I’m dusting off the old blog to allow my cousin Zach Duncan to say his piece. He and I see eye-to-eye on most things comic book-related, but sometimes tend to disagree on their movie adaptations. Man of Steel is a prime example of this. In an article I wrote for College News in which I slammed Man of Steel for Superman’s choice to kill the villain Zod at the end of the film. We agree to disagree about much of the film, so here are Zach’s thoughts on the matter:
So here’s the thing. Oh, by the way I’m Zach, Michael’s cousin and fellow comic book enthusiast (with a greater bias towards DC over Marvel). So anyway here’s the thing. Ever since the Man of Steel came out I’ve listened to Mike’s complaints about it, particularly the ending, and I get it. Really I do.
Having Superman, the greatest superhero and the greatest symbol of hope in the superhero community, actually kill somebody by snapping their neck is appalling to him, and with good reason. Out of all superheroes, Superman is also the greatest opponent against killing the bad guys, with Batman as a close second. Also, building Superman up earlier on in the movie as the ideal to which all of humanity is striving toward only to have him kill someone at the end doesn’t really make sense. So yeah, I get it.
HOWEVER, the ending of Man of Steel did not make me angry at all, much less ruin the entire movie and any future movies in this series (including the long awaited for Batman/Superman flick) like it did to Michael. In fact, I really enjoyed the movie as a whole, evident by the fact that I’ve seen it 3 times already. You see, Mike equates Superman’s actions to murder, pure and simple.
The thing is though, within the context of the story it was NOT murder. Snapping Zod’s neck, while maybe a little graphic, was a justified killing, and here’s why.
By the time of the infamous scene, the Phantom drive had been used already meaning no Phantom Zone, and Zod had made it clear that the only way to stop him was to kill him (“Either you die or I do”; “Stop this!” “NEVER”). Yes, at that moment Superman could have flown Zod out of there so he wouldn’t zap that family in the museum. Ok, but then what? After you do that, how do you stop Zod? We’re talking about someone who is just as powerful as Superman, who was born and bred for the military, and is hell-bent on genocide. Let’s say just for laughs Superman is able to knock Zod out. Then what? Throw him in a fancy prison cell flooded with rays similar to a red son? Sorry, we don’t have one of those right now. Build another Phantom Zone portal? 1. That’s assuming the necessary materials can be found on earth, 2. Jor-El’s command key got sucked into the Phantom Zone, so no way of knowing how to make one, 3. Even if they had the materials and the knowledge to build one, there’s no way it could be completely before Zod wakes up and goes on another rampage.
The point is Superman, given the circumstances, had no other choice. Now if you didn’t like the story, then fine. You didn’t like the story, you didn’t like the movie; whatever. But you can’t call it murder, because it’s not.
Then of course for the upcoming Batman/Superman movie, there’s the argument that Batman would never trust Superman after killing Zod. First of all, Batman not trusting Superman when they first meet? SHOCKING. Second, this is really from the idea that Superman committed murder, in which case I would agree. But again, it wasn’t murder.
Would Batman hold a grudge against Superman for doing what he had to do to save the world? No! That’s what Batman has always been about. Doing what you have to do to get the job done. Kind of like, oh I don’t know, KILLING HARVEY DENT. Yeah let’s look at The Dark Knight, everyone’s favorite Batman movie (personally I prefer The Dark Knight Rises, but it’s still a damn good flick).
In The Dark Knight, Batman straight up kills Harvey Dent in order to save Gordon’s son, but nobody has a problem with this. You cannot tell me that A) Batman didn’t know that acting in the way he did would result in Harvey’s death and B) Batman, with his plethora of gadgets, gizmos, and fighting know-how, did not have another option that would have saved the kid without killing Harvey. Then of course there’s the fact that in The Dark Knight Rises Batman tells Catwoman “No guns, no killing,” but after she uses a gun to kill Bane he spends the rest of his life with her happily, but why split hairs?
And it’s not like these are the only cases of the villain dying at the end either. In practically every superhero movie the villain dies at the end, typically by the hero’s hand. Here are some examples:
- Batman: Bats kills the Joker
- Batman Returns: Bats kills Penguin
- Batman Forever: Bats kills Two Face (again)
- Batman Begins: Bats “doesn’t save” Ra’s al Ghul (he saves the Joker from dying but not Ra’s?)
- Green Lantern: Hal kills Parallax after it’s perfectly clear that it can be imprisoned
- X-Men: Storm kills Toad and Cyclops kills Sabretooth
- X2: Wolverine kills Lady Deathstrike when he’s only protecting himself even though for all intents and purposes he can’t die
- X-Men: The Last Stand: Wolverine kills Phoenix
- Iron Man: Tony and Pepper kill Iron Monger
- Iron Man 3: Pepper kills the Mandarin
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey Jones supposedly crushes Shredder in a garbage truck
Hell, if you really want to get into murder, look at Superman II! Superman kills all three Kryptonians after taking away their powers. Someone’s probably sitting here thinking “he didn’t kill them he just knocked them into the cloudy abyss inside the fortress-OOOOHHHHH!” Yeah, whether it was completely goofy or not, Superman murdered Zod and his henchmen in that movie, but no one ever calls that into question. Of course that could be because that movie on a whole was just awful, but no one ever talks about that part. NOBODY!
Superheroes are not supposed to kill the super villains. Period. It’s basically an unwritten rule in comic books. Did Batman ever kill Joker even though he clearly deserves to die? No. Did Superman ever kill Lex? No. Did Spiderman ever kill Green Goblin? No. Did the X-Men ever kill Magneto? No. It doesn’t happen! Unless of course you’re Punisher, or Batman shooting Darkseid with a god-killing bullet (Final Crisis reference).
But in the movies it happens all the time and no one bats an eye. Until we get Man of Steel. And the crazy thing? Man of Steel is the one movie where they kill the villain and show it in a very negative fashion. Think about it. In all the other movies, killing the villain is either played off as no big deal, as a positive thing or as a really cool moment. Come on, who didn’t love it when Batman tells Bane “then you have my permission to die”? That was an awesome moment! But in Man of Steel it’s just the opposite. Here, it’s practically a tragic moment because Superman had to kill somebody, something he never wanted to do, and he hates that he had to do it. You didn’t like that he killed Zod? YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO! THAT’S THE POINT! It’s supposed to bring you down.
You’re supposed to feel heartbroken for Superman because he feels heartbroken. Sure by the end of the movie Superman is fine and I get that complaint, but here’s the thing. Superman doesn’t brood, that’s Batman’s thing. The symbol of hope does not brood. And again, at the end of the day it was justified. It sucks that he had to do it, but it was justified.
The one instant in a movie where a superhero feels bad that he had to kill the villain and it gets crapped on, but all the other movies where there is no remorse shown get a pass. Really? I’m sorry but you either have an issue with all of it, or with none of it. It’s called being consistent people.
And to all those complaints about all the action and wanton property damage, I say UGH. First of all, what do you expect? It’s Superman vs. 2 Supermen and a Superwoman. Of course there’s going to be mass destruction. Sorry but the fight scene from Superman II isn’t going to cut it anymore (if it ever did).
Also, people complained about Superman Returns because there was no action, but don’t like this one because there’s too much? To all those out there of this opinion I say good luck to you, because it’s obvious that you weren’t going to like it either way.