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David S. Goyer Discusses 'Man of Steel's' Controversial Ending

The movie's writer shares his expanded thoughts on the polarizing moment and what it means for Superman.

*Obviously contains Man of Steel spoilers*

Man of Steel's conclusion with General Zod has been the subject of a lot of heated debate (and that's putting it lightly). Since the film's release, Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer have all spoken about the shocking moment, but now writer David S. Goyer is giving even more information on the scene. Speaking at the BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters' Lecture, Goyer shared his thoughts on the no kill rule and why he believes Kal had to take Zod's life.

"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. 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.

Additionally, Goyer states the action will indeed have a lasting impact on Clark.

"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."

In case you're wondering, the Man of Steel blu-ray/DVD will come out November 12th.

Source: Digital Spy

242 Comments
Posted by bunkerbuster05

@toptom said:

@buttersdaman000 said:

What does he mean Superman can't fly to the moon? Why not?

this.....what the frick?

Uh... doesn't he FLY INTO SPACE in the movie? What?!

Posted by Big_Nasty

@ccraft said:

I think Supes killing Zod was justified, I think it would have been a lame ending if Zod was sent back to the Phantom Zone... This ending will at least leave an emotional mark on the MoS Supes.

Perfection at its Finest .

Posted by Mellow_Hype

If superman let zod go he'd just keep coming back again and again and kill more and more people each time he returned. Superman realized this and it was better to be safe than sorry.

Edited by teclo

Not only has Superman killed in the comic books, as well as crippled normal innocents through his actions and other terrible things, he killed a de-powered (read: effectively human and completely defenceless) Zod in Superman II, shortly before Lois kills Faora. Note that this one YouTube user regards this as the "greatest Superman moment ever". The internet reaction to MoS's ending is one of the most depressing examples of mob psychology I've ever seen.

Posted by roboadmiral

One thing I'm noticing over and over in this comment section is a profound lack of understanding about how argument works. If you make an assertion, it is only as valid as the reasoning and evidence you use to back it up.

For example, if someone asserts that Superman should never kill, someone else asks why. "Because Superman doesn't kill," is not an appropriate answer. It doesn't explain anything. It's circular logic.

"Because it violates the morals Superman stands for" is also inadequate. What are the morals Superman stands for? "Killing is bad?" We've made the circle yet again with that one. We have to go into the basic building blocks of what constitute Superman's morals and see if they really reach the logical conclusion that it's being purported they do. And is killing in any and all situations actually reprehensible?

Furthermore if we're asserting that Superman is inherently "good" we also have to define what good is. Perhaps Superman's morals as the person is currently perceiving them is inaccurate and not truly good.

Edited by teclo

@roboadmiral: I completely agree, although that's a moot point anyway since Superman has killed in the comics and in the Richard Donner movies. The entire argument, regardless of technique, is invalid.

Posted by toptom

I've got it! I know how to fix the ending that satisfies both sides!

Superman covers zods eyes, with his hands, sure it hurts but superman can take it.

Zod doesn't let up with his heat vision.

Superman screems at Zod to stop, but he just keeps pouring his heat vision out.

There's a bright flash.

we see superman stranding there in confusion, Zod's on the ground, dead, his head burned to a crisp.

It was is own heat vision and stubbornness that killed him.

This could have been a great ambiguous ending.

Superman tries to stop Zod's hv, but he manages to increase the blast hurting superman's hand and erasing the poor family...so Kal finally decides to kill him and he feel sorry for both that people AND Zod. This is a slightly better final in my opinion...even if it is a darker one. Of course this isn't ambiguos at all...and it could be hated more than the original lol

Edited by nappystr8

Okay, how many different times and ways have both Snyder and Goyer addressed this already? And their answers aren't getting any more compelling. I'm a big fan of Goyer, Snyder not so much, but they are really starting to sound desperate. A simple no comment at this point might not be the worst idea.

I guess if they can keep the focus on the controversial ending rather than the weaknesses of the script as a whole, that's a win. Also, the longer they keep this alive the more publicity the film and it's sequel get...I guess.

Edited by MadeinBangladesh

Man some comicbook readers get so butthurt over the characters they love.

Posted by kennybaese

@lvenger: Yeah, explain these then

Also you can't tell me THESE instances would end with the person being ALIVE!

So yeah. There are a lot of instances where he killed. I have no problem with it. It made sense within the confines of the movie and it's going to have lasting effects on him. That's all that's required.

I think the Zod example is completely valid, but I think a lot of the really old strips barely count at this point. Batman carried a gun in the 40's, but his hatred of guns is an integral part of the character now. When Superman killed in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", one of your examples above, he stopped being Superman forever.

For me, I think that Superman doesn't kill people but he has no problem killing monsters if it's a choice between that and saving as many people as possible. He did it with Doomsday, and it doesn't feel out of character for me.

The issue that I have with Goyer's statement above is that Superman's no killing rule "exists outside of the narrative", but that they wanted to integrate it into their story directly. That's fine (I know you don't have to kill someone to know it's a bad thing to do, but I'm willing to accept that argument when it comes to superheroes since everything about them is larger than life), but that doesn't stop them on relying on outside context throughout the rest of the movie, namely with the other members of the Daily Planet.

They rely on you caring about them as characters when they've put them in mortal danger at the end of the movie when they've done nothing to establish them as characters. In the context of the movie, the audience has almost no reason whatsoever to care about them, but Snyder and Goyer rely on the audience knowing who Barry White is, or at least knowing that their connection to the Daily Planet means that they're probably important, and thus assuming that we care.

Even with the killing of Zod itself, they rely on the audience assuming that Superman doesn't kill, an assumption that comes from outside of their narrative. There's no set up in the movie itself that shows why Clark would be heartbroken over his being forced to kill Zod. Instead, they rely on the audience knowing who Superman is to make that moment make sense. It's a powerful moment, but not one that they earn.

As such, Goyer's justification doesn't make a ton of sense. He's basically justifying it by saying that they wanted to justify or earn Superman's no-killing rule in the new movies, but they don't actually do so. Or, if they do, they don't do it in much more than a superficial way.

Posted by DarthShap

@allstarsuperman:

Yeah DC Super Stars #12 by Cary Bates and Curt Swan. Basically, a Kryptonian Teacher Robot brainwashes a girl into having sex with SuperBOY and the story concludes with him becoming SuperMAN. I had read about it on CA and CSBG but I just had to see that for myself so I bought the comic. Really creepy stuff.

Posted by AllStarSuperman

@darthshap: im definetely gonna try to find this

Posted by Shallbecomeabattoo

@g_man: I love what you do for us here, Tony, but when it comes to that subject you always react like a little child with pigtails.

"WAWAWAWAWAWAWAAAAAAAAHH!!! I don't like it so I will act like my opinion is gospel."

Superman has killed in the comics before, even the same character. The kill was justified and made the character more real for the movie, which was one of the goals. Its ok if you don't like it, but don't act so high and mighty. You are worse in this case than the whiniest fanboys the internet has to offer.

"WAWAWAWAWAWAAAAH! It wasn't even a real Superman movie!"

Thats bull, man. I royaly dislike Btas, but that doesn't mean its not a Batman show. Its just not for me.

Just for clarification, I love MoS and think Goyer is right that no writer should restrict himself with rules like that. The zod kill was the best scene of the movie, it was so shocking and heartbreaking, but in a good and ballsy way.

Posted by Mister_Sensational

@teclo:

COULD NOT AGREE MORE!!! That was very well said and thank you so much for posting that clip! I honestly don't know how anyone could watch Superman II, a movie many still consider the best Superman movie ever made (more so the best representation of Superman), knowing how it ends and have a problem with Man of Steel's ending! Though everybody is entitled to their own opinion many of the comments on here with their simple "Man of Steel sucked because Superman doesn't kill period!" illustrate a perfect example of Mob Psychology.

And it saddens me to say but you @g_man as far as THIS website goes is the head of the Man of Steel lynch mob and have been since the day the film was released.

Edited by TheMantisShrimp

Still loved this movie and can't wait to watch it again.

Edited by TheThe

@w0nd said:

@thethe said:

I understand where he comes from, but having a murderer for hero is not a good ethical move. Also, we've never really seen the impact of this on Superman(neither on the rest of protagonists). Something was clearly missing.

In that case cops and soldiers who have had to take a life are not heroes. and then the argument could be made "but they aren't superman" Well he didn't intend to be superman at that point either, he was just a guy who got caught up in the mix of things.

Superman is not a cop, neither a soldier. For his people, he is a living symbol chanelling politics, sociology in the style of King or Mandela. And those kind of figures cant afford blood on their hands. Perhaps i'm gonna shock you, but i dont consider heroic somebody who take a life when there is another way to put his opponent down.Cops and soldiers included.

Posted by gorillazman2012

@zamorian79: ***Man of Steel Spoiler***

However the highway where his father died in the storm was called the 'crime alley' underpass. True story

Edited by Smart_Dork_Dude

@kennyshat: I posted the Golden Age scans for a reason. Basically to show everyone that Superman killing is NOT a new thing.

Also I think Goyer explained it the wrong way. Saying "Oh, he needed to take a life so he could know what it feels like and would never want to do it again" just sounds a touch on the flimsy side.

Now I didn't have a problem with much of the film as a whole. I actually thought it was one of the best Superman films made. However, that doesn't mean I can't find fault with it.

I agree with you on how they handled the "No-Killing Rule"

If I was in charge of that part of the narrative? I would have done something like Clark, as a kid or even young adult, accidentally kills someone with his powers. It would be where he's not in good control of them yet of course, he doesn't do it intentionally or in cold blood.

It would happen to where it looked like accident, as far as others are concerned, but Clark would have that guilt. He would make a conscious decision to do everything in his power to never take a life again because he realizes how fragile life can be.

So when we get to that part after Zod, there's more of a basis for him to be upset. I mean I took it as "He's never killed anything before and he can't stand it" but then again the way it's presented leaves it up for interpretation and many may view it as something different. It could be viewed as him realizing he just killed the only other one of his race. Leaving things like that up for interpretation doesn't always equal out to a good thing.

Posted by gorillazman2012

The death of Zod didn't really get to me, Superman had to do it in my eyes. I'm hoping that he shows a lot of guilt in the next film, maybe makes some unwise choices to avoid killing again, I don't know, maybe lets the villain escape or something?

The thing that really got to me about the end of the film and ***Spoiler Alert*** below

The sheer amount of destruction in Metropolis, literally most of the city was destroyed, and afterwards it was like no one gave a toss. 'This is our new employee Clark Kent, he's taking over from Kevin, who was crushed to death by a starbucks sign in the mass brawl.' And not even Superman seemed to really care, or show remorse about it in the final parts of the film, like when he had a quick chat with the army bloke whos name I can't remember right now, hoping its brought to light in the sequel

Posted by RisingBean

@lvenger: @war_killer: To add another wrinkle to the fight and the stopping Zod when Clark did idea. It seems to me that if plot wasn't involved this was Clark's last point to actually win. Zod was learning to fly and getting better with his powers and Superman was losing his only edges against a guy created for war. It's my opinion that Superman would have lost the fight (plot notwithstanding) had it gone on much longer.

Posted by bloggerboy

Just for clarification, I love MoS and think Goyer is right that no writer should restrict himself with rules like that. The zod kill was the best scene of the movie, it was so shocking and heartbreaking, but in a good and ballsy way.

Ironically Goyer himself limited the Superman movie by removing all the other choices to stop Zod. No kryptonite, no red sun, no magic, not even that atmosphere thing that made Superman weak. No Green Lanterns with sciencells etc. etc. etc. Anything to illustrate Superman has a brain with which to conduct plans.

Had (some of) these choices been on the table and Superman would have still chosen to kill Zod (to stop him permanently)...that would have been ballsy. And it would have still been the same ending as millions of other action movies.

Leaving the villain alive in an action blockbuster is actually more original and more faithful to the source material.

Posted by dreamfall31

Liked the ending, but hated the two hours leading up to it.

Posted by DChero

@g_man: I don't really think they wrote themselves into a corner. They took a big risk consciously. Maybe we didn't have to have another origin story but we got one that's building a new dc movie universe. Is the majority gonna like the same old superman Boy Scout story? To be honest I believe half of the people that are outraged over this, dislike superman because he's just the "corny Boy Scout" or he's not a "bad a$$". Not saying this situation makes him that but it's definitely a different story that I don't think taints the character at all. It's a different origin story. It's not a different superman. I think it's just an inexperienced superman put in a dark situation.

Given the A or B situation he was given, what would you have this inexperienced confused superman do?

Does it matter at all that this guy picked his adopted home over reviving his actual home? And picked doing away with the only people that come from his home world? Is it really that big of a deal that he killed someone even though he's killed before apparently in the comics? I don't wanna come off rude or anything but can we really get over this? "Superman doesn't kill" that doesn't mean he hasn't killed before. I still see him as possibly being the same superman that a lot think is corny and lame. He was just being built. It's an origin story. Let other stories be told from this one.

Edited by Highball792

@samuel_simmons: Wouldn't Zod flying into the sun just make him even more powerful, seeing as the solar radiation from our sun is what gives Zod and Superman powers... Anyways, I agree that something along the lines of that could have worked...

Posted by ULTRAstarkiller
Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

The talking about the ending of Man of Steel is like "don't mention the war" in Fawlty Towers

Online
Edited by Knightfall225

S. goyer did a great job explaining the ending

Posted by Barkley

@lvenger:

he killed zod in the comics and he killed doomsday too.....you need to read a comic book...

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@barkley: Gwen Stacy also has sex with Norman Osborn in a comic, does that mean everybody will be cool with that happening in the next Spider-Man movie?

Online
Posted by wade_wilson22

@danhimself: "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." I don't understand who idolize this superman. Yes people love the traditional superman because he rises above the challenges and makes the morally correct choice.

You can not change the formula and say it equals the same outcome, meaning you can not have superman kill in a blatant manner and say it's the same red, white and blue superman that people love. www.marveldcforum.com

Edited by w0nd

@danhimself: "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." I don't understand who idolize this superman. Yes people love the traditional superman because he rises above the challenges and makes the morally correct choice.

You can not change the formula and say it equals the same outcome, meaning you can not have superman kill in a blatant manner and say it's the same red, white and blue superman that people love. www.marveldcforum.com

who said it's the same one...i thought they counted this as their own version in their own universe with their own made up history?

Posted by Nuec_Sol

@lvenger: Wow, you must really hate Injustice Gods Among Us too.

Anyway this "no kill rule" may work in some comics, but it is just too naive for a story set a more realistic setting.

Edited by minkaclark

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Posted by aslan10000
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

It was awkward for me at first to see Clark kill Zod but really, in the end, I suppose Goyer is right, that this was outside the parameters of what the comics normally would have. Not that there was much parameter int he first place, for as many know Supes has killed several times. Still awkward for me, even if I don't have a problem with it now.

Edited by DarthShap

@aslan10000:

Nope, the story is about good-old Pre-Crisis Earth-1 Superboy.

Edited by BR_Havoc

@teclo: Why does everyone forget there is a scene of them being put in the back of a police car that was added in the extended cut. Superman never killed them in the second movie heck they always had that scene filmed it was just lost when editing.

Posted by lagoonman

really liked the movie,i have no problem with the ending

Posted by isaac_clarke

Superman VS The Elite

That could sum up this debate in a nutshell and why people are mad at MOS for Clark murdering Zod.

Edited by isaac_clarke

@nuec_sol said:

@lvenger: Wow, you must really hate Injustice Gods Among Us too.

Anyway this "no kill rule" may work in some comics, but it is just too naive for a story set a more realistic setting.

Nolan's Batman and nearly every other super-hero film says 'Hi'. Clearly you can have heroes that don't go around murdering their villains and still have a good film.

Posted by roboadmiral

@g_man: Mr. Guerrero, this is unbecoming of a person who holds such a significant position within a community with such a tradition of debate and discussion. You don't get to throw the first punch and then say you don't want to fight. Perhaps if you don't want the opposition to engage you, you ought not to have engaged them first.

Posted by JetiiMitra

@mitran said:

I for one am okay with this reasoning. It's better than any other official reasoning I've heard.

I actually thought this right after watching the movie. it now makes him never kill again. its not some "SUPERMAN GREW A PAIR AND WILL KILL NOW!" that idea in it self is stupid. Batman let Ras al ghul die and he threw Harvey dent off a building. Captain America shot people. Hulk probably steps on people. Black Widow kills people. Hawkeye Kills people. I dot see a problem with superman having to take the life of the most dangerous man ever.

I agree with the first part, sort of. I don't think the point of him killing was so he never would again. I honestly believe he was just in a no-win situation and didn't know how to get out of it. But the point is, he's not going Punisher-vigilante on us.

Agreed about Batman, but the rest of the heroes you listed have no compunctions about killing. Their moral actions vs Superman's isn't a fair comparison.

Posted by UltimateSMfan

I have my own complaints about this ending sure, but how come there wasn't this level of outrage when Batman tackled Harvey Dent off a ledge in the dark knight, maybe he's not directly responsible for the deaths of all the other villains in the trilogy but he was directly responsible for that one. What did Heath Ledger's performance help people forgive that? Or was there something I missed? Just curious.

Posted by VinnyWeapons

I thought it was all good, it made the movie feel more relevant to the real world - to a degree of course. It was a logical decision to make, and it's good to know at least the film version of Superman isn't some little bitch boy scout.

Edited by Dernman

@roboadmiral said:

@g_man: Mr. Guerrero, this is unbecoming of a person who holds such a significant position within a community with such a tradition of debate and discussion. You don't get to throw the first punch and then say you don't want to fight. Perhaps if you don't want the opposition to engage you, you ought not to have engaged them first.

I disagree. I believe it's everyone's right to have their say without having to get into a debate. That's not the same as saying someone doesn't have a right to make response.

EDIT: Yes he said please don't bother but it doesn't mean they don't have a right. All it means is he has heard it before and it doesn't change his mind so they'd be wasting time.

Posted by JetiiMitra

"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."

Right here, you see the point of having Superman kill Zod. They didn't just go through saying "Let's have Zod do this!" "And then Zod'll be the only one left and try to kill everybody" "Wait... how do we get rid of Zod?" No, it was a deliberate decision to have Superman do the unthinkable. Not a mistaken afterthought.

"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."

So this is why Goyer feels his decision is justified. Why should a character have to conform to some binding rule (that doesn't exist in the film) when a more interesting story could be told? Even if I don't necessarily agree with his line of thought, I have to admit he has a valid point in that this is film Superman, not comic Superman. Film Superman isn't the same as comic Superman, and I seem to recall quite a few interviews before MoS came out where Snyder and Nolan said this. Though I can't find any now.

"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."

Aaannnd here's the impossible situation. "in our film Superman can't fly to the moon." I think people are taking this too literally. Of course they could fly to the moon, but the point is, that doesn't erase the problem. It's still Clark (and humanity) or Zod. Whether Zod got taken down in space or on Earth is irrelevant. They wanted to keep this problem; moving around doesn't deal with it the way they wanted to. Goyer and co. didn't want to use a cop-out (which I respect).

"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."

Now this is where my interpretation is the most liberal, and I admit that at this part I might just be making up excuses for Goyer. Either way, I read this not as Superman having to take a life to learn that killing is wrong, but that the fact that he has killed is going to weigh on him in his tenure as a hero. It's going to push him to "push himself to a higher standard" because he knows that there was one moment when he didn't hold himself to that standard - wasn't perfect - and he can't lead humanity to a place in the sun if he can't figure out how to get there himself. He knows what he did was 'wrong,' even if there was no way around it. But from now on, to show humanity there is another way, he needs to be that perfect hero we know from the comics.

Just as an aside... in my opinion, Superman isn't about not killing. He's not about inscrutable morality, important as it is. He's about saving the day. When he can save the day, he saves the day. When he can't save the day, he saves the day. This was one of those cases where he couldn't save the day and still did. The ethics, and the finding another way, that comes later, and even though it's a huge part of Superman's mythos... it's secondary. And that's why he does, in the comics, kill on rare occasions. Because painful as it is for both him and us, that's all he can do. That's one of the biggest reasons I'm okay with the MoS ending. For everything else, he didn't fail in protecting humanity.

Posted by Rossnrachel4ever
Edited by JetiiMitra

@rossnrachel4ever: Thanks. I hadn't really debated about MoS or its ending before, so it's good to get that all out. Now I'm just hoping nobody rips apart my opinion...

Posted by RulerOfThisUniverse

Even though I totally agree with Goyer, does this really need to be brought up again?

Edited by Mia26

I agree with this man :

"There's also no explicit rule in the text that states that Superman shouldn't rape, steal, or start wars, or take over the world, or eat a baby, or write a bad movie.

It's common sense you don't write these things into the narrative anyway, because to do so irrevocably sullies the character as it has existed for 75 years. We're not talking about a largely forgettable one-off comic series from the mid-eighties here, we're talking about a movie defining Superman for a generation of kids thanks to its disaster porn success, and you made the CHOICE to make that Superman a killer.

There are no explicit rules to anything in writing, but there are conventions that exist for a reason. If you disrespect them in a selfish attempt to make a mark on a character, you're not going to wiggle out of the responsibility by claiming the narrative made it impossible (false - you crafted it, sir), or postulate successfully that it betters the character when what it actually does is make Superman like the villain he purported to fight.

Shame.

You want an impossible choice? How about having to be a fan who loved Superman to the core but now feels he can't support the character any more because of what he's coming to represent thanks to your film?

Better to go back to writing the Ghost Rider pissing fire for comedic effect, and darken our fictional doorstep no more.

Also, Superman may or may not be as cool as Batman, that's a matter of preference, but one thing is assured: You are in no way as cool as Superman, and you never will be, so stop putting your ego in front of him for your own gain.

If you didn't respect the character in the first place, you never should have written him, and we are the worse for it." -

neal bailey