Jun 17 2013 2:00pm

Man of Cold, Cold Steel

I hate Man of Steel so much that I tried to write this review three times before rage quitting. This is my fourth attempt.

Like Superman Returns, Man of Steel is a response to the two Richard Donner Superman movies. But where Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns was both a sequel and slavish homage to Superman I and II, Zack Snyder and David Goyer’s Man of Steel is a cynical retelling that hits the major plot points of the two movies, from the destruction of Krypton to the invasion of General Zod, but strips out all of the fun, color, and emotion. As the title suggests, Man of Steel is a cold machine of a summer blockbuster, so lacking in empathy that the final act is a brutal emotional assault on the audience.

Honestly, it is hard for me to list all the things I hate about Man of Steel, but in many ways it comes down the decision to make Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) a deeply distrustful person, so terrified of humanity’s possible response to the existence of super-beings that Clark hides his powers for thirty three years, only saving people if he happens upon them while they are in mortal danger. That’s not the character I know, not the character I love.


The Superman I love believes in people and trusts people, and he actively likes people. They are literally his friends, co-workers and lovers. This belief in other people leads Superman to preserve life above everything else and trust that there is good in even the worst of people. Man of Steel Superman, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to like anyone. He does not have a single recognizably human interaction in the whole film, only portentous dialogue about what his role in life is supposed to be. The closest he comes to genuine affection is with his mother, Ma Kent (Diane Lane) and even there, the scenes are more about Superman coming to terms with his powers and responsibilities than they are about a loving relationship. Superman has no reason to like anyone, and we are never given a reason to like him.

A subplot of the film is that Zod, Jor-El, and other Kryptonians are programmed from birth for certain roles, but Clark Kent has free will. And yet Clark displays not the slightest bit of free will. Clark does whatever a pseudo-father figure tells him to do. Clark hides his powers because Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) tells him to. Clark puts on the Superman suit because the hectoring ghost of Jor-El (Russell Crowe) tells him to. Clark reveals himself to the world because General Zod (Michael Shannon) forces him to. Clark is basically robot, emotionlessly executing a series of programs. This cold obedience leads to the two worst moments of the film, moments so antithetical to my understanding of the character that I have a hard time believing anyone thought they were good ideas.

The first is when Clark lets a tornado kill Pa Kent rather than reveal himself. The film makes it clear that it’s what Pa wants, that Pa does not want to burden humanity with the truth that an alien demi-god lives among them. It’s the worst version of Pa Kent’s death I have ever seen. In Superman I, Pa dies of a heart attack, something beyond Superman’s power to prevent. Here, young Clark could easily save his father, but chooses to let someone die out of obedience and distrust of humanity. I don’t want a fearful, servile Superman, I want a fearless, independent Superman who cares more about saving lives than he does his own safety.

Even more egregious is the end, where Zod says Superman has to kill Zod to stop him, and so Superman SNAPS ZOD’S NECK. It might sound fanboyish to insist that “SUPERMAN DOES NOT KILL,” but SUPERMAN DOES NOT KILL! It’s part of his appeal, that he sees the best in everyone, and therefore has mercy for everyone. Even within the context of the film, killing Zod is clearly a failure, leading to Clark crying in Lois’s arms. And yeah, that’s great that Superman feels bad about doing the wrong thing, but I’d rather he do the right thing! Again, instead of being brave and clever and trusting, Superman is fearful and panicked and predictable.

You can argue that this Superman doesn’t trust humanity, and this Superman kills when he has to, but if that’s the case, then I HATE this Superman, and I hate this film. Even while saying this isn’t the Superman you know, the film relies on the residual affection the audience has for the character from other versions because there’s certainly no reason to like the Clark that’s in this movie. The film is as hollow as its lead character, relying on emotional shortcuts rather than actual storytelling. Why do Lois and Clark fall in love? Because Lois and Clark always fall in love. Why does the military start trusting Superman? Because people always trust Superman.

Additionally, Man of Steel explicitly makes the case that Superman is the second coming of Jesus Christ (apparently, screenwriter David Goyer got the memo that Man of Steel needed more punching than Superman Returns, but missed the memo about needing less Jesus). Superman is 33 when he turns himself over the Caesarian-General Zod, he sits in front of stain-glass image of Jesus to ask who he is supposed be, and then his ghostly father tell him he can “save them all” before Superman takes a Jesus on the cross pose in space. But the comparison to Jesus is just as unearned as comparisons to likable versions of Superman, because Jesus actually did stuff before his crucifixion. Jesus spent years as a teacher, rabbi, philosopher, healer, caterer and carpenter. Jesus is also infinitely merciful, preferring to sacrifice himself rather than fight the Romans. He certainly didn’t snap Caesar’s neck.

Even worse than relying on comparisons to Jesus, the film relies on the trauma of 9/11 for emotional weight at the climax. Snyder meticulously recreates images of planes (or spaceships) crashing into buildings while panicked New Yorkers flee for their lives. Watching millions die while Superman focuses on fighting is sickening. Absolutely sickening.

What makes Man of Steel disappointing, rather than just plain awful, is that it had such potential to be good. Zack Snyder has matured as a director, able to capture small quiet moments as well as the spectacular chaos of superhuman battle. There’s an interesting twist where Lois Lane effortlessly uncovers Superman’s secret identity before she ever really meets Clark Kent. And most of all, the cast is stellar, especially Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She captures Lois’s fearless determination and infinite curiosity perfectly. And the cast is full of great actors,—Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Melonie, Richard Schiff, Henry Lennix—all turning in interesting performances. Even Henry Cavill, who looks amazing as Superman (especially shirtless, bearded Superman who is also on fire) has the potential to be a fantastic Superman and an even better Clark Kent, assuming he was given an actually empathetic character to play. The cast is so good that, as much as I hate this movie—HATE THIS MOVIE—I might still see the sequel, assuming David Goyer doesn’t write the script.

I hate Man of Steel. Superman is an inspirational character, someone who by his example makes other people better, and this version inspires no one. If you want to read a great version of Superman, there are a ton of great comic books, All Star Superman, Superman: For All Seasons, John Byrne’s Man of Steel, Superman: Birthright, countless more, all featuring a recognizable human being, blessed with superpowers, who tries to make the world a better place. If you demand a great Superman movie, I recommend The Iron Giant.

Steven Padnick is a freelance writer and editor. By day. You can find more of his writing and funny pictures at

1. Edgewalker81
It's a different take on Superman than before. I never really cared for him and I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

We have 70 plus years of Superman as one way. A single movie showing a different version shouldn't be so traumatic.
Christopher Morgan
2. cmorgan
"He certainly didn’t snap Caesar’s neck."

Obviously you didn't read the COOL Bible. But yeah, You pretty much gave voice to everything I was feeling after leaving the theatre. THere was no heart. And I'll be damend if MY Superman snaps a neck. Though I did think for a minute they were going to go the Doomsday/Lobotomy route.

Even told my friend, who had asked if I prefered MoS or Returns, that I think Iron Giant was the better Superman film. Certainly more heart warming and inspirational.
Noneo Yourbusiness
3. Longtimefan
I really appreciate this review because it is not apologetic.

The reviewer finds certain flaws, explains why they are flaws and then continues on.

There is no handwringing over how it is still good even when it is bad.

This is refreshing.

Thank you.
4. Edgewalker81
Sorry for the double post, but there is are a few inaccuracies I am compelled to point out:

"we are never given a reason to like him."

Constantly throwing himself into danger to save innocents isn't a reason to like this guy? Okay.

"Clark reveals himself to the world because General Zod (Michael Shannon) forces him to."

Wrong. He CHOSE to in order to save innocents (again) and protect Lois Lane. Remember her? The one who kept his secret? The one who gave him a reason to trust humanity?

"Pa does not want to burden humanity with the truth that an alien demi-god lives among them..."

I was under the impression he was trying to protect Clark, his beloved son from what might happen. Maybe I read it wrong or we can agree to disagree on this one. Certainly, he said people are not ready, but there was also concern for his son.

As for killing Zod, what alternative was there? The Phantom Zone option was out. Zod was about to kill a family. He did what had to be done at great cost to himself. Sounds like a hero to me.

"Why does the military start trusting Superman? Because people always trust Superman."

Or because the military commander saw how Superman saved his soldiers and was fighting to protect people. Maybe that? I wonder what movie you even saw, sir.

While I did not think the movie is the best of the year, I thought it was very good.

I totally get people not liking it but you seemed either predisposed to not liking it or you fell asleep during the movie.
Richard Fife
5. R.Fife
Okay, plot holes and unfortunate iconography, I give you. A lack of agency for the supposed free-will son of Krypton, I give you. The plot very much felt rushed in the first half, and I even said "He sure drank Jur-El's koolaid awfully fast".

That said, the distrust of humanity instilled in him by Pa Kent was a realistic consideration for our society. We are more bitter, less trusting, and a bit paranoid. We aren't looking for a boy scout that we can mindlessly wish to emulate, or a government stand in that we can trust to protect us and that we won't question. We are looking for a consideration of how can we trust a superior, unstoppable power (superhero or governmental entity by metaphor) that claims to be here for our benefit. I think it isn't Superman's portrayal that has upset you so much as the more realistic humanity.

Honestly, I found Clark to still be hopeful. Yes, he was cautious because he was realistically unsure of how humanity would respond to him, but he still did what he could to help, a point Lois makes when she meets him in the graveyard.

So was it a bit rushed here and there, and did it use some shorthand to convey points, yeah, but so do most movies. Only so much you can do, even in 2.5 hours, and Superhero movies, especially reboots, are basically two movies in one since they have to (or at least like to) encompass the origin story and a villain plot.
Sorry you didn't like the new twist on Superman, but I thought it was fairly informed to the current tempo in society and in the end, an enjoyable film.
6. srizzo00
IIRC, in the comics, didn't Superman consider one of his greatest failures as having to kill General Zod?
Sky Thibedeau
7. SkylarkThibedeau
I didn't understand how he could have snapped Zod's neck if both were invernerable under a yellow star? Dropping buildings on him and spacecraft crashed didn't snap his neck. It didn't make sense and was not in character with the Kal-el /Superman we know.

I know popular culture likes stories 'dark' these days, but Superman is not a dark character. That part of the story was a fail for me but overall I liked it. I guess like the Dark Knight Rises and Into Darkness, MOS it is in an alternate reality.
8. Galena
Before everyone yells at you for writing a review where you dare to say you didn't like the movie, I want to say thank you for writing this review. You articulate the exact reasons that made you dislike the movie, rather than hand-wringing and saying "it just wasn't GOOD."

So, people who liked the movie and want to disagree with the reviewer, you can disagree with his takeaway, but it's at least well-presented and is a legit review. So don't bother complaining about that part, because that's a waste of all our time.
9. clay griffith
Agree with pretty much everything in this review. The movie was full of sloppy characterization and lazy morality. It seems to me if you are basically invulnerable and can fly, you might try slapping a big invulnerable hand in front of Zod's heat vision and flying into outer space with him before you try neck snapping. I know that doesn't give you a really awesome scene with Superman killing a dude because he has no moral choice, but just a thought. He did have a moral choice; the screenwriter and director took it away from him. And that's sad in a lot of ways.
Chris Bridges
10. cabridges
The justification over why Superman did what he did it so entirely besides the point. He killed Zod because the creators of the movie, who wanted Superman to be a killer, gave him no choice. Which is fine, that's their vision, and many moviegoers seem to agree.

It's just not any Superman I have an interest is seeing. Thanks guys, but I'll wait a few more generations until the re-re-reboot comes along and we get a Superman who's inspirational again.
David Thomson
11. ZetaStriker
The reasons why you like Superman are the reasons I think he's as boring as watching paint dry. Similarly, the reasons you hate the movie will probably be the reasons why this might be the first Superman film I've ever enjoyed. Usually I just kind of sit around and hope someone will finally manage to kill him, so someone more interesting can take his place.
12. Bobby Dee
I always hated Superman because he was too perfect. He was invulnerable, so where was the threat? Who wants to read a comic book with a hero who couldn't be damaged?
This review makes me want to see this film.
13. yannhuei
The casting choices kind of threw me off. Did Kevin Costner in a cornfield make anyone else think "If you build it, they will come" and "Superman is an angel from the outfield"?

And Lawrence Fishburne as Perry made me think, "so Morpheus is the Jesus-allegory character's boss, eh? Which means Superman is the previous One."
14. mjjcoward
All lot of people have commented about Superman snapping Zod's neck and that Superman doesn't kill. However, in Superman II, Superman still killed Zod, just in a less direct, less hands on manner. Does removing Zod's power and then dumping him down an icy crevice to his presumed death somehow change things just becuase we didn't actually see Superman kill him directly? Zod is still dead, Superman is still the reason why. (mind you the extended version does show them being arrested, however, the original release certainly implies all three of the bad guys died).

I agree with a number of the points and it would have been great if they found a good way for Superman to prevail without killing Zod. however, lacking a magic chamber that removes the kryptonians power as a convienient plot device, not sure what else he does in that moment when he realizes that Zod will keep up the destruction until Superman finishes him.
I enjoyed the movie, like all superhero movies, it has plot holes and lots of why would he do that moments, however, I thought it did tell the story the way it likely would have happened had Superman landed on Earth in 1980 versus 1940 or 50.

I do also appreciate the reviewers honesty in his review and the way he articulated his feelings. not many reviewers do that these days.
Alexander Gieg
15. alexgieg
I haven't see the movie yet, but I'd like to comment the review.

As someone mentioned above, in the comics Superman does kill Zod at some point or another. I remember a story in which he visits an alternate Earth in where Zod had killed not only humanity, but all life except for what Luthor managed to protect, telling Superman he'd go for his Earth next. So, yeah.

Also, the Superman that doesn't kill isn't the original. The original did kill people, lots of them, up to and including minor human thugs. And all of this while smilling in a quite smug way. Which is why in Crisis on Infinite Earths this hardcore Superman was the one who managed to win the fight against the Antimonitor, while the nicer one looked around helplessly.

So, this movie isn't really going against the mythos. It's just taking a part of it that hasn't been show in movie form before, but a part that is as much Superman as the other one too.
Bryan Schenk
16. Damplander
Having watched Smallville it seems the writer cribbed most of the growth of Superman and how Mr. Kent viewed him and humans from it. As most of it's focus was don't let the humans know about your powers as they may not respond well(with the additional especially don't let the Luthor's find out). I generally liked the movie but agree its a bit dark to be about Superman. Also I too felt the I'll just stand upright in the path of a tornado well motioning to my son who can save me to not save me as a bit stupid and over done. At least attempt to get down and get to cover may not make a difference but come on!!!.
17. graftonio
Spot on review. I never liked the Superman comic a lot but even my girlfriend got tired of me reminding her that the new Superman movie was coming out. I was pretty stoked to go see this one and when I left she loved it and I wondered why I had to sit through 2 hours of emotionless exposition just to get to the big boom.

Stabler from Law and Order was 10 times as interesting as Superman and I couldn't figure out at the end why the family Zod was gonna heat ray to death couldn't have taken a few steps out of the way of the RED BEAM OF FACE MELTY it's not like superman wasn't holding the guys head nearly immobile.
18. mrclark
I agree with virtually everything you say here, except I wouldn't say I hate ther movie, and I like Zod's death as long as it doesn't become a habbit. You and I are on the same page about Superman and I especially agree with the fact that most of the audience empathy is built on the fact that we already know all this stuff, and the Pa Kent death. I also am looking forward to the sequel in hopes that it is better. I'm glad I'm not the only person who loves Superman that feels this way about the movie, I tought I was losing my mind.
19. Natenanimous
Have you considered the possibility that this movie might be about how Superman becomes the person you want him to be? Now that he's seen humanity's trusting side (and remember that he ended up trusting in them to see through their half of the plan to stop Zod, and they came through for him), and now that he's felt the failure of having to kill an enemy, it feels to me that the pieces are in place for him to be the Superman you want.

I'm not sure if comic-Superman is 100% trusting of humanity either, though. He does have a secret identity, after all.

I agree with some of your points but not with others. Overall I found it to be an enjoyable movie, and I too liked the cast and their various portrayals. A few too many buildings fell, it was getting old hat by the last one. Absolutely loved the music.
Fake Name
20. ThePendragon
I am a huge Superman fan and I thought this was a great film. I think that most of the negative reviews, including this one, come down to nerd rage. "This isn't the boy scout Superman how I want him to be." Boohoo. Snyder and Nolan took a bold step and imagined their own version of Superman. It's a more deeply flawed one, but is still ultimately a hopeful and good person. He expressed genuine anguish at having to kill Zodd. It will come back to haunt him later I'm sure. This is not your Superman, get over it.
Chris Bridges
21. cabridges
Right, two things.

First, yes, Superman killed Zod in the comics. In a crappy story in the 80s, which only (marginally) worked because a) they'd already had 50 years of Superman to play off of and b) he had a nervous breakdown from doing it, went a bit crazy and eventually exiled himself from the earth. This Superman? He wailed a bit, hugged Lois and then afterwards seems more relaxed than at any other part of the movie.

And yes, Superman apparently killed Zod in "Superman II." Only it wasn't written or shot that way. There's a scene of the depowered Kryptonians being hauled off to jail that the director who replaced Donner cut from the movie (you can watch it here: . Donner's Superman didn't kill, but he was edited to make it look like he did.

The messages of this movie were keep your head down, don't stick your neck out to save people if it will inconvenience you, and if you really have to you can murder somebody. That's not Superman to me.
22. edlicious
Superman movies will always be polarizing, since he is an icon. So much so, that you don't have to be a reader of comic books, or watcher of movies to have some kind of perception of the character.

But, is this a case of a Superman getting michaelbayed? (I'm making up words.) Rather, a rendering that a construct that developing beyond preconceptions, whether we like it or not?
Sara Berrino
23. Mashara
I agree with Edgewalker81 and R.Fife. I think his doubt makes him far more relatable. It gives him depth and turns him into a real character.

Yes there are plot holes. I admit the whole "My son Kal, you are the only kriptonian with free will, now go do everything I tell you to" was eyeroll-ish, but why we care about him is because he choses to trust and help humanity at his own personal cost.
24. Adam Hunter Peck
Overall, I didn't like the movie either; mostly because of the terrible writing & dialogue.

BUT I'd like to posit an alternate interpretation of the ending.


Zod keeps taunting Superman about how he's just going to keep killing humans, and how the only way to finish the fight is for one of them to die. The phantom zone solution is already gone, and it seems like there's no way (on Earth) to contain/imprison Zod. When Zod is lasering towards the family, I think Superman breaks his neck in the direction of the family, killing them, and that's what he cries about. We don't see them safe afterwards, so it's an assumption, but I think it's a more dramatic reason for Superman to cry: he had to sacrifice a few to save the remaining citizens.
25. Tarcanus
To be honest, this review sounds like a fanboy throwing a tantrum. It also seems like only the negative was harped upon(which has been refuted in earlier comments.

My exposure to Superman has only been Smallville, but MoS was a great rendition, to me. Of course a hardcore fan can find all sorts of things wrong with a movie/character they've loved for decades. I just think the fan glasses need to come off to be able to make a more honest or objective review.
26. edgewalker81
"The messages of this movie were keep your head down, don't stick your neck out to save people if it will inconvenience you, and if you really have to you can murder somebody. That's not Superman to me."

That message is flat out wrong. The message about not helping people was proven to be wrong. It's CALLED AN ARC.
Chris Bridges
27. cabridges
"To be honest, this review sounds like a fanboy throwing a tantrum."

Nice way to trivialize the concerns.

There are certain traits to Superman that have helped make him the icon he is. There are only so many of them that can be removed before he's no longer Superman, he's just another super-powered guy.

A person faced with an impossible moral choice is very relatable. What makes Superman different -- and inspiring -- is that he chooses the harder path.
28. KF
@21: "The messages of this movie were keep your head down, don't stick your neck out to save people if it will inconvenience you, and if you really have to you can murder somebody."

That's not at all the message I took away from this movie.
29. Darth Parallax
#1 There's NO WAY I would have done the whole Jonathan Kent thing the same way, at all. #2 I am ELATED that I was not the director- Jonathan Kent was done WELL. It does not paint a very pretty picture of Earth, does it? The message of the movie though, was that Earth is not yet at the point where it's as good as the House of El all over. Well, Krypton wasn't either? I think that with regards to 'keeping your head down', the real message of the movie is that "Saving people will always inconvenience you, no matter how hard you try to be a Perfect Hero. You will always be inconvenienced, even when you seem on top of the world, you might have to sacrifice something very personal and close to you." I don't think it directly says either "Do it anyway." or "Don't Do It." I think it just says "If you want to live like Superman, this is what it really means. CAN you do it?" The message is less a statement, and more a question.
Chris Bridges
30. cabridges
Apparently Christopher Nolan didn't like the idea either:
31. Tarcanus

Sure, it trivializes the concerns a bit, but isn't a review supposed to give the good and the bad to give any prospective consumer a better idea of what they'll think about it? All I read was bitching about Superman minutae/cannon. I didn't see any attempt at being objective and talking about any of the good parts of the movie. Praise for the cast? Yes. Other than that? It's mostly disparaging. Hence the trivialization of a fanboy throwing a tantrum.

I included that bit about my only exposure being Smallville to show that to people who aren't steeped in the Superman lore very deeply, MoS was a pretty darn good Superman movie. The review caters too heavily to the established Superman nerds(not using nerds with a negative connotation, here, I'm a nerd for dinosaurs, myself).
32. Kasiki
This is not a superman movie... this was a man becoming Superman movie. so far every Superman movie had skipped this section. Smallville attempted to tell this story but in many ways did not succed.

This movie-1. had a far better and more detailed history of Krypton and as a result Zod and Jor-El. In Superman 1-2 the basic only thing about krypton we learn s A. its doomed B. no one is listening C. Zod tried and failed to rule it all and was punnished. Here there are actual reasons for it. There are motives. Krypton is more than a place glossed over and all but left forgotten after the first 10 min of the series.

For once this is a real world looking at him. Clark only has some idea of his capabilities. the first portion of the movie was about Clark trying to figure out who he was within the world. Once he find out his origins he needs to figure out how to balance the two world within him.

That chalenge is held within his 2 fathers. Kent is protective and worried. The father he knows is willing to sacrifiece himself for the future of his adopted son. He openly questions saving people. On some level making Clark evaluate who he wants to be. Don't do something because you are simply capable, or told to, but do it because it is what you choose to do. Kal-El'f father dies to protect his son as a matter of faith. He gives all the hope for what krypton could be to him.. Not something taken lightly.

was it heavy handed on the Jesus symbolism... yes. Did i question some decisions... yes. But it was far from the simplistic fluff that the origional Superman movies were. If you think about superman 1, there was no transition, he went north then was superman. Very simple, very idealized, and we all know that the world we live in is anythign but simple.

I applaude the group responsible for taking on making these decisions. It was nessesary for them to be made if this s to be the beginning of a DC universe in movies. do i agree with all of them? no, but they needed to be made if they want to bring other characters forth. Honetly doesn't this world presented give valid reasons for characters like Wonderwoman and Aquaman for staying out of the world?(those are the current rumored characters to geth their own movies post a Man od steel 2 and Justice League movies)
33. Scoopriches
You came in with an axe to grind and blinders on, that much is obvious.

And you did not do your homework, also obvious.

In Superan 1, Clark becomes Superman at age 30. But I guess 33 is a bridge to far.

Smallville took 10 years to get Clark into being Superman, with the last several seasons having loads of people telling Clark to suit up, but he waffles. Even Booster Gold says it. So Clark wavering is not a Man Of Steel invention.

You complain bitterly about the destruction in the end. It was destructive, and I am thanking god Avengers never showed mass damage like that, Oh wait, it did. And the carnage was huge, Reeves movies never had deaths on that scale shown. But what about all the people shown in Superman 1 when Krypton was dying? Falling, screaming, deaths galore? A whole planet shown in close up in it's death throes. Bet you were outraged by that.

And you were right, Superman does not kill. Oh, wait, John Byrne had Superman execute all three Phantom Zone villains. And that action was premediated on Supes part. Man Of Steel was Zod forcing Supes.

But you were right about two things. The cast is great and Iron Giant is an excellent movie.
Brian Carlson
34. images8dream

Thanks for the link ( While Nolan may have opposed it, I liked Goyer and Snyder's rational for the killing. As they said, it wasn't to show us how gritty and dark Superman is, but to explian his future resistance to killing. That fits with the theme that he isn't Superman yet, just the man of steel.
james loyd
35. gaijin
@24 Yes, exactly. I'm glad someone else noticed that Superman turned Zod's head TOWARD the people Zod was threatening instead of away from them. I think it was probably more a continuity error than regretful acceptance of collateral damage though.
Noneo Yourbusiness
36. Longtimefan
@ some.

Yes, only by killing someone can a person, or superhero, make the noble choice to realize what they have done is wrong and then chose to never do it again. I had forgotten that lesson having never killed anyone myself.

Death is a Batman problem, not a Superman problem.

Not everything needs a re-boot just because somepeople do not think a long standing character speaks to thier generation.

The character speaks well. It is the generation that is not listening.
37. Kadere
Interesting. Thank you for the article. Now I'm even more convienced that they made the right decision to have him kill Zod. They wanted a reason for him to have those morals from here on out, this is an origin story, and rather then just blindly having that moral horizon, Superman now has a real reason to never want to kill again. This will make future sequels much more interesting.

And whether or not Nolan likes an idea doesn't mean he has the right idea. I think they made an interesting choice that reflects our post 9/11 world, and the current trend in heroes tales (Batman, James Bond, etc), and it works very well in the film and hopefully throughout the next few sequels. I absolutely loved the movie, and can't wait to see more.
james loyd
38. gaijin
Hmm, see I thought one reason Superman didn't kill was because pretty much HIS ENTIRE SPECIES had been wiped out. Does he really need a more immediate, visceral reason? Bruce Wayne ONLY lost his parents, albeit right in front of him at an age where he would remember it. Still...
Peter Tijger
39. Peter-Tijger
The movie will be in the theaters this thursday over here. I'll definitely go and see it together with my son. We also saw the last attempt. Nice, but not great....but my kid got to see a modern looking Superman movie. Now he's a few years older and here we go again, a new Superman movie. And from what I read above.....more modern, more today than ever. It can be a good thing or not. Sounds not like the Superman I know, definitely not. But it sounds more believable, more "today". Thinking about Superman not killing is ridiculous, but yeah, the comics are ridiculous to begin with anyway. And how many times has Superman shook the hand of the president in the comics. The president ordering death on quite a frequent basis. Where Superman has the power to prevent it all anyway. But noooooo, he shakes the man's hand and looks the other way to where his x-ray vision can't see jack. And now we should get riled up about Superman killing a murderous fiend. Hmmm, I kind of like the sound of the big S getting back at the villains. But I'll find out which way I swing in this regard when I've seen the movie.......maybe I'll be equally offended after actually watching the movie.
Ryan Jackson
40. KakitaOCU
I disagree on several points.

Superman learns to love humanity, this film has him take longer, but it's still something he had to learn. In fact, this film sets the stage for him developing that love and boyscout nature. His father's death, happening out of his obedience to his father's wishes helps push him to take a stance of "I will save people, even if they don't want it, even if it hurts, even if it's against what I'm "supposed" to do."

Likewise, his handling of Zod sets the stage for him to make that decision to not kill. He failed her, he has to do it better, has to find a way to win without killing. This can be a driving force to help him on that path.

Beyond all that, I find it somewhat interesting that you latched onto Clark's do not kill stance when he breaks it so often. It's an ideal, not a permanant stance. He's happily destroyed AI's that are completely alive, he's made strong efforts to kill things like Darkseid, just not had the power to do so.
41. jmaurone
"Hmm, see I thought one reason Superman didn't kill was because pretty
much HIS ENTIRE SPECIES had been wiped out."

This has been a major motivation in the character of Doctor Who for quite some time, now, with not just the Daleks but the Time Lords lost in the Time Wars...
42. jmaurone
To borrow from David Spade: "I liked MAN OF STEEL the first time I saw it...when it was called MARVELMAN, by Alan Moore..."
43. tgibfo
First line For The MF'n WIN!!!
44. KF
@30: Listen to the actual interview with Goyer that quote comes from. Nolan was initially against it, but changed his mind once Goyer and Snyder presented him with the scenario used in the film.

The discussion starts around 01:10:00 in the interview (available at that the link you provided).

Goyer: "... so I came up with this idea of the heat vision and these people about to die, and I wrote the scene and I gave it to Chris, and he said, okay, you convinced me, I buy it."
Bridget McGovern
46. BMcGovern
@45: I've unpublished your comment; if you are not familiar with our Moderation Policy, please read through it before commenting further.

Let's keep the discussion in perspective, remain civil, and refrain from personal attacks on the blogger and anyone else with whom you might disagree.
47. Hairscapades
Thank you for this article. So many of your words were my words. I literally HATED this movie as well and have been seeking people who share my sentiments so that I can vent it out. The "reasoning" that this is a different Superman/a more "realistic" Superman angers me so. If you don't like the principles that make Superman Superman, then don't watch a Superman movie/don't make a Superman movie. Make a Punisher movie ... make a Wolverine before X-Men movie .... just make some other movie. You can change the story, but if you change the character ... who he is inherently ... the character who has fans for decades ... then it is no longer the character ... it's someone else. And, as you said, a very unsympathetic, unlikable someone else. Every character in this movie was one note and the story was flat ... the destruction wanton and unnecessary ... the ending totally stupid. When Zod is aiming his laser vision at that family ... I was screaming in my head, "What the ?!?!? Move out of the way you idiots!! What's stopping you?!?!"

Okay ... my head is really going to explode if I continue to think about this movie. Oh, but I hated that Lois found out who Clark was before he was ever Superman/Clark. That was the Alfred leaving Bruce moment from DKRises for me. I was done.

48. GP.4
I can agree with you on the whole Lois Lane and Superman rushing into romance but after that you seem childish. Your arguments sound like a child who just learned that Santa Claus is not real. You somehow went into this movie hoping for a live action version of the Fleischer Superman is what I think. Your whole Superman doesn't kill ignores what was being shown on screen. Whether you like it or not Doomsday fought Superman to the death. In an alternate universe written by John Byrne, Superman kills three Kryptonian after they've killed 3 billion people. Those are just comics. I bet your against Batman killing that in your movies. So Ras Al Ghul, Harvey Dent, and Talia all dying in the Dark Knight Trilogy must not count for you. These modern movies with their violence seems out of touch with your idea of the world these characters live in. I have my problems with the Superman and Batman movies but hate them I do not. I don't know if you saw a trailer for this movie but I"m guessing whatever prejudices you had about the people involved with this project you took into the theater with you. Instead of giving it a chance a trying to find the good in the movie you only looked for the bad. And that's something your Superman would never do.
49. TimmyTwostep
(Superman killed Zod in Superman 2)
50. Tory H
Steven, you've given me a whole host of other reasons to hate this movie. I wasn't steeped enough in Superman lore to really get that he never kills. Now I understand a Supes that kills is like a brooding Spidey, a socially-accepted X-Man or a happy-go-lucky Batman.

If you want some balm for your burning rage, here is a theory about Lois Lane that explains a lot of the awfulness in this movie.

Alas I have no explanation for the neck-snapping.
51. JoR
This review exhausts me. You and I saw a different film, dude. Man of Steel was full of hope, free will, and a deep sense of right and wrong. And Zod deserved death. The fact that Supes started off distrusting people and then changed his mind seems to have gone over your head. Sorry you didn't like the movie. I've thought Superman has sucked until now.
52. wingracer
First of all, I haven't seen the film and probably wont because Superman has never intersted me in the slightest. I just find him boring, overpowered and cheesy. I think he could make a really intersting villain if he ever went to the dark side though, haha.

But, I do want to comment on the ending as described here and by the creators in the linked article. I just don't buy the justification. They are really trying to say that the reason he will refuse to kill in the future is because he killed in the past and got away with it? Maybe I'm wrong but I thought most sane humans (and humanoid aliens with human emotions and morals) generally frowned upon such notions despite never experiencing them first hand. Also, it is not unheard of that when a person does kill someone and get away with it, the powerful emotions of the experience become an overwhelming desire to experience them again. From the descriptions of the film and character motivations, I think it would be more likely that this Superman would use this experience to justify killing for the greater good should he encounter a similar situation in the future.

If they really wanted to use this killing as a reason to never do it again, there needs to be more unintended consequences to the act to trouble him. Like imagine if Supes went to the funeral and saw a young, inocent daughter of Zod crying to mom and whailing "why wont daddy get up?" I'm not saying that specific scene should be in the movie since that obviously breaks a lot of Superman canon but something like that. Something that makes Supes truly despair and regret his actions beyond his own initial morals since they clearly weren't enough to stop him before.

I think a better choice would have been to have Supes refuse to kill out if his own moral choice and firmly establish that as an integral part of his character for the first couple of films. Give him situations where killing someone would seem to be the only possible option, only to find some interesting and inteligent way to save the day without it. Then if you just have to have him kill, do it at the conclusion of the series, give him a situation where killing Zod or whoever really is the only option and show the huge personal costs of that decision. Not just a few tears before a decision to go on but real, serious, personal torment. Now that is a Superman series I might be able to get behind.
Bruce Arthurs
53. bruce-arthurs
Several people wondered why the family about to be killed by Zod's heat-vision didn't just move out of the way.

Umm, because they were backed into a blind corner? It happened pretty fast, but what I recall seeing was that they were trapped in a small niche off the main floor of the station.
54. Josh Buechler
Well thanks for letting everyone know ahead of time that this review would be nonsense.
55. xan_kent
superman kills zod in the comic. Superman does kill if he have to.
Mani A
56. sn0wcrash
If you demand a great Superman movie, I recommend The Iron Giant.
I heart this - and the rest of the review - sooo much. The unwarranted, undeserved, & overblown Jesus allegories. The sheer fatigue that was the last 50 minute long action set piece. The mangling of the Pa Kent character. A Superman that saves individuals, but levels city blocks in doing so. A Superman who seems all for collateral damage.
Ah well. Perhaps it's just that my favourite Supes is the DCAU one. Time to re-watch some JLU I guess.
As I've said elsewhere, entertaining superhero movie. But not exceptional, and not Superman.
Eric Scharf
57. EricScharf
Everyone knows that the taboo-breaking neck-snap belongs to Diana.
John C. Bunnell
58. JohnCBunnell
Now see, I have a completely different problem with the "Supes snaps Zod's neck" thing...

...namely, it shouldn't have worked.

In the brief aftermath of that scene, I kept waiting for Zod to get up again and keep right on fighting. If Kal-El can recover from Kryptonian atmosphere as easily as he does while imprisoned on the Kryptonian spacecraft, and if he can reclaim enough superpower to propel himself upward through the energy beam in order to smash the world engine, then Kryptonian super-healing should have made short work of a mere broken neck. (See also the amazing durability of all the other Kryptonian warriors, particularly during the Smallville battle.)

For this reason, it's hard for me to take either side of the "kills/doesn't kill" debate very seriously -- because for me, the issue never actually arises. There's no way Zod can really be dead; obviously he's decided to play possum for some reason (perhaps not least so he can show up in a future installment in the series).

59. RobinM
I'm conflicted by the ending of this movie. I get why he did it, but Superman doesn't kill people like that. I found the idea of Clark's fear and Earth's response to him more realistic than usual and didn't have a problem with it. I Hated Jonathan Kent's death in this movie it should have stayed something even Clark can't fight like his heart not a tornado that was just STUPID. I also liked the Kryptonian backstory but the Jesus bits were a bit overkill. I did enjoy spotting all the Canadians who have shown up on Smallville over the last ten years. I will recommend it to friends who are not Superman fanboys. I think you hate this movie for the same reason I hate the new Star Trek films. It screws around with history and what I know and love to much.
60. tkThompson
(Warning: SPOILERS throughout)

Solid article, just not sure if I agree with everything. I thought the fight scenes were too long, and I agree about the Jesus allusions, but I liked the film overall. I admit I was ambivalent about the killing Zod part as well, because I liked the "Superman never kills" idea, that he always comes up with another solution, but I also didn't see any choice other than letting Zod continue to kill people. But having seen the reasons Goyer and Snyder gave at the link above (@30, and @34), I think it made sense. And relating to this, regarding @38 above, "pretty much HIS ENTIRE SPECIES had been wiped out. Does he really need a more immediate, visceral reason?" I think he does. Clark has grown up on Earth his whole life, he probably identifies himself more as a human than a Kryptonian, no matter how much alienation he feels because of his powers. He doesn't even know about Krypton until he's an adult when he found the ship. He probably would have been shocked that all the Kryptonians are dead, but there's a distance there because he doesn't identify with them. Of course any normal person will be resistant to taking a life, but where before Clark might have been just as likely to kill as anyone else, knowing that he killed the last of his people, Zod, will make him less likely to kill. It will push him in the future to look for alternate solutions where none may have been apparent, and where others may stop looking for a solution other than killing the bad guy, he will persist and find that solution.

Regarding some of the other things mentioned in the article, I wouldn't say that Clark did everything his Dads told him to do. Letting Jonathan die might not be about blindly obeying his father, but about trusting his parent, like people do when they're children. Do I like how they handled Jonathan's death? No, but I don't think it's justified to use it as evidence that Clark did whatever his Daddy told him to do. For the rest, Jonathan told Clark he shouldn't save people if it would risk exposure because people aren't ready for him (Clark) yet, Jonathan died for, and because of, that belief, but Clark didn't listen, kept on saving people, and it wasn't a matter of convenience either like cabridges @21 would suggest, Clark had to change his identity because he didn't just risk exposure to the people he saved, but also exposure to the people he was working with on the fishing boat. And he probably had to do this countless times before that because he always had to help people. Like Lois said in the movie, he can't help from helping, and that, I think, is the true spirit of Superman regardless of when or how he chooses to reveal himself to the world.

In contrast, Clark hardly saved anybody after he put on the suit, so I wouldn't say he obeyed Jor-El without question either. Sure he put on the suit, but it wasn't so he could go out saving people and hand out parcels of hope to everyone he saved. I would argue that he put on the suit and cape to be closer to his Kryptonian heritage and to get a little closer to answering the question of who he is. The first thing he did after he put on the suit was to test his limits, to find out more about his abilities and therefore, himself.

I also disagree with the assertion that the military trusts Superman because they always do, and that Clark and Lois fall in love because they always do.

For the first, did you not see the soldiers trying to shoot holes in Clark as well as in Faora and that other Kryptonian bad guy? There is a journey going into trust here, and it's Christopher Melonie's character's battle-field decision to say officially that Clark is one of the good guys.

As for Lois and Clark, it is far from "Because Lois and Clark always fall in love," there's far more of that in the Christopher Reeve movies. "That's Clark, nice sic]." Says Margot Kidder's Lois after their first flight, that Lois is infatuated with a mysterious man from the stars with extraordinary powers. Amy Adams' Lois set out to solve a mystery after meeting Clark, and not because she has fallen in love with him. She succeeds in that, and I like the fact that Lois knows before Clark even starts as Superman or at the Daily Planet, it shows that Lois is good at what she does, she's competent. And there's a reluctant trust on Clark's part because Lois has figured out who he is, but he does take that leap of faith and trust Lois by telling her how Jonathan died. And I think this leap of faith in Lois anticipates the leap of faith regarding humans in general (as another commenter might have said as well), and in both cases, it's justified. How it develops from trust to romantic love between them might be a bit rushed and admittedly probably best left for the sequel, but it wasn't so out of the blue as you make it sound.

I think your review might be a bit biased even if you do give good reasons why you feel that way. There are good points besides the cast that are not touched on, like the treatment of Krypton and its troubles (tied with the cast for my favourite thing about the movie), and also the villain, Zod. People always say a hero is only as good as the villain, and I think they did Zod very well, you can understand his purpose (which is to save the Kryptonian people) without condoning his methods.
61. Colin Ryan
I haven't seen the film yet. I probably will at some point--I don't care about spoilers. Anyway, I think that people arguing that Superman didn't have a choice but to kill are arguing for the internal logic of the film, but that internal logic is kind of beside the point when you're talking about whether a superhero should kill. The internal logic of the film is shaped by the story you want to tell, not the other way around.

"Superman should not be a killer" seems like a pretty sound argument to me, really. Superman is a creature of childlike idealism--he is what we wish a character of unlimited power would be like. If he descends into the kind of utilitarian reasoning that lets him kill, then he is not that character anymore--he's a monster, even if he is a usually benign one. That was the whole point of Watchmen, as the director of this movie should surely know! Superheroes who are willing to take the lives of other people into their own hands and mete out judgment are frightening; a Superman who does that is as unsettling as Dr. Manhattan.

Man of Steel is hardly the first superhero film, or even the first Superman film, that's made this mistake of course. I think the nature of the character just makes it harder to swallow when Superman kills than when Iron Man does. More troubling to me is that it sounds like a bunch of people die and Superman doesn't save them, which is like the whole point of having Superman--he is powerful enough that he can fight and still save people. And while I think it's fair for people to say that they don't like more idealistic takes on superheroes, I think it's also fair to point out that Superman killing people leads to a much more troubling and cynical conclusion than I think that the film-makers probably thought that they were delivering. However dark this movie is, I don't think that at the end you're supposed to be questioning whether Superman is a hero or not. I could be wrong, maybe that was their intent.
62. resurgam40
This review was so cathartic to me, because it voices nearly every concern regarding the movie I had. Barring the sloppy writing and dialogue, not to mention the prodigious length (2 and a half hours! Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan all have made good movies, but they won't make great ones untill they learn how to cut their damn corners), the movie's greatest failure was in setting up superman as a protector. He saves people, it's true, and it was fairly cool every time he did, but if saving people is his raison d'etre (as the movie takes great pains to to claim that it is), why is he seem so okay with collateral? Why does he stop Zod from hurting his mother by allowing the fight to escalate and expand to Smallvill, as opposed to an open field? Why, between two World Engine devices, one in Metropolis and one in the middle of some ocean somewhere, does Superman choose to go to the one in the ocean, rather than the one with a whole bunch of people trying to escape? It felt somewhat uncomfortable to see civilians suffer and die whilst superman chose to go elsewhere, and while you could make the argument that only Superman could have gotten there in time, I seem to recall that only one device needed to be destroyed for the process to stop, so... why not the one in the crowded city? And why, for the luvva Pete, didn't Superman at least attempt to get Zod out of the city while he fought him, at least tried to get him to land in a deserted field or at least that destroyed area of the city, to reduce the lives lost? The battle went up into space, for cryin' out loud; we couldn't come down in a different location, like the Sahara or Antarctica, or any of the other vast swaths of the earth without people? Nope, back to Metropolis we go! (But not before destroying a space station, natch, costing not only thousands more lives, but likely billions of taxpayer dollars as well. Whoops!) True, Zod would probably have insisted, but some smidge of effort on Supes' part to mitigate all these losses (or if they were acknowledged by anybody at all afterward, really) really would have made the difference to me at least.

Which brings us to the neck snap. Look, guys, I'm not opposed to superheroes, even Superman, killing; as has been pointed out multiple times, most superheroes killed all the time, and one of the main reasons they stopped was because of the Comics Code. But the thing about killing people in any story is, it has to work according to the story. It has to inform the greater narrative like any plot point. And although a lot of people have said that Superman had no choice in doing so, I wasn't really convinced of that either. Part of it was the part I mentioned above, that Superman really hadn't really tried to avoid damage to surrounding areas. But a greater part is that Superman never really even tries to redeem Zod, never tries to really see things from his viewpoint. He writes off the destruction of an entire species somewhat cavalierly ("KRYPTON HAD ITS CHANCE!" Really? Way to write off the loss of your own people, bud.), and never points out that what Zod is trying to do to earth is the same thing that was done to Krypton. When Zod declares, "I have no people!" Superman should have said, "Yes you do- me! I am your people!"and pointed out that the Codex, as well as the genetic information of millions of Kryptonians, was integrated in his cells, and pointed out that the thing Zod could do to continue his mission is protect Superman. Would it have worked? Probably not, but at least you could say that Clark made the effort. And regarding the family Zod was about to incinerate... is it ever established that the heat vision both Superman and Zod use affects Superman? Couldn't he have just, you know, held his hand over Zod's eyes, seized him by the head, got in front of the beam and protected the family, or something? He probably would have been hurt, but I thought saving others at the expense of yourself was, you know, his thing.

Which kind of invalidates the other point that people are making, that they don't want a perfect, invulnerable god-being as the protagonist because that would lower tension. They also make mention of today's xenophobia and distrust of government, the belief that people are somehow more cynical today than when superheroes were created, as the reason that Clark has to hide his identity, to the extent that his father had to die. Well, fine, but... what does that have to do with Superman saving people at risk to himself? If he saved people and got hurt doing it, wouldn't that make him more admirable instead? Wouldn't that fit in with all the other Jesus iconography to make the guy actually sacrifice himself to save others? Mention is made of the world's sake and the greater good, but if you're Superman, you can't be hurt, you can move faster than a speeding bullet, leap tall buildings in a bound, ect ect, why would you choose to eschew to save somebody when you know you could do so? Doing that would make me feel like crap. I've got my own version of Superman, same as anyone else, and his philosophy has always been "If you CAN save a life, you SHOULD save a life." A bus crashes in the water, of course you should save the kids; you might get seen, but hey, kids make up wild stories and it was a time of duress- who'd believe them? When your father tries to save a dog and gets trapped in the path of a tornado, hell yeah you should whiz out there and get them; hard to see things in a tornado, and nothing that panicked, traumetized survivors see can really be taken as proof. Is it more convenient to keep a secret identity? Sure, be as careful as you like, but that's no reason to hide your light under a bushel.

That's my words on the movie, anyway. I know a lot of people enjoyed it, but... this movie was hyped as being all about hope and inspiration. I just don't find being forced to directly kill a man to be very inspiring, is all.
63. Alger C Newberry
@61) I will again make reference to my analogy of police officers. We look at them as heros in our society right? When they are in a position where innocent lives are in IMMEDIATE danger and all other options are exhausted, they are authorized to use lethal force. You haven't seen the movie, and I respect that you say that up front. If you HAD seen the movie you would realize that Zod was a zealotous lunatic with these characteristics: 1) Bred for the only purpose of protecting or in this case avenging Krypton's people including the continued genocide of humanity, person-by-person if needs be, 2) ALL of the same powers as Superman under Earth's yellow sun, 3) Military training opposed to Clark's being raised by a pacifist. So yeeeeeeeeah, tell me again that he had a choice not to snap Zod's neck when he was going to kill those people, albeit four people. Zod is stronger and more powerful than he is. If a cop was in that spot we wouldn't have this conversation. Superman may not kill, but if it was the ONLY option available to save those people, he would do it. Saving lives comes first for him. That doesn't make him a monster, it makes him human. It makes him flawed, unsure, and relatable. He kills Zod in the heat of the moment because its the only option open at the moment and then when he realizes what he just had to do he freaks out. If he laughed and threw his arms up feel free to bad mouth him. But he didn't. He felt remorse, just like policemen who have to get manditory therapy after lethally discharging their weapon in the line of duty. Sorry bro, but why don't you hold off on your philosophical musings until you actually watch the movie.

@62) I don't agree with a lot of what you have said either, but I will address one glaring misconception in your arguement. Why did Superman not take out the ship in Metropolis? Why did he have to go around the world and take out the other one? I think this is yet another case of people not actually watching the movie. He did that because . . . . (drum roll) if he took out the one in Metropolis all of humanity would die. The World Engine on the other side of the world was the one that was initiating the catastrophe. The one in Metropolis was the mothership with the Phantom drives. I'll break it down for you. The one not in metropolis was the actual engine that was changing Earth, the one in Metropolis was just an anchor to that one that bounced the energies back. The Mother Ship in Metropolis had the Phantom Drives which was the generators to open the phantom zone. Simple logic. If things went according to plan the army would bomb the ship with the other phantom generator the moment after Superman took out the World Engine allowing that to happen and the Kryptonians to be sucked into their tesseract prison of the Phantom Zone. So yeah, you clearly didn't pay attention to the movie and somehow that's someone else's fault. Most of the issues I am reading in these comments are things that are actually explained in the movie if people take the time to actually listen and watch the movie.
64. Kasiki
@63- to add on to what you said and people sem to forget- by targeting the "mother ship" with the other devise he is not killing every Kryptonian on the ship... Zod happens to be the only one off.

The other thing not mentioned is how useless the military was against the Kryptonians. There is literally nothing made on earth at this point that could harm/contain a single kryptonian let alone a small army of them. That is another thing for colateral damage... 1 kryptonian (superman) vrs 1-2 Kryptonians at one time (Zod/henchmen). It isn't like at that specific point Superman would have the luxury of not focusing on the threat at hand. Save a building worth of people vrs stopping someone trying to destroy everyone on the planet.
65. Colin R
@61 No, haven't seen it yet. But what I was getting at is that the internal logic of the film is beside the point. People may agree that it was sensible for Superman to break a dude's neck in that specific situation. The question is why is Superman in that situation? Ultimately the writers and director create the narrative and visual logic of the story. Superman wins by snapping a neck because that is the ending that they chose to make. It is the storytelling choices that are being criticized, not Superman.

It's fair to say "This is one interpretation," but I think that Superman, like any character, has certain traits that identify him. Superheroes aren't interchangeable--you generally wouldn't put Superman in a Batman story, or in a Punisher story. I think that a critical aspect of Superman is that he is selfless and merciful in his use of power--he uses his power to defend and protect, not to act as a figure of authority. He does not kill for us, but he would die for us. The filmmakers have a job to either interpret this character and these traits to the screen, or at least engage why they're doing things differently.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
66. Lisamarie
I really enjoyed this review - I don't mind the spoilers because I'm not a huge Superman fan (I actually don't really like the 70s movie that much, but my son loves it - but more just because I don't like the style of the film) but I like the IDEA of Superman. And I appreciate that you are stating your opinion here unapologetically. Obviously some people are going to value and like different things, so they may enjoy the film and this particular interpretation/incarnation (although I really do agree with 65 above me that you should stick to certain identifying traits). But you have pretty much confirmed my fears about what this film would be like.

"And yeah, that’s great that Superman feels bad about doing the wrong thing, but I’d rather he do the right thing!" - this, so much. I'm with you on this thing. It's a huge part of the reason I HATE the Faramir arc in the Jackson movies, and why I prefer, say, Next Gen to Deep Space Nine (I enjoy DS9, but I just don't agree with the people who prefer it because they like seeing the protagonists be flawed or base more than they like seeing the 'idealized' protagonists in TNG).

So, I have a feeling I'll probably agree with you if/when we see this movie.
67. Joe@tWoTcast
Not sure if someone said this or not because those are some looong comments but Superman has killed. He killed Doomsday while sacrificing his own life to stop a monster whos sole purpose was destruction. But more importantly he killed Zod and the other Phantom zone criminals in (around) Superman #22 of John Byrnes run, which you oddly list above as an example of the Superman you think should have been in the movie.
John McClay
68. jmcclay3
I just watched Man of Steel and I’m a bit indifferent really. I’ve always loved Superman/Clark Kent because he represents the epitome of good. Some say his perfection, his invulnerability is boring, but I never found that to be the case.

The first point I’d like to address is Superman’s distrust of humanity. I found this to be highly believable and a great dilemma for him to work through. Despite the fact that I love Superman’s moral idealism, I couldn’t deal with him groveling at the feet of humans. Even when he turns himself in, you still know Superman has the upper hand, which honestly was refreshing. He’s powerful and he knows it. No one can explain to me why humans should be trusted. Humans have murdered and destroyed since the dawn of time. What about us endears trust as an entire species? He came to trust Lois, but that was on a personal level.

I don’t feel like Superman was unlikeable at all. All those flashback scenes were meant to pull on your heartstrings. Seeing the emotionally conflicted Clark, the bullied Clark, and the Clark who walked away from an asshole even though he could have ripped out his spine, really made me like the Clark from the movie. By the time we got to present day Clark, you understood why he was wandering around looking for himself. This is very much an origins movie. It’s a how he became Superman.

I didn’t like the scene where Clark lets the tornado kill his father. I understand the explanation offered, but I still don’t like it. Regardless of the consequences, I think Clark would have rushed to save him. Though the argument that he cares more about himself than saving lives does annoy me because I don’t think that’s fair. Again, why should he care about others more than he does about himself? What makes humanity worth saving? This is something that he has to figure out and by the end of the movie he has begun to. That being said, Clark loved his father and had a damn good reason to save him, so I feel that it was out of character to let him die.

In regards to Superman killing Zod, I did cringe a little. When I saw that scene I didn’t just see Zod forcing Superman’s hand, but the writers forcing his hand. There is this idea that Superman is too good and needs to be brought down a few pegs. This movie definitely presents a rougher Superman, a more morally ambiguous Superman, and yes, a Superman who will kill if necessary. I know Superman has killed in the comics, but because he represents such a morally idealistic character, it seems strange when he does kill. For me, I don’t like that people want Superman to get down in the dirt and grime because they want him to be more “realistic.” In this sense, I feel like people want to see Superman’s morals corrupted, so that they can feel better about themselves. We tend not to like people who call into question our own morality. I’ve seen kids get ripped to shreds for claiming to not have sex until they get married and their peers sit in wait for the day the “goody-goody” caves in. What is it about human’s that makes us want to see others fail?

So in some ways I don’t like the chipping away at Superman’s moral integrity, though I feel the movie only puts a few dents in his armor. At the same time, I think we needed to see a morally conflicted Superman and see how he came to be the man everyone knows. There’s much more that can be critiqued about the movie, but I’ll stop now. I think overall, it was very well done, had great casting, and a good story. The first half was better than the second half, mostly because I can’t stand anymore grand action scenes with skyscrapers collapsing and whatnot. Granted, he is Superman and any fight is going to be rather destructive. In the end, I thought it was a good movie, but I never need to see it again.
70. Tesh
Tangential question, then... suppose that Supes turns Zod over to the "authorities". What then? What if Zod earns the death penalty? Is Superman the only one who can carry it out? What *then*?
71. Colin R
@69 The problem is that those movies and those stories suck. If you like them though, good for you.

@70 Sure, you can go that direction with the story, and I'm sure you could tell an interesting story about how superheroes function if you translate them literal into a realistic world, and what the implications of that are for the superheroes and for the world. (Actually it HAS been told--Watchmen is that story. I'm not sure it could be told better, but who knows.)

But, the filmmakers are clearly trying to get something off the ground here--to turn DC comics into a multi-film franchise like Marvel has going. Do they really want the reboot film starring their flagship character to be a introspective reflection on whether or not superheroes are even a good idea? I guess they think they already have done that with Nolan's Batman films. I'm not as sold on them, but I'm probably in the minority. Still, does this film succeed at that? The reviews suggest a more muddled message to me--that Superman kills Zod, and everyone should be grateful for that and don't think about it too much please.
72. Doomsday
If Superman started out as many have said, as "the Superman who is trustful, saving people left right and center etc." then where does the character go from there? In "Man of Steel" they set out to make a flawed Superman, who develops through experience and becomes the Superman we all love in the end. Its a journey, and in that respect, I applaud "Man of Steel". The movie is not without its flaws, granted there are serious plot and logic issues at times, but overal I enjoyed it. I liked that he wasn't just the boyscout do-gooder right off the start. Because that's what the previous films did, and I never liked those for that reason. And as a side note, I do hope they go with Darkseid or Brainiac next time around. If Lex Luthor is the villain, I hope he's not the only one.
73. Kasiki
@ 72- The way i see it the major issue with lex will be Lex trying to use superman. One of the things Pa Kent was seriously worried about is Clark being exploited by humanity preying on the one thing he is vulnerable early-his mind . Having Lex be the next bad guy also would allow mankind to find a way to be equal to Superman. There is something to having all of superman's bad guys being alien, thus making humanity almost good and salvation as a result, but that is almost as bad as them overdoing the "jesus" cliche's. While they will probably use darkside for the big baddie for JLA, I think Braniac would be a very interesting choice.
74. Jsnpava
This review is ridiculously angry. Supermans Returns was effeminate and so 1930s. This was exciting and OMG entertaining! Isnt that what we want from a summer movie? The Avengers was a kids movie with 10 minutes of action, but a pretty boring movie if you subtract the last action scene. It was way too corny for my tastes. MoS was a better movie, hands down. The fans love it
75. Matthew Rushing
This is a new Superman for the 21st century with all the complexity that goes with that. This is truly the origin of Superman. He is green and untried in this film and therefore only really at the end is he more what we know. We all bring so much baggage and history to this film it is hard to be objective. I like it a ton. I think it is exactly the Superman film that was needed. If you want you can check out my review here.
76. Jonathans
I absolutely loved Man of Steel. I saw it twice already and plan to see it a few more times in the theater. The problems with your review are the same reasons it has an undeserved low Rotten Tomatoes critic rating - you went in to the movie with how the movie should go already mapped out in your head. If you want to go watch the Superman you have in your head, then go make that movie. This was a different take and I could not get enough of it.

The opening scene on Krypton was unbelievably awesome and Russell Crowe nailed Jor-el the entire movie.

Pa Kent's death scene made me tear up both times I saw the movie. Absolutely incredible. He loved his son so much that he sacrificed himself to protect his son.

Superman finally killing someone? Absolutely loved it. I always thought it was beyond dumb to not kill the enemy, only to have him come back and fight you again. Besides, it was either Zod or that family. Would you rather he let the family die? Because that is the same as killing them himself.

You do not know that millions died in that final scene. Superman had no choice, though. Zod was intent on maximum loss of human life, so Superman had to end the fight there or risk even more people dying.

I cannot watch the Game of Thrones TV series for the same reason you should never watch any Superman movie ever. The way Game of Thrones should look and feel is in my head from reading the books twice. The show pales in comparison.

btw, Henry Cavill is light years better than any superman to date and Man of Steel is one of my top 5 all-time favorite movies.
77. Madamzut
To the writer.... I loved it. If you watched Superman II he was willing to kill Zod. He crushes his hand and throws him against a wall and Zod falls down into an icy abyss. Lois punches the female, who falls into the abyss. The other guy falls into the abyss too. Superman and Lois are smiling. Superman killed no human. Don't watch part two when it comes out if you didn't like part one.
78. bob h
I've not seen the movie, but I happened to be waliking through Times Square and saw a billboard of Superman looking at a billboard of Pussy Riot (the radical girl rock band that is trying to save Russia from Putin).
I took a picture - at

He looks perplexed. Must be hard being the protector of all.
79. DavidW
I really liked this movie. I disagree with most of this blog, except about the ending. I really think Zod should have been chucked into the Phantom Zone. The only time I can think of Superman killing anyone is Doomsday (he kills him right?) but that is an unthinking savage.
80. Cloudrunner
I think that the Superman character of the movie is much more insirational than the comic book character. It is WAAAAAYYYY more realistic to have him hunt for an identity than just assume that he is the world's cop. It is inspirational for him to struggle against his alienation and STILL choose to do what is right. That is called courage.
I am surprised that so many people are complaining. Superman is a 2D character as he has been presented. This version is 3D. He isn't a goody two shoes instead he is a GOOD person.
I would have liked less drawn out action at the end and more backstory and development in the beginning but hey there is not a film that has been made that was perfect.
I liked it much better than the campy thing they made with Christopher Reeves. All the critics say there is no joy in the movie. Ha! They would have complained that it was campy and stupid if there had been. I hate critics.
81. JoeComics
What got me upset about the killing was the lack of reasoning. This wasn't a Superman pushed to his limits. He wasn't without any other way.
I have to say the family in jeopardy didn't get me to care one way or another. I just spent the last 30-40 mintues watching buildings fall, explosions with people screaming, people being lifted into the air and smashed to the ground. 10s of thousands of people dying. But somehow these 4 are the tipping point. Sorry wasn't buying it.
Here's what I wanted to see. Reasons as to why. There were no flashback discussions from Pa Kent or Jor-El about Superman maybe having to kill to protect people. No Superman saying there's no way he could.
I would have believed or understood the ending more if Zod killed that family in front of Superman. Superman finally losing it. Grabbing and hitting Zod and killing him, whether intentional or not. And some actual grief. Maybe when Lois comes to embrace and console him. He tells her to stay away because he'll hurt her, and flies off. And the movie ends with a "years later" tag and Clark shows up after all that time of remorse and decides to become someone better.
Very rough idea I know but at least there's some rationale and reasoning behind it.
The movie wasn't character driven at all. It was all about what's being termed "disaster porn."
82. Cosmic Indifference
I appreciated this movie and its take on Superman for just about every point in the article that the author hated it.

* "Superman does not kill" means that he can never be placed into a situation where he would have to kill to stop someone. Since we know for a fact that all criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot... er, no. They aren't. Except for that deus ex machina thing. Life sometimes puts you between a rock and a hard place.

* "Superman freely trusts" is a self-contradiction. Why would ANY version of the character bother with a secret identity? Clark's glasses are a joke, and always have been. The lack of trust is not as much a reflection of the character as it is a reflection of humanity. Again, it's always been a huge deus ex machina to have nobody connect Clark to the alien in blue, and another to have nobody fear & hate a superpowered alien. Trust is earned, both ways.

* "Superman's fighting causes no collateral damage" is simply absurd. You can't have a city-wrecking battle between godlike characters, and not have people die. (The Avengers movie simply avoided showing much of anything indicating death, and focused on survivors.) Unless, of course, that deus ex machina thingy again. In a real war, people die--and not just soldiers.

* "Superman isn't the Second Coming." Please. The character is the epitome of a man-created god, a god in the image of man. It's what people want their god to be. It's the god they want to be, themselves. To dismiss the Judeo-Christian aspect of this is to ignore willfully a pervasive segment of Western culture.

I think these preferences for the classic, one-dimensional, fairy-tale version of Superman (and the world rife with deus ex machina wherein he lives) are more a reflection on the fans than they are on the character.

If you want to escape to fantasyland for awhile, I understand. I do, too. I sometimes wish that I could fly, see through walls, crush my foes, trust freely and be trusted, and be admired and praised (if not outright worshiped).

But if you ever want to grow up, to learn difficult life lessons about trust, hard choices, war, death, and ideals that don't match reality, well, this movie is a perhaps a place to start the transition. It won't be easy. Welcome to the real world.
Gabriel Ingram
83. Stone_dog
I am SO glad somebody finally said this about that movie. I thought I was going crazy! I paid to see an empathetic character story about a man who became the guardian for humanity, not a two hour long superhuman screaming slapfest.
84. t2350
It's funny, I was sorta with your review until you stated "...
Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She captures Lois’s fearless determination and infinite curiosity perfectly." At this point I realized we saw two different movies. The only let down I came away with was the empty character of Lois and how it felt like she was fast forwarded over and wasn't given much to work with. As for the rest of it, read what ever you want into it, I know how it has been and it was nice to see how it could be. Can't wait for the sequel.
Cynthia Ahmar
85. tenkuu
I haven't seen this movie yet, but badly want to, and I have to say I agree with several people who've commented to say that modern heroes aren't about not killing anyone. In fact, it'd be more accurate to say that a hero is someone who knows when killing is appropriate to save people and when it's reprehensible. A villain kills indiscriminately, and that's a big difference.

To give a simple example from the well-known Final Fantasy VII universe, in the prequel Crisis Core, Zack Fair has to kill several people because they've been turned into monsters. At one point he even has to kill his own mentor, Angeal, because that's what Angeal wants. At the same time though, Zack interacts with various people throughout the game and he's always ready to help them. Described as energetic and cheerful, Zack may come off as a bit childish with his dream of becoming a hero, but he always takes his job seriously without letting it get him down for too long. By the end, having protected his best friend, he dies a hero. Not as some stereotypical hero who always has the answer, can do no wrong and never kills though; as a hero who's cherished his friends, consistently cared about the people around him and did everything in his power to protect them, and managed to overcome several hurdles, especially emotional ones, while staying true to himself and his values. A real hero struggles, has crises, and will fall several times before succeeding.
Daniel Brigman
86. kremlok
This "review" is so heavy-handed against Man of Steel, it truly was hard to follow. While I don't have the time to address all of the issues with the review, I'll address two, in particular. First: "...Clark displays not the slightest bit of free will." Does the reviewer truly think this or is this more exagerrated berating of the movie? Clark purposely hid himself for years to avoid drawing attention to himself. Clark knew he had strange powers and believed, as convinced by his father and many of the people he interacted with throughout childhood and adulthood, that his presence would provoke fear at minimum. But, Clark continually pushed himself to save people when he knew it was the right thing to do, no matter the consequences, such as at oil rig, the bus, and holding back against bullies. The only example in which he did not save someone was his dad, who was consumed by his tornado. His father had told him again, again, and again that he should not expose himself due to humanity's fear. Jonathon died honorably by thinking he was protecting his family as all good fathers strive to do, and Clark honorably obeyed his father's own choice through Clark's use of free-will. What if Clark had saved Jonathon at that young of an age? Clark would not have been prepared at all for what was coming in terms of humanity's reaction. By waiting, he was mentally and physically prepared as an adult for what humanity could do. Besides, I think that Jonathon knew that Clark's powers would be exposed eventually, but Jonathon tried to help Clark hide them until the time was right, so to speak. Keep in mind, he was not Superman at this point, he was still a boy struggling to deal with his powers amidst adolescence. He even showed a rebellious streak while talking back to his dad. Also, Clark choose, yes choose, to save the man falling from the helicopter despite the two Kryptonians attacking him. Clark suffered a severe and surprise beating because of that choice. Second, the statement "...the film relies on the trauma of 9/11 for emotional weight at the climax" is a bit off base. The reliance upon the 9/11 trauma is exactly what was needed in the scene. We ALL know about 9/11 and the effect had on our lives. The film makers brilliantly created resonance with the severe destruction of Metropolis. Without 9/11 the scene would not have been nearly as traumatic. For example, the part with Perry White and the intern preparing to die, as they realized death was imminent, would not have the held the same emotional weight. During that segment I could imagine what people in the towers felt like while the building was crumbling around them. The victims of 9/11 who tried to escape probably felt the same thing: they were going to die. Resonance also plays into the Jesus imagery seen throughout the film. Superman is solely related to Jesus in that he has to make sacrifices to help save humanity. Superman is not supposed to be Jesus, but Jesus offers a point of resonance for the viewers to get some idea of what Superman had to go through. We, as "normal" humans cannot ever understand such supreme power that character such as Superman and Jesus can wield, but many viewers will be able to relate to or understand Jesus' plight, thus the Jesus-imagery. Superman (and even Jesus) resigned himself to the fact that could not stray the path of sacrifice. The resignation does not lower either character's honor or greatness, rather it offers us a method of relating to those individuals as human beings. If anything, I thought the comparisons to Jesus were remarkably appropriate considering the audience that the film makers knew would see the movie. Also, the imagery was subtle enough that you had to be mindful of its appearance. I really doubt many people went into the movie looking for Jesus imagery in the film, unless they had already read reviews. As for the thought that Superman would stop to save millions of people while menaces like Zod exist, is not only irrational, but makes little sense. Superman stopped the greatest threats to the world, a hyper-advanced terraforming device and the Kryptonians. He could not have and should not have tried to merely save the people of Metropolis, as he knew there were greater threats to be to stopped. If Zod succeeded, then billions would die, not just millions. Also, Superman can get angry, as was seen in Metropolis when he first attacked Zod outside the farm house. I believe at that point, he literally does not know the extent of his own powers. He had not fully tested himself yet during the course of the film. Anger and that uncertainty combined does not make for well-thought out battle arenas for those that thought Superman should have taken the fight to a desolate area of Earth. If that had happened, then the scenes would not have resonated nearly as much with the audience's emotions. Finally, isn't this is just a different version of Superman, and it is just a movie about a character who ultimately strives to save humanity from its greatest threats? Who cares about the minor details? Superman saved the day in this version, after all; shouldn't we be applauding film makers for making such films that inspire humanity to create wonders, relinquish fear of other people, and work together?
87. Igorlex
Drew McWeeney at has a breakdown of the one of the work-in-progress scripts for Man of Steel: people might find it interesting as it kind of addresses many complaints people gave of the final film.
88. JAL
Even though I don't agree with all of your review, its still a good review.

As others have said, you have to view this as a "Clark becoming Superman story," a full origin tale. But I too felt that there was little charachter development. Louis uncovering Clarks secret and refusing to blab about it is the basis of their relationship? General Zod was more developed than their relationship. And the des ex "hey your holographic dead dad told me how to defeat them" made me laugh, while other things seemed to be resolved just as quick.

Still though, I didn't find it as horrible as you seem to have found it. Thought it was better than The Avengers, which to me was an drawn out generic "super team coming togther" comic book story. I found the action scenes to be prety good, in MOS, especially because it is what I felt one should expect when super power beings are fighting each other. I really didn't compare it to 9/11, instead I thought, this is some serious colletaral damage, these fools need to take it outside.

So are you suggesting that any time a building falls down in a movie it is now drawing on events from 9/11? Personally, I took it as this is what happens when a machine meant to tara-form a planet lands in the middle of a major metroplis, when aliens bent on world domination and genocide attack. This is what happens when super powered beings fight. Yet this lead my problem where at the end of the movie its as if most of this massive destruction and death is not even mentioned. Metroplis is a disaster zone, Smallville is almost wiped off the map, but nothing mentioned. No faux news reports on tvs while people rebuild, no ceremonies for the dead, nothing. Not even superman helping clear the rubble.
Tim Marshall
91. smaug86
I understand some people being upset at the writers putting Superman into the position of having to kill Zod, but how would any of you have written that scene? And don't give me a "First, I would never have painted Superman into that corner with a kill or be killed" caveat.

If Zod was genuinely unhinged like that, intent on taking out all of the Earth's population , to force Superman's hand, what would you have Superman do? Even discounting that family being in a life or death situation right at that moment, Zod wasn't going to stop and so Supes would have most likely been in another situation exactly like that down the road. There's no chance of sending Zod back into the Phantom Zone and the longer he absorbs our sun's rays the stronger he gets. So what does Kal-El do?
Emmet O'Brien
92. EmmetAOBrien
I'm fairly meh about Man of Steel. Being a "how this guy becomes Superman" movie is precisely what's wrong with it. Partly because there's something deeply pernicious about the degree of cynicism it takes for Clark Kent to need anything other than decent parents and a modicum of empathy to become Superman, and partly because I am sick to the back teeth of superhero movies wasting so much of their screentime on origin stories, and doubly so for an origin story as well known as this. Grant Morrison has established that making Superman's origin work takes eight words. Not a whole movie of messing about to get to the point where we might, maybe, have a version of the character worth having in the next one.
93. missallen
Dear Steve: Here's what happened. You didn't like it. Some other people didn't like it. However, lots and lots of other people liked it. Enough people liked it to go pay money to go see it. And it made money at the box office. Lots and lots of money, and that's the only thing that matters in the world today. Not the story, not the characters, not anything else. So sorry.
94. Novashannon
I mostly agree with the review. I never liked the John Byrne Superman, and still do not. Saying a dark hero is more "realistic" is simplistic. Superman should not be that way. that is not to say he should not be conflicted - I loved Smallville! The scene where Pa dies wa just totally ridiculous. why sould Jonathan go out and get the dog, when Clark could have safely gone (without necesswarily revealing his secret) and been safe. The entire sequence made absolutly no sense whatsoever.While I do not hate the film, I see far too many ridiculous and glaring problems. Mostly where I disagree with the reviewer is that I think Amy Adams was a terrible Lois Lane (no chemistry with Superman) and The Iron Giant sucked as a movie. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with being a good guy. Not everyone has to be the same. What I really do not buy ialso is the whole Jor-El's consciousness thing. Hated it in Smallville, hate it here. Plus, the "S" stands for house of El in Kryptonian, not for "hope." Anyway, here's hoping someone eventually does a good DC movie.
95. dadroponu
The reviewer makes valid points about the movie, but, all that considered, I still liked the MoS alot. The truth is (and I I know a lot of fanboys are going to get a little ticked) is that Superman is boring. I've been reading comic books for 30 years and I literally have a handful of Superman comic books. Superman has no flaws either in his personality (Truth, justice and the American Way. What exactly is the American way nowadays, anyway?) or his power set (Name something Supes can't do. I dare you) . He is the perfect boyscout. (YYYYAAAAWWWNNNN!!!!) Too perfect. Its why Marvel has been kicking DC ass for so long. All of Marvel's characters are deeply flawed no matter how powerful they are and deal with human emotion and human dilemmas. Even the "God of Thunder" is not immune to some form of humility every once in a while.
Superman needed to be brought back down to earth and the plot would have been incredibly implausible in this day an age if some super powered alien just appeared and everybody accepted him with open arms.
....And really people.....crying about how there was too much action and buildings and destruction. Give it a rest. Bryan Singer almost destroyed the movie franchise with the iota of action that was in the last movie. And thank God it didn't include endless scenes of Lois fawning over him, and Superman saving Lois, and Lois gets into trouble again and I gotta save Lois and I have to spin the planet backward to go back in time to save Lois and Lois and has my kid and on and on and on and on.
Maybe the movie lacked a little bit of heart and emotion but you babies can always go home and get a hug from mommy afterwards.
This was the best movie in the franchise except for Superman II. The only thing I really missed was "Kneel before Zod".
96. Amid
I really liked Man of Steel and couldn't understand why the geeks hated it so unanimously, but you made that clear. Thanks.

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