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Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel is a visually fascinating and often violent ride. It’s a polarizing, intensely interesting take on The Man of Tomorrow that had the theatergoers around me debating when they left and has had film critics arguing either for or against ever since. Maybe there’s too much repetitive action. Maybe the film needs as many battles near the end to justify the quieter periods at the beginning. Maybe Superman is the best hero we have. Maybe he’s not fit for the modern age. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Almost everything about the quality of this film and where a sequel should go from here leaves me confused and wishy washy, except for one clear, irrefutable takeaway: the people of Earth would never, ever trust Snyder’s Superman.
For the last thirty-three years, human beings not directly related to the Kent family or not directly saved by Clark have moved about their daily lives without any knowledge that an alien with stunning, almost unfathomable powers was living amongst them, until suddenly, they’re made aware of said fact by a pissed off warlord alien who threatens to destroy the world if Superman doesn’t turn himself in. Like a selfless hero, he does exactly that, but not long after, the fight winds up coming to Earth anyway. By my estimation, Snyder’s film racks up a body count of at least 100,000 men, women and children during the climactic confrontation. Dead. Not injured. Full on, never coming back dead.
As a congenial, good-natured alien who was shipped off as a baby without his consent, Superman can’t be blamed for General Zod following him to Earth. Babies, by their very nature, are powerless to handle their own fates, and as Lady Gaga would tell you, we’re born the way we are. Kal-El didn’t ask to have abilities beyond his peers, but he accepts that charge and does his best under difficult, isolated circumstances. In short, he’s a really good person. He’s the type of guy George Costanza would hate. He climbs onto burning oil rigs to save people. He stands up to sexually forward assholes. He’s just an excellent guy. Some, like the fine folks over at Badass Digest, think he could even stand to be a better person in the context of the big final fight, but to be frank, his motives and his altruism really wouldn’t matter to humanity.
General Zod doesn’t come to Earth because he wants to go skiing, only to suddenly decide to commit genocide instead. He comes to Earth to follow Superman, which means Earth is nothing more than collateral damage. Superman’s mere presence on Earth makes the planet a far more dangerous place, even if, deep down, all he really gives a shit about is getting cats down from trees. Let’s say, between that bus accident and the oil rig and things that happened off camera, Clark has saved 75 people from dying in his life. That’s amazing, but from a body count standpoint, he’s still -99,925 because I’m sure as hell not giving him credit for saving Earth when he’s the only reason it’s in jeopardy. How many years would he have to work to just even the score?
We like to think of ourselves as informed people who look at the larger picture, but at the end of the day, we’re willing to hold grudges over anything. Do you really think insurance companies suddenly out billions (with a b) would not be furious over Superman operating in Metropolis? Do you think all of the family members of the deceased who lived inside buildings Superman threw people through would not, fairly or unfairly, hold Superman responsible for the loss of life? Do you think all of the talking heads on cable news would not have a field day with this mess? I went to high school with some girl who still blames me for a car accident because I waved her in front of me, and she got hit about thirty seconds later. That was over a decade ago, and her car had like two hundred dollars worth of damage.
There are plenty of things that are awesome about Snyder’s Superman, but humanity would never, ever trust him. The resentment and the hurt feelings would always boil under the surface, no matter how much good he did, and that is a gigantic problem for a character who's supposed to inspire wonder, awe and thankfulness.
Would any of us really trust a man who is capable of leaving this in his wake?