Why The End of “Man of Steel” Is Good For Superman

Image

Totally disagree with this article. I think it actually made me mad. I’m not sure, but it made me something.

http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/06/15/man-of-steel-superman-zod-death/

First off, before I get into what I really have an issue with, it baffles me how many critics are complaining about the ending being just one giant, unnecessary fight scene with too much CGI–this writer even goes on complaining that nobody “seems to notice” that an entire city has just been destroyed. Then what the hell did they think The Avengers was? Shakespeare? I’m glad we have a Superman movie where he actually uses his powers to fight someone in building-toppling glory.

Okay, now my real issue with the article. It really bothers me that people would have an issue with Superman killing Zod. Yes, old school comic book readers are going to say “NO, SUPERMAN WOULD NEVER KILL!” But this is a different time and a different Superman. The writer seems to have a predetermined set of rules in his head that Superman has to abide by or it’s not “Superman-like.” Comic book characters are constantly adapting to change, whether it’s figuratively in how they adapt to the times or literally in how they handle situations within their stories. In the lead up to DC’s comic book event, “Infinite Crisis,” Wonder Woman kills a man. She snaps his neck because it was necessary. Because the times were tough. I’m not advocating that super heroes should resort to killing just because “the times are tough.” That’s why they’re super heroes, because they can rise above that. But it happens so few times that when it does it makes for interesting debate.

Superman as a character for years has been labeled as an All-American boy scout. In a word, he was boring. People can say he’s the ideal superhero fighting for truth, justice and the American way all they want, but at the end of the day, it’s when Superman gets angry that he’s the most interesting, especially on the big screen. In the classic “Superman: The Movie” Lois dies and Superman lets out a scream of agony. He’s so mad, he fucking flies around the world at top speed to reverse time. It’s ridiculous, obviously, but it’s this kind of radical action-taking that the Superman in “Man of Steel” will be associated with when he takes Zod’s life.

Image

I find it intriguing, maybe a little troublesome too, that people don’t have a problem with Superman selfishly using his powers to rewrite history but they do have a problem with him unselfishly using his powers to, yes, kill someone, but more importantly, to save lives.

The writer of the article is insistent in the thinking that Superman has no emotional reaction to killing Zod, and this makes him a cynical, unthoughtful super hero. He doesn’t immediately kill him. It’s clear he doesn’t want to. He pleads with Zod. It’s only right before Zod’s heat vision is about to melt a poor helpless family that Superman FUCKING SNAPS HIS NECK. It’s like a bullet heard ’round the world. I got chills. The audience gasped. And after, just like in “Superman: The Movie” he lets out a scream of agony because he knows what he did was wrong…BUT HE FUCKING HAD TO DO IT. It’s not because the filmmakers couldn’t come up with a way to get rid of Zod without killing him. As much as the writer of this article wants to make us think they’re morons, I’m sure they fought with the idea of whether Superman should kill and had alternative ways to handle the situation. But the fact they settled on this is much more appealing.

This Superman is willing to make hard choices. He gets angry and throws down hard with Zod and his followers and then he makes the ultimate choice in the heat (literally) of the moment. The writer thinks that Superman killing someone doesn’t change him at all, that it doesn’t have any consequences going further. And he has a problem with this. But what the writer doesn’t seem to understand is that we may not have seen any consequences because this is a much different Superman, one that already had the means to kill. This Superman has a choice, and that’s a big part of the film that the writer of the article seems to forget. Just as there are no predetermined set of rules that say what Superman should or shouldn’t do that can’t be broken, so too there is no predetermined course for his destiny in this film. We all know he’ll grow to be a force for good and hope, but Jonathan Kent never implies that that’s what he HAS to do. He doesn’t pretend he knows what Clark’s destiny is, he just does the best he can in raising him and leaves the rest up to fate. Jonathan is willing to let people die to hide Clark’s secret, just as Clark is willing to kill to save lives. It’s not because they are “cynical” people or dishonorable. It just means that what they do they believe will, in the end, be for the better of everyone. It’s very Machiavellian, “the ends justify the means.” And that may not be what we associate with Superman, or want to, but perhaps it’s something we should start doing.

Image

The writer also makes comparisons to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy and how, unlike those movies with Batman, “Man of Steel” doesn’t seem to care all that much about Superman’s code of ethics. He makes the assumption that the filmmakers don’t think he has any. I don’t think that’s the case at all. The film does a good enough job of hammering home the idea that this Superman is still alien to us both physically and emotionally. An alien being still coming into his own and finding his place in this world may not know what his code of ethics is YET. But perhaps him killing Zod is that moment that makes him realize his code of ethics. Maybe it’s the moment where he realizes he doesn’t want to kill again. And if it’s not, then at least we know he’ll only kill in the most necessary of situations. Before the writer jumps to any assumptions, I think he should have remembered that this is an origin story right up until the very last shot of the film.

And speaking of the “Dark Knight” movies, does Batman not kill in those films? In “Batman Begins,” sure he doesn’t exactly “kill” Ra’s al Ghul, but, as he blatantly points out, he “doesn’t have to save” him either. He bails out of a high-speed train just as it’s about to crash, leaving Ra’s to die. And in that exact moment, Ra’s wasn’t threatening anyone’s life like Zod was when Superman kills him. Batman abandons him to save his own ass and make a statement. In “The Dark Knight,” sure Batman saves the Joker from falling to his death but 10 minutes later he pushes Harvey Dent out of a building to save Jim Gordon’s kid. He probably didn’t intend to kill him, but he still dies from an action Batman takes, and it was because, like Zod, Harvey was threatening a life. And after it’s all done, Batman takes the blame for Harvey’s killings. Because if Gotham’s people knew Harvey was bat-shit insane all hope would be lost. This could have never happened if Harvey had lived. And Batman’s not a dumb-ass. So maybe he did want him to die.

Image

Is this very heroic? By this writer’s thoughts, it’s not. But he makes no mention of these instances, or any other instance in which super heroes are responsible for their enemies dying. It always seems to happen that the hero doesn’t “intentionally” kill the villain. They just fall to their death and the hero doesn’t save them. But is that any better than Superman choosing to take a life? And nobody bats an eye lash when The Avengers leave Manhatten in ruins or Batman HACKS PEOPLE’S FUCKING CELL PHONES TO SPY ON ONE GUY…but they get in a fit if Superman kills for the greater good. I’m not saying what those other heroes do is wrong. But what Superman did wasn’t wrong either. And maybe it’s good that people hold Superman to a higher standard than the rest. He is Superman after all. But in this day and age, Superman needed a makeover, and I say what better way to do that than to give him a reason to kill.

Advertisements