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This summer Zack Snyder’s reboot of Man of Steel became the most divisive title we’d seen yet in 2013. There was of course the predictable battle between those who thought the new interpretation of Superman was a triumph, and those who felt it was a total catastrophe. And for many this superhero movie flew or flopped based on a certain moment in its climax. If you are not one of the people who bought a ticket and contributed to Man of Steel’s massive $662 million dollar worldwide haul, be warned major spoilers lie ahead.
To put it simply, Man of Steel ends with Superman killing his foe, General Zod. This decision by screenwriter David S. Goyer enraged many Superman fans—including writer of the Superman comic Birthright Mark Waid—who insist it goes against the hero’s code to kill. But the screenwriter who has contributed to such superhero screenplays as Blade, Blade II, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and The Dark Knight trilogy has finally spoken up about this outrage-causing choice. Digital Spy reports that at a BATFA and BFI Screenwriters' Lecture, Goyer said of the crucial moment:
“We were pretty sure that was going to be controversial. It's not like we were deluding ourselves, and we weren't just doing it to be cool. We felt, in the case of Zod, we wanted to put the character in an impossible situation and make an impossible choice.”
From there he went on to state directly, "This is one area, and I've written comic books as well and this is where I disagree with some of my fellow comic book writers - 'Superman doesn't kill'. It's a rule that exists outside of the narrative and I just don't believe in rules like that. I believe when you're writing film or television, you can't rely on a crutch or rule that exists outside of the narrative of the film.”
While many may not have liked it, Goyer felt he set up a specific situation where Superman’s only option was to play judge, jury and executioner in the blink of an eye. "So the situation was, Zod says 'I'm not going to stop until you kill me or I kill you.'” Goyer explained. “The reality is no prison on the planet could hold him and in our film Superman can't fly to the moon, and we didn't want to come up with that crutch.”
He also seems to suggest the success of The Dark Knight trilogy called for a grittier take on Superman than audiences have seen before. Goyer adds, "Also our movie was in a way Superman Begins, he's not really Superman until the end of the film. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films. Because he's Superman and because people idolize him he will have to hold himself to a higher standard."
This last comment seems to be a nod to the Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman, which Goyer is tagged to be scripting with input from Snyder. We know this film will feature Ben Affleck as an older, more seasoned and wearier Batman. If Goyer’s true to his word, Henry Cavill’s Superman will be facing off against this Dark Knight while trying to hold himself to this “higher standard.” Does this mean Superman’s done with killing his enemies? Will his murder of Zod be fodder for Batman to use against him? Or will this Batman not take issue with murdering super-powered psychos? We’ll find out when Batman vs. Superman opens July 17th.