Warning: I get super-geeky in this post.
I saw Man of Steel on Father’s Day with my dad and my son. Did I like it? It was alright and I kinda want to see more from the filmmakers involved to see where they go with it. I like superhero movies. I really liked the crazy space fantasy bits with Jor-El at the beginning. Russell Crowe running around on a totally insane Krypton in Superman’s costume? YES. The Superman as a kid compelled to always do the right thing was also great. Everything else was … a little tiring. Also, the last little scene with the military felt a little small. That should have totally happened at the United Nations (yes, like Superman IV: Quest for Peace) or at least the White House.
The part I really didn’t care for was — SPOILER ALERT — Superman killing General Zod by snapping his neck. In front of a family? And in front of all the families watching the movie? That’s crazy. Superman, the enduring Superman that has become something like a fable for our times about the good use of power, doesn’t do that. And comics critic Chris Sims has it right when he says the movie ultimately fails when Superman proves the bad guy is right.
The bad guy tells Superman that he’ll only stop if Superman kills him, and Superman proves him right. Superman proves that the bad guy is right. There’s no other way. It’s just violence and death as the only solution.
Superman shouldn’t prove that the bad guy is right. There’s probably a dozen different satisfying ways you could write yourself out of that situation and still show that, yes, the S really does stand for hope, hope that you can be better and that death is not the answer. Remember, Superman is a character that is compelled to preserve life. It feels like those really great “Superboy” scenes from the beginning were cherry-picked from better, more hopeful, original sources.
How could it have been different?
This excerpt (from Chris Sims’ review of Miracle Monday two years ago) is how the “real” Superman would handle a General Zod.
Superman would fight forever to protect life wherever he had to. A real superhero does what we can’t. That’s why they’re super and worth caring about.
Also, check out Mark Waid’s review of Man of Steel. He’s the author who coined the “S stands for hope” (a brilliant idea). Superman killing ruined the movie for Waid. It didn’t ruin it for me, ultimately — I still, as noted above, want to see more — but that’s not the real Superman.