There is no doubt that the ending of last summer’s Man of Steel was one of the most talked about and controversial scenes of any movie this year. While some people defended Zack Snyder’s unique ending, others, including several movie critics who can’t seem to differentiate this character from that of Christopher Reeve’s, really hated the movie because of it.
The film ends with Superman immersed in the first major battle of his career, with Krypton’s General Zod, who has not been soaking up Earth’s yellow sun for as long as Kal-El (AKA, Superman) yet is a soldier and trained to take advantage of his surroundings, and is therefore better than our hero. Zod puts Superman in an impossible situation which leads to Superman being forced to kill him, by breaking his neck.
The uproar over this scene, which I thought was the best in the movie, triggered debates, blog posts, angry comments, and all out bedlam on the internet. People were so aghast that their Boy Scout superhero killed because “Superman doesn’t kill!” and they complained about how dark the movie was because “Superman isn’t Batman!” and they were appalled by the destruction of Metropolis, which I guess they didn’t expect from two supermen fighting, without thinking that maybe there is a reason to all of this.
So, let’s take this one step at a time. Zack Snyder didn’t want to give us a cookie-cutter Superman movie. He knew that this was the launching point of the DC Cinematic Universe and he wanted to deliver something new, fresh, and unique. Were there problems with the movie? Of course, there will always be problems. Many movies suffer from plot holes and character development. The difference with Superman is that every individual has this idea of what this iconic character is to him or her and odds are that will not be the one that shows up on the big screen. So the audience needs to exercise some flexibility.
Now, for those people who are under the assumption that Superman doesn’t kill, they’re just wrong. And I love how film critics, who have probably never read a Superman comic in the past three decades, are the ones to complain about this. Christopher Reeve’s Superman is no more.
“Well, what’s funny about that rule is that it exists in the movies, but it doesn’t really exist in the comic books. He’s killed Zod a couple times in the comic books.”
“I think that it’s a notion that has grown out of the way he’s been popularized on TV and in the movies more than the comic book mythology of Superman. Killing General Zod is a practical solution to the problem. He wouldn’t let his personal aversion to killing cost the lives of an entire planet or those little kids, that little family. So if he had said, ‘I’m just morally opposed to killing so I guess I have to let him kill those people.’ Those are the dilemmas. We set that up directly so there would be no solution other than that solution.”
Things change, Superman does too. When Batman was first introduced, he was a dark character, then he turned campy with Adam West’s television show, now he’s back to his darker roots. The critics didn’t have a problem with darkness of The Dark Knight, so why is Superman held to a different standard?
Because he is supposed to be a beacon of hope, they will tell you. This brings me to my next point. In Man of Steel, Clark is donning the Superman identity for the very first time, and going up against a force that is equally as strong, if not stronger, than him for the first time. It would be nice for him to just sock Zod on the jaw and kiss Lois on top of the Daily Planet, but that’s not reality; you can’t expect him to be the epitome of a hero on his first go-around. Now, some people will say that an alien flying around fighting crime isn’t reality, but that is the part of the story that we are choosing to accept. When the audience is accepting something as outlandish as the existence of Superman, then the director has to make sure that everything else remains in the realm of reality.
So, if there was a super-powered, indestructible alien among us, and he just fought and was forced to kill the only man who could bring his race back to life — because let’s face it, he isn’t strong enough to detain Zod at that point — that probably wouldn’t be the easiest thing to accept and it can, and will, be used to develop that character even more in the next movie. The killing of Zod will not be taken lightly and will have repercussions for Superman. Zack Snyder talked on that point during the live Man of Steel event last Saturday.
“It’s a real world problem. I think the effect on Superman, it is a deeply difficult decision for him to make. It’s not a thing that he takes lightly, and you can see it affects him pretty profoundly. And maybe we’ll see the repercussions of that in the next film. How that’s affected him, making that decision… Maybe.”
They just begin to call him Superman at the end of the movie. He is just getting started; he is not a beacon of Hope yet. Instead, he has to overcome some tough decisions and correct himself in the future in order to become the Superman that we all love. And it seems that this is the route being pursued. Superman will have to fight off some personal demons, as well as maybe Batman, in the sequel. As many have speculated, the killing of Zod will most likely force Superman to enforce the “no killing” rule that people seem to love so much. Isn’t it great when things are explained, not just thrown in the plot for no reason? Isn’t it nice to know why and how Superman becomes the beacon of Hope that he does, and what he went though to get to that point? All heroes have an origins, most riddled by tragedy, why would the greatest hero’s be any different?
Snyder also addressed the death toll of the city of Metropolis, saying that there was a high number of lives lost due to the final battle between Zod and Superman, and this will just add to the character development of Superman in the sequel, because that will also deeply affect him. It also sets up the sequel in many ways.
If Lex Luthor is the villain, which has yet to be officially confirmed, then it is very easy to imagine a general plot. Luthor and Bruce Wayne partner up to rebuild the city of tomorrow, Metropolis, and they both share the same ideology about Superman–they don’t like him. They don’t like the idea of a man with so much power, because what if he ever goes rogue? But Luthor is more concerned with the fact that the citizens of Metropolis seem to accept Superman as their savior over himself–I mean he did rebuild the city! Bruce Wayne learns of Luthor’s questionable motives and attempts to take him down as Batman. He meets Superman in the process, they don’t like each other– maybe we’ll see some sort of quarrel of sorts — but they eventually learn that they are fighting for the same thing and reluctantly team-up only to become best friends in future movies.
At least, that’s how I would draw it up.
The presence of Batman will, if they end up partners in the movie, definitely help the development of Superman as well. A grizzled Bruce Wayne can show Superman how to become something that he could never be, how to become the beacon of hope for Metropolis and the world. And I do hope that they make Batman more of a leader and mentor to the rest of the heroes in this universe, like in Young Justice, in order to deliver a more unique character.
The Man of Steel sequel is scheduled for release on July 17, 2015. I think that many people’s opinion about Man of Steel will change after watching this one.