Man of Steel's third act and final battle is Superman's greatest movie moment. It contains three distinct sections, each of which speaks on one aspect of Superman's character. Full of hope, brimming with spectacular action, and challenging the character in a unique way, Zack Snyder's sci-fi superhero epic made the perfect Superman third act.
Man of Steel has its share of incredible, visually stunning moments, including some divisive ones. The film was DC's attempt to reboot Superman in a similar fashion to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. Man of Steel launched debates across the world about Superman's character and the film's choices, most feeling the departure was too discordant with Christopher Reeve's Superman. What many missed was how the film honored the past and embraced the future at the same time.
Superman has stood the test of time with eight appearances on the big screen throughout the last 40 years. Man of Steel, however, takes the top spot as the film with Superman's greatest movie moment through its third act, which brings out the best qualities of Superman's character.
Destroying The World Engine Is Among Superman's Heroic Moments
Man of Steel's final battle begins with Superman, Lois Lane, and the U.S. military forming a plan to stop Zod. Lois Lane discovers how to stop them and Superman suggests using the ship he arrived in to send the Kryptonians back into the Phantom Zone. While this particular scene highlights Clark Kent becoming Superman, exuding the same confidence that the character is known for having in the comics, what truly makes him shine comes shortly thereafter when he quickly travels to the other side of the planet.
It had been established that the World Engine was terraforming Earth to be like Krypton, which means that Superman - having grown up on Earth - was weaker around the device and would lose his powers that are granted to him by the yellow sun. So with the World Engine's power beaming down on him, Superman is forced to overcome the one object stripping him of his power in order to save humanity. Faced with death, Superman pushes past all his fears and self-doubt to find that extra strength and power through the World Engine. This moment shows heroism and hope. Hans Zimmer's brilliant score, Amir Mokri's eye for cinematography, and Zack Snyder's vision combine perfectly to create a stunning scene that would make any Superman fan feel chills.
Superman vs Zod Stands As Superman's Greatest Fight Sequence
If the World Engine sequence showed Superman's heroism, then his fight against Zod showcased his power. Before Man of Steel, Superman didn't have many great action scenes on film. Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, while brilliant, didn't feature much in terms of action. Superman II had some neat moments in the fight between Superman and Zod but was weakened by replacement director Richard Lester's infusion of campy moments. Superman III and IV, as well as Superman Returns, continued the trend of not showcasing Superman's power in a meaningful way.
Man of Steel delivers that in spades. Superman vs Zod was divisive, to say the least; many viewers lamented the fight scene for being too destructive and violent for their tastes. Detractors seem to miss that most of the destruction in Metropolis occurred before their fight even started due to Zod's World Engine's destruction. Still, the scene is equally touted as thrilling and one of the best superhero action sequences seen on film.
Displaying Superman's powers with the same kind of visual flair that 80 years of comics delivered is no easy feat - and something that superhero movies are starting to do more of nowadays. The fight between Superman and Zod covered most of Metropolis, a brief stint in space, and began as far back as the streets of Smallville. With a combination of an anime fight aesthetic, incredible sound design, bombastic score, and crisp choreography, Man of Steel brought out Superman's greatest fight sequence in his cinematic history. A superhero and supervillain - two characters who have godlike powers - fighting each other shouldn't be a street brawl but rather an earthshaking event.
Superman Killing Zod Challenged Him In A New Way
Man of Steel's final battle showed Superman's heroism and his powers in fantastic ways; the final last step was to push the character further than ever before. After all, that is what Superman is all about, challenging the audience by challenging himself. Overcoming obstacles and answering questions in ways the superhero landscape mostly avoided, Man of Steel tackled the idea of a hero killing. Through technicality or large CGI destruction, virtually every single superhero film features the hero killing. Whether it be mowing down aliens or leaving thugs in the crossfire, there is surprisingly more death and destruction in these films than most give credit to. The primary difference between Man of Steel and the others - aside from it featuring Superman - is that it shows the hero choosing to kill his enemy with his bare hands.
Normally, Superman doesn't kill. While he doesn't have the code that Batman or Spider-Man tend to live by, most of the time, Superman doesn't kill his villains. In Man of Steel, audiences are met with a Superman who is in his first moments the Superman. Most of the events of Man of Steel happen in the span of a day or two, so he's inexperienced. In the final battle, Zod is hellbent on killing all humans, which he swore to do. Zod also quickly acclimatizes to Earth's atmosphere and becomes stronger, evident by his fast adjustment to the sun and natural battle skills. Left with the choice of letting Zod kill innocent bystanders or executing him with his own hands, Superman lets out a scream and kills Zod in a moment that left audiences shaken. Superman then falls to his knees, crying in pain at the fact that he took a life. Here, Snyder challenged Superman in a way that hasn't happened to the character before. At the same time, Snyder challenged audiences, showing them their hero - the definitive superhero - in tears after saving the world but taking a life in doing so.
Superman has killed multiple times in the comics, often in similar situations with the fate of the world; he's even killed Zod in the comics as well. So even Man of Steel's final battle wasn't without precedent. The big difference is that it happened in live-action and it could've been equated with murder. But Superman's willingness to sacrifice his own humanity so that humanity as a whole could live to see another day highlights what it means to be a superhero. Beating bad guys to a pulp doesn't always work, especially when the bad guy is an opponent who's equally as strong - if not stronger - than the hero. Overall, Man of Steel's final battle is Superman's greatest moment on film. That is in no way an indictment of what came before. While Man of Steel has the best Superman moments, the films that came before are exceptional as well - each in their own way.