If you haven’t seen Man of Steel, please do know there will be SPOILERS. Like, a lot of SPOILERS. So if SPOILERS bug you, then you may want to stop reading two sentences ago.
Still with me? Good. Let’s do this thing…
Believe it or not, there are examples of Superman taking a life. It’s rare, but not entirely unheard of.
It was this story that was on my mind as Superman kill General Zod in Man of Steel and a feeling of rage rushed over me.
“Shit, Superman has killed in the comics,” I thought as I watched Superman snap General Zod’s neck in Man of Steel. “Why the hell is this murder bothering me so badly?” That’s what I thought. What I said in the packed theater was “OH WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?”
I was actually conflicted and confused. Then it hit me why I was so offended by what I’d seen. Superman’s murder of Zod was not only not earned, but there was no regret. At least, no Superman level regret.
See, in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Superman faces a no win situation similar to the one in Man of Steel. Mr. Mxyzptlk is more powerful than Superman in every sense of the word, and Superman only has brief seconds to act. This is where the experiences differ. Once Superman kills Mxyzptlk, he is immediately overcome with guilt, remorse and regret. So much in fact that Superman steps into a chamber with Gold Kryptonite which permanently removes his powers. Yes. So filled with sorrow at his failure, Superman decides he’s no longer worthy of his position and name.
In Man of Steel, there’s no regret. Sure, he cries for about thirty seconds onto Lois Lane, but the very next scene he’s talking and cracking jokes with the military. He’s just committed murder, something that should shake this iconic character to his core, but he seems to get over it fairly quickly.
Now combine that lack of regret with the annihilation of both Metropolis and Smallville. Those climactic battles were hard to watch. They looked pretty and they were beautifully choreographed, but as I watched them I kept wondering when Superman was going to try to take the fight away from populated areas. Why? Because that’s what Superman would do.
He’s all about making sure no one gets hurt. So every time he sent a Kryptonian careening through a skyscraper, or punching one into a gas truck, I cringed. Massive amounts of people were dying and Superman was part of the problem. Thousands upon thousands of people die because Superman never, not once, has the foresight to draw his adversaries away from populated areas. In fact, his ultimate victory happens in the ashes of thousands of dead men, women and children, all of whom he never tried to actually save because he was too busy punching things.
And that’s where Man of Steel fails.
The promise of Superman is a simple one. Superman will save us. And if he can’t or isn’t able to, it won’t be because he didn’t try or didn’t think to. It will be because he exhausted every possible (and impossible) means he could. This is why the fight at the end of the movie made me sad, and why the murder of Zod didn’t sit right with me.
I keep seeing the counter argument to people like me not enjoying Man of Steel as breaking down into roughly two arguments. 1) This Superman takes place in the real world, and 2) This Superman is relevant to our times.
1) This Superman takes place in the real world -No. This movie does not take place in the real world. In the real world, men can’t fly, they can’t shoot lasers from their eyes, and if aliens are out there, they probably don’t look and act EXACTLY like us.
2) This Superman is relevant to our times- If this is what it takes t make Superman relevant, if what we saw in Man of Steel is a reflection of our world today, then that’s more upsetting than anything else perceived wrong about a movie. We’ve decided that we don’t want hope and wonder, but rather ever darkening shades of gray and a hero who, in the end, is only concerned with us in word only.
That makes me sad.
Superman deserves better. We deserve better.
Before the movie fell apart at the end, I was, for the most part, enjoying it. Like a lot of super hero movies now, it tries to cram way too much into a single movie, but there are worser things than that. The stuff with Krypton was amazing, Russell Crow brought it and Lois Lane was actually portrayed as a capable reporter.
I got that Pa Kent was protective of his son and even appreciated it, but, as I feared, he came across as a dick at times rather than the guiding force in a demigod’s life. His death, however, was touching, heartbreaking and almost impossible to watch because of the sorrow it evoked.
Michael Shannon put Terrance Stamp on notice, however this Zod seemed to be written as waaaay too much of a “villain” rather than a zealot who wanted to save his people (seriously, guy is the worst pitchman ever. “I just want to bring our people back and need your help to do, NOW LOOK AT ALL THE SKULLS OF THOSE YOU LOVE! NOW GIVE ME THE MCGUFIN! EVIIIIIIIIL!”)
The action was beautifully choreographed yet became tiresome after a bit. The pacing was just, I don’t know, off?
Oh. And the suit looks weird without the red trunks. And don’t give me that “It looks more realistic/not as silly” crap. It’s a guy in a blue spandex suit with a giant “S” on his chest and a red cape. It already looks silly. Red trunks ain’t gonna make it look any sillier than it already does.