David S. Goyer on the Neck-Snapping in 'Man of Steel'

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 08:56 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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David S. Goyer on the Neck-Snapping in 'Man of Steel'

David S. Goyer is currently busy writing Batman vs. Superman so that the team-up sequel can meet its July 2015 release date, but the screenwriter is taking a moment to explain one of the most controversial aspects of Man of Steel.

Spoilers follow for anyone who has yet to see the summer's Superman reboot.  For those folks, Zack Snyder's big superhero rumble hits Blu-ray on November 11th.  Watch it and then check back.  Anyway, SPOILERS ho!

Seemingly every major comic book movie results in a chorus of online complaints.  That's just what happens when you're dealing with a popular character who has been kicking around for the better part of a century.  With Man of Steel, however, the griping was louder and more emphatic than usual.  Some of it even originated with comic book writers like Mark Waid, whose Superman: Birthright was an influence on this cinematic reboot.

The only subject that could drown out the conversation regarding collateral damage and the devastation of Metropolis this summer was the commotion caused by Superman snapping the villainous Zod's neck at the end of Man of Steel.  Killing is, of course, not part of the superhero's traditional repertoire, and is especially important as a self-imposed limit because of the Kryptonian's nigh-unlimited superpowers.

At the BATFA and BFI Screenwriters' Lecture (via Digital Spy), Goyer explained, "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."

"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," Goyer continued. "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."

"So the situation was, Zod says 'I'm not going to stop until you kill me or I kill you.' 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."

Goyer also said that the killing plays into the evolution of Superman's character in the film and subsequent sequels, explaining, "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 idolise him he will have to hold himself to a higher standard."

Interesting arguments all, particularly the last one.  Late in his June piece on Man of Steel's immensely destructive action sequences and what they mean for Superman as a character, Devin Faraci of Badass Digest addresses this point, saying, "It could be argued that the Battle of Metropolis is a formative learning experience for the new Superman. Moving forward he’ll be more mindful of the collateral damage he causes. But going back to the question of what changes you can make to a character before you distort that character beyond recognition, is that a Superman you want? A Superman who has to learn through mass fatalities that he needs to be careful in battle?"

Faraci's point is a compelling rebuke to Goyer's, particularly for those Superman fans who hold dear the notion that Clark Kent's Smallville upbringing instilled the character's values.  From this perspective, a traumatic neck-snapping, city-leveling experience leading to Superman's aversion to murder could be too fundamental a change.

Anyways, Henry Cavill's Superman will be going up against Ben Affleck's Batman in Batman vs. Superman on July 17, 2015.  Snyder is currently in pre-production on the sequel, which is set to begin principal photography in Detroit early next year.

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