Becoming a Hero: Revisiting the Ending of Man of Steel
Man of Steel gave us a fresh new take on Superman, but did the ending go to far? This fan doesn’t think so.
I’ve been a Superman fan for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve using a red towel as a cape or putting on some Superman pajamas and pretending to fly. I’ve always believed that Superman has been the greatest of all superheroes. With Superman, you always knew that if someone was in trouble, he would do whatever it took to save the day. So I was a little surprised at fan’s reactions at what happened at the end of Superman’s latest big screen adventure: Man of Steel. I understand that Superman causing mass destruction and snapping the neck of his enemy usually goes against what most of us believe as Superman fans, but this ultimately was the right way to end this story.
When Warner Bros decided to reboot Superman in the same realistic style that had worked so well on the Dark Knight trilogy, there was always going to be a problem. How do you realistically tell a sci-fi story about a alien with almost limitless power? How do you get a audience to relate to a hero as perfect as Superman? Director Zach Snyder does that by giving us a Superman who hadn’t fully developed his powers, and put him in situations he just couldn’t superpower his way out of. For the first time we saw a imperfect Superman who couldn’t save everyone.
This was a Superman that almost leveled Smallville and Metropolis fighting Kryptonians almost as powerful as he was. Superman was still learning the limits of his abilities. He hadn’t yet figured out how to take the fight away from the city and away from the people. I know the Superman we all grew up with would’ve found a way to not destroy two cites in the process of defending them, but this isn’t that Superman yet. I’m sure he will get there, but every hero has to start somewhere. Plus let’s be honest, watching all that destruction was pretty epic. Seeing unpopulated farmlands get blown up wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
The death of General Zod has been a very polarizing matter amongst fans. Some say its no big deal, while others take the stance that Superman does not kill…ever. Now while I can understand these arguments, I have to disagree with both. For Superman as a character, killing has never been something that could be overlooked. Killing will always be a big deal. Superman has always represented the best of what we are as a people, our hope of what we can become. If he were to carelessly kill, it would destroy what makes him great, it would destroy the whole idea of Superman.
The opinion that Superman never kills, while closer to the truth, is still wrong, Superman has killed. While it rarely happens, there are times the idea has been explored. In The Death of Superman storyline, the unstoppable force of destruction known as Doomsday showed up in Metropolis with only one purpose, to kill Superman. With Doomsday threatening to destroy all of Metropolis, Superman didn’t hold back. Superman and Doomsday’s battle ended with them literally beating each other to death. There was also a 1987 storyline where Superman was in a alternate universe where General Zod and his two Kryptonian lieutenants had killed millions, Superman having no other alternative uses Kryptonite to kill all three.
The simple truth is that Superman does kill, but only under the most extreme circumstances. Which is exactly where Superman found himself at the end of Man of Steel. Faced with Zod using heat vision to kill a innocent family, Superman takes General Zod’s life. It was not a easy choice, and it was also about more than just that family’s life. Zod had begun to gain control of his powers. Zod was a Kryptonian general, genetically engineered to be a perfect solider. He had a lifetime of experience in combat. Once Zod got to full strength, Superman would not be able to stop him. Zod had already said he would kill every human on earth. He was going to destroy everything Superman cared about. So Superman did the only thing he could do; he killed Zod. The weight of his decision was felt the moment he made it, and the scene of him kneeling over Zod’s body screaming was powerful. Superman hadn’t just killed Zod, he had killed his last link to Krypton. He was now truly alone. Once again, Superman had done whatever was required to save humanity.
Superman wasn’t born a hero, he had to become one. This simple idea was really why Superman had to kill Zod. Sucking Zod into the Phantom Zone would’ve been to easy of a way out. Zach Snyder wanted us to see the hard journey Superman had to take to become a hero. He wanted us to feel the difficult choice that killing Zod was. Honestly, General Zod’s death did shock me, but it really was the only ending that would’ve worked. By putting Superman in no-win situations, we finally got to understand the sacrifices that he must make to be Earth’s greatest superhero, and what it took to become the Man of Steel.
Man Of Steel in theaters now.