Why Man of Steel Doesn’t Need Kryptonite


One of the problems with superhero movies is the penchant for writers, directors, and producers to put too much into a movie because they want to appease the fan base more than they want to tell a good story. Comic book characters have long, rich histories making it impossible to include every single thing about them in one movie. But logic be damned, we’ve got to put butts in seats, so put ALL THE THINGS into the movie! It’s why superhero movie sequels tend to suffer the most. There’s always more heroes to add, more villains to add, but little in the way of story or character development. The Batman movies (including Christopher Nolan’s trilogy), the Spider-Man movies, and the X-Men franchise have all suffered from this. In my opinion, the X-Men movies, particularly X-3, are the worst offenders. Way too many mutants for the sake of having too many mutants. Psylocke has like a three second cameo. Psylocke, for crying out loud!

That being said, there are certain features of a character that we associate with them specifically. Case in point, if you were to describe the essential components of Superman’s history and background one of the primary features is kryptonite. Yes, this irradiated hunk of Clark’s home planet that’s poisonous to the big guy (the green version, at least) is so ingrained in our culture that kryptonite is basically synonymous with an Achille’s heel – a weakness. It’s been the means by which any number of villains have managed to damage Superman – a lot of kryptonite bullets out there – and it comes in a wide variety of colors that affect Clark differently. It’s been a primary plot device in the comics, television shows, and the movies since its “official” introduction in the The Adventures of Superman radio show that ran from 1943 to 1951. So of course, with the upcoming Man of Steel set for release in June, there might have been an assumption on the part of fans that kryptonite would be a featured element in the movie.

Not so, says Zack Snyder. In the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, Snyder was questioned about Superman’s ultimate weakness (other than Lois Lane), to which he remarked:

“I’ll be honest with you, there’s no Kryptonite in the movie,” Snyder said. Man of Steel hopes to humanize Superman, but by giving him new flaws and vulnerabilities. Superman actor Henry Cavill said, “Although he is not susceptible to the frailties of mankind, he is definitely susceptible to the emotional frailties.” (Source: Entertainment Weekly)

This, I think, is a good thing. Even though kryptonite is part and parcel of the Superman mythos, the inclusion of it would just add more to a movie that’s already jam-packed with enough Superman-ness to satisfy casual viewers and fanboys alike.

MAN-OF-STEELFirst of all, Man of Steel already has a lot going for it in the way of plot and character beats that it has to hit if the movie is going to serve not only as an origin story, but as a launching point for the DC Cinematic Universe. We’ve all seen the trailer of young Clark struggling with his abilities, the parenting skills of Jonathan and Martha Kent, the military’s suspicions of him, and the threat of General Zod and his ilk. That’s a lot of stuff in one movie, so throwing kryptonite in there because it’s associated with Superman doesn’t make sense. Secondly, his antagonists are Kryptonians! If kryptonite harms Superman because it’s a radioactive piece of his destroyed home world, why would other Kryptonians use it as a weapon against him? How do you win that fight when everyone is lying on the ground in pain? Makes things easier for the military at least.

In fact, the exclusion of kryptonite gives Clark greater odds to beat because he basically has to go punch for punch with a seasoned and experience warrior who intends to conquer Earth. It amps up the action and highlights the emotional stakes of this movie. This is the story of a man making a choice about who and what he is to his adopted planet. Is it worth sacrificing the lives of others to keep your powers a secret out of fear of discovery? Where do you draw the line between being helpful and doing harm? Can you trust yourself to hold back and show mercy instead of going for the easy route of destruction? These are the questions Clark has to answer, the questions that make him into the hero we’ll most likely see at the end of the film. Forcing him to go up against Zod on equal footing pushes these issues to the forefront. Imagine Clark getting the upper hand and just starting to pummel Zod, over and over again. He’s a superpowered being and he’s angry; at Zod, at the military, maybe at his father(s) and he’s just about to give him the final blow when…he stops. He realizes what he’s doing, where that leads, and who he’ll become if he follows through. That’s yourLex and kryptonite movie. That’s Man of Steel. There’s no room for kryptonite. It’s unnecessary and it’s a smart decision not to include it just because.

That’s not to say kryptonite won’t show up. That’s the beauty of sequels (should there be any). And nothing screams “sequel bait” more than an end-credit scene featuring a cameo by Lex Luthor grumbling over the appearance of Superman while being presented with a hunk of glowing green rock. It gives you a glimpse of the next villain and the weapon he could potentially wield against his soon-to-be arch nemesis.

In short, I’m not worried about a lack of kryptonite and neither should you. From what I’ve seen on the internet we’re, again, divided over interpretation and adaptation. The only thing to do about it is to go see Man of Steel in June!

About the author

Samantha Cross

Sam is a self-described "sponge for information" soaking up little tidbits here and there that make her the perfect partner on pub trivia night! Hailing from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, she indulges her nerdy and geeky qualities by hanging out at the local comic book shop, reading anything she can find, and voicing her opinion whether you welcome it or not. An archivist and historian, she will research any and all things and will throw down if you want to quote Monty Python, Mel Brooks, or The Simpsons!

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