Superman Had To Destroy Metropolis To Save It

“You talkin’ to me?”

As far as summer blockbusters go, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the relaunching of the Superman movie franchise by the Zack Snyder directed and Christopher Nolan produced Man of Steel.   Among the movies of the summer it falls only slightly behind Iron Man 3, but leaps with a single bound over the bloated and soulless Star Trek: Enter Darkness.

For a 75-year old hero, Henry Cavill’s Superman doesn’t quite charm the way Christopher Reeve did when he slipped on the red-and-blue uniform, but Cavill will definitely get a second and probably more chances to slip on the suit (sans the red undies) in future sequels.   Warner Brothers and DC Comics desperately needed a big hit to get them back in the game against the multitude of Marvel movies and with Nolan done with his Batman trilogy,  Man of Steel gets them back in the game.    The trick will be to have as much luck in getting other DC comic book heroes onto the screen, but with the big box office grosses of Man of Steel it should be up, up and away for future franchises.

Between the men of steel and iron, once again comic book movies dominate at the box office.   There are a lot of things I love about Man of Steel,  but boy does it take itself seriously.  That’s the Nolan touch at work because the Dark Knight flicks didn’t have much of a sense of humor either.   If Superman Returns was ripped for being boring as hell, Man of Steel goes for jaw-dropping spectacle and an extended showdown between Superman and his nemesis, General Zod (a glowering Michael Shannon)  that ups the ante for sheer devastation that The Avengers‘ trashing of New York City can’t begin to touch.   That’s where my big problem with Man of Steel begins and be warned that there are major SPOILERS from this point on, so if you haven’t seen the movie, bail out here.

Even fantasy flicks have to follow logic, if not necessarily realism and logic says if two superhumans go to war in the heart of a city and wreak massive devastation and destruction in the process, there will be a body count and you would run out of toe tags and body bags once  you pulling them out of the ruins of Metropolis.

“You like prison movies, Zod?” “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO….”

Merely because we are discussing/debating a fantasy character in a summer popcorn flick, it doesn’t mean we can totally suspend disbelief.  Tom Clancy said it true when he observed, “The difference between truth and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.”  The bloodless catastrophe that befalls Metropolis in Man of Steel makes no damn sense.

Rather than referencing Man of Steel a much more relevant comparison would be Superman II when Zod gets ready to throw down in the middle of Metropolis, Superman retreats rather than tear up the city.

That’s Superman making the smart move instead of being a dickhead with blood in his eyes and dead bodies everywhere.   I am not the target demographic for this film.  It was made for teenage boys who either do not know of Superman’s moral code against killing or could care less about it.  Youth must be served and because technology has come so far in 33 years when the tagline for Superman was “you will believe a man can fly.”  There are all new ways to make shit blow up real good and maybe that’s good enough for those with no sense of history.  Yet even these movies are designed not only to attract kids, but the parents of the kids as well and they are the ones most likely to be familiar with the original source material and still respect it.

Stuff blowing up real good is not enough for me. Superman not only does not kill, he does not willingly permit innocents to die, but this one does both.  Zod is the one who considers massive expenditures of human life to be “collateral damage,” not Kal-El. If neither of them care then there are no good guys and bad guys here. It’s just bad guy and worse guy.

This is supposed to be a more “realistic” Superman who has no choice but to kill in the absence of any better option, but that’s because Snyder and David Goyer’s screenplay didn’t give him any.

After he snaps Zod’s neck, Supes lets out a “NOOOOOO!!!” but he gets over it real quick.    There’s no consequences to trashing a major city and no remorse for killing his enemy.   Batman tells Ra’s Al Ghul, “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you” in Batman Begins.    Superman says,  “Guess I have to kill you since I can’t figure out any way to stop you.”

Superman’s philosophy used to be “truth, justice and the American way” when it was Christopher Reeve with the “S” on his chest. When did it become “I had to destroy Metropolis to save it?”

Superman is a super hero and super heroes find another way. He can do what takes some imagination or say “ain’t nobody got time for that” and just snap the bastard’s neck. Problem solved, right?

Except I don’t want Superman killing Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Bizarro, Brainiac or anybody else that decides to mess with the “S” because it’s the quick and easy fix and Superman just really digs snapping necks.  Wolverine and The Punisher already exist to put bad guys to sleep permanently, but neither are “heroes” in the classic sense.  Superman is and he is a hero who does what others can not do or will not do, not just what is expedient.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child and I read comic books that appealed to me as a child. When I became a young man I put away childish things including Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and superheroes like that because it stopped making sense to me why someone like Batman would do this endless, repetitive dance with The Joker where the guy escapes from Arkham Asylum (again), kills a ton of innocent people (again), Batman beats him up and throws his ass back into Arkham (again) and six months later we start the whole damn thing all over again.

It was an endless cycle of stupid that made no sense. Garth Ennis’ character of Tommy Monaghan, the Hitman took on a contract to kill the Joker and blamed Batman for enabling the Joker’s murderous sprees because he wouldn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime saying, “A sensible man would have done it years ago.”.

Superman is blessed with enough powers and abilities that he doesn’t have to kill his enemies. He finds another way because that’s what he does.

That has worked for 75 years. One movie with a revisionist streak doesn’t mean what always worked before doesn’t work anymore.

“Bring me The Avengers and I’ll kick all their asses!”

6 thoughts on “Superman Had To Destroy Metropolis To Save It

  1. What was he supposed to do? Fly to Smallville or Metropolis and tell his fellow Kryptonians “Let’s take it somewhere where there aren’t any innocents around.” Yeah, that might work ok in a comic book, but Zod was in Metropolis trying to destroy the city (as well as KILL ALL THE HUMANS ON EARTH!!!) He was in the midst of killing EVERYONE on the freakin’ planet, so why would he be interested in going somewhere so nobody else would “get hurt”. He and the other Kryptonians were genetically-bred soldiers whose only purpose was to defend Krypton against any other lifeform that would be a threat to Kryptonian life.

    It always bugs me that a villain initiates a plan to draw out “Hero-man” and then decides to take the battle away from the very people he used to draw the hero out. Plus, Superman had been Superman for what? – a matter of days AT BEST. He was new to this superhero thing, hadn’t faced any major threats and hadn’t been in any major fights yet. So he’s supposed to have everything figured out?

    In Superman II the character was MUCH more experienced and yet he only “took the fight outside” – he didn’t take it to the Grand Canyon, the moon or a the middle of the Arctic Circle – he still fought the other Kryptonians in the middle of Metropolis and only abandoned the fight when he realized that they were willing to hurt innocents to get him to surrender. Plus this was 33 years ago when the violence was played for laughs (you can pin a Kryptonian with a radio tower and he’s caught?) That movie came out after the S.W.A.T. TV show was cancelled because it was too violent and before we were exposed to The A-Team TV show or the GI:Joe cartoon where people can shoot at each other and NOBODY ever gets shot. The Man of Steel plays in today’s’ post-9/11 world – we understand that innocents get killed (after all, the military was more than willing to fire missiles in the middle of Smallville – how concerned were they about “collateral damage”?) and we didn’t see piles of dead bodies because they were making a PG-13 movie.

    And who’s to say that the next movie won’t reflect the impact of Superman killing or causing so much damage to Metropolis. Maybe this will be the motivation for the government turning to Lex Luthor to rein in the “renegade alien”. We don’t know what the next movie will be, but the Man of Steel was a great reboot of the character and I’m interested in seeing what they come up next.


    • Just flew right by you that I said I liked the movie, didn’t it? 😕

      “Who’s to say that the next movie won’t reflect the impact of Superman killing or causing so much damage to Metropolis?” Gee, Mike, I don’t know. Who cares? The next movie hasn’t been written yet. Maybe Superman will go smash up Gotham City next since Metropolis is pretty much a rubble-filled parking lot now. What happens in the sequel doesn’t have a thing to do with this movie and I am only going by what Snyder, Nolan and Goyer did in the movie they made, not in the movie they might make next time.

      If Superman hasn’t figured out how to get in a fight without destroying everything standing and killing any poor bastard not fast enough to get out of the way, then he needs to hang up his cape because obviously he’s not very good at “this superhero thing.” When there’s no difference between the death and damage caused by a bad guy’s rampage and a good guy’s rampage, then the line between a hero and a villain has become so narrow as to be non-existent. Superman is supposed to be the ultimate super hero. He doesn’t get as muc time as Spider-Man or Batman to get this shit figured out. The stakes are higher and the enemies more powerful. If Superman can’t step up his game then he’s as big a threat as the menaces he’s supposed to protect Earth from.

      Don’t ask ME what was Supes supposed to do. Ask Goyer. He wrote the script, not me. I figured Superman would find a way to beat the baddie without leveling the whole damned city in the process. You’re acting like it’s a case of “gotta break a few eggs to make a omelet.” Maybe for your $7 bucks it’s cool if billions on Earth are saved by thousands in Metropolis dying, but that’s cold damn comfort if you’re one of those who get squashed by a falling building as Super-Stupid and Zod are hashing out their differences.

      Since you mentioned 9/11 (and I resisted that comparison), what you have in Man of Steel is disaster porn at its most base. It’s even more cavalier and carefree in its attitude toward human death than The Avengers. At least Captain America and crew tried to save lives. Superman? “Y’all better move cause shit is about to get real up in here.”

      Because ultimately, despite it all, SUPERMAN DOES NOT KILL. He’s already as close to a god as we’re going to get and he has enough tools in his toolbox to get the job done without going Punisher War Zone on the bad guy. Something I know and Mark Waid knows, but you seem to have forgotten:

      But about the time we got to the big Smallville fight, my Spider-Sense began to tingle. A lot of destruction. A lot of destruction–and Superman making absolutely no effort to take the fight, like, ONE BLOCK AWAY INTO A CORNFIELD INSTEAD OF ON MAIN STREET. Still, saving people here and there, but certainly never going out of his way to do so, and mostly just trying not to get his ass kicked. (I loved Clark Kent’s pal, Pete Ross, and not just because they cast pre-teen Mark Waid as Pete Ross.)

      And then we got to The Battle of Metropolis, and I truly, genuinely started to feel nauseous at all the Disaster Porn. Minute after minute after endless minute of Some Giant Machine laying so much waste to Metropolis that it’s inconceivable that we weren’t watching millions of people die in every single shot. And what’s Superman doing while all this is going on? He’s halfway around the world, fighting an identical machine but with no one around to be directly threatened, so it’s only slightly less noticeable that thousands of innocents per second are dying gruesomely on his watch. Seriously, back in Metropolis, entire skyscrapers are toppling in slo-mo and the city is a smoking, gray ruin for miles in every direction, it’s Hiroshima, and Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich are somewhere muttering “Too far, man, too far”…but, you know, Superman buys the humans enough time to sacrifice many, many of their own lives to bomb the Giant Machine themselves and even makes it back to Metropolis in time to catch Lois from falling (again), so…yay?

      And then Superman and Lois land in the three-mile-wide crater that used to be a city of eight million people, and the staff of the Planet and a couple of other bystanders stagger out of the rubble to see Superman and say, “He saved us,” and before you can say either “From what?” or “Wow, these eight are probably the only people left alive,” and somehow–inexplicably, implausibly, somehow–before Superman can be bothered to take one second to surrender one ounce of concern or assistance to the millions of Metropolitans who are without question still buried under all that rubble, dead or dying, he saunters lazily over to where General Zod is kneeling and moping, and they argue, and they squabble, and they break into the Third Big Fight, the one that broke my heart.

      See, everyone else in Zod’s army has been beaten and banished, but General Zod lives and so, of course, he and Superman duke it out in what, to everyone’s credit, is the very best super-hero fight I’ve ever seen, just a marvel of spectacle. But once more–and this is where I knew we were headed someplace really awful–once more, Superman showed not the slightest split-second of concern for the people around them. Particularly in this last sequence, his utter disregard for the collateral damage was just jaw-dropping as they just kept crashing through buildings full of survivors. I’m not suggesting he stop in the middle of a super-powered brawl to save a kitten from a tree, but even Brandon Routh thought to use his heat vision on the fly to disintegrate deadly falling debris after a sonic boom. From everything shown to us from the moment he put on the suit, Superman rarely if ever bothered to give the safety and welfare of the people around him one bit of thought. Which is why the climax of that fight broke me.

      Superman wins by killing Zod. By snapping his neck. And as this moment was building, as Zod was out of control and Superman was (for the first time since the fishing boat 90 minutes ago) struggling to actually save innocent victims instead of casually catching them in mid-plummet, some crazy guy in front of us was muttering “Don’t do it…don’t do it…DON’T DO IT…” and then Superman snapped Zod’s neck and that guy stood up and said in a very loud voice, “THAT’S IT, YOU LOST ME, I’M OUT,” and his girlfriend had to literally pull him back into his seat and keep him from walking out and that crazy guy was me. That crazy guy was me, and I barely even remember doing that, I had to be told afterward that I’d done that, that’s how caught up in betrayal I felt. And after the neck-snapping, even though I stuck it out, I didn’t give a damn about the rest of the movie.

      As the credits rolled, I told myself I was upset because Superman doesn’t kill. Full-stop, Superman doesn’t kill. But sitting there, I broke it down some more in my head because I sensed there was more to it since Superman clearly regretted killing Zod. I had to grant that the filmmakers at least went way out of their way to put Superman in a position suggesting (but hardly conclusively proving) he had no choice (and I did love Superman’s immediate-aftermath reaction to what he’d done). I granted that they’d at least tried to present Superman with an impossible choice and, on a purely rational level, and if this had been a movie about a guy named Ultraguy, I might even have bought what he did. But after I processed all that, I realized that it wasn’t so much my uncompromising vision of Superman that made this a total-fail moment for me; it was the failed lead-up TO the moment. As Superman’s having his final one-on-one battle with Zod, show me that he’s going out of his way to save people from getting caught in the middle. SHOW ME that trying to simultaneously protect humans and beat Zod is achingly, achingly costing Superman the fight. Build to that moment of the hard choice…show me, without doubt, that Superman has no other out and do a better job of convincing me that it’s a hard decision to make, and maybe I’ll give it to you. But even if I do? It’s not a victory. Not this sad, soul-darkening, utterly sans-catharsis “triumph” that doesn’t even feel like a win so much as a stop-loss. Two and a half hours, and I never once got the sense that Superman really achieved or earned anything.

      When Superman has no more regard for life than gang members shooting in out in the street without concern for who gets tagged by a stray bullet that’s not a good look for him. I prefer a Man of Steel who has respect for the people he’s supposed to protect and displays true reluctance and great regret when he’s pushed beyond his moral code. Goyer and Snyder didn’t give a damn about that. They just said, “Hey, if you don’t see the dead bodies, you can pretend nobody got hurt when an office building falls over in the middle of the day.”

      I call bullshit on that.


  2. Damn fellas, you both are pretty. It’s a comic book movie, get over it. It was the best one I’ve seen since The Dark Knight. In this story Superman does something he hadn’t done in 75 years. So what? About damn time! The big blue boy scout isn’t realistic.

    Once I was discussing Tookie Williams with a friend of mine right before his execution. I’m opposed to the death penalty but I asked my friend “what about the innocent victims?” She paused and said slightly under her breath, “they shouldn’t have been fucking with him.” That’s the way I feel about Zod or anyone else who messes with the “S”. It’s established, you get what you get.

    “Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don’t like it anymore than you men.” – The Captain (Cool Hand Luke)


    • Okay, it’s cool and all that you liked Man of Steel and it’s certainly better than the bloated mess that was The Dark Knight Rises, a total botch of a movie that turned my feelings from bored disdain to active dislike (it’s the Quantum of Solace of The Batman trilogy) and a bigger disappointment than Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2.

      But better than The Avengers? Seriously?

      All I can say about that is this.


  3. So because in my opinion I thought Man of Steel was better than The Avengers I can kiss your entire ass? You can feel anyway you want about any subject in the world but if I disagree I get that? Who the hell are you?


    • Right now I’m the guy who has a sense of humor who doesn’t take this kind of shit too seriously.

      You must be that other guy.

      Laugh more. Grip less. It’s more fun that way. 😆


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