One Good Reason to Hate ‘Man of Steel’

So, where did Superman’s conscience go?

A battle between two nearly invincible superbeings is tiresome to watch. As General Zod and Superman crash into building after building, over and over, it’s a tedious exercise in CGI excess. This is where the movie the really lost me. I couldn’t help but wonder how Superman felt about the destruction he was causing – destruction that, if it happened in real life, would make 9/11 pale in comparison.

The key here is that director Zack Snyder never actually shows us the countless hordes of people that must be getting killed and maimed as Superman chucks Zod through yet another skyscraper. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. It reminds me of one of the most abhorrent action sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie. You know that scene in ‘Bad Boys 2’ where Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, the supposed heroes of the tale, go careening down a hillside in Hummers, straight through a packed shanty town no doubt full of poor citizens living out their lives until getting squashed by a giant SUV driven by a couple of morons? Yeah, that scene.

A queasy feeling rose up inside me when I realized that not only is Superman destroying densely populated city buildings, but there are moments where he seems to enjoy what he’s doing, dragging Zod across the face of a skyscraper like a big brother rubbing his little brother’s face in the dirt. I think I checked out after Superman chucked Zod through the perfectly product-placed IHOP. I couldn’t help but think of the poor families, enjoying their morning hash browns, whose lives were certainly ended in an instant. Again, where did Superman’s conscience go?

Only once during his battle with General Zod (which reminded me far too much of the Peter versus the Chicken fights from ‘Family Guy’) is Superman the least bit concerned about human life – when they end up in Grand Central Station and Zod is about to fry a family with his heat vision. Didn’t this strike anyone as disingenuous? It’s a moment where the script finally realizes that, “Hey, people are in real danger here. We should probably acknowledge that somehow.” It’s a flimsy scene that hopes you’re too ignorant to realize how many countless individuals Superman killed before we get to that moment.

No amount of crash-zooms, frantic pans or needless shaky-cam can distract from the movie’s overall defunct storytelling. It’s all about layers of exposition. There are moments with Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon that feel as if greatness will finally sprout, but soon enough the movie devolves back into its punch-kick-and-crash-first/ask-questions-never mode.

Other topics worth discussing include the film’s ham-fisted way of shoehorning in a Christ analogy (Superman is 33-years-old, wink wink), its inane need to point out the completely obvious (“It’s because I think he’s hot.”), or its irritating habit of repeating story elements that don’t need repeating. (Thank you, Jor-El, for your pop-up book history lesson of Krypton.)

Yet, all of the movie’s other faults don’t come close to the fact that ‘Man of Steel’ reduces one of the most moral of all superheroes into just another city crushing Neanderthal.


  1. Timcharger

    Hi Aaron,

    People make mistakes, so it’s okay to own up.

    And since the action was at a frantic pace, it’s easy to see things wrong.

    I could be wrong, but I saw Superman get thrown into the IHOP, so Aaron, you can’t fault him for that. That fact should change your mind.

    Add in, the scene where Superman tells the Smallville citizens to stay off the streets; it’s not safe.

    Add in, the scene where Superman saves the soldiers from the crashing helicopter. He stops his fight to Kypton’s superbeings, to save people form collateral damage.

    Add in, the speech of Genernal Zod, explicitly saying he’s going to kill as many humans as possible (after his terra-forming machine is destroyed). Meaning Zod wants to personally kill by his bare hands (or laser-eyes.) That speech is purposely written in the movie to negate the need for Superman to stop and save a cat stuck in a tree.

    Yes, Snyder loves excessive action and is into CGI porn. You’re right about that.

    But no, you’re wrong about the evidence you cited to support your position that Superman in Man of Steel had no moral conscience.

    Maybe like you wrote, Superman DID throw Zod into the IHOP; I’ll rewatch it when the blu-ray comes out. Dislike/hate Man of Steel for the others reasons you cited, but not for Superman not having a moral conscience.

      • Timcharger

        Aaron, that guy hates Man of Steel because he mistakenly believes Superman does not kill. Obviously other prominent Superman comic book writers have written stories of Superman doing precisely that, killing people.

        That guy also implies that the Superman & Zod final battle was something Superman initiated or wanted to happen. Yes, Zod’s plan was defeated and Zod SHOULD give up and surrender peacefully, but that’s not Superman’s fault that Zod is a sore loser and has a kill-them-all attitude.

        That guy is SOOO upset that Superman snapped Zod’s neck, and SOOO upset that Superman wasn’t concerned enough with innocent lives in the collateral damage. But that was exactly why Superman snapped Zod’s neck, to save the lives of that family in Zod’s laser line-of-sight. Can’t have it both ways.

        Aaron, yes, you did acknowledge that scene. But you considered it “disingenuous”. You said that Superman “only once” was concerned with human lives “in his battle with General Zod”.

        And only once was Superman concerned with human lives in the offshore oil rig scene.

        And only once was Superman concerned with human lives in the school bus going into the river scene.

        And only once (maybe twice) was Superman concerned with human lives in the Smallville battle scene.

        And only once (for the entire earth population) did Superman sacrifice himself to be handed over and surrendered to Zod’s people scene.

        You see what I’m getting at.

        You knew Snyder was going to give you disaster porn. (And Snyder did.) But once you heard that porn music go on, you immediately saw before you Michael Bay’s Bad Boys 2 (as you wrote). And with those Michael Bay glasses on, you saw Superman throw Zod into the IHOP. When it was Zod’s superbabe that threw Superman into the IHOP.

        When the facts you used to base your opinion on, isn’t accurate, do you find some other “prominent writer” with the same opinion, or should you change your mind?

        I think changing your mind is better, but I could be wrong…