In Defence of Man of Steel

A repost from my deleted blog.

Seeing as Batman v Superman is coming out next month and I’m indescribably excited about that, I think I’m going to take a few minutes to defend Man of Steel as a movie, because I think it gets a lot of unfair criticism.

The first complaint is that Superman killed Zod. Yeah, I get why people complain about Superman, the quintessential hero, killing someone. But I disagree – in the context of the movie, it makes a lot of sense. Clark wants to do what’s right. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. But he also wants to protect the people that need him.

Clark killing Zod was him making a choice. It was him choosing humanity over the memory of Krypton, his adoptive family over his birth family – both literally and symbolically. That’s something that’s always been a part of Clark’s story. He’s an alien, but he’s also a Kansas farmboy. Clark’s only way to save that family was to kill Zod, because Zod wasn’t going to stop, no matter what. To Clark, it wasn’t even a choice – no matter how much he wanted to not have to use his powers to hurt, he’d do it if it meant saving more people.

That’s what makes him a hero. Obviously, killing in itself isn’t a heroic thing. But Clark was the only one who could have stopped Zod, and he did what he had to in order to defend people that couldn’t defend themselves. He put their needs ahead of his own sense of morality, his mental and emotional health.

The other main complaint I see is that he didn’t try to prevent collateral damage. I think the amount of damage that happened was actually really important to the story they’re trying to tell, and I really appreciated it. One problem that I’ve always had with superhero movies is that they’re ridiculously unrealistic. Not in the sense of a person having Superman’s powers, I don’t mean that. What I do mean is in terms of the reactions people have to someone with those powers, the reactions someone has to an alien invasion. It’s one of the problems I’ve always had with Avengers – it never acknowledged the damage caused to New York. An army of aliens, all with Superman’s powers, would absolutely have a huge impact. I love that the DCEU isn’t shying away from that.

I like that while Superman inspires hope, he also draws criticism and fear. I like that the damage caused is actually being addressed. I love that Superman’s role in the destruction played a role in Bruce’s mistrust of him.

Even beyond the role the destruction plays in the story and how it grounds it in reality, it also makes sense. On the side of Earth, you have an army and you have Superman, who despite his strength and his powers, isn’t a fighter – he’s spent his life trying to control them. He’s a new hero. The army didn’t help matters in terms of the amount of destruction at all. They were opposed by trained soldiers with all of Superman’s powers. Clark really didn’t have much control over the situation at all.

Man of Steel was a great story, and a fantastic take on Superman. It acknowledged Clark’s limitations, as well as the fact that he’s never going to stop defending humanity. The combination of bold story choices, stunning visuals, and a new perspective on classic ideas make it a beautiful and memorable addition to the genre.

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