Before you read the blog I highly suggest you read my original introductory post even though this is much delayed. I can not change your subjective tastes and views, though I admit I sometimes secretly desire too. What I can do is make an argument as to the irrationality of claims about this movie.
If you will like to view this in good faith, I ask that you drop your assumptions about the movie for the moment. I will seek to prove that this movie is incredibly well-written and beautiful, full of subtle nuances, and that it’s actually quite a bright movie similar in heart to the DC Rebirth. I ask you to accept nothing in faith, but simply to hear my arguments in good faith. I can do nothing else.
At the very least, perhaps you will be able to see why I so passionately defend it.
Part 1: Krypton:
We begin our film with Kal-El’s birth. Immediately what we see is a mixture of the universal and the alien. Alien technology is shown along with people we have never seen before piquing interest, but it starts with one of the most universal experiences in our history, childbirth, something that every human woman must become aware of at some point in her life, and many of us will experience.
Thinking about this scene in retrospect and the admiration just increases for Lara Lor-Van. This is Krypton’s first natural birth in generations. She doesn’t know what it will be, she doesn’t know how it will go, and she has to experience unaided unmedicated childbirth, the first Kryptonian woman to do so for generations.
2:00: We cut to the outsides of Krypton with strange flora and fauna. Their design calls back to comic Kryptonian lore but also to other vintage science-fiction in design, things like John Carter of Mars. And the depiction of the landscape backdropped by the setting sun is so pretty.
Immediately after we are brought to our first dialog of the movie, Jor-El speaking to the Kryptonian Council. And what I immediately like about this is how no one is being an idiot and outright denying reality. The Kryptonian council’s response to Jor-El saying that utilizing the core has accelerated the implosion is to say, “Our energy reserves were low, what would you have us do?” which is a real, pragmatic question that parallels certain conflicts we have today.
Jor-El is interestingly cast both as the futurist making dramatic demands for the good of the species and also a reverent watcher of the past as he says in response “look to the stars…like our ancestors did” before telling the Kryptonian Council that they must colonize one of the nearby planets that can be used as outposts. Often enough our future and our past do mirror each other, in such a way I wish others could see more often.
2:50 Jor-El says “There is still Hope, I have held it in my hands”. And this is why someone from the scientist caste of Krypton is also someone born to the House of El, The House of Hope. For while he analyzes reality and sees the tragic doom approaching, he is truly the only one who sees a possible hope past it.
Then Zod’s forces break in with his attempted military coup. This is to me at least so engaging a plot right for the beginning. Less then 3 minutes in and we are seeing a dying tyrannical but democratic regime grappling with the long-term survival of their race and a military branch attempting an overthrow of the government to secure their species…it’s so classical, so elegant in design….it’s something that is specific and yet understandable to any culture, a tiny micro-political drama to start off this Superhero Film.
There’s a beautifully subtle, realistic line that also holds such a sinister connotation which is when Zod tells the Council “The rest of you will be tried…and punished accordingly”. Zod’s domain is one that has order in a sense, but no justice. He holds mock trials before punishing the victims, and this is made evident by how he simply shoots one of them without trial purely for speaking against his wishes.
3:30: Zod encompasses so much of the political strife between the lawmaking and military castes of Krypton in a single sentence “These lawmakers with their ENDLESS DEBATES have led Krypton to ruin!” In any civil democratic society, the lawmakers are expected to with extreme caution and debate out all ideas extensively so as to protect the society from harmful laws. But this obviously DOES lead to lethargy and slowness to react. It reminds me very much of the switch from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. It’s a brilliant portrayal of the strife between two castes in desperate times, the castle of civil society that exists cerebrally in a world where there is no imminent destruction and the caste designed purely for the protection from imminent destruction.
In this, we see so much of why Jor-El created his son naturally, and not the way the other Kryptonians had done so. These people have been bred to be living machines, such in the thinking purely of the caste, unable to empathize with those who are differently minded, unable to change their viewpoint to better suit their surroundings, doing the one thing they know how to do with such efficiency that nothing else CAN be done.
Zod offers Jor-El to join him and though I’ve seen this offer a million times in fiction, this one strikes me as surprisingly poignant, perhaps purely in retrospect knowing of their past interactions.
However, Zod expresses his dark intent “We’ll sever the degenerate bloodlines that led us to this state.” It’s a villainous thing and yet in the short term view it actually seems surprisingly logical. The Kryptonians have built people to be biological machines and so how to create a more efficient society is to simply turn off the machine types that are not malfunctioning. It is horrendous to us because we understand these as people and not machines. A truly frightening glimpse into this alien mindset. Jor-El does not correct him on human ethical grounds, that they have say a right to live (or in more dramatic terms, that murdering people he disagrees with is wrong), but on a more interesting philosophical ground:
“And who will decide which bloodlines survive, Zod? … You?”
Jor-El is posing it in terms of how one man will obviously choose for things to say similar to himself, as Zod just demonstrated. Zod frames everything he does as being for the good of Krypton, yet Jor-El knows that to Zod the good of Krypton, means the good of Zod and vice versa.
Zod and Jor-El’s little conversation here stings of such betrayal on both ends as Zod appeals on an emotional ground to their old friendship, and Jor-El speaks on behalf of the binding principles of Krypton.
4:30: Jor-El proceeds to defeat three Kryptonian Soldiers after cleverly blinding them with the help of his AI. It’s really cool seeing Jor-El doing all this stuff, when usually his role is so limited. This is going to tie into what the central theme of the DCEU, and the DC Universe as a whole which as I understand is:
“Normal people are awesome. Everyone has a hero inside of them.”
Jor-El being an awesome fighter is just really cool.
5:00 Jor-El runs out and sees the battleground Krypton has become during the military coup. It’s a beautiful shot and it reminds me of what Jor-El is fighting for. He’s trying to free his son from this very thing.
So, then Jor-El calls in his space griffon H’raka to fly him. …. What?
I kid, I do actually like H’raka design, and the design of a lot of the creatures on Krypton as I mentioned before.
Also, I just want to quickly say the music is amazing. I’m not very knowledgeable about music, so I can’t say what I like about it, but I greatly enjoy the music.
6:15: Jor-El gets to the place where the Kryptonian infants are grown for their respective roles and it’s everything you could want it to be. Strangely natural yet strangely artificial. Cold, slightly disturbing yet still somehow containing the promise of new life. Familiar, yet alien. It is a perfect representation of Krypton itself.
8:30: Jor-El talks to Lara about the place where they are sending their son Kal-El. Lara expresses the concerns any mother would “He’ll be an outcast…a freak….they’ll kill him…..What if the ship doesn’t make it” Jor-El does his best to reassure her though she starts protesting that she can’t do it. Jor-El tells her in a way both logical and empathetic that Krypton is doomed and that it’s his only chance, that he is their people’s only hope.
Makes me tear up a little every time, the thought of having to send your children into a great uncaring cosmos, and knowing you have to, that you have to overcome your own fear if it will give them even a chance that they may live.
There’s also again that emphasis of Kal-El being hope. Hope is a major theme in this film. What is hope? Hope is a type of faith. Hope is a faith that regardless of how dark the situation seems now, that the brightness will always return, that any sadness that strikes you is a passing mood no matter how intense it feels. To have hope is to see a world worth going on for just past the horizon.
Lara expresses some concerns that make the tears fully come “We’ll never get to see him walk…never hear him say our names.” And Jor-El says quietly “But out there…amongst the stars…he will live.”
I am filled with such emotion. I am convinced there is no love stronger than parents’ for their child. It overwhelms me now, and I empathize with their quiet contemplation for all that they will miss of him, and all that he can be.
Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van say goodbye to their son, concluding with Jor-El saying “Goodbye, my son. Our hopes and dreams travel with you.”
If you don’t include the opening sequence, this has been the first 10 minutes of the movie. These 10 minutes alone I enjoyed more then anything superhero movie I had seen before it and it would stand as a short film as being one of the greatest films I had seen since. Themes of a parent’s love and hope, a uniquely stylized view of Krypton and its people, as a realistic dying civilization that had tried to engineer themselves, wrapped in a tiny political drama.
So, let’s continue then.
11:15 Jor-El dons his battle armor and I really like the design of it. Despite its bulk, it’s still relatively sleek in design and I like bears the symbol of the House of El on it. I also like how Jor-El knew that Zod’s forces would arrive to stop him.
12:10 It’s really chilling to see Zod and his soldiers enter the area where the baby Kal-El is.
12:35-12:45 Jor-El speaks to Zod saying “We’ve had a child, Zod. A boy child. Krypton’s first natural birth in centuries. And he will be free. Free to forge his own destiny.”
This is SUCH an important line. It is the description of what Superman stands for. He was made naturally, not engineered to perform a specific role, and so he was given symbolically his free will. He was not made like a machine to perform a role, but as a person to determine his own fate. The Kryptonians tried to strip free will away, to undue the thing the Presence strove to give all the DC Universes.
And so, when Zod decries that statement as “Heresy!” You can feel the weight of Jor-El’s statement, for it a statement of religious grandeur and extent.
Jor-El and Zod begin their fight and it’s so intensive and cool. They both have on their cool looking powered suits giving the fight a real feeling of a duel between two champions, and despite Jor-El being a scientist and Zod being the general of the Kryptonian Armies, Jor-El, impassioned by his love for his son manages to fight against Zod.
Lara initiates the launch, and a maddened Zod takes advantage of Jor-El’s temporary distraction and stabs him. Lara weeps over her fallen husband. Zod demands Lara tell him where her son is and she, tears in her eyes but defiant, delivers a line I absolutely love:
“His name… is Kal…son of El. And he is beyond your reach.”
I love how Zod clearly doesn’t understand, how no one on this planet can understand except Jor and Lara what a child means to their parents, what love for one’s child means.
Zod leaves and commands his forces to shoot Kal’s ship down but his forces are blasted out of the sky by the official Kryptonian Government who promptly arrest him.
I have to say this was a plot twist I didn’t see coming. This big military coup by a major character of the film...fails. I mean it’s true to history. We remember military coups that worked because they’re such historical moments but more often these things don’t actually work.
We cut to the Kryptonian Council sentencing Zod to three hundred cycles of Somatic Reconditioning. I like how the movie drops in these little worldbuilding tidbits without trying to explain them, because really any attempt to do so would just be that cliché of characters stating what they all know for the audience benefit and the movie trusts us to be able to get the idea. 300 cycles are a lot of cycles and Somatic Reconditing is so kind of mental reprogramming. It does make me wonder if all of Zod’s forces are being sentenced to the same thing, or if they got separate sentences and are going to be released earlier then him.
Zod’s final words begin: “You won’t kill us yourself! You wouldn’t sully your hands! But you’ll damn us to a black hole…for eternity!”
I love how this is part giving us a little bit of an explanation of what their punishment is, part a character moment for Zod showing his frustration at what the council is in his eyes (a bunch of hypocrites too afraid to do the dirty work), part a plot point explaining where they were during Krypton’s destruction, and part just a really cool memorable line.
He continues and it’s almost touching how despite everything that happened between them Zod clearly still has some level of respect for Jor-El. “Jor-El was right! You’re a pack of fools, every last one of you!” It’s really interesting to imagine that Jor-El, this guy from the scientist caste was considered so respectable to Zod, the leader of their army that even after committing a heresy against Krypton’s ways, Jor-El being right is still something Zod feels he must assert.
And then we get Zod’s character motivation for much of the movie. As he is being dragged away he speaks to Lara. “You believe your son is safe? I will find him! I will reclaim what you have taken from us! I will find him. I will find him Lara. I WILL FIND HIM!!!”
That famous line. I really like the General Zod vs Waldo meme with Zod holding a where’s waldo book and saying, “I will find him!”
18:15 Lara gently touches her husband’s armor, a little touch that says so much so softly, before going to look at the destruction of Krypton. She watches the world sadly noting to the AI that there is no refuge. And as she stands there she says “Make a better world than ours, Kal”
I feel so strongly for her here, it’s what every parent wishes for their child, that they might make a world better then the one they see around them, and it is so impactful coming from her who had to sacrifice so much for him, whose world, which she had to fight to overcome her fears to send him away from, is now dying all around her.
The Planet Krypton explodes.
The first large chunk of this movie, centered around Krypton is so beautiful that it’s incredible the movie doesn’t just go downhill from here. Everything you could want from a movie is exemplified in this first large bit, and it’s only the act 1 of the story.
A little bit of a side-note, but one complaint I have heard about this movie is “Why does everyone seem so calm in death? No one seems to run away or cry or be scared.” I don’t get it, at all. Like, really at all. When did trying to be composed in death start being a bad thing? I would hope that on my deathbed, I can accept what is going to happen with grace and dignity. To spend your last moments composed and without breaking down is I feel something that we should all strive for, and that the movie is showing us these characters’ best sides in showing their grace in the face of death.
I also have to say I really love the Kryptonian Technology in this movie. It’s so cool-looking and stylized.
Around Saturn Kal-El’s space pod emerges and heads towards that tiny blue marble we call Earth, and it’s crash there begins the next part of our story.
Part 2: Earth Pre-Contact:
20:00 We cut too Adult Clark working on a boat. A large metal crate looks like it’s going to fall on him. Obviously, it wouldn’t actually hurt him, but the guys don’t know that, and the one who sees this risk his life to push Clark out of the way. Another example of how this central theme that humans are amazing.
Also, I really like how this movie perfectly integrates being both an origin movie and being a standalone film, delivering Clark’s childhood through flashback sequences while also delivering on the plot of Zod and the other Kryptonians threat to Earth.
The crew gets a distress signal of a nearby oil rig that is going to explode and head for it. They are told to forget about the people inside, they’re already dead yet Clark leaves to go help them. I really like seeing Clark as just a mysterious face in the crowd that still goes around helping people in secrecy. It highlights another sub-theme that I really love, the theme that you shouldn’t judge people by what they appear because you don’t know what their life is like on the inside. You don’t know what people really struggle with, you can only support them the best you can. Some people might secretly be aliens, or angels, or gods, or mentally broken, or depressed, or a secret figure of power. People have their own secret stories and you should try your best to be a positive force in their story, even if you never hear it.
The crew on the oil rig are running out of oxygen when there is metal door is stripped away and a man on fire but without any pain or harm come in. What a miraculous site that must be!
Clark manages to the people out on the last helicopter evacuate before a metal tower falls over threatening to crush them.
There’s a brief moment where the helicopter doesn’t take off and shout for Clark to get in, despite it hurting all their chances of survival and yet it’s another tiny example of people being heroes in the face of danger.
Clark instead does what he does and proceeds to hold the metal tower up himself. You can see the visible strain on his face and it’s remarkable seeing Superman begin to form. This has been a central point of the Superman mythos since the very beginning. He’s not fully powered yet but that doesn’t matter, because Superman is not defined by his powers but by his conviction to do the right thing, that it doesn’t matter where you were born or what your life is like, that ANYONE can be Superman if they are willing to stand up for the right thing.
22:45 After the excitement Superman lays in the water, unconscious, and as he lays there his mind returns to his childhood, to the first flashback sequence. And I love this scene so, SOOO much. This is one of my favorite scenes. The fact that this is not my favorite scene in the movie, should tell you how much I love this movie.
Young Clark is in class, and the teacher is looking at him, presuming he’s just daydreaming since he doesn’t seem to be answering her questions. Young Clark meanwhile is looking around and everything is going crazy, his x-ray vision and super-hearing overloading him.
Clark Kent is a very specific person, he’s was raised in Kansas with middle American Values. He’s a person I don’t intrinsically have that much in common with. But Superman is an amalgam of multiple identities. He is Clark Kent and he is also Kal-El.
Kal-El is different. Kal-El is very easy to relate to. In fact, I think Kal-El is easy for most of us to relate to. We all under the experience of being alienated, of being different and not quite fitting into a scene. I relate to Kal-El even more then this and on a very personal level.
I have a condition where the part of the brain responsible for empathy and sociability is very sensitive for me. It’s especially the opposite of Autism, where one views things in terms of logical impersonal systems. Being, an “empath” or whatever term is used for it today means that I view everything as overtly personal and that I am more sensitive to emotions including suffering.
I remember in class several times being shown disturbing imagery and it several times caused me to faint or have a seizure because it was too overwhelming. The worst part about seizures is the part just when you come back, when your senses haven’t re-emerged yet and it just feels like you are in a giant dark empty void, completely alone. I hate the feeling of being alone.
I know what Young Clark feels as his brain is overwhelmed by the intensity of all the phenomena, because while it was a different phenomena for me, the intensity of all the emotions that overwhelmed my brain, I know the anxiety, the want to just have everything stop and be calm, the want for the world to stop swirling in a giant rainbow puddle everywhere.
Young Clark clutches his hands to his ears runs off, unable to take it all in, locking himself inside a small closet. In there he can hear the other kids call him a freak (which if you recall is exactly what Lara feared would happen to him), and the fear of social ostracization rushes back to me. This is going to sound….perhaps silly or perhaps disturbed, or something but I remember that despite being told if I felt light-headed that I should say so and get escorted to the nurses’ office, I didn’t because I didn’t want to disturb anyone else, that I had to handle it and not cause anyone else any trouble. I know what it’s like to want to be like other people.
My favorite depictions of Superman are the ones where he sees us better then we do, where he sees how wonderful we are even if we don’t. I adore that scene from All-Star Superman where Lex sees the world as Superman does and completely breaks down realizing why he does what he does. I understand that feeling. The world seems populated by these incredible amazing beings called humans, that I love everything about. Their strength, their confidence, their dignity. I, like Superman, wish I could show people what I see about them.
Clark’s mother shows up and comforts Young Clark in the closet. Clark confusedly tells his mother that the world is too big, and Martha tells him to make it small, to just focus on her voice. It makes me cry every time, I did that same thing. This scene is so powerful to me, it moves me on such a level. It ends with Clark asking his mother what’s wrong with him and you don’t hear her answer but the look on her face and how she says “Clark” shows that she sees him with all the love a mother feels for her child.
Clark wakes up underwater and surfaces. He sort of stumbles through town in a daze, one of those dazes you have after an intense memory, you know? He comes across a bus which triggers another memory of his.
Young but not quite as Young Clark is sitting on the bus, minding his own business. One of the bullies starts to pick on him when one of the girls (Lana) nearby tells him to leave him alone, another small example of how humans are good and seek to protect each other in general. One of the buses tires breaks and the bus careens off a bridge into the water below. Everyone’s drowning but then…
The camera cuts to the top of the lake where the bus surfaces, pushed by Clark onto land, saving everyone. Lana sees that he was pushing it and sees him swim off after doing so. Clark re-emerges with Pete, the bully dragging him onto land.
The flashback cuts to Pete’s parents talking to Ma and Pa Kent about how Pete saw what Clark did (and presumably what some of the other kids did). They talk about it as an act of God, as Clark’s parents sort of helplessly try and protect his true nature.
Pa Kent goes out to comfort his son. And then a rather famous line exchange.
29:15: Clark asks “What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?” and Pa Kent responds “Maybe.”
It’s strange to me that people don’t get this, even if they don’t see the deeper connection. The Kryptonians essentially forced people to grow into the role they wanted them to be. They were this caste and so they would do this thing, that was what they were designed for. Kal-El was born differently, born with free will to determine his own fate and here as Clark this is reinforced, that Pa Kent is the opposite of what a Kryptonian is, he’s not demanding Clark be who he wants him to be, even if what he wants, like any parent, is to do anything in his power to protect his child. He’s giving him the chance to determine who he is.
Clark acts very realistic for a young teenager thrust into the situation. When told that people, like Pete’s mom, fear what they don’t understand he asks “Is she right? Did God do this to me? Tell me.” And you can feel the fear in his voice. He doesn’t know what’s going on, he doesn’t know what his powers mean or why he is the way he is. Maybe it wasn’t as extreme for everyone, but surely everything can understand that feeling, of not knowing why you are the way you are.
Pa Kent makes a big leap of trust and brings Clark to the spaceship he arrived in.
31:10 Pa Kent says to Clark “You’re the answer, son. You’re the answer to are we alone in the universe.”
That line is so full of gravitas. We know the DC Universe from it’s latest comics where aliens are so common there is alien tourism departments. But to actually find out about it for the first time. The mind-shaking implications are huge, and it makes it all the more impressive that Ma and Pa Kent were able to hold in this great secret for the sake of their adopted son, a son they probably worried about whether every little thing of their planet could hurt him somehow.
Clark express that he doesn’t want to be, and Pa Kent is completely empathetic saying that it would be a huge burden for anyone to bear, but that he has to believe Clark was sent for a reason.
This religiosity is both in-character for Pa Kent and really does reflect the more spiritual aspects of the Superman mythos.
Pa Kent says “All these changes that you’re going through, one day…. One day you’re going to think of them as a blessing and when that day comes…you’re gonna have to make a choice. A choice on whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.”
This is a really beautiful sentiment explaining what I said above about Clark’s free will. Pa Kent probably wants to tell Clark that humanity is wonderful, that he should humanity with his amazing gifts, that he should be their savior but instead he tells Clark that it’s his choice because he loves him enough to give him free will, the free will that the Presence bestowed on all creation.
Clark: “Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
Pa Kent: “You are my son”
The tearful way they say that…. it’s so emotion-packed. I’m not adopted, but can you imagine the impact on someone who was?
Back in the present Clark walks into a bar where he hears about something strange going on around Ellesmere before seeing some jerk Ludlow sexually harass the waitress Chrissy. Clarks walks up to him and asks him gently to leave her alone.
It doesn’t go very well. Ludlow throws his drink on Clark before attempting to push him, only to get knocked back by his own efforts. The humor of it vaguely reminds me of the Golden Age Superman Comics where the humor would sometimes be “He’s super strong….but they don’t know it! Lol”
Ludlow then throws a can at Clark while Clark’s leaving only to find later that his truck was mysteriously impaled on a telephone poll.
I have to say, that while I love this movie to bits this is one of the very few things I wasn’t fond of, as I felt like Clark should have a bit more restraint then that, but he’s new, so I don’t think it’s that big a deal.
Clark makes his way to Ellesmere to check out the strange situation he overhead while in the bar, under the false identity of “Joe”. There’s an amusing sight gag you might miss first time where “Joe” is ordered to take Lois’ bags, and Lois tells him careful they’re heavy while he’s not clearly not straining at all carrying all of them.
35:30: Lois begins her investigation of the area and it’s revealed that the people who set up the base did everything to keep her away and that she is already a heavily awarded Journalist who went into dangerous ground with the first division.
I gotta say Lois Lane has never been a huge draw to me of the Superman Mythos. I like her just fine, but it’s not one of my favorite parts. This movie, while it would be lying to say I adore this version of Lois Lane I do like her more then average since she reminds me of my favorite versions of Lois Lane, one who is more proactive without being a naïve idiot who gets into dangerous situations purely because she knows Superman will save her if she does.
35:45 We get to see Emil Hamilton, one of the countless small references to the Superman Mythos in this movie. Emil Hamilton is a supporting character in the Superman mythos, a friendly Earth scientist until he got turned into the villainous Ruin.
36:45 Lois goes outside to take pictures and sees the mysterious Joe figure moving out into the ice, and though it’s blurry it’s clear he’s not wearing very much despite the -40 degree weather. Intrigued Lois takes a big gamble and follows him.
Lois comes across the cave “Joe” entered and it cuts to him using his heat vision, clueing people who hadn’t gotten a good enough look at him to realize he’s Clark on his identity. Clark looks perplexed at the crashed Kryptonian ship, unsure of it’s nature, which makes sense given he doesn’t know anything about the Kryptonians yet.
Clark runs across the ship’s main computer system and inserts his key, the little insignia he’s been carrying around and miraculously it works! The Kryptonians really were a highly advanced race that their machines can still work fine after being frozen for millennia. You could say that it’s unrealistic that an alien species that far advanced would not be even more advanced and have even more crazy technology and while that complaint is true as far as I’m concerned, it’s also something that’s true of like all of fiction that involves advanced aliens. Like this is something the main DC Universe, as well as some of my other favorite verses, do. An advanced civilization will basically just have a “futuristic-looking” version of whatever we have now. Either that or they are magical deity-like entities.
Clark only inserts his key part of the way and the computer apparently interprets that as some kind of attack on the system and a robotic droid attacks Clark, and what’s notable is that for a brief second, it’s actually able to restrain him. One of the things I wondered watching this was how come these things weren’t used as soldier AI by the Kryptonians however my guess is that the Military Caste of Krypton was so intertwined with their political and social dealings that they did not want to even partially replace them.
Clark gets his key all the way in and the droid stops attacking him and leaves. Clark sees a ghost of his father Jor-El (later releveled to be an AI hologram), though right now he doesn’t know who that is. I find it interesting on a psychological level that Clark, as revealed later and implied early, is searching for where he comes from and when he comes into contact with his own birth culture, it’s one of the first things he finds.
Lois makes her way onto the ship and finds the Droid AI that attacked Clark previously while Clark looking around the ship finds that one of the pods has a skeleton inside it, making the whole place seem more macabre with one of the pods open. This is a reference to something that happens in the DCEU comics. Yes, Comics got a movie adaptation which then got their own comics. Can’t wait till those get adapted to the big screen.
Lois attempts to get a picture of the droid, which interprets the flash of light from her camera as an attack. This is actually a really subtle reference to how the Kryptonian weapons we saw on Krypton flash brightly when they’re firing. The Droid attacks Lois sending her flying back against the wall. Also, this Kryptonian Droid that briefly restrained Clark is not able to immediately kill Lois. Just another moment where this movie that shows how awesome humanity is.
You could try and argue that it’s unrealistic she’d survive that, but in the DC Universe all humans have latent superpowers and do unrealistic stuff since near the beginning. This is because the Godwave which created all powers left latent metahuman capacity in everyone, hence why the Karate Kid is only a normal human and yet can fight Kryptonians evenly. And yes the DCEU is part of the DC Omniverse as is everything published by DC.
Clark hears Lois in danger and goes to help her, wrestling briefly with the droid before crushing it in his hands. Clark goes to comfort the clearly panicked and injured Lois and repeating “it’s alright!” to her comfortingly and she quickly calms herself in her hands. He then starts to unbutton her clothing…
I’m sorry I must have put the XXX version in by mistake Kappa
Nah, he’s really revealing the wounded area. He tells Lois she’s hemorrhaging internally, and he needs to cauterize the bleed. Lois confusingly asks how he can before Clark says
41:20: Clark: I can do things other people can’t.
Might be a really small thing but I really like how he phrases it here, in a very humble way. He doesn’t say he has powers, he just describes it as being able to do things others can’t. Because again him having powers is not what makes him Superman, it’s purely the conviction to do the right thing. We can all do things other people can’t, but it’s in our will that we reveal who we are.
Clark asks Lois to hold his hand because it’s going to hurt and through the whole thing he’s been such a calm reassuring person, the kind of person that real life heroes are made off.
At the base alarms go off as major seismic activity is noted. Everyone leaves to find that the ancient frozen craft start flying off.
42:40 We cut again to Lois being rescued from the ice having been healed by helicopter (I imagine Clark still didn’t want to have his identity revealed and so put her into an area that would have been easily visible for the people rescuing her). She is giving her report on what happened for the Daily Planet during this as a voiceover and then transitions to the Daily Planter afterwards. Her voiceover ends with her reaching the conclusion that Clark and the spaceship are extraterrestrial in origin.
Perry White gives his Perriest answer possible “I can’t print this Lois, you might have hallucinated half of it.”
The two argue about whether or not they can print it for a bit, with Perry revealing that the Pentagon is denying that there even was a ship. This movie came out in 2013 so I guess it still makes sense to say “Thanks, Obama.”
I do find it slightly humorous that Lois responds to the point about The Pentagon by saying “Of course they do, it’s The Pentagon. That’s what they’re supposed to do.”
Lois, being Lois, when told she can’t print the story and can’t walk leaks it to an online tabloid site. She’s then asked why’s doing this by the online tabloid guy himself
44:10 Lois: “Because I want my mystery man to know I know the truth.”
And this will describe Lois’ motive for the first part of the film. She is being a journalist looking for the truth. An admirable goal.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away at the Kryptonian ship:
Clark finds the hologram AI of Jor-El again. Jor-El delivers a line that brings me all the warm feelings of the first part of the movie again
“To see you standing there having grown into an adult…if only Lara could have witnessed this.”
I get such fuzzies from warm parent-child relationships in media.
Jor-El tells Kal-El his Kryptonian name and that he is his father, or at least a shadow of him (which I love the phrasing of by the way, the imagery in this movie is beautiful), his disembodied consciousness and says his own name is Jor-El.
45:10 Kal-El says “And Kal…that’s my name?”
He gets this smile on this face that makes me heart shine. He hasn’t known himself for his entire life and now he’s finally being told his name and who he came from and it’s so sweet to see him finally get the fulfillment of what he’s always wanted.
Jor-El lightly nods and smiles responding “Kal-El. It is.”
Just makes me feel so happy.
Kal-El says to his father that he has so many questions and I love how realistically this is said. This isn’t said in a wild panic, it’s not said in a quippy way, it’s said as if it’s been rehearsed a thousand times, as if Kal-El has wanted so badly to ask these things for his entire life and has repeated what he’d say over and over in his head.
Kal-El asks where he comes from and why he was sent here and Jor-El uses the technology of the ship to show images as he explains which I thought was a fun way of making this exposition scene a bit of show and tell rather then just tell like exposition usually is.
Jor-El tells of Krypton and its Golden Age of Expansion where 1,000 scout ships were sent out into the void of space to find potentially habitable planets, one of them being the one they are on at that moment. He tells of how they used great machines to terraform planets to their benefit and how their civilization flourished for 100,000 years able to create wonders.
I really love this kind of thing in fiction, these ancient empires with vast powers and its own culture. Knowing the sense of legacy everything has makes it feel so much more deep and impactful.
46:25: Kal-El asks what happened and the first thing Jor-El says is artificial population control was established.
Looks like someone got infected by the Space Commies.
No but in all seriousness, I really do like how that’s the first thing he says, because it is basically the root of their problems both ethical and pragmatic. They tried to engineer people for castles leading to massive social stratification and eventual collapse, as was shown on Krypton. The secret to maintaining a healthy society is Freedom, it is the Free Will that the Presence gave to all people.
Jor-El says a few other reasons and that as a result of these things the planet’s core became unstable leading to General Zod making a coup. And yeah from an overview that is the downfall that happens to most empires, internal division, government removing of rights, and lack of expansions/resources is what causes an empire to fall one way or another. This movie gives a very strong political lesson without ever being about politics.
47:10 Jor-El outright spells out what the Kryptonians were doing in case people missed it
“Every child was determined to fulfill a pre-determined role in our society…as a worker, a warrior, a leader and so on.”
Oh, there’s that subtle Plato reference.
Plato imagined talks about a theoretical idealized society called the Republic (though contrary to popular belief he was never actually advocating for it, merely using it as a rhetorical device). In it people based on their early talents are raised strictly to fulfill one of their roles within the city, the laborers, the warriors and the philosopher-kings (worker, warrior, and leader) which Plato made to reflect the three parts of the soul as he saw it; the appetitive part (the part that is base desires), the spirited part (the passionate part that seeks virtue) and the rational part (the part that is logical). Krypton in this movie is essentially a version of Plato’s republic yet it also follows something else Plato said.
Plato’s Republic only works on a very small scale and he insisted that the Republic could only contain up to 10,000 people because after that the society would begin to break down since people would no longer be familiar with each other anymore, and while it survives quite a bit longer in the Kryptonian’s case, them growing too large to maintain and having to retract their empire to Krypton is basically the consequence of living in a Platonic “Republic”. Also, Clark in a flashback later on is literally reading Plato’s republic, so it’s kind of evidence that Plato is in the background of much of this movie, which leads to a very interesting discussion on Justice and on the psychological nature of some of these characters. Zod is basically the type of person whom Plato describes as being ruled entirely by the spirited part of the Soul.
47:20: “Your mother and I believed Krypton lost something precious. The element of choice, of chance. What if a child dreamed of becoming something greater then society intended for him or her?”
Here Jor-El explains again the problem with what Krypton became, that it removed freedom and ambition, it locked children into being what society wanted for them. In the society which dictates what someone can and cannot be, there can be no Superman, for one’s conviction is dwarfed by societal demands.
I remember watching this movie the first time and getting to this part and feeling a minor enlightenment come to me. In general, much of contemporary Japanese ethics might be compared to the western ethical philosophy of Utilitarianism, that’s something moral value is derived by it benefitting the most people. And yeah, I still hold some Utilitarian beliefs and yet this movie changed my worldview as I realized that society’s demands for the individual should not be paramount, that like a parent and child, the society must respect the ambitions and rights of the individual even if it doesn’t like it. A society that demands people do what it says for it’s own benefits is like a parent that tyrannically demands their child do what they say and abuses them if not.
47:30: Jor-El: “What if a child aspired to something greater? You were the embodiment of that belief, Kal.”
This line may seem like it’s a uniqueness to the relationship of Jor-El and Kal-El and in a way it is, but it’s also something every parent feels towards their children, looking at them, you see the future and all the wonderous things it could hold.
Kal-El asks his father why he couldn’t come with them, and obviously they pragmatically couldn’t given the pressures they were under, but Jor-El says something more interesting giving a philosophical explanation
47:45: “We couldn’t Kal. No matter how much we wanted too. No matter how much we loved you. Your mother Lara, and I, were a product of the failures of our world as much as Zod was, tied to its fate.”
Kal-El is again rendered special even compared to his parents because he was a natural born being, not engineered to be what his parents or society wanted to be, but born to freely make his own destiny, just as his Earthly father Pa Kent said Clark was.
And instead Jor-El outright expresses this notion when Clark then says he’s alone.
Jor-El: “No. You’re as much a child of Earth now as you are of Krypton. You can embody the best of both worlds. A dream your mother and I dedicated our lives to preserve.”
And with that the Superman suit is revealed, and we are almost to the one scene in this film even greater than the first flashback.
Jor-El continues “The People of Earth are different from us, that is true. But, ultimately, I believe that’s a good thing. They won’t necessarily make the same mistakes we did.”
I sense we’re about to talk again about how absolutely great humanity is and I am completely on board.
“Not if you guide them Kal, not if you give them hope.”
Again, Kal is linked with hope, the symbol on his chest. Superman is the hope of peoples. He is the Sun we wish to rise in the dead of night when we are afraid. Perhaps you know of Despair of the Endless, one of the 7 cosmic infinities making up the universe. But each thing is defined by it’s opposite, and Hope, the belief in something greater, is of such power itself that it defines the whole of Despair.
Jor-El says that the symbol of the house of El, the S, means hope.
48:45 Jor-El: “Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief in the potential of every person to be a force for good.”
I’m crying again…I believe it so much. I love humanity, and I hold that fundamental belief that every person has the potential to be a force for good if they try, that every person was in nature given the freedom to choose the right path, that people can rise above what others tell them to be.
Superman emerges from the Scout Ship.
As he walks along the frozen land, Jor-El gives voiceover dialog with him initially explaining Superman’s power origin.
Just seeing Superman all noble looking and majestic, oh it’s so heartwarming. But then as Jor-El tells Superman in voiceover to keep testing his limits, Superman clenches downwards, and prepares to leap and my soul is ready for the one of the greatest scenes, not just in cinema, but in all of fiction
Superman leaps through the mountaintops with great impact each time, each time climbing a little higher. It cuts to his face and you can see him struggling, trying to push through the barrier holding him and with a sudden push he continues his ascent in midair and you see him with the biggest smile of realization, that he doesn’t have to come down and it’s so amazing, it’s an emotion I have never seen captured so well, the breakthrough as one realizes one’s own abilities.
Unfortunately, being new to flying, Superman loses control and crashes to the ground.
This scene since the first time I saw it brings to mind a very personal memory of mine. As a young child, I had very poor coordination, my body was frail and prone to the elements. Walking too me much longer then most children, and I was constantly looking down as I did, minding each step. I took each step on a staircase one at a time while gripping tightly to the wall or bannister. I absolutely couldn’t run, or I’d fall over.
I remember, trying to walk by myself when I was alone, practicing, the breakthrough. I was walking, my legs were very unsteady, and it was very painful. Gravity pulled at my body, tears from pressure came from my eyes, the world seemed to tilt like a ship in a turbulent storm. It always happened, my body wanting to stop but I pushed, and I saw my legs move under me, pushing more and more regular, my breath become harsh from the effort. I remember pushing that last barrier…
Superman rises and Jor-El speaks in voiceover some of the beautiful words I have ever heard.
“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you.”
I recall the strain as my legs moved more regularly, I could feel the gravity weigh down on me and yet I was moving regularly! I wasn’t falling!
“They will stumble. They will fall.”
I moved my head upwards, letting my momentum carry me and was moving like one of those blessed humans. I see through the window, The Sun, the Kami Amaterasu….I could stand and face the Kami
“But in time they will join you in the Sun. In time…you will help them accomplish wonders”
Superman lifts off and it’s so beautiful to see that little smile of finally doing it, and he flies across the whole world. Everything about this scene makes my heart sing, it’s a love letter to the primordial desire to fly, to become free of the world’s weight, to be able to have dominion over the world, and Jor-El’s words assure that this is our future, to be like Superman, to be free of our worldy pains, it is a scene that shows the progression of humanity from our ancient first steps to our eventual future unbounded by the laws of gravity. It’s a scene of all that is noble about humanity, how we progress and improve ourselves with every step. It’s glorious in the classical sense. There’s so much adulation in it, the beauty of flight and all it’s wonders, the ability to conquer and master a craft that used to be so hard, surely a universal concept to us all.
I become giddy every time I see this scene, it moves to me to such joy.
When I first watched this movie, this scene is what moved this movie from being my favorite Comic Book Movie movie so far to “being on a whole different level to any Comic Book movie I had ever seen”.
We cut back to Lois Lane trying to track Superman’s whereabouts. Short montage of different people who talked about him working with them as a mysterious figure. Lois eventually finds her way to the Kents’ family home. At the grave of Pa Kent, Lois finds Clark and says if she kept digging through his whereabouts, eventually he’d find her.
Lois and Clark talk and she eventually drops this line that I really like
54:05 Lois: “The only way you could disappear for good is if you stopped helping people altogether, and I sense that’s not an option for you.”
Dawww Lois already realizes Clark will never stop helping people. I think it’s cute personally. Also, that’s women’s intuition for you hehe
Clark tells Lois that his father thought if the world knew who he really was they’d reject him out of fear and tells Lois the story of his father’s death.
Bear in mind, that up until this point, I have no idea what the DCEU haters really think of this film. This is because for the most part there is where I start hearing criticisms. I have no idea what they think of the first almost hour of the film because I rarely hear them talk about it. This is part of what makes it seem very heavily to me that people who don’t like Man of Steel literally are only basing their decision to dislike the film, an experience of around 2 hours and 15 minutes, not including credits and opening logos by 15 minutes of footage, which seems pretty drastic for their strong views. They’re judging the whole by what is less than 1/9th of the actual film which seems rather odd given how negative some of them view it. And it’s not like their actual criticisms are particularly airtight.
In the flashback, Clark has a sort of stereotypical “you’re not my dad” scene that’s common in movies with an adopted child. I’m not a huge fan of this because it seems kind of cliché. But I do think it’s got it own merit here, namely that this is a bit more relevant given that Clark is quite literally not the same species, meaning that asking him to perform the same social role may not truly be what’s best for him. So yeah this is another part I don’t really like but it lasts all of 30 seconds.
Pa Kent takes a very reasonable pragmatic viewpoint that is to be expected with him.
54:50: Pa Kent: “He’s right. Clark’s got a point. We’re not your parents. But we’ve been doing the best we can. And we have been making this up as we go along, so maybe…maybe our best isn’t good enough anymore.”
Tearing up again. He’s reminding me of my dad. This scene is even more relevant to me today because I now understand what Pa Kent is talking about. Some people have this strange idea that when you become an adult, or you become a parent that you suddenly change into a different person who always knows what to do. I don’t, I’m still the same over-emotional sensitive person I always have been, and I don’t always know what I’m doing, but I’m just trying to do the best I can for my child.
Clark goes to apologize but they come to a sudden stop due to a tornado happening along. The three get out, stunned before Pa Kent takes charge and starts directing people to the overpass to take cover. Just another example of a regular person, this time his regular-ness emphasized just before, being a hero. He even goes closer into the tornado helping to get a woman’s baby unstuck.
Upon realizing their dog is still in the car, Pa Kent tells Clark to take Ma Kent to safety while he goes back for him. Pa Kent reaches the car, but the tornado flings a freaking car at them and he shields Hank, the dog who escapes but in the chaos Pa Kent injures his foot and can’t get out.
Clark moves to get him out of there, but Pa Kent raises his hand, telling him not too. I see some people criticize this scene and I can’t believe it. Pa Kent after being a hero, saving a bunch of people, nobly sacrifices himself to protect his son because he loves him, dying with grace and dignity because he didn’t want the world to scorn Clark.
People are like “Clark should have run in and saved him” but that would have negated the point of the free will idea that’s central to the film. Pa Kent is choosing to sacrifice himself for Clark. Clark forcing him to live in exchange for being scorned would have been denying his free will. You can’t force people to be what you want them to be, or to make choices against their nature (presuming they aren’t harming others) because then you are simple engineering people again. There’s another aspect to this people aren’t thinking about.
At this point Clark is not super-fast. This is demonstrated several times. For instance, he didn’t just zip all the oil rig workers out at super speeds. He had to hitchhike to Ellesemere instead of just running there. Second, Clark has been hiding the extent of his powers. For all Pa Kent knows, that tornado could have actually killed Clark. He’s not going to let his son risk his life for him and that decision is the natural impulse of all parents.
I also, on rare occasion, hear Pa Kent was composed upon death as a complaint. I refer you to Lara’s death on Krypton. People dying with grace and dignity should be celebrated as noble. If people facing death with a level of composure is unrealistic to you, then it seems you may be too pessimistic about humanity.
Clark gives a scream in anguish as Pa Kent is overtaken by the tornado. You know, this is not at all my favorite scene in the film, this flashback, but jeez the way you hear some DCEU Haters talk about it, they make it sound like Clark hated Pa Kent and caused the tornado that killed him. The reality is Pa Kent made a decision to give his life on the chance it could protect his son and if you think that’s unrealistic or somehow beyond the pale, then I’d suggest you don’t understand humanity.
Back in the present Clark spells out why he didn’t run in.
57:25: Clark: “I let my father die because I trusted him. Because he was convinced that I had to wait.”
Lois Lane is clearly moved by Clark’s account and drops her story which, based on her characterization so far, is clearly something that doesn’t come easy to her.
Lois and Perry have a bit of an exchange where Perry punishes her for leaking it and Lois pretends her leads went cold. Perry, perceptive as he is, gives this account.
58:35 Perry: “I believe you saw something Lois. But not for a moment do I believe your leads just went cold. So, whatever your reasons are for dropping it…I think you’re doing the right thing.”
And that’s exactly how to write him. It’s a smart statement that covers all relevant possibilities, it’s pragmatic, it’s perceptive. It’s not being a clueless idiot like certain stories do.
We cut to Clark coming home and both Ma Kent and the doggie are really happy to see him, and it’s a sweet reunion.
So, we’re about an hour in. Let’s review so far. What is this movie about?
-Family, specifically familial love. This is constant throughout the movie, absolutely constant, and continues in every film of the DCEU to be an important theme, and it’s honestly one of my favorite themes in fiction.
-Freedom and Free Will vs Biological Determinism with shades of Platonism. Superman is treated as being humanly special unlike the Kryptonians because he was born without being biologically engineered to be one thing and was raised by humans to make his own destiny
-Society, on how the individual relates to society and how society shapes the individual. You could almost, as I did early, see the connection between a society/individual bond and the parent/child bond
There have been also shades of themes of Justice, and what it means to be just, compare General Zod’s version of justice where he decides what bloodlines are worthy versus the Platonic ideal of Justice where good begets good and evil begets evil which is practiced by the Humans, as well as the theme of Truth, how much of yourself can you show other, how much of others can you show to others.
I find the movie so far at least to be utterly inspiring in it’s brightness and its themes. I don’t see so far why this is considered “dark”.
Clark tells Ma Kent that he found his biological people and his origin. Ma Kent is overwhelmed with emotion and even though she turns away, Clark still senses it and asks what’s wrong. Ma Kent tells him nothing before launching into a mother’s story.
1:00:35: Ma Kent: “When you were a baby, I used to lay by your crib at night…listening to you breathe. It was hard for you. You struggled. And I worried all the time.”
Clark responds, “You were worried the truth would come out.”
She replies “No. The truth about you is beautiful. We saw that the moment we laid eyes on you. We knew that one day the whole world would see that. I’m just…I’m worried they’ll take you away from me.”
And with that she starts tearing up and I’ve been tearing up the whole time. What mother doesn’t want to keep their baby close to them forever, doesn’t want the world to take them away ever?
Clark puts his arm around her and responds exactly what every mother wants to hear “I’m not going anywhere, mom. I promise”
Clark is such a gentleman, always good to his mother. <3
I have to admit I like the first parts of the movie best, I don’t like the later parts as much though I still do really really like them.
Part 3: First Contact
Meanwhile at a US military base, General Swanwick walks into what’s clearly a very important room. He asks what he’s looking at on-screen suggesting a comet or an asteroid.
Professor Hamilton humorously responds, “Comets don’t make course corrections, general.”
Professor Hamilton gives a bit more information on it and General Swanwick asks if there have been any attempts at communication to which he is informed there has been no response from it. General Swanwick correctly intuits that they intend to make a dramatic entrance.
We cut back to the Daily Planet where everyone is staring as the screen shows the spaceship entering atmosphere. It’s kind of a tense moment, as one might expect. Back at the Kent House, Martha calls Clark outside to witness the spaceship itself.
Zod makes his dramatic entrance in a brilliantly creepy atmosphere way.
Lights go out everywhere and the screen show an indecipherable static before Zod’s voice comes through along with accompanying words appear on the screen “You are not alone” repeating over and over. We can see that around the world it’s being played in every language.
The dark silhouette of Zod comes up on the screens and it’s so atmospheric and cool, like can you imagine if first contact was anything like this.
1:04:30: “My name is General Zod. I come from a world far from yours. I have journeyed across an ocean of stars to reach you. For some time, your world has sheltered one of my citizens. I request that you return this individual to my custody. For reasons unknown, he has chosen to keep his existence a secret from you. He will have made efforts to blend in. He will look like you, but he is NOT one of you. To those of you who may know of his current location the fate of your planet rests in your hands.
To Kal-El, I say this: Surrender within 24 hours…or watch this world suffer the consequences.”
I love this little speech of Zod’s and how creepily atmospheric it is. It’s a direct but effective emotional manipulation and it uses language that sound just slightly off like a different culture translating. It’s as blunt as he would be and yet carries such impact because of it.
Clark hugs his mother to comfort her while elsewhere people panic unsure of what to make of the situation, as might be expected. I just have to say that this is one of the most realistic first contact I can imagine, certainly in a mainstream movie. The fact that it’s not directly positive or negative, just sort of creepy, the fact that people panic but retain some air of control in the face of something completely beyond understanding. People act logical in the fact of this. Woodburn on the television, the guy who made the internet leak earlier, uses sound logic.
1:05:55: Woodburn: “If he truly means us no harm, then he’ll turn himself into his people and face the consequences. And if he won’t do that, maybe we should.”
Perry White calls Lois and asks her if she’s going to reveal the source and she maintains her lie that she doesn’t know where he is. He says that the fate of the world is at stake and this is not the time to fallback on journalistic integrity and that the government has been asking about her. As he says that she sees the FBI outside of her window and hangs up, running off and sneaking out.
Ok since they’re talking about the fate of the world and taking thing seriously I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about this.
Yes, people in this movie are taking this seriously. They’re not making wisecracks right now. You know why they are doing this? BECAUSE IT’S THE POTENTIAL END OF THE WORLD.
I don’t get this logic at all from people. The characters are taking a very serious situation very seriously. It’s almost like they’re treating the situation…normally. Like their actions are matching the circumstances. When did having a wisecrack every 3 lines become necessary for a movie? Why can’t a movie tell a story that has some gravitas, that doesn’t joke about it’s subject matter, when it’s subject matter is the potential end of the world?
Lois tries to run for it but the FBI catch her.
We cut to a church where the Reverend is listening to the news on the radio and Kal-El is standing in the doorway.
Hearing this, Kal-El has another flashback.
Young Clark is peacefully sitting in a car when he’s dragged out by a bunch of hooligans and knocked back against a metal fence. He holds “Republic” by Plato in his hands.
Having him read that is genius. Not only does it give insight into what kind of things he’s thinking about, at least if you have actually read Republic, but it shows that Kryptonians and Humans ideals of a perfect society are not so different initially, that Humans could become like Kryptonians were and Kryptonians, if they aren’t biologically engineered, could become like humans. That this yearning for Utopia that can’t exist is a universal desire that drives us both to better ourselves in the name of good and to do unspeakable cruelties.
The hooligans continue to try and mess with Clark, trying to force him to fight and Young Clark gets an angry, almost scary, looking expression on his face. The Hooligans then realize that two adults are standing nearby and leave. Pete Ross the guy who bullied Clark on the bus helps him up, and it’s really sweet to see how he changed because of Clark’s influence. It’s also perhaps a subtle note to the audience that we shouldn’t judge these hooligans that harshly since they may one day, with their free will, change.
As Clark gets up you can clearly see that the metal fence he was holding is bent out of shape by his young super-strength. Pa Kent and Young Clark have a really touching conversation about what Clark should do.
“Did they hurt you?”
“You know they can’t.”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant are you alright?”
Clark with a shakingly sad voice says “I wanted to hit that kid. I wanted to hit him so bad.”
And Pa Kent responds reassuringly “I know you did. I mean part of me even wanted you to but then what? Make you feel any better? … You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be Clark.”
And here we see Superman’s struggle laid so bare. It’s the same feeling expressed in his World of Cardboard speech in the DCAU. “Never allowing myself to lose control, even for a moment, or someone COULD DIE!” Clark has to constantly hold himself back for fear of destroying this tiny fragile human world he lives in. His fear is a very understandable fear, this his emotions might lead him to doing what he shouldn’t. It’s why Superman fears, more then anything, himself turning evil.
Pa Kent’s answer so fitting for him and for this movie. It is essentially that he can’t tell Clark not to get angry. That he can’t choose for him how to feel, but that he just has to decide for himself what the right path is.
1:08:45 Pa Kent: “Because whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s…he’s gonna change the world.”
It is the nature of Superman to change the world. When he was created he created a whole new genre, the superhero genre, the modern mythology. Every version of him, leaves a massive cultural impact.
Back at the church Clark speaks to the Reverend, who is absolutely nice and kind to him. Despite all the chaos of aliens emerging, he is calm and comforting. Just another example of how great humans are.
Clark tells him that he is the one the ship is looking for and to the Reverend’s credit he, despite being clearly nervous, remains calm and asks logical questions.
1:09:25: Clark: “But this General Zod…even if I turn myself in, there’s no guarantee he’ll keep his word but if there’s a chance I can save Earth by turning myself in, shouldn’t I take it?”
That’s Clark for you, willing to make any sacrifice for the good of the Earth.
Also, there’s a picture of Jesus in the background. I hear on rare occasion hear “oh this movie has so much Jesus symbolism that’s so obvious.” As far as I can tell this is a retconned attempt to say negative things about parts of the movie besides the three scenes that DCEU haters seem to be obsessed with. I say this because this “criticism” despite about how it’s “obvious” didn’t start appearing until months after this film’s release. Also, I saw this movie twice in theatres, didn’t catch it either time, though obviously Christianity isn’t exactly very common in Japan.
That said there’s like two (maybe) scenes where with any real Jesus symbolism, this and another scene where it looks like Superman is in the Cross position which seems…..like a stretch to me not gonna lie.
The Reverend asks Clark what his gut tells him, and Clark says that it says Zod can’t be trusted but he’s not sure the people of Earth can either. Clark gets up to leave but the Reverend says to him
1:10:00: Father Leone: “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. The trust part comes later.”
I love this line because it’s advice that’s pragmatically true about his situation, that he may not know if they can be trusted but at some point, he has to take a leap of faith that he can or live in shadow his whole life, and it’s true about life in general. It’s the prisoner’s dilemma, you have to trust others to do the right thing or you will both suffer as a consequence. You have to believe that there is the potential for good in people.
Superman appears before the military and says he’ll surrender in exchange for Lois’ freedom.
Superman is led into the base in handcuffs and in a private room speaks to Lois who asks why he’s surrendering to Zod and Superman responds that’s he surrendering to mankind and there is a difference. There really is a difference. It’s not Zod Superman cares about, it the will of mankind who he is obeying as a leap of faith.
We come to one of the more famous lines of the movie. Lois asks what S stands for and Superman says it’s not an S, but that on his world it means his hope. I have some people try and claim Action Comics 1,000 made fun of this scene. It didn’t. It just made a reference to it asking why people would ask that if he’s super well known. Of course, here he’s not super well known. It’s a reference and then an in-joke about the reference. Stop pretending that everyone shares your hatred of the DCEU.
Hamilton shows up and wants to question Superman although Superman kind of embarrass them by revealing how much he can see of their intentions both figuratively and literally with his x-ray vision. He then breaks the handcuffs they had on him without effort, showing it really was just to make them feel safer and how he isn’t resisting.
Superman tells them that while they can’t control him, he isn’t their enemy.
General Swanwick replies that though that may be true, he has direct orders to hand him over to Zod and Superman nods and calmly tells him to do what he has to do. It’s a very polite exchange and really shows how Superman is completely willing to work with humanity. There’s also a really cute image where the screen behind which Professor Hamilton and General Swanwick goes reflective as he is saying “do what you have to do” making it seem like he’s talking to himself and telling himself to do what he has to do before being sent to Zod.
Out in the desert with military over watching Superman is preparing to face capture by Zod.
Superman and Lois have a cute shipping momen before a smaller transport of Zod’s forces shows up.
Faora emerges to collect Kal-El and the humans are visibly disturbed, as if they can sense the evil of Faora.
Faora introduces herself to Kal-El and extends Zod’s greetings. Faora walks over to the military forces and says that Zod wants Lois to come with them as well. Despite the threat of imminent annihilation, the military forces point blank refuse to hand Lois over to Faora. Humans are so amazing moment.
Antje Traue really does an amazing job acting as Faora, just her movements are so beautifully precisely cold that it’s like watching the movements of a fine blade through the air and I’m not usually the kind of the person who notices acting abilities or lack of them but Antje in particular really impresses me.
That said Lois freely goes of her own volition, despite the incredible immediate danger it poses either to know the truth or to protect the Earth or both. Normal humans are so noble and good.
Aboard the ship Superman slips Lois his Kryptonian Key for later and Faora puts a breather on Lois since she can’t survive the Native Kryptonian Atmosphere.
Back on the ship Zod starts trying to act all chummy with Kal, and it’s easy to see why. Given the low number of Kryptonians, and because Kal is the only entity as physically powerful as his Kryptonians and can threaten their lives, Zod would absolutely think Kal joining his side would be a major positive event. One might think Zod is trying to honor his old friendship with Jor-El, and while I like that sentiment in theory, but I find this unlikely given how Zod specifically said to Lara “You think your son is safe?” although that might be considered a heat of the moment yell. It’s also possible he thinks he still needs or at least it’s advantageous to get Kal to get the codex.
1:17:15 Clark falls to the floor, his body heaving and coughs up blood, having not adapted to Kryptonian Atmosphere. I’ve always taken this as a symbolic point, that he’s initially refusing his Kryptonian Heritage. Lois runs over to him concerned and implores Zod to help him, who says he can’t.
Lois more desperately pleads against for them to help him and Clark loses counciousness and goes into a dream state where Zod actually appears. And this isn’t a dream, this is the real Zod. I think it’s cool. It reminds me a bit of Galaxia attacking Usagi in her dream in the final arc of Sailor Moon.
1:17:45 Zod: Hello Kal…or do you prefer Clark?”
This line is such a chilling line as Zod demonstrates his knowledge of Clark/Kal-El’s human name and his history (they are standing at his mother’s house) as a form of intimidation.
1:17:50: Zod: “That’s the name THEY gave you, isn’t it?”
The way Zod phrases this, in such a complete them and us way is on one level a clever rhetorical strategy, dividing people into two groups and them implicitly putting yourself in the same group as the person you are talking too, and also just how he would think. Biogenetically created to be nothing but a soldier, Zod has no capacity for understanding or empathy, all he knows is how to destroy that which is not them, to destroy anything he views as threat.
Zod recounts the end of Krypton from his perspective to Kal. There’s a really small moment at 1:18:23 where Faora, Little Miss “your emotions are an evolutionary disadvantage” Faora, is shown tearing at the destruction of Krypton, the destruction of one’s home being such a powerful emotion force that it moves even her. Zod goes over and comforts her by placing his hand on her shoulder, a silent gesture without emphasis and that doesn’t display weakness for either, and this little bit of camaraderie is honestly more characterization then a lot of supervillain groups get.
Kal asks Zod how they got to Earth, and he says that they retrofitted their phantom projector into a hyperdrive and says symbolically that the instrument of their damnation became the instrument of their salvation. Zod tells Kal that they looked for the Kryptonian outposts which had all died, cut off from Krypton and scavenged what resources they could including a world engine. Plot Point.
Zod then shows Kal the terraforming of Earth, although by his tone and question “what happens to the Earth” it’s clear Kal wants to protect the Earth and will not go along with Zod’s scheme and so Zod dismissively tells him the foundations had to be built on something, and even Jor-El knew that before Kal gets sucked into ground of bones. I like how understated their conversation at first, and how Kal doesn’t just answer with such a big exclamation but Zod simply actually intuits Kal’s feelings from his expression and choice of question, something heavily really realistic that doesn’t happen much in fiction.
Clark wakes up and is tied down. Hearing Zod talk of his father, he comes to a realization and says, “you killed him (Jor-El)?”
1:21:25 Zod: “I did. And not a day goes by where it doesn’t haunt me. But if I had to do it again…I would. I have a duty to my people. And I will not allow ANYONE to prevent me from carrying it out.”
And here we see both what makes Zod emotionally complex and also a complete villain laid so simple. I am fascinated by this bond that Zod and Jor-El apparently had. Zod is haunted by having to kill Jor-El, whom was once his friend it seems, yet would never deviate from his “programming” his engineered desire to kill anything in the way of Krypton.
The “duty” line is such a subtly strong line as he condemns Clark as abandoning his duty to his people in exchange for someone, namely the Humans, THEM as Zod thinks of them.
Part 4: Invasion
Zod’s ship releases two ships, the World Engine, and the Phantom Drive to opposite sides of the planet and the American military has an immediate response including a plan for this, showing that they were prepared for some kind of conflict.
Jax-Ur, Zod’s scientist tells Clark that aboard the ship’s Krypton like atmosphere, he is as weak as a human (showing that they don’t understand humanity’s greatness) and injects him with a needle.
Meanwhile one of Zod’s soldiers, Car-Vex takes Lois into a holding pod. While in there, Lois notices a small hole the shape of Clark’s command key and quickly intuits that it goes inside. I’d say this is another moment of humans being great but honestly it doesn’t seem that complex. This is more of a common-sense win then a humanity win.
Lois inserts the key and the AI Ghost of Jor-El appears on the script. Jor-El introduces himself to Lois and Lois asks if he can help them, and he says he designed the ship, and that he can modify it to make it have human atmospheric conditions.
In somewhat humorous fashion, several Kryptonian Soldiers try to attack Lois but Jor-El just slams the doors of the ship on them, sealing them out.
With the atmospheric shift, Superman breaks his restraints.
Lois wielding Kryptonian Firearm manages to kill two Kryptonian soldiers trained and engineered for warfare, who are granted not superpowerful at the moment but still. This seems to be yet another moment where normal humans are presented as being amazing. It also helps that Supergenius Jor-El tells her when and where to fire.
This brings up a personal irk of mine. I don’t like fodder, like the idea of just a large group of enemies for the heroes to plow through. Narratively speaking fodder don’t carry any weight at all because they’re designed to be as much of a threat as the plot them needs to be. This movie does have a little bit of the fodder problem, but it’s hard for me to really say that’s a “problem” when it’s SOOOO endemic to fiction as a whole, and honestly this movie is pretty light on the fodder problem. Even like 3 of the 5 current DCEU films have large amounts of fodder in them for the heroes to just bash and most movies that have a superhero have fodder. I don’t like fodder because there’s no narrative stake with fodder since they don’t have their own personal story and it really ties in to the whole “1 death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic” problem.
Lois manages to escape but in the escape her pod is damaged causing it to start careening out of control as it falls back to Earth.
Jor-El appears before the escaping Kal. Kal asks if what Zod said was true. Jor-El responds:
1:26:15: Jor-El: “We wanted you to learn what it meant to be human first, so that one day when the time was right, you could be the bridge between two peoples.”
Jor-El had such an idealistic hope for his child, that he could integrate the Human and Kryptonian, and only we as the audience knows that dream will come to pass with the Superman.
Superman leaves in a cross position. Apparently, this is the other time that he is supposed to be super explicitly Jesus or something? I am not from a Christian Culture, so I certainly didn’t notice. It seemed to me just a bit of cool imagery. Also, I really don’t see the problem regardless, it lasts seconds and is just a religious reference. A lot of these people are the same types of people where if I said an anime character’s pose or words are meant to parallel a famous Shinto Legend would be like “oh that’s really cool/deep”.
Superman darts after Lois’ out of control escape pod. He punches his way into it, grabs Lois and at the last second before they are engulfed by the flames of its crash turns around protecting her body with his and bringing her safety to ground. The action sequences in this movie are really well made! I was hooked the whole time.
Meanwhile at the Kents House, Ma Kent comes outside to see an alien craft landing.
Superman hears the landing near his Ma’s house and quickly flies over.
Zod in full battle armor with some troops also in full battle armor approach Ma Kent and says
1:28:40: Zod: “The Craft he arrived in…where is it?”
To which she responds
1:28:45: Ma Kent: “Go to Hell.”
This is a Kryptonian General, a super powerful force at it’s most intimidating but Ma Kent refuses to help anyone who’s after her boy even with such an imminent threat. Another example of a normal human being amazing.
Zod, tells Faora to look in the barn, presumably with x-ray vision and she superleaps into it, finding the craft only to find that it’s empty. She reports this to Zod, who takes it characteristically well.
And then throws a truck angrily into the Kent House.
Zod yells at Ma Kent before a sonic boom and Superman crashes into Zod sending them rocketing through massive stone pillars. Enraged Superman plows Zod into the ground and begins punching him in the face
1:29:50: Superman: You think you can threaten my mother!?”
It’s so sweet seeing Superman defending his mom like that. Clark’s such a gentleman.
The two crashes into a gas station causing it to explode on them
We are now 1.5 hours into this film. This is where the supposed “massive” destruction of the film starts.
First off, the destruction is often heavily exaggerated but even if it was massive I have to say, the people who fixate on that point have very warped standards.
Have you read any massive DC event since….IDK Crisis on Infinite Earths? Have you seen how much destruction those caused? Have you seen any other Superhero Movie of characters that have comparable power levels? Have you seen the DC Animated Universe where Superman’s struggles regularly destroy buildings? Man of Steel is only an outlier on the level of destruction if you view nothing else that contains superpower entities on that level that have been made within the last 30 years.
Also, this is Superman’s first day as a superhero, why are you holding him to some impossible standard where he can somehow prevent all collateral damage? And don’t say “Because he’s Superman”. Superman is not and has never been a mythical godlike entity capable of never causing collateral damage. I love the world of cardboard scene from the DCAU much because it really shows what it must be like to be Superman, to be surrounded by an infinitely fragile world.
Zod attempts to approach the prone Superman but his helmet rupture causes him to be overwhelmed as Superman was as a child. A little thing but I really love these looks into a sort of alien psychology and experience informed by actually different capacities.
Superman takes pride in how his parents taught him how to hone his senses, how to be human in a sense, and now Zod is getting everything as he once did. And there’s a very small but very interesting glee in Superman’s voice when he says:
“And now you’re getting everything…and it hurts….doesn’t it?”
As if finally, finally his experience is not isolated, and it actually is proving useful.
Zod’s ship arrives and shoots Superman while Zod’s soldiers quickly come down and collect the disoriented Zod.
Faora and Nam (real name Nam-Ek…. somebody’s a Dragon Ball Z fan it seems :P) show up to fight Kal as Zod’s ship is leaving. Superman walks in their direction as they walk in his, in one of those dramatic showdown moments. Superman tells the nearby civilians to get inside because it’s not safe.
The Military show up and machine gun at all 3 Kryptonians, this ragdolls Nam but he’s fine while Faora and Superman escape the fire.
Nam’s fine from the machine gun fire and angrily superleaps up to one of the military vehicles to punch it, causing the thing to crash down.
The fight scenes in this film are absolutely incredibly well-made. I’m not usually one to even notice something like that but the super-powerful characters all actually feel superhuman and have believable momentum and force transference and it’s super cool just to watch them move at superspeeds and punch at each other.
Faora launches herself at another military craft but Superman intercepts her mid-flight sending them careening far away into a local diner. Superman attempts to fight Faora but she easily dips and dodges around him and knocks him around.
Faora does like the classic anime villain thing where she’s like, paraphrasing, “Your morality makes you weak. Our amorality is evolutionarily advantageous, and evolution always wins.”
I think we can all agree Faora is top 10 anime villains.
Faora throws Superman across town. Superman gets angry and charges her, knocking her through buildings but as he’s starting to gain momentum Nam shows up and knocks him back down.
Faora and Nam start beating down Superman together. The military shows up again. Superman does his best to hold off Faora and Nam and does admirably well given this is like his first day of fighting ever, managing to at least hold them off a bit. I especially like when Superman carries Faora into the air and Nam jumps on him knocking them all down to Earth.
The Two Kryptonians manage to lock Superman down but Superman uses his heat vision to send the two flailing away in pain. Gee it’s almost like Kryptonian Heat Vision…burns Kryptonians. That’s gonna make one argument that DCEU haters try and make later sound really really stupid.
I do like how Superman uses his few advantages, namely flight and heat vision which Faora and Nam haven’t learned to use at this point, to get small advantages over the other two.
The Military riddles the Kryptonians with Machine Gun fire which proceeds to do absolutely nothing to do them.
Nam throws a truck at one of the helicopters, taking down it’s back end and causing the guy inside to fall but Superman saves him. Nam then sucker punches Superman. Faora tanks the military’s gunfire on her and proceeds to actually speedblitz them, and omg people are actually using their superspeed in combat…like it actually looks like super speed. And it’s looks soooo cool. I don’t get why people seem to think watching people blip at around at high speeds somehow makes fights less fun to watch, this is amazing.
Meanwhile Superman and Nam are brawling, gunfire blazing all around them, as Nam uses his super bulk on Superman to throw him around while Superman actually demonstrates basic cognitive learning (a sad rarity in fiction) to, after his first direct assault didn’t work, to avoid a second direct assault.
Colonel Nathan Hardy, who has been serving under General Swanwick was in the crash and watches Faora on ground approach. Colonel Nathan basically tells the airships nearby not to risk themselves for him, making a noble sacrifice for his men. Normal people are so amazing.
He attempts to shoot Faora but obviously it doesn’t work, and he runs out of bullets. Meanwhile Superman takes Nam up into the sky and manages to seemingly get the better of him by throwing into a train causing it to explode on Nam.
Colonel Nathan pulls out…I’m not very good at bladed weapons, it’s some kind of blade and Faora pulls out some kind of bladed weapon herself. Faora says
Faora: 1:37:20: “A good death is its own reward”
A little nitpick; I don’t know why Faora would say that to him unless she’s taunting him, but it really is a cool line and reflects Kryptonian Military Psychology.
Before they can actually clash with Faora presumably going to kill him with her super powers Superman comes in and slams into her knocking her several meters away and into the ground.
Colonel Nathan does not take this opportunity to flee for his life but instead helps escort a wounded fellow soldier because this movie absolutely adores normal people and shows them as heroic at every possible opportunity.
Faora who got her helmet messed up in the collision suffer the sensory problem that Kal and Zod did early. The army fire a missile at Faora but before it can hit, Superman is hit with a locomotive and sent through buildings by Nam. Faora looks in that direct and gets hit-head on with a missile only for the Kryptonian spacecraft to blast down the ship that launched the missile.
Side Note: People get blasted a lot in this movie.
Faora’s unconscious from some combination of her helmet breaking and the missile that got fired in her face. Nam takes her body and brings her onto the Kryptonian ship.
The Military is investigating the area and Superman emerges from the wreckage. Superman walks among them and Colonel Nathan, who Superman saved minutes ago, says
1:39:30: Colonel Nathan: This man is not our enemy.
AWWWWWWW, this moment makes me feel so happy, the moment when he calls him a man, not an alien, and that Superman is finally accepted despite his differences. And his little “Thank you colonel” just cements it.
Superman flies off to make sure his mom is ok.
Ma Kent is gathering memories from the wreckage when Superman arrives. Superman tells her he is so sorry referring to the destruction and Ma Kent says
1:40:15 Ma Kent: “It’s only stuff Clark, it can always be replaced.”
It’s a noble and stoic sentiment that we should try and aspire to and I have to admit I am terrible at. I get way too emotional about simple material things.
And Superman replies “But you can’t be”
Lois arrives in police transport and tells Clark that she knows how to stop them. Something that doesn’t get mentioned I have noticed about this film and a surprisingly large amount of the DCEU is the amount of female presence in these movies. I am not trying to make a statement about that, just something I noticed.
Back on Zod’s ship Zod talks to Jax-Ur who reveals that the Codex’s genetics for bringing about more Kryptonians was imprinted onto Kal’s cells. Zod asks if Kal needs to be alive to extract them and Jax-Ur responds no.
Ok I need to get this out of the way while we are on Zod’s ship. This movie is not very dark lighting-wise. I’ve seen some people try to claim the movie is shot darkly. I’m a film amateur but even I can see that’s really not true. There are a lot of orbital shots of the Earth with like the sun in the background making things bright. There is a lot of shots of sunlight and shadow creating heavy light and dark contrast. Most of the scenes of this movie take place outside or in space and during the day, meaning there are a lot of sunny or cloudy day shots outside. This movie is not very dark lighting wise. I say it because right now (1:41:35) there is a shot of Zod looking out onto the Earth and this is his decision to kill Superman and release the world engine, an ominous moment that you would expect to be shot darkly and the Sun is facing him because of his ship’s position in relation to the Earth making him brightly shot. This is almost the perfect metaphor for this movie. People claim it’s dark despite having so much brightness that things that are NORMALLY dark are made bright.
Anyway, Zod tells Jax-Ur to release the World Engine, the Kryptonian Terraforming Device mentioned in Jor-El’s history of Krypton to Kal-El earlier.
The Phantom Drive and The World Engine descend upon the Earth preparing to terraform it in a genuinely impressive scene showing their massive size.
There is now 30 minutes left in this movie not including credits. How is this movie very dark? It’s been nearly 1 hour 45 minutes. Outside of the tornado scene which is not very dark in actual context and lasts a few minutes, how is this movie very dark? People have been constantly acting like heroes, this movie adores the ordinary person as I do. Like if you asked me to name a song that this movie is like, or is like so far, I would say appropriately enough “Superheroes” by the Script. It is an adoration, a veneration of what makes humanity great, of the divine free will that allows to become the person want to be.
The World Engine and the Phantom Drive initiate their terraforming in intense fashion with the World Engine causing a massive tidal wave a storm to appear in it’s area while the Phantom puts a massive concussive force on the area.
A lot of people say that Metropolis got destroyed in this movie but like….there’s a shot at 1:44:30 that shows how absolutely miniscule that Phantom Drive’s area of impact compared to Metropolis. Honestly, I would have expected it to be larger.
Professor Hamilton helpfully explains to the assembled military personal, and by that, I mean the audience, how the Kryptonians are terraforming the planet by increasing the planet’s mass with a cloud of particulates increasing the gravity.
Superman and Lois show up to help the military bringing the craft infant Kal-El came in. They explain it has a phantom drive and if it hits Zod’s Phantom Drive it will cause a singularity like a black hole, that can draw the Kryptonians inwards. I just want to say for a second that “Phantom Zone Singularity” sounds amazing and that concept by itself is better then some movies I’ve watched.
The military is gonna try and use a C-17 to missile launch their phantom drive into Zod’s phantom drive so he can phantom drive while he phantom drives. Meanwhile Superman is gonna go stop the World Engine over the Indian Ocean. I’m surprised so many seem to think this is a tactical error. Nobody else can stop the World Engine because it’s creating gravity too strong for the humans or their crafts and if Superman tried to attack at the World Engine, he would most likely get overpowered by a Few Kryptonian Soldiers attacking at once and not accomplish anything as we saw happen minutes ago.
Lois asks the pertinent question
1:46:10 Lois: “If that thing is making Earth more like Krypton, won’t you be weaker around it.”
Superman confirms it as a possibility but says he has to try anyway.
Superman tells Lois to step back, and then a bit more before flying up into the air at supersonic speeds. He heads off for the Indian Ocean as some of the people there including Professor Hamilton and more minor supporting character Captain Carrie Ferris but don’t have much impact at the plot looks up at him admiringly, I only mention this because it comes back later near the end of the film and this is a subtle hint to it beforehand that I just wanted to say I actually totally caught first time.
The Phantom Drive starts tearing apart nearby buildings. Zod tells Faora to take command while he secures the genesis chamber, that room where the Kryptonian infants are gestated and to pay his respects to an old friend.
Zod manages to get a hold of his senses through sheer willpower in a very understated moment of coolness. And this is also really bad for our heroes as it took Superman years with help to learn to control his senses and Zod has learned how to in hours.
Zod speaks to the AI of Jor-El and it’s fascinating how they go into it with different expectations. Jor-El immediately asks Zod to stop this while there’s still time and Zod replies with almost a quip saying, “Haven’t given up lecturing me, have you…even in death?” It’s clear that both view their side as completely rational and the others as insanity but Zod seems to legitimately think Jor-El may be convinced while Jor is reduced to imploring. Zod tells him he is taking full control from Jor-El.
1:48:45 We cut to Superman over the Indian Ocean where as predicted he is growing weaker from the World Engine but fights on.
The World Engine grows massive mechanical tendrils to try and fight Superman with.
Meanwhile, literally thousands of miles away, the military is approaching the phantom drive ready to bomb them. They try and rocket the thing but it’s spatial warping causes the missiles to get flung around chaotically, and it’s a small thing but I really like fantastical tactics in fiction and how interesting they can be.
The Chaos of the World Engine and the military’s struggle makes it’s way to the Daily Planet and Perry takes command telling everyone they’re leaving and leading them out.
Meanwhile the Tendrils are grabbing at Superman who is able to knock them into pieces but they continue to reform and he grows weaker from the atmosphere of the World Engine.
The World Engine’s spatial warping flings some of the jets around causing one of the buildings to lose it’s support while the escaping Daily Planet Members are under it. A nearby police offer witnessing the end of the world is not running but is instead orderly helping people to safety and It seems like the police command is actually stable and not broken and are organized-ly helping people. What the frick is this? Normal people?! Being awesome?! DCEU Humans and really DC Humans in generally have to take every opportunity to show how absolutely amazing humans are.
The building begins collapsing but while Jenny Jurwich is underneath. Perry yells her name and goes to grab her while Steve Lombard, another employee from the comics stays to help because normal people are comically awesome at every possibly opportunity. Incredibly enough they quickly turn and run to the side escaping the building’s massive collapsing diameter. They don’t just run towards the camera.
Jor-El and Zod snap at each other a bit. Jor-El tells Zod he’s attempting genocide and Zod dryly says he’s arguing its merits with a ghost. I love the line that Jor-El says in response.
1:51:10 Jor-El: “We’re both ghosts, Zod. Can’t you see that? The Krypton you are clinging onto is gone.”
It reminds me of how Jor-El said near the start of the film to the Kryptonian Council that everyone in the room is already dead. Jor-El’s symbolic statement that they are both ghosts, relics of a past trying to cling to the present is such a strong imagery that really shows what Zod is internally. He’s not a normal living thing anymore trying to adapt to its surroundings but the already dead trying to cling to a past that no longer can exist.
Zod prepares to terminate the Jor-El AI and Jor-El says “silencing me won’t change anything, my son…is twice the man you were.”
The subtle inflection of how he says were instead of are, how Superman is not just better then how Zod is, but how Zod always ways, a machine designed to fight and be a warrior and nothing more. Zod asks Jor-El’s consciousness if he can feel pain before telling he will harvest the Codex from his son’s corpse and rebuild Krypton atop his bones before terminating Jor-El’s consciousness. The subtle arc of the relationship between Jor-El and Zod is a part of the movie that rarely gets the credit it deserves for its subtle depiction of a broken friendship.
Superman meanwhile continues his fight against the World Engine, but every time he gets close he gets hit by the Tendrils which, as he grows weaker, proportionally seem stronger and stronger as he gets slowly warn down.
As Superman loses control the tendrils fling him directly down into the World Engine Beam that is able to massively increase the mass of the earth and terraform the planet, hitting with a massive gravitational force.
Back in Metropolis Perry which looks for Jenny as he sees the Phantom Drive’s power approaching. Perry finds Jenny trapped under debris and she begins hysterically declaring that she’s struck and can’t get free. Perry briefly looks away to find something to free her and she grabs harder on his hand begging him not to leave her tearfully and it’s an emotion I relate too all strongly. I’ve never been in a situation like that per se, but I understand the fear that if someone leaves you that you’ll die hysterical and irrational though it may be. It’s something most children fear at some point when their parents leave them to sleep alone and it’s something we revert too.
Perry reassures her that he’s not going to leave and yells for Lombard to help him move the rubble trapping Jenny. Perry and Lombard desperately try to free Jenny as the Phantom Drive’s power gets closer.
At the world engine, at the bottom of its beam, Superman with a push brings his fist upwards as he did during his first flight, trying to summon the will again to bear the weight of the world itself.
Superman pulls himself upwards, the strain of the gravity shown so clearly in it’s intensity. Against the weight of the world itself, Superman launches himself into the air and charges the world engine and with a big yell slams his body into it’s center, shutting off the terraforming and the Phantom Drive’s beam and causing it to explode on him.
Perry, Lombard, and Jenny look around, having been saved at the last second by Superman.
1:55:00 The military prepares to engage and fire down the phantom drive with their own phantom drive.
Colonel Nathan is piloting the show and tells Lois it’s up to her and Professor Hamilton to arm their phantom drive. Lois goes back.
Meanwhile we see the near-dead Superman and a ray of sunlight hits his face. He reaches for it, and it seems to begin restoring him.
Lois moves to put the key in to the thing, but it jams and doesn’t actually go in. Isn’t that always the way, technology suddenly stop working just when you need it most?
Zod’s ship shows up and starts blasting other aircraft out of the way getting ready to blast the ship with the good guys’ Phantom Drive. Before they can fire on them, Superman flies into the ship. Zod implores Superman to stop but Superman uses his Heat Vision to destroy the scout ship ending all chance for Zod to turn Earth into a new Krypton by destroying the genesis chamber. There’s a disturbing myth that this means Kal-El destroyed a bunch of Kryptonian fetuses which is absolutely not correct. Here is a list of reasons why.
BTW you should really check out Man of Steel Answers the youtube channel and the actual site which contains an absolutely insane amount of content dissecting the DCEU and it’s many subtle themes in massive depth all in a calm, rational and positive manner. Absolutely love the guys’ work.
Perry and Steve get Jenny out of the rubble as the wreckage of the Scout Ship crashes down into Metropolis violently.
Faora leaves to attack the good guys’ ship. Meanwhile Professor Hamilton actually manages to figure out how the key works and orients the machine properly, using his science knowledge. Granted it doesn’t look very impressive which I suppose might be a small complaint, but in theory this ordinary Earth scientist is saving the day by on the fly figuring out technology thousands of years advanced of Earth rapidly. It’s another example of normal humans being amazing.
Faora bursts into the ship and walks through their gunfire. Professor Hamilton is knocked down and sees the last adjustment needed to get the machine working while Colonel Nathan knowing it’s now or never goes up to prepare for the phantom drive launch.
Of course, nobody actually tries to run from Faora, instead trying to hold her off despite their guns doing absolutely nothing because DC humans are so full of bravery they probably eat Captain Courage breakfast cereal every day.
Hamilton works through the pain and pushes the key inside the machine arming the phantom drive. And Colonel Nathan says back to Faora:
“A good death…is it’s own reward!”
And it’s such a cool moment! He then flies their phantom drive into the Kryptonians’ phantom drive, their air force sucking Lois out as the two phantom drives collide into….wait for…
PHANTOM ZONE SINGULARITY
Everything Kryptonian starts to get pulling into the… Phantom Zone Singularity!!!... including Superman as Lois falls to the ground. Superman flies up to catch him. I hear this is a plot hole, but it’s really not. Namely how Lois was falling and not being sucked into the….Phantom Zone Singularity!!! That’s really not a plot hole if you were paying attention. Only things that were doused in wormhole energy are getting sucked in which is the Kryptonians from their hyperspace jump, and Superman who made a hyperspace jump as a child and was doused in the stuff by the World Engine. The normal human stuff isn’t getting pulled in because it wasn’t hit by any of that warp energy.
Check Man of Steel answers for visual evidence of this.
In a really cool small scene, Superman carrying Lois pulls against the force of the…Phantom Zone Singularity!!! … which can be seen as a sort of mini-metaphor for him escaping the pull of his Kryptonian origin. One might wonder why none of the other Kryptonians could pull against it like he could, but they can’t fly. They can just superleap and once pulled into the air they have nothing to push off of. Superman’s flight is made a surprisingly big deal in this movie.
The…Phantom Zone Singularity!!! … collapses leaving the world a much less metal place and Superman brings Lois to ground.
So, 2 hours into this movie. I’m nearly 18,500 words in rn. If I stopped here and somehow published this, it could be counted as a Novella. I have painstakingly gone over this movie in incredible detail and I do this for an important reason. When you hear most DCEU haters comment on this movie, there are some complaints you hear which I have tried to address, but for the most part it’s ambiguous terms that really don’t apply if you try and look at specific examples throughout the film like “dark” and if you ask for specifics it’s basically 2 things you get told. 2. 2 things that are in PART of the last 15 minutes of the film which has 2 hours beforehand.
Think about that for a second. We’re talking about 1/9 th of the film left. If you were watching a television show of say 22 minutes we are talking about less than 3 minutes of content and those 22 minutes include opening and ending. And this is a conservative estimate. Let’s say you hate the last 15 minutes of this film, I could see someone dropping a point or two out of ten but jeez the overrated response to the last 15 minutes of the film, and one moment in particular is so overstated that I had to start making these defense blogs, blogs I suspect will take dozens of pages each time in Words Time New Roman 12 font because I find it so incredibly irrational and annoying. I am not saying you have to like this film, but what I am saying is you have to be rational in your logical assessment of things if you want to be considered truthful and if I don’t think you are, I am going to criticize and deconstruct that logic.
So, time to get into the last 15 minutes movie (it’s actually more like 13 minutes but who’s counting) of a film that is notably longer than 2 hours.
So, Jenny asks Perry if they’re gone and when he confirms he believes so Jenny says that he saved them, and I’ve seen people try and make fun of this line because there was destruction which is such…. she’s saying he saved the human race which he did twice over there. Both literally and metaphorically she is completely right. You just don’t like that he did not save everyone which is not what she’s saying.
Superman and Lois have a cute shipping moment before they hear a dramatic rustling of the rubble indicating Zod’s presence. Superman goes over, flying close to ground. Superman walks to the kneeling Zod holding a pile of sand and ash in his hand.
Zod, in a voice with anger deep in it but mostly of sadness and confusion says Kal chose this squalor and the humans over them. Zod has a really great line expressing his confusion and anger mostly at Kal but maybe partly at life itself and to his own fortune and his line you can see exactly how Krypton’s way of removing people’s free will and forcing them to be what society wants them to be is wrong.
2:01:25 Zod: “I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born. And every action I take, no matter how violent, or how cruel is for the greater good of my people. And now, I have no people. My soul…. that…is what…YOU HAVE TAKEN FROM ME!”
Saying this, Zod angrily charges Superman flinging him away. Zod and Superman exchange declarations before their battle
Zod: “I’m going to make them suffer Kal, these humans you’ve adopted. I will take them all from you, one by one.”
Superman: “You’re a monster, Zod. And I’m going to stop you.”
Superman and Zod charge each other causing a massive shockwave sending Superman flying. Zod follows Superman and with a moment’s warm-up starts firing his Heat Vision, rapidly acquiring the powers that Superman took years. He destroys most of the office room they ended up in, as it’s clearly chaotic and uncontrolled at the moment but he’s quickly reaching Superman’s control of his powers.
Zod leaps out of the building and Superman flies after him. The two begin their fight scene with Zod collapsing the building and throwing Superman around like a ragdoll. People seem to get really angry at this fight, despite being amazingly well-choreographed and it’s incredible capture of the feel of godlike entities clashing because….Superman didn’t stop the collateral damage. I’m sorry, this is Superman’s first day and he’s fighting General Zod. What do you people want from him? These are the same people that are like “Comic Superman isn’t really perfect, he’s an interesting character and totally not overpowered” and yeah, I agree this is a pretty logical struggle for him to have and this is a realistic amount of damage and yet somehow, it’s a problem he’s not so perfect as to not stop all of this. And there’s a common argument used against it, but the film is actually going to show the problem with that argument.
I love the little detail of this fight how Zod actually does way better against Superman showcasing his military training. Zod kicks a Lexcorp oil truck at Superman who nimbly dodges by levitating only for it to explode behind him. This tiny detail makes people get angry. Come on guys, not only is this Superman’s first day, but being hit by that could have given Zod an advantage as opposed to doing surface level damage, and if you look later the building didn’t even actually collapse.
Zod takes advantages of Superman’s momentary distraction to whack him.
The two continue fighting and it’s just so cool how well the fight captures the feel of gods fighting, their constantly being flung around which shockwaves coming out of their strikes. One reviewer humorously said it’s the best Dragon Ball Z movie ever even though it’s not Dragon Ball Z.
Zod gives his ultimatum:
2:04:15 Zod: “There’s only one way this ends Kal. Either you die, or I do.”
General Zod and Superman clash again and their fight continues with redoubled effort. On top of a building, Zod tries to hit Superman with a metal beam. Superman heat visions through it but Zod hits with the burnt end of it knocking him humorously into a sign that gave number of days since last accident and setting it to 0.
Zod gives pretty much the perfect explanation for why he’s doing so much better then Superman.
2:04:50 Zod: “I was bred to be a warrior Kal, trained my entire life to master my senses. Where did you train? On a farm?!”
And there we see Zod give the stakes. Kal is on the ropes, Zod is a much stronger fighter who can adapt faster and has better training. Superman has barely any control on the situation and the people claiming he should be stopping Zod from doing this collateral damage, a damage much less I should add then people think or is common in comic book crisis events, are saying he should completely contain something the movie is saying he can barely contain at all.
2:05:00 Zod does the biggest intimidation thing he could have done. Zod’s armor breaks apart and he begins to fly. Remember the First Flight Sequence? That was not even days ago. Flight has been Superman’s biggest ally against the other Kryptonians so far. Yet now Zod can use it despite being on Earth a very brief time purely through will and his military training. Zod is quickly becoming unstoppable.
Superman, realizing he has to end this quickly, charges Zod and the two fight in mid-air, punching each other across the city, a city that seems completely pristine I should add, the vast majority not being affected by the Phantom Drive. But yeah, they are zipping around each other, flinging each other with punches, it’s amazing.
I especially love a very small moment where we are given an over the shoulder view from Superman’s perspective as he zips around the city and there’s a brief silhouette of Zod, before quickly disappearing showing the fight from his perspective as a mad chase looking for brief visual confirmation with buildings rushing by at high speeds.
Zod continues to throw Superman around like a ragdoll through buildings and I have to wonder if DCEU haters are like “Nope, Superman should have stopped Zod from throwing him through buildings. Really irresponsible of him.”
So, I hear some of the haters be like “Why doesn’t Superman take the fight outside of the city?” Well not only is that easier said then done, but Superman actually tries, a charge sends the two of them careening into space up to a Wayne Satellite.
Also, can I just say I love when metahumans fight in space, it’s one of the reasons my favorite series is Sailor Moon (Manga), because space fights make everything seem so vast and cosmic in scale and it’s so cool.
Zod brings the satellite down onto Superman sending him careening back towards Metropolis so yeah, taking fight elsewhere, doesn’t really work that well when your opponent is stronger then you and is fast enough to easily fly to and from satellites in space.
The humans see Superman and Zod in melee re-enter atmosphere like a comet before crashing down into what I think is a museum area and Superman has managed to briefly take advantage of the fight getting Zod into a headlock.
Zod angrily tells Superman that if he loves these people so much, he can mourn for them and blasts his heat vision near some trapped civilians and starts trying to jerk his head in that direction to kill them.
I’m over 20,000 words in. And now it’s time to talk about what all the DCEU haters complain about, the moment that they all seem to bring up and they all seem to hate.
Superman pleads with Zod not to do this, imploring him and begging him to stop and Zod angrily says “Never”.
Superman breaks Zod’s neck.
Readers and hopefully friends, I want to apologize pre-emptily. You are about to see me get angrier then I usually get. This moment is the most commonly talked about moment in the film, and honestly it really shouldn’t be. I am going to have to explain in massive detail why Superman killing Zod is not bad. This is going to be in a LOT of detail, so I am going to need you to prepare yourself for this. I am doing this because the arguments people use against this are so flawed and yet are clung to with such vigor that I have no choice but to utterly annihilate this argument in every detail.
There are so many ways to deconstruct the logic that it’s actually hard to figure out where to start.
Let me start at the beginning.
Man of Steel is an adaptation. I want to use another adaptation for comparison sake. I am a huge fan of the Divine Comedy, I think it’s the great written work ever made. If you look at Dante’s Inferno the video game as an adaptation it’s horrendous. It does exactly what Dante is against, The Divine Comedy promotes sympathy and empathy for everyone, even the damned, while in the game the damned are transformed into hellish monstrosities to be slain with sadistic glee. In the Divine Comedy, Dante is an ordinary man, meant to show the universality of his message and the importance of the common man as being able to center a narrative or even a universe around his struggles. In the game, Dante is a super-powered crusader with a soul literally more sinful then anyone had ever been before. In the Divine Comedy Satan was locked in ice at the bottom of hell symbolically impotent as opposed to God’s omnipotence, his sterility representing the lack of creative power that evil has, and his isolation showing that Satan is not responsible for our misdeeds. In the game, Satan is a clever manipulator who actually is able to manipulate people into doing the wrong things. If you look at Dante’s Inferno as an adaptation as an adaptation it is wholly and entirely against the spirit of the original.
Do I hate Dante’s Inferno the video game? No. Because taken it in isolation it’s fairly enjoyable, at least in my opinion and its plot in isolation is also enjoyable.
Now I want you to look at Man of Steel again but pretend that Superman is not an established character. Pretend that Man of Steel was the first film to ever feature Superman, or even a superhero in general if you feel like it. You know what happens, Superman killing is suddenly not at all a big deal, because the ONLY reason it’s a big deal is because people see it as taboo that Superman would ever kill anyone despite the fact that this is an alternate universe with a different character. Tell me how Superman killing in Man of Steel at all violates the plot arc of Man of Steel.
Some people complain that there was totally a way for Superman to stop Zod without killing him in the context of the situation, which is such a weasel way of doing this, of trying to avoid the actual situation which is that Superman has to kill Zod or let them die. But these are heavily unlikely. Could Superman have flown up with Zod? Well yes but Zod could have lowered his head and hit them anyway. In fact, that change of angle would have actually given Zod a straighter line to fire in because of the math involved. Also, if Zod breaks free he’s gonna kill everyone anyway. Superman was barely able to get Zod in a lock once. Zod was actually winning their fight most of the time and he laid down the ultimatum that it was one of the two. The situation was merely a representation of that. I hear some people insanely try and claim that Superman could have blocked Zod’s heat vision with his hand, which just goes to show how far DCEU haters will go to try and justify their intuitions, even without rational fact. If you ask how Superman’s hands could have survived the heat, some of them will say because he survived re-entry heat which is absolutely nonsensical. Superman’s Heat Vision earlier threatened Faora and Zod learning Heat Vision was supposed to be a threat earlier. Kryptonians can’t just take their own heat vision. Also, if Superman loses his hold on Zod by taking a hand away, Zod is going to break free and kill people regardless. All of this is just a desperate attempt to try and discredit the film and ignore the actual conflict raised.
If you look at Man of Steel in complete isolation, Superman killing is him symbolically ending his attachment to the old ways of Krypton and choosing humanity, something he has done throughout the entire film. And on a more literal level it’s completely sensible that Superman would kill Zod but I’ll get to that in a second. Let me tell you why I know Superman killing wouldn’t be a big deal if the movie was not considered as an adaptation but as an original work:
In the Avengers, the Marvel Superheroes killed a massive load of Chitauri including destroying their mothership killing them all at once and in their solo films they often kill the primary villain by the end of the film. In Dragon Ball Goku regularly killed his opponents including kicking out Drum’s eyes and killing Commander Black who was trying to run away (honestly most Shonen protagonists kill monsters on the spot). In Super Sentai and Power Rangers the Team will often explode monsters of the week without any hesitation, many of whom are established as sentient beings. Most Magical Girl shows involve the Girls regularly magically exploding monsters of the week, many of whom are also established as sentient beings (Don’t even get me started on some of the deaths in Codename: Sailor V where Minako did things like melting monsters to death and slicing off their heads). Mario usually crushes enemies under foot and, even if that isn’t killing in some games it seems, knocks cowardly Koopas hiding in their shells into boiling lava. In the final season of Samurai Jack, Jack kills living things and feels remorse for it which got apparently praised for this (he also killed X9 who might have been a robot, but he clearly expressed love for his puppy). Kirby regularly consumes his living enemies trapping them in a nigh-infinite void for all eternity. In most Medieval Fantasy Settings, the hero will cut down any number of goblins and orcs and any number of other evil entities despite being paragons of righteousness. At least one Disney Princess has killed hundreds of invading troops by burying them in an avalanche. Are you starting to get the picture? The whole of fiction is full of noble people killing bad guys and it’s not considered even remotely morally suspect. If Man of Steel was considered independently, this would not be any kind of argument whatsoever.
The only way this is any kind of problem is if you expect the Superman of Man of Steel to not be a character in his own right but to be the exact character from the Comics. Which reminds me, there are two reasonings DCEU haters use, or some hybrid, which are that “Superman doesn’t kill” and “Supeman shouldn’t kill”, both of which are wrong. While both are bad arguments since Man of Steel is not the Superman of the Comics, it’s also wrong because both of these statements are categorically untrue…. well the first one is, the second one is an ethics statement but it you believe there is any objective moral code it’s highly unlikely to be the second.
Let’s start with the easier to deconstruct “Superman doesn’t kill”.
I have to say, I don’t think you know the character as well as you think you do. Why does the Superman in the Comics not kill? Because Superman believes he is not any higher than anyone else and believes in the proper rule of law and the execution of it. Also, it would be insane if Superman were to heat vision a normal criminal’s brains out because he was stealing which would be completely excessive. However, when fighting entities of his own level, Superman does not hesitate to kill for the good of the universe.
People bring up the famous times when Superman killed the Pocket Universe Kryptonians, one of which WAS Zod, by the way using Kryptonite. The only defense I hear when I bring that up is “But that story wasn’t well received, you shouldn’t be pulling from that if you are a REAL fan of Superman” which is not only not actually a defense of the fact that Superman has killed before in equal to less immediate circumstances, but also a real no true scotsman fallacy. But fine. In “The Death of Superman” Superman kills Doomsday who also kills Superman with his final blow. Sure, Doomsday regenerated but Superman legitimately killed Doomsday. Or how about in Final Crisis when Superman erases Darkseid from existence by canceling out his cosmic string vibrations? Yeah Darkseid came back eventually too, that doesn’t stop the fact that Superman erased Darkseid from existence. “Death of the Superman” and “Final Crisis” are both somewhat controversial works with both fans and critics, but at the very least they’re somewhat positively received, and nobody cares that Superman used lethal force.
What, is Zod somehow morally superior to Doomsday and Darkseid? Comic Doomsday has a pretty similar origin to Man of Steel Zod (which may explain the connection of Zod and Doomsday in the next movie), given they were both genetically engineered to be killing machines. Superman doesn’t kill because he doesn’t view himself as above the law but no legal system on Earth would possibly say that Superman acted outside the law in killing Zod who was currently consciously trying to kill Superman and literally every other human on Earth.
Also, Synder has indicated that the DCEU is inspired by the Golden Age of Comics, which I actually see, especially in Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman, which I’ll get too. And Golden Age Superman had absolutely no problem killing, including one time making a criminal scientist the same toxic gases that he made for others. Golden Age Superman regularly allowed evil-doers to die.
Superman does use lethal force when necessary, if he didn’t that would be called “being an absolute idiot that cares more for a moral high horse then actually saving lives.” Which brings us to the other argument, “Superman shouldn’t kill”.
This statement is an ethics statement. Ethics statement are very hard to prove or disprove because you basically have nothing but faith claims and moral intuition to use. However, I think I can show within reasonable certainty that saying anyone shouldn’t kill, Superman included, is nonsensical.
Maybe you have heard of the famous ethical dilemma, the trolley problem. If you haven’t it goes like this:
“There is an out of control trolley running down the railway tracks. On the tracks are 5 people who are tied to the tracks and are unable to move. You have a lever that can switch the trolley to a separate set of tracks however there is tied to that track. You can either let the trolley run over and kill the 5 people or you can pull the level and kill the other one. What do you do?”
This is a really basic ethics question. This is one of the first problems introduced in almost any Ethics class. Most people tend to say they would flip the switch, taking the utilitarian logic that 1 death is better then 5 deaths. Some take a deontological approach saying it’s awful that people have to die in the scenario but morally you can’t kill people even to save the lives of a larger amount of people because of human rights.
The Zod problem is like a really, REALLY dumbed down easy version of the Trolley Problem, where one person is literally going to cause the deaths of others, won’t make any kind of compromise or negotiation and you have to choose between their death and the deaths of innocents they are about to kill. It’s barely an ethics question. Even Kant, the philosopher who said you don’t have a right to lie, even if it would stop massive catastrophe, would agree that Zod should die.
When people say Superman shouldn’t kill ever, they are either saying that Superman should choose to not kill no matter what consequences it causes (IE they are saying, it’s never right to kill and Superman should always do what’s right) or he should never be put in a situation where he has to make the moral decision to kill. These are both deeply problematic and irrational sentiments and it’s where my anger is really gonna kick in.
If you are saying that Superman should never kill because killing is always wrong no matter the circumstance and he should always act morally then I have to say, as a Superman Fan, and as someone who considers myself a moral human being, I am offended. People say Superman is supposed to be a moral icon, and I agree. Superman should optimally do his best to do the right thing in all circumstances and if you’re telling me that it’s never the right thing to kill then you are claiming that every military and police in the world are immoral for the requirement that they may kill in the line of duty despite risking their lives in the line of duty. You are saying that a moral icon like Superman should allow Zod to kill others and not stop him by lethal force, you are saying Superman should just let innocent people to die when he could stop it. This is flatly immoral. Ethics may be difficult to prove but I can’t believe any moral intuition on Earth would claim that under no circumstances, even if it would prevent complete annihilation of humanity, even if the person has long since relinquished right to life through wanton and excessive acts of murder should Superman not kill a villain, and not just a villain a bio-engineered monster who is unrepentant and wants nothing but the annihilation of humanity.
The other option I think is a more common claim which is that Superman shouldn’t be placed in a situation where the moral option to kill and when people say that it makes me very sad for them. The trolley problem is one of the most basic fundamental problems in ethics, and this is a really dumbed down easy version that almost everyone agrees. Your moral icons are supposed to be there to show you what being moral means, they’re supposed to guide you through confusing moral territory and you can’t even allow Superman to be presented with a really easy version of the trolley problem? Really? How little faith do you have in Superman as a character and a moral icon if he can’t be presented with such an easy version of such an elementary ethics problem?
Superman’s not a character of my culture, he’s blatantly not, and he talks a lot of The American Way. And when I saw I was intrigued of this other culture, of how they thought about things, how they felt about things, what they do in hard or confusing times. I first learned what the West considers their values through Superman, I learned what they meant by truth and justice. I learned how strong a character like Superman can be, not because he’s an alien from a planet with greater gravity but because he’s a moral icon that represents all the foundational ethics since the ancient times of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. If you have such little faith in him that he can’t be given a moral question that is even slightly controversial then it seems you have lost faith in your own culture’s values, and that’s really very sad to me.
Maybe you don’t believe in those values, maybe you’re not a fan of history, but I read the Western Philosophers; I loved the writings of Plato, Dante, Descartes, Locke, Rousseau. Have some faith in these old mens’ meditations, I think one of the most classic Icons of Western Values, the Superman, can handle the trolley problem without breaking his character.
Superman kills Zod, and all I can say is that on every level this is justified. And with that we return to our story.
2:07:55 Superman stands shocked for a moment before dropping to his knees in anguish. Superman is clearly heavily distraught at the killing of Zod and lets out a guttural yell. Lois comes over and cradles Superman’s head, as he relinquishes his emotions.
I hear some arguments that oh it switched back so far it was so jarring…I can’t see how people would really think that. There’s a full half-minute of Lois cradling Superman’s head as he releases his distress. Superman expresses great anguish and has to release his emotions and then it goes into a time cut. I don’t see what the problem with that is supposed to be. It showed the emotional pain Superman felt and then the story continued at a later point. This is like basic stuff, you want to keep the story on the important parts. Superman talking about killing someone would been completely superfluous material given everything I expressed above. I can’t imagine how the idea of a time cut for this kind of situation would be so alien to people that it would cause any kind of problem. Or were you mad that at the start of the Guardians of the Galaxy you didn’t see much of young Starlord’s anguish after being abducted and instead it switched almost directly to a scene of him dancing around on an alien planet, an emotional change of much greater magnitude?
Part 5: Epilogue
2:08:45 We cut to a rural area where a spy plane crashes into the ground in front of General
Swanwick and Captain Carrie. Superman is standing there. General Swanwick reads him the riot act about trashing their expensive equipment. Superman tells him that he knows he’s spying on him trying to find his real identity and that it’s not gonna happen. Swanwick asks how they know he’s not going to go against America’s interests. Superman responds
2:09:30: Superman: “I grew up in Kansas. I’m about as American as it gets. Look, I’m here to help, but it has to be on my own terms and you have to convince Washington of that.”
General Swanwick asks how he’d get them to listen, even if he was willing to try and Superman says he’ll just have to trust General Swanwick.
This scene is nice, and it establishes Superman’s relationship with the government going forward, although it’s certainly not my favorite or anything.
As Superman flies off, General Swanwick turns and sees Captain Carrie smiling to herself and asks what’s she smiling about. She responds that she just thinks he’s kind of hot.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I see what you did there DC, thought you could pull that reference over my head you scamps. Captain Carrie Ferris. Aka Carol Ferris the Violet Lantern, the Space Nymphos, I see your game.
Also, ngl, kind of agree with her.
Cut to Clark and Ma Kent at Pa Kent’s Cemetery. Clark says he wishes Pa Kent was here to see it finally happen, it being him doing great things. Ma Kent assures Clark that he saw it in him. It cuts to the Final Flashback.
Little Clark is playing with the doggie with a red non-descript fabric cape on his back like a boy playing superhero. Pa Kent is fixing the car and looks over to see Little Clark with his red cape who makes puts his fists on his hip in the classic pose and I tear up again.
It’s how ever parent see sees their child, as a little growing hero who will change the world, and I love how he sees The Superman in Clark before he becomes The Superman.
Clark explains to Ma Kent that he needs to find a job, a job that can give him information and can get him into dangerous areas without suspicion and able to ask questions. This is in voiceover as we see the mild-mannered Clark Kent entering Metropolis and the daily planet dressed up for a job.
And as Clark gets introduced to everyone as a new member of the daily planet we finish the film with a deliciously double-meaninged exchange
1:12:45 Lois: “Welcome to the Planet.”
Clark: “Glad to be here, Lois.”
There’s no after-credits scene and to be honest I really don’t like after-credits scenes so I’m happy about that. The DCEU has started using them which… blech. I’m glad at least MoS doesn’t.
I love Man of Steel. I really adore this film. Is it a perfect film? No, I don’t believe such a film exists. That said there have been 2 films which I gave a 10 out of 10 score. Man of Steel…actually isn’t one of them. I gave Man of Steel a 9/10.
As I said, I don’t think it’s a perfect film. I have mentioned small things I didn’t like throughout this defense. I think it was cliché at times and I think parts of it, due to the necessity of the Superman story and Superhero tropes, were illogical like how Kryptonians are an alien species and yet look incredibly human. I liked the Pre-Invasion stuff a bit more than the Post-Invasion stuff. Even the films I give a 10/10 rating I don’t think are perfect.
That said I absolutely love this movie and have watched it a good number of times. Man of Steel is not a very dark film. “Oh, but there’s destruction at the end and Superman snaps Zod’s neck”, yeah well at the end of the first arc of Sailor Moon, a franchise at least as saccharine as Superman, Metaria drives the world to savagery, mass murder and suicide collapsing civilization and Sailor Moon makes her explode after literally caving her face in. If you insist on talking about Sailor Moon Classic in the last 3 episodes Metaria causes a planetoid to go extinct of life and Sailor Moon obliterates Super-Beryl. This movie is only “dark” by the incredibly warped standards of what people seemed to have expected. The movie constantly, and I mean constantly, is going on about how great normal people are, do you know how many times I had to write normal human is amazing or some variant? The DCEU to me is the very root of DC, of why it’s great, and the precursor to the Rebirth the idea that people are inherently better then you think they are. I love humanity so much and so does Man of Steel and that’s why I love it. It’s a film that celebrates Free Will and Humanity and is incredibly clever and well-written.