As known even by those who didn’t actually see the movie yet, but who simply sensed it through the intensified vibrations of the Internet, this summer’s Man Of Steel made the decision to turn Superman into a killer, by having him crush hundreds of thousands of people with assorted rubble.
But even more contentiously—and deserving of your last genuine [SPOILER ALERT]—the film has earned the ire of fans for its climactic scene where Superman snaps General Zod’s neck, despite decades of Superman being one of comicdom’s few characters who doesn’t go around just snapping necks left and right, like Beetle Bailey. To many, this was a betrayal of Superman’s very ideals perpetrated by director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer, and it has certainly not escaped Goyer’s attention that it generated some controversy, or made him and Snyder really cool.
“We were pretty sure that was going to be controversial. It’s not like we were deluding ourselves, and we weren’t just doing it to be cool,” Goyer said at a recent BAFTA and BFI event, explaining that, in addition to making them seem cool, they also wanted to put their Superman in “an impossible situation and make an impossible choice.” That way their Superman would be forced to kill someone to get his way out of it, in much the same way that Goyer forced himself into a scenario to which, like Superman, he could find no other creative solution. Also, the guy who’s responsible for so many modern comic-book movies (including possibly Justice League) doesn’t really agree with the whole “adhering to the comics” thing:
This is one area, and I’ve written comic books as well and this is where I disagree with some of my fellow comic book writers — ‘Superman doesn’t kill’. It’s a rule that exists outside of the narrative and I just don’t believe in rules like that. I believe when you’re writing film or television, you can’t rely on a crutch or rule that exists outside of the narrative of the film… So the situation was, Zod says ‘I’m not going to stop until you kill me or I kill you.’ The reality is no prison on the planet could hold him and in our film Superman can’t fly to the moon, and we didn’t want to come up with that crutch.”
And so, rather than use the crutches of established abilities, moral code, or coming up with something, Goyer and Snyder ditched such easy ways out and instead had Superman snap a guy’s neck—thus using the brace of violence to prop up the character’s development, like some sort of pointed thing that provides support. Also, Superman can’t fly to the moon now for some reason. (Maybe the moon would eat him, as the moon not eating people is one of those rules established outside Man Of Steel.)
But tossing the crutch of chuckles aside, for those who might still take some issue with Goyer’s explanation that Superman had to kill due to the narrative he himself created, he did assure them that this character development will definitely carry over into Batman Vs. Superman. Goyer added that Man Of Steel was “in a way Superman Begins; he’s not really Superman until the end of movie. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films.” So it’s likely that Superman will have that no-kill policy from now on, as it’s been firmly established within the Man Of Steel narrative, primarily as the product of guilt. Which is, after all, a far more realistic reason not to kill people than some kind of crazy, comic-book fantasy like a “moral code.”