So Man of Steel came out a couple weeks ago and people are still debating their takes on it. While some have complained about the quality of the movie, most are talking about the morals at play in the end of the film.
But first, let’s look at the pieces that make up this story.
WARNING: SPOILERS AND CONJECTURE AHEAD!
I think that the film did a great job at not only setting up a new on screen version of Superman (that only took, what, 20 years?), but was very well done, both cinematically and in a story-telling capacity. The way that the film took a somewhat non-linear approach to the origin of Superman, helping to tie in events in Clark’s past with his current struggles, helped to distance it from the Christopher Reeve-led Superman The Movie and give it a more modern feel.
Scenes of Clark’s childhood and the death of Pa Kent (I SAID SPOILERS!!!) were made more emotionally impactful since we were already investing ourselves in Clark and his destiny. In life, we are often impacted by events we see on the news that have caused strangers to suffer, since we are all taking part in the shared human existence. But when we learn of traumatic experiences suffered in the past by those we have already come to know and love, we are often devastated.
Getting to know Clark, both in seeing the sacrifice of his Kryptonian parents and travelling with him around the world, makes learning of his past difficulties all the more emotionally striking.
Speaking of the Man of Steel’s home planet, holy crap, Russell Crowe absolutely BROUGHT IT as Jor-El! We are immediately brought into the exotic and war-torn world of Krypton within the first minute of the movie. With crazy imagery, huge explosions, and giant set pieces, it could be easy to be lost within the opening moments of the film. However, Crowe is magnetic and powerful, radiating gravitas as he races to save his son and stop General Zod. Riding a giant bird-wolf hybrid beast, diving through birthing chambers, and stomping everyone in his way, he immediately makes an impact in the film. One of the smartest moves they made in Man of Steel was making sure that Jor-El had a continued presence in the film until the final act.
Henry Cavill did a great job as Superman. Seeing his evolution from a lost Clark Kent into finally a Superman who embraces his full Kryptonian power was the throughline of the story, and he carried it well. Beyond bulking up to a huge proportion for the look of Superman, he easily displayed the emotions and difficulties he struggled with in both the quiet moments of the film and the enormous battles that comprise a large majority of the second half of the movie.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Superman cut lose and start beating wholesale ass, Man of Steel is the movie for you. In fact, quite a few people I’ve talked to have said that the movie almost had too much action. Seeing Supes careen through the air and bounce Zod across miles of Metropolis is exciting and satisfying, with the widespread destruction and chaos taking my breath away. When the fight finally ended, I found my heart racing and my lungs needing to catch a breath.
And Now to the Matter at Hand
There are probably hundreds of thousands of people dead by the end of the battle in Metropolis. Many of these were the result of Zod’s world engine flattening miles of the city, with countless citizens obviously caught within the destruction. However, Superman’s one-on-one fight with Zod also must have ended in thousands upon thousands of deaths. Moments in the battle, such as Clark being thrown through multiple skyscrapers within a few seconds, had me taken aback with the wanton destruction on screen. Shouldn’t Superman have prevented this? While Zod was determined to kill as many humans as possible (he says it himself), you would think that Superman would have tried to put him on the moon, over the ocean, or back out into the Midwest to avoid casualties.
In the end, Superman snapping Zod’s neck made sense to me. There were no more options. Either Zod dies or more people die. Not just the family in the train station, but millions more if Zod was not put down. Maybe Superman should have killed him sooner. Then again, that means less crazy action and drama in the story.
People say that Superman doesn’t kill. But the truth is Superman usually doesn’t HAVE to kill. Opponents like Lex Luthor, Metallo, Braniac, and Parasite may pose a challenge, but there are ways to stop them without killing them. However, a villain like Zod, or Doomsday in the comics, are just as powerful as Superman and cannot be restrained, only killed.
This doesn’t mean that Superman is going to start snapping the necks of everyone he sees, the toll of killing Zod obviously had a deep impact on him. Hopefully by the time Man of Steel 2 rolls around, (it better not be 2014 like the rumors say), Superman will be dedicated to preventing each and every death that he has the power to stop. After all, Superman is not only a symbol of hope, he is an embodiment of the best of us.