The following story was written by Fred Blunden
The ending to Man of Steel has been hotly debated by movie goers since its release in 2013. Seeing Superman kill General Zod hotly divided the fan base, and the furor hasn’t really died down since.
Talking to The Nerdist, Man of Steel writer David Goyer explains that the Superman you see in the movie isn’t the superman you know and love. He’s a farm boy that’s only been flying for a few days, hasn’t established himself and isn’t even close to having a full grasp of his powers yet.
The way I work, the way Chris [Nolan] works, is you do what’s right for the story. That exists entirely separately from what fans should or shouldn’t think of that character. You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics.
The issue with most fans wasn’t that Zod was killed. It was that Superman kills him. If it had been any other action movie, the genocidal mass murderer being killed at the end would have been utterly satisfying. The Man of Steel isn’t a killer though. He’s not an anti-hero along the lines of Constantine or the Comedian. He’s supposed to stand out as the hero’s hero.
Goyer explains that the decision to kill Zod isn’t made by that Superman though. It’s made by the Superman that you see grow and develop in that movie. He makes choices based on that movie, those sets of experiences. In this context, the decision makes total sense.
He’d never fought anyone that had super powers before. And so he’s going up against a guy who’s not only super-powered, but has been training since birth to use those super powers, who exists as a superhuman killing machine, who has stated, ‘I will never stop until I destroy all of humanity.’ If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story?
Give any other hero the choice to kill Zod in order to save humanity, they’d have to kill him. “Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story.”
Once Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theatres in March 2016, we’ll see a more mature Superman, one with more control over his powers. Will he make the choices we expect from his comic book counterpart? Only time will tell…
Goyer had to distort his own story to make his point. Zod in the movie hadn’t “been training since birth to use those super powers”. He’d been training since birth to fight, but he’d gotten his super powers about a day ago, and had just figured out how to use them within the last hour or so. Clark, on the other hand, had been shown struggling to master his powers since he was a little kid. He had all the advantage when it came to experience.
More importantly, Goyer sidesteps the problem that this is an origin story. Yes, Clark is supposed to be new at this, but he’s supposed to come out at the end as Superman. He doesn’t. He comes out a killer who the people of earth have very little reason to trust, especially since their first experience with Kryptonians wasn’t with Clark himself, but with Zod and company. Bringing Zod in BEFORE Superman’s DEBUT was simply bad storytelling. It changed the dynamic from “OMG, there’s a villain with the same powers as our greatest hero!” to “Hey, I think one of those aliens who are destroying the city MIGHT be on our side! Or they might just be fighting among themselves. Hard to tell, from down here amid the falling rubble and the bodies.”
There is no real way that the Superman portrayed in Man of Steel can come out of he story as anything resembling the Superman we all know. He hasn’t earned humanity’s trust; in fact he’s given humanity a lot of reason to be wary of him. Not to mention that this version of Clark was raised not to really trust humanity, with his parents drilling into him (as we are shown twice in the movie) that keeping his secret is even more important than saving lives.
To say, “We did this for the story and it made sense for any other hero but Superman” is to ignore the fact that this wasn’t SUPPOSED to be a story about any other hero but Superman. It was supposed to be a story about Superman. The story might have worked if they’d made it about a generic super-powered alien, but they didn’t. They tacked the name and some of the trappings of Superman onto the story, and then told a story that bore about as much resemblance to Superman as Frozen did to Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”.