Man of Steel

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. πŸ™‚ 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 β€” SPOILER ALERT β€” 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. πŸ™‚ 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?

My favorite Superman is from the 1981 novel Miracle Monday by Elliot S! Maggin. I’ve written about it before.

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 β€” I still, as noted above, want to see more β€” but that’s not the real Superman. πŸ™‚

4 responses to “Man of Steel”

  1. 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.

    Just for fun here’s a few …

    • Zod gets away! Vader escapes at the end of Star Wars. But somehow de-powered and or weaker. Maybe Supes uses the World Engine that he smashed to do this somehow.
    • Superman collapses the floor with his super-foot and they drop a level. Zod turns the heat vision on Supes but turns it up too high because he’s not used to it / is trying to kill Supes. Supes tries to stop him — “Zod! Stop you don’t know what β€”” — but Zod’s head blows off. Zod hasn’t had years to adjust remember? This is the “too much power” cliche but it can be satisfying if done right.
    • Supes flies up into the air with Zod at that point and any number of things happens …
    • Surprise! Supes has one of those cryo-pods from the ship that crashed. He captures Zod in it and throws him in a “Kryptonian atmosphere jail”
    • Surprise! Supes has the backup phantom drive from his ship. Why not? He uses it to zap Zod into the phantom zone with everyone else.

    I don’t get paid to write screenplays I’m sure a professional could think of something satisfying. πŸ™‚

  2. I see the point in that the final killing was very un-Superman, but I think we can roll with it here simply because this was really the beginning for him, at least how we saw it. I mean, not long before the neck snapping he discovered his origins, why he was “different”, etc. So maybe he just hasn’t mastered the art of his future self. And I’m okay with that.

    Disclaimer: I wanted him to snap Zod’s neck again. And then again, after the credits rolled. I am not Superman.

  3. A fair response. I was happy that at least they had Superman crying. That said, in my perfect world I don’t like Superman crying. I like him busting through walls and smashing robots. I’m sure neck-snappin’ Superman will be the exception and in 2015 we’ll have Supes smashing Lexcorp robots and punching through Brainiac’s CPU. πŸ™‚

  4. The “neck break” was accidentally spoiled for me before I saw the film (argh), and I was inclined to agree before I actually saw the movie.

    Having seen it, I actually think they pulled it off very well. Not killing off the character wasn’t an option, and having him accidentally kill himself would have been hugely anticlimactic. So they put Superman in an impossible position (even if he had moved passed the immediate emergency, it was inevitable Zod’s rampage would take a continued toll on lives – the “is Superman paying attention to the collateral damage?” critique was actually a much stronger one, I think): watch Zod kill more innocent people, or kill Zod. He pretty much waited till the last possible minute, and it was clear from his reaction, after the fact, that he was anything but lapping up the moment. Plus, it seemed more like a “I have to act now” moment than a “this is clearly a great, thought out idea” moment.

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