Man of Steel was a divisive movie for many, touted as a welcome reboot of the Superman franchise by some and criticized for being too dark of a Superman film by others. One of the most controversial aspects of the film was Superman’s (Henry Cavill) decision to kill General Zod (Michael Shannon) near the end of the film by breaking his neck. Traditionally, Superman is a character who doesn’t kill, so many felt that this plotline went against everything the character stands for.
David S. Goyer, the writer for Man of Steel and the upcoming quasi-sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, recently spoke with Nerdist about the decision-making process behind this aspect of the film and it’s pretty well-thought-out:
“The way I work, the way Chris [Nolan] works, is you do what’s right for the story. That exists entirely separately from what fans should or shouldn’t think of that character. You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics…or even in a world that conceived of Superman existing. He’d only flown for the first time a few days before that. He’d never fought anyone that had super powers before. And so he’s going up against a guy who’s not only super-powered, but has been training since birth to use those super powers, who exists as a superhuman killing machine, who has stated, ‘I will never stop until I destroy all of humanity.’ If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story? I think the right way to tell that story is if you take this powered alien who says, ‘You can have your race back, but you have to kill your adopted race,’ the moral, horrible situation to be in is to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race. Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story.”
We have to admit to largely agreeing with Goyer’s viewpoint. If you go back and watch Man of Steel, Superman is presented with a scenario where killing Zod is pretty much the only option left to him and the scene is definitely presented as a personal struggle for the hero. We do however have much more of a problem with how director Zack Snyder and Goyer presented the film’s climactic final battle and the devastating destruction leveled on Metropolis, which Superman was partly responsible for.
Goyer’s comments seem to indicate that we’ll be seeing a much more heroic, confident version of Superman in Batman v Superman, so hopefully we won’t have to endure any more “Superman doesn’t kill” debates after that film’s release.