comic book movies

A Thesis on Man of Steel: Should that neck snap have happened?

So it’s been nearly a year and a half since Man of Steel came out, and still when I go around exploring the internet, I always seem to manage to find myself reading some argument a couple of people are having over Man of Steel. Whether it’s about the movie sucking or not, all the destruction, the snapping of necks what ever. The point is that the movie definitely causes discussion (at least within the geeksphere). Anyways I came across this Youtube video from Jay Bend who discusses his Man of Steel analysis, so let’s discuss that discussion shall we?

The video is nearly 40 minutes long, but if you’re a lover or hater of Man of Steel, or are just a little bit curious I definitely suggest checking it out.

His main analysis of the film draws upon a religious allegory. Obviously there is a lot of overt Jesus symbolism in the film (which was a bit much for me to be honest), but personally I don’t see the film the way he does. But I do love listening to everyone’s interpretations of all films. Because film is subjective, and everyone draws upon their own meaning from individual films. I love his passion for the movie, and I love how deep he looks into it. It’s definitely an interesting look at the film, describing the film as a metaphor for child labour with the rebirth of Superman, something I never really thought of whilst watching the film, but it does in a way make sense considering the first shot of Man of Steel was of Lara giving birth.

And as interesting as that analysis is, what I really loved about what he said in his video thesis was at the end where he went on to say that:

The new era lies in where the morality of the action lies in the context of the action and is not inherent in the action itself

A Superman that doesn’t operate on moral absolutes instead we have a Superman that operates on ideals such as saving others, making sacrifices and hoping others can be a force for good as guiding principles to navigate in a complex and chaotic world

 

Now this is something I 100% agree with. Many people are used to the older version of Superman who was the tangible manifestation of definite good. But let’s face reality, there is no such thing as a definite good in this reality. Because a definite good is an objective good, and in a world filled with different morals and values, how can someone be truly defined as the ultimate good? It’s just too simple of a thought in such a complex world. And that is something that I think Man of Steel portrayed really well.

This farm boy was taught many things growing up which he used as he guiding principles to help inform his decisions. He isn’t perfect and he screws up along the way. So here we get to the neck-snap-gate. One of the main talking points of Man of Steel was about  good old Superman murdering Zod, through a pretty intense neck snap. There has been a lot of debate about whether this should have happened or not. A lot of people offer up ideal scenarios where instead Superman should have taken him to the moon or what ever, but let’s just look at what actually happened. Superman snapped Zod’s neck.

man of steel zod neck snap

We know Superman as having a definite stand to when it comes to killing. And I believe that this incarnation of Superman still has that, but it’s this whole idea of translating such a simple, easy idea of ‘no killing’ to a convoluted world. Ideally we can offer up a thousand different ways that situation could have gone where our perfect Superman didn’t kill Zod and gave us our perfect world but that doesn’t reflect reality. This is the Superman of today’s reality who has to base his decisions on the very real context of this world.

Now I don’t think Superman is going to continue killing people, and he will try to stick to the whole ‘no killing’ rule, but there are times where extreme contexts will put our values and rules to the test, and he made the conscious decision to snap Zod’s neck because he believed that within that context, that is what he needed to do. But he still values life and his morals.

Really i’m neither here nor there when it comes to the neck snap in Man of Steel. I understand why it happened, and how it represents a more realistic Superman who isn’t constricted to moral absolutes in a world that is far too complex for moral absolutes, but I also understand those who think that it had no purpose and that it really didn’t need to happen.

Man of Steel will probably always be debated until something controversial like the neck snap in Man of Steel happens in Batman v Superman, then people will forget about it and just argue about Batman v Superman instead, which let’s be honest will probably happen regardless.

Anyways I hope that if you have the time you check out Jay Bend’s video. But in the meantime now that you have had over a year to think about Superman snapping Zod’s neck in Man of Steel, do you think it was the right thing to do? Let me know!

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12 replies »

  1. Yeah I think it was the right thing to do. He was forced with letting all the people of earth die or kill zod and plus he technically wasnt even superman yet. Hes just a guy trying to stop an alien invasion. He does have morals especially now that he knows how it feels to kill someone.. He didnt just kill zod and happy ending he was so hurt he screamed to the top of his lungs because he had to do that

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  2. I don’t care if he snaps the neck or not. But the whole thing was just set up so badly. Not even the scene itself worked because he first presses Zods head to the left to protect the family, but then snaps it to the right, exactly where the laser was not supposed to go…but that’s more nitpicking.

    No, what bothers me is that while I am aware that Superman normally doesn’t kill, the point was never really established in the movie. Quite the opposite in fact. His father tells him that he maybe should have let a bus full of children die. He himself dies totally unnecessarily in a tornado, just to protect Clark’s secret. And Clark let’s it happen. It is somehow considered wrong to directly defend himself against a bully, but turning his truck into a giant knot is somehow okay. All in all I got no sense for the character, no baseline for what he is suppose to do or not. So why is the snapping of Zod’s neck such a big thing? Because he is Jesus? (yeah, the religious imaginary rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because it was so in your face).

    Superman being forced to kill Zod could have been a thought-provoking moment…but since the movie treats human life as pretty much expendable beforehand, it is hard to get invested in it.

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    • This is how I see it: Jonathon Kent wasn’t the best in this movie, I agree, he didn’t know how to handle Clark’s powers and that’s understandable, I’m sure it isn’t easy to raise an alien child. I don’t think he died unnecessarily because had Clark have saved him, all the people there would have seen it. Next thing you know this teenage kid is being forced in some science lab because he revealed his secret, and that isn’t what Jonathon wanted. Even though that scene played out slow, just remember how quick a tornado is, there wasn’t much room for thought Jonathon made a decision and so did Clark, because he knew he couldn’t reveal himself to the world.
      And I know you’re not a comic reader but if you ever read one Superman comic I suggest reading Superman Unchained, it stresses the point that Superman’s character isn’t the perfect flawless character everyone thinks he is. He is never completely sure of himself or what he is doing. He is very trial and error and learns from his mistakes and that helps him inform his next decision. He grew up on the values his parents taught him, but isn’t all of a sudden completely aware of what the right thing to do in every situation, because the situations he faces aren’t just moral absolutes where there is a definitive right course of action, so it’s hard for him to figure it out. This was an origin story, so what he did in Man of Steel will develop his character in the future movies. He was clearly distraught after killing Zod, it’s an experience in his life that will strongly inform what actions he takes in the future. And I can’t see how the movie treated human life as expendable. Zod’s plan was to kill all the humans on the planet, and even though Zod and his people were the last of Clark’s kind he had to make the decision to completely stop them to save all of humanity. Even just the little moments in the film showed that even when Clark was ‘lost’ he still wanted to save people e.g. the oil rig scene, kids on the bus, the army people. Anyways obviously we see the film very differently haha

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      • Superman doesn’t have to be perfect (in fact, the less perfect they make him the better), but I need a baseline in the movie how this version of him works. They can’t just bank on me filling the blanks. For example Zod: watching the scenes before his imprisonment he didn’t strike me as an outright villain. To me he looked like someone who wanted the best but went the wrong way, which is certainly not the character in the comic, but that’s how the character felt to me in the movie. And then he comes back and is suddenly all around crazy and set on killing everyone. Because he is Zod, I guess.
        You are right, this was supposed to be a origin story. Which makes it doubly important to concentrate on Clark. How long did it take until we actually saw him? How long before someone talked to him in present time? That the timeline was out of order didn’t help either.
        I get Jonathan Kent’s motivation. But it establishes from the get go a baseline which says that letting people die to protect someone might be the right thing to do. And that’s the guy who taught Clark. So I am supposed to be shocked when he kills someone to protect others? He had a better reason to kill Zod than letting his adoptive father die. And that’s why the scene doesn’t work for me.

        You are right, the movie establishes that Clark wants to save people. In a few scenes. And then throws the concept out of the window the next scene. It’s inconsistent writing. (It certainly didn’t help that we learned a lot about what other people thought Clark should do, but I had no idea what his own thoughts about those matters were)

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      • Actually that is very much so Zod’s character in the comics. He acts out of the best intentions for his people, and he is set out on killing everyone because Earth isn’t his home, all he cares about is recreating Krypton again for his people. And those are the best kind of villains, they’re not outright just ‘oh I’m evil because i’m evil’ they have motivations that you can understand, but they take the extreme measures to achieve their goals.

        And I think the context of Jonathon’s death is way different to all other situations. The message from his death wasn’t that it’s okay to let people die in general, within that situation that was what had to happen. Clark isn’t an idiot, he gets that that particular situation had to go down in a certain way, the same can’t be said about all situations. And yeah him killing Zod made sense, but it wasn’t just a person he was killing, it was his entire race, and that was the difficult situation Superman had to face, and that’s what made it tense. And after killing Zod he can truly witness the implications of his power and the power of taking someone’s life away. And again this whole movie was just about Clark figuring out who he is and what his morals are, so the non-linear structure helped showed how his past experiences shaped him, which is contrasted to what is happening to him now and how these experiences will shape him. I completely agree that there was some inconsistency with the writing but overall I understood what they were trying to portray

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      • Oh, I got what they were trying…they discoursed about it the whole movie, after all. But overall, I think the result is a perfect example of a movie which tells but doesn’t show.

        Either way, original question was if Superman can kill. Yeah, in principle, he can as long as it follows the rules which are laid down for self-defence. In short, it should be the only solution and it has to happen in order to protect.

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  3. It didn’t bother me that he killed Zod. The main flaws I see in the argument that Superman doesn’t kill are that:

    *He does, and has in various stories over the years. He doesn’t have some moral absolute, that is the modern retconning of the character we have seen in the majority of the stories post Byrne’s Man of Steel relaunch.
    *He killed Doomsday,in public.
    *He’s killed numerous aliens and A.I. such as Cyborg and Brainiac, who only stay dead until the next story where they are needed

    The main issue I had with the fight with Zod was why not lure Zod away from the highly populated city into a less populated area. Zod may have lured him back, but he seemed more concerned with fighting Supes than the battle environment. Given that Zod assumed he was going to kill everyone after the fight anyway , I don’t think he would have hesitated to follow Superman out into a regional area away from the city.

    The death of Superman’s father / Pa Kent from Kansas to me felt a bit forced and dramatic. Given that Superman can move faster than a speeding bullet (or what the human eye can perceive) he could have zipped over, saved Old Man Kent, dropped him somewhere safe and zipped back to where he was before anyone would notice, given that they were all looking at the tornado, and not staring at Clark with an unbroken gaze.

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    • I guess the whole taking him away from the populated area thing comes down to the fact that this Superman was highly inexperienced and to be frank had no idea what he was doing. So really here was this guy who didn’t really have fighting skills being forced to fight this high ranking military guy with a lot of fighting skills. This Superman was just trying to not get his ass kicked, I’m not sure he could really control the fight even if he wanted to

      As for the Pa Kent scene, I agree with you, but that scene doesn’t really bother me that much anyways

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