Zack Snyder on the controversial ending to Man of Steel

In case the above headline hasn’t given it away already, this post contains MAJOR spoilers for Man of Steel, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, turn back now…

Michael Shannon General Zod Man of Steel

So, there’s been quite a lot of controversy surrounding certain aspects of Man of Steel; we’ve already posted some comments today from David S. Goyer addressed the collateral damage and huge loss of life during the battles of Smallville and Metropolis [see here], and now director Zack Snyder has spoken about the climactic showdown between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), which culminates with Superman snapping the neck of his Kryptonian foe.

“In the original version of the script he just got zapped into the Phantom Zone. David [Goyer] and I had long talks about it, and [Christopher Nolan] and I talked long about it, and I really feel like we should kill Zod, and I really feel like Superman should kill him,” Snyder tells Empire. “The why of it was for me – I go – 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 your sort of seeing for the first time that you realize becomes his sort of his thing. I felt like if we could find a way of making it impossible for him, you know ‘kobayashi maru’ – totally no way out – I felt like that could also make you go ‘okay, this is the why of him not killing ever again.’ He’s basically obliterated his entire people and his culture, and he is responsible for it, and he’s just like ‘I can’t. How could I kill ever again?’”

“I wanted to create this scenario where Superman is going to see those people get chopped in half, or he’s got to do what he’s go to do,” he continues. “And I think Zod knows that. It’s almost [suicide] in a way, it is, it’s like death by cop, you know in a way. In my mind if Kal has the ability to kill him, then that’s a noble way for him to die. It’s like that whole ‘good death is its own reward’ concept in the movie. I think if there were more adventures for Superman to go on, you then are also given this other thing, where you don’t know 100% what he is going to do. I think that when you really put in stone the concept that he won’t kill, and it’s totally in stone, it really erases an option in the viewer’s mind. Now, I think that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t now have a code, that he is like ‘okay I just can’t don’t do that, this has to be outside, I gotta find another way, that’s how it is,’ but again you will always have it in the back of your mind this little thing [of] how far can you push him. If he sees Lois get hurt, or if he sees his mother get killed, you just made a really mad Superman that we know is capable of some really horrible stuff when he wants to be. That’s the thing that is cool about him, I think in some ways; the ideas that he has the frailties of a human, sort of emotionally, but you don’t want to get the guy mad.”

So, how’s that for an explanation? Are you satisified by Snyder’s reasoning behind the shock conclusion? Let us know your thoughts…


Read our reviews of Man of Steel here, here and here.

  • Romelle Bradford

    I can understand his reasonings for doing it, but for me, no killing is the thing that might stick out the most about Superman. For all his power it’s a weakness but it levels the playing field sorta. I mean all those times he should have but never killed Lex? That’s his #1 rule and although I understand it may be a learning curve for him, you would have figured that’s something his dad (kent) had instilled in him. To take that away from a character like Superman makes him no different than Darkseid or Doomsday in a sense. I mean if there’s one thing to count on its that Superman will defeat you but not kill you. Unpredictable now? Yes, but not in a good way.

    • Al

      No killing is actually not his number 1 rule. He has actually killed in the comics before. as a matter of fact he killed Zod in the comics before.

      • AL

        hell, he killed zod in the oldschool movie in cold blood. Zod was powerless and he killed him with a smile.

        • Phoneo Nemo

          To use movies as an example is like saying Nolan should base his Batman characteristics off of the Burton films ;)

  • Corey

    Hence they have no clue who Superman is… I could tell that if saw this movie it was going to piss me off just by the earliest sneak peaks… When Johnathan Kent tells Superman that he doesn’t know if he should have let the people on the bus die… Mr. Kent is where Superman gets his morals, and they are absent in this versions johnathan kent

    Plus General Zods costume makes him look like a big trashcan…. Lame

    The TV series smallville portrayed both Superman and general zod right, this movie does not

    • Nathan

      I think the team that wrote Smallville should have been called to script this thing. And a director who’s not big and crazy on explosions and excessive destruction hired.

  • NHNole2002

    Do people forget that in Superman 2 at the Fortress of Solitude after outwitting Zod and Lex Luthe Superman throws Zod down some Arctic crevasse? Pretty sure he killed Zod right there…so what’s the problem with killing Zod in Man of Steel?

  • acrossalloceans

    he’s killed many times in the comics so I really dont see how this is such a big deal. And along the level of providing a reasoning for not killing anyone, Snyder’s explanation ties it up very nicely. I liked seeing the progression of his character, with him killing Zod all in the realization of what kind of man he wants to be. It brought him to do something so terrible that it in essence creates the moral character who we all know and love. Maybe people are upset with the brutal way he killed him? Im not sure. Overall, loved the movie.

  • DougK

    Good call. You can say a hero never kills because, well, he just doesn’t–but in reality there’s got to be a reason for it, especially when he’s going to fight some really evil characters in his career. I’ve read about hit men killing once and desensitizing to it. Superman kills Zod and it fairly traumatizes him; he didn’t want to do it plus Zod was the only other Kryptonian still left. In addition to Clark’s good character, this blocks him against killing the future. It makes perfect sense.

  • Josh Webb

    It’s a movie, film makers can take liberties with their films. I personally liked it. Batman is personally my favorite character and although the movies may have not followed the comic plot 100%, Im glad they didnt. All you whiney comic nerds need to quit being so nitpicky, it almost makes me want to stop reading comics after I realize what hipsters we’ve all become. Its a movie, if something so small as a movie ruins your day like this, you need to go outside and look at a cloud.

    • JimH69

      Exactly. Moreover the scene shows the absolute anguish that act put him through. I think many are missing the central angle of this story, and that is trying to reveal the the ‘man’ in Superman.

  • Mario Adi

    Superman…..uh, Clark…..I mean Kal-el, whatever…..

    He slammed US military drone in front of oncoming car, What the…..??
    that’s rude and dangerous….

    maybe Pa Kent’s life is to short to teach him manners.

  • Gezorko

    How is it a controversial ending? It makes perfect sense for a young, beggining superman like him, to have at least killed once, and based on that, making the decision never again to take a life, thus establishing the golden superman rule.

    Its pretty obvious really.

  • Thomas Rakewell

    This ending wasn’t controversial for anyone, other than those wedded to a version of the character from the comics, I guess. In the context of this film, it was just another thing that happened. Superman didn’t wrestle with the decision and no one really reacted to it, either in the world of the film or in the actual cinema. I don’t know anyone that even commented on it, when we left the cinema, in fact. Personally, I just wanted the film to finish by this point, so I could get something to eat, and I’d been spending the last 30 minutes wondering if I had time to get more snacks.

    Snyder’s explanation in this article makes sense, in its way, but none of that was shown in the film. It’s actually more interesting, reading his words here, than seeing it on the screen. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, for what it is, but its not a story with characters or that deals with big issues or emotions. It’s a big, bland, inoffensive spectacle.

  • Andy Teal

    Honestly, his reasoning makes me want to throw up. The tacit assumption that killing is something that one would have to experience at least once to understand is wrong… it demonstrates to me why this man should *never* be let hear a movie about a moral hero.

    • Luis

      What you just said is pathetic. It’s a damn movie, get a life

      • Corey

        Luis why do you have to be so rude… It wasn’t by any means pathetic because it is how he feels. Its also how I feel for that matter, and personally I think Snyder should be sued for plagiarism. There are far to many similarities to this “Man of Steel” that makes me think they are trying to play off like he is Superman. Clearly he is not because Superman does not kill. If you are going to make a movie about a comic book you should have to keep something from the those books, like Supermans morals

      • Andy Teal

        *deleted*

        There’s no point discussing anything with someone who’d address a total stranger that way.