel writer David S. Goyer has followed suit.
Speaking with Nerdist, Goyer offered his explanation for why Superman broke Zod’s neck, offering a thought-provoking response about how it fit the story he was telling:
“The way I work, the way Chris [Nolan] works, is you do what’s right for the story. That exists entirely separately from what fans should or shouldn’t think of that character. You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics…or even in a world that conceived of Superman existing. He’d only flown for the first time a few days before that. He’d never fought anyone that had super powers before. And so he’s going up against a guy who’s not only super-powered, but has been training since birth to use those super powers, who exists as a superhuman killing machine, who has stated, ‘I will never stop until I destroy all of humanity.’ If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story? I think the right way to tell that story is if you take this powered alien who says, ‘You can have your race back, but you have to kill your adopted race,’ the moral, horrible situation to be in is to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race. Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story.”
Goyer makes an interesting point. Though he may be a little off when he says Zod has been trained to use super-powers since birth (he did struggle initially adapting to Earth’s atmosphere), he was still a member of the Kryptonian military who had been bred for warfare. And towards the end of Man of Steel, he seemed very comfortable using his god-like abilities to wreck havoc. Superman was the only person capable of even going toe-to-toe with him, and if he did not do anything, it would have been open season on Earth’s inhabitants – beginning with the family Zod was threatening before he died.
It seems to be a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. Had Superman not acted and let Zod have his way, that would have been a much more controversial conclusion. And it’s not as if Superman gleefully sent his foe to his grave. He initially begged Zod to stop killing humans, and in the moments right after the neck snap, Kal-El was obviously emotionally distraught. Based on his scream, it seems as if even he did not necessarily agree with killing Zod, but was left with no other choice when he saw that Zod could not be reasoned with.
Goyer is also right in stating that Clark Kent had only just become Superman by the time Man of Steel reached its third act. There’s still a lot of molding to do with the character before he embraces the “truth, justice, and the American way” motto that fans most associate with him. From the sound of it, Batman V Superman is going to take the first steps in establishing this part of Superman’s character, as Snyder has indicated that Clark’s benevolence is something Batman can take advantage of during a fight. As Kal-El progresses from alien outsider to leader of the Justice League, this will be a necessary step to take.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 23, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern on June 19, 2020.