Man of Steel’s ‘Death of Zod’ Explained by David Goyer

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It’s without question that one of the greatest movie debates of the 21st century revolves around 2013’s, Man of Steel, and the decision to kill the movies primary antagonist, the Kryptonian, General Zod.

The scene itself resonates in the minds of many. The films defenders see it as a necessary dose of realism while critics say it’s a line that should’ve never been crossed.  Ultimately, the decision to kill Zod has remained a point of heated discussion since the films release, but David Goyer, the films primary writer, has recently come out again to defend the decision.

In an interview with Nerdist.com, Goyer explains, “The way I work, the way Chris [Nolan] works, is you do what’s right for the story. That exists entirely separately from what fans should or shouldn’t think of that character. You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics…or even in a world that conceived of Superman existing. He’d only flown for the first time a few days before that. He’d never fought anyone that had super powers before. And so he’s going up against a guy who’s not only super-powered, but has been training since birth to use those super powers, who exists as a superhuman killing machine, who has stated, ‘I will never stop until I destroy all of humanity.’ If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story? I think the right way to tell that story is if you take this powered alien who says, ‘You can have your race back, but you have to kill your adopted race,’ the moral, horrible situation to be in is to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race. Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story.”

While Goyer’s argument does make a bit of sense, it’s also slightly contradictory to some of the events in the film. If you recall, Kryptonians don’t have inherent super powers, they gain them by coming into contact with radiation from Earth’s yellow son. While Zod did in fact have military training, he was never able to fully learn how to use his powers, which is actually a plot point of the film as his powers slowly develop after landing on Earth.

In a previous statement made back in 2013 tabout the decision, Goyer explained to Empire Magazine that, “Killing Zod was a big thing and Chris Nolan, originally, said there’s no way you can do this. That was a change – originally Zod got sucked into the Phantom Zone along with the others and I just felt it was unsatisfying and so did Zack. We started questioning – we talked to some of the people at DC Comics and said, ‘Do you think there is ever a way that Superman would kill someone?’ And at first they said ‘No way, no way,’ and we said, ‘but what if he didn’t have a choice?’ Originally Chris didn’t even want to let us try to write it and Zack and I said, ‘We think we can figure out a way that you’ll buy it.”

One of the biggest issues critics the death have, is that it managed to leave a gaping plot whole in the film, because they idea of the Phantom Zone was established in the film along with providing Superman with the knowledge and details of how to send the General back there. In the end, Superman forgoes the Phantom Zone plot-line and instead ends the life of Zod, leaving the story of the engines and their ability to access the Phantom Zone unused.

The films director, Zach Snyder, also commented on the decision and gave it further rational. “I guess for me – and in the original version of the script he just got zapped into the Phantom Zone – David and I had long talks about it and Chris and I talked long about it and it was like, ‘I really think we should kill Zod and I really think Superman should kill him.’ And the why of it was, for me, that if it’s truly an origin story, his aversion to killing is unexplained. It’s just in his DNA. I felt like we needed him to do something, just like him putting on the glasses or going to the Daily Planet or any of the other things that you’re sort of seeing for the first time that you realize will then become his thing. I felt like, if we can find a way of making it impossible for him – like Kobayashi Maru, totally no way out – I felt like that could also make you go, ‘OK, this is the why of him not killing ever again, right?’ He’s basically obliterated his entire people and his culture and he is responsible for it and he’s just like, ‘How could I kill ever again?’,” explained Snyder.

While the idea of giving Superman a reason to be adverse to killing sounds reasonable, we know that he originally was instilled with this ideology by his adopted family, the Kents. Also, given the fact that he had a non-lethal alternative for defeating Zod via the Phantom Zone, it ultimately left many people dissatisfied with the decision because it was seen as the ultimate betrayal of Superman’s iconic character.

So, do these explanations help you better understand why they killed Zod or do you still disagree? Did the inclusion of his death at the hands of Superman make the telling more modern or do you think it did a disservice to the characters and the stories that helped to define him? As always, we’d love to know what you think so please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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