It’s been three years since the spearhead movie of the DCEU – MAN OF STEEL – hit theaters, and the comic book community seemed a bit divided upon its ending (and a vocal minority even more so on the overall movie.) Now jump in the time machine with me, and let’s fast forward to March twenty-sixteen when possibly one of the most anticipated movies of all time – BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE – hit theaters, and like clockwork the critics feasted upon it like a pack of hyenas on a wounded animal in the savannah. Now from my perspective as I’ve watched and followed the response to these two amazing movies, it’s fair to say that the critics have attacked Zack Snyder more than a bit unjustly for his different approach on the comic book movie front. Not only have his movies performed well, but also they continue to get praise from fans the world over.
Box Office Mojo has that MAN OF STEEL did a successful $668,045,518 world-wide, and BATMAN V SUPERMAN reeled in an impressive $873,260,194.
Brushing off the critics’ overly critical response, because the movies don’t have enough forced comedy, dance offs and extremely underwhelming villains, we come to what I’ve noticed; some fans are allowing themselves to miss the greatness of two VERY important scenes in possibly the greatest comic book movies in three decades.
Now true, people could (and most do) have a problem with the overall movies, though, from what I’ve seen and learned from talking to people about the two Snyder transcending movies is their dislike/hate stems from two scenes…
The first, and possibly the most controversial scene in any comic book movie is the infamous “Zod Neck Snap” scene in MAN OF STEEL:
I’m sure you’ve seen MAN OF STEEL, hell, everyone and their mother has seen this movie by now, and the constant problem disputed is when Superman snaps Zod’s neck. People have cried out, “SUPERMAN WOULD NEVER KILL SOMEONE,” and “HE COULD’VE DONE SOMETHING ELSE!” Now sure, Zack and David Goyer could’ve had Superman hold Zod down until the US military managed to design a red solar radiation prison cell to neutralize Zod’s powers and contain him. Now that’s saying that the US military would have to discover relatively quick that Kryptonians lose the essential “power boost” that yellow radiation gives them. It would also have to admit they managed to do this in such a short period of time… No, I’m sorry, they could not do that.
Zod in this scene, and the few minutes leading up to it, had made very clear that he wasn’t going to stop until every human on Earth was dead. And incase you didn’t watch the movie (please, go watch it) you know that Zod was much faster and stronger than Superman was. He was genetically designed to be a warrior. As we saw, Superman was lucky to have even got Zod in the chokehold.
And as I had said before, a common cry from what I like to call “Christopher-Reeveites” – those who won’t allow themselves to move on from Christopher Reeve’s Superman – is that Superman doesn’t kill, and it was WAY out of his character to do so. Nope, sorry, but Superman has killed multiple times before in comics, TV shows and movies. He’s killed the likes of the Joker (Injustice #2,) Imperiex/Brainiac (Action Comics #782,) Titan (Smallville,) Doomsday (Superman #75,) and even Zod before (Superman #22 & SUPERMAN II.)
Fans for some reason tend to be wrongfully equating Batman’s “One Rule,” to never kill (which to be honest only applies when it comes to human life, and excluding when he’s a little DARK KNIGHT RETURNS-y,) to Superman. Sure, “Big Blue” doesn’t like to kill, but he knows that when it comes down to it, if there is no other choice, he’ll do what needs to be done.
And that’s what happened in this extraordinarily controversial scene, Zod left him absolutely NO other choice than to either be Batman (not kill him) by letting a family be incinerated by his heat-vision, or do what had to be done. Superman had pleaded with him. He begged him to stop, which Zod spitefully growled at, “Never.” Superman was only given seconds to choose, as his hold on Zod was fleeting and the heat-beams were inching their way closer-and-closer to the family by the second.
Superman did what Superman does, and that’s he saved the lives of the innocent who were incapable of saving themselves when in the face of evil. To me, that IS the “Man of Steel.” It has been what he stood for, and will always be what he stands for.
Now, something else I’ve seen being thrown out once debunking the original claim – that Superman has killed in the past – is that it was lazy writing on Zack and Goyer’s part. I have two things to say to that claim:
- As a writer my job is to write interesting and compelling stories that readers will enjoy and appreciate as time goes on. And if I were to follow the same old mold that’s been there for decades by having the hero (in Zack and Goyer’s case Superman) win effortlessly in the end, and not have the character face any adversity, or feel unsure about the actions he/she took to get the job done, even if for the right reason, that to me is lazy writing.
- Zack and Goyer faced one of the most difficult tasks of all, giving us a new story about the greatest superhero in history. They’re job was to give us a new, and fresh take on the most classic superhero of all time. Whose story has been told a million times over. Instead of attacking them as storytellers for successfully giving us an interesting, compelling and wonderful take on Superman, because it didn’t fit what you think the character should be, allow yourself to enjoy the story for simply what it is… a Superman story.
To me, what this scene did for the character of Superman in an origin movie introducing him for the first time as Superman, it hit him with the hardest right hook he could take right out of the gate. He had no other chose than to kill the only other remaining person from his species. We saw that he hated himself for having to do it as he fell to his knees yelling out, and then crying. It humanized a “GOD.”
Now we came to one of the most underappreciated scenes in superhero movie history, the “Martha” scene from BATMAN V SUPERMAN:
I literally, at this point, don’t think it’s possible for anyone to not have heard about this scene. It’s become a joke, and almost as bad of a joke as Robot Chicken has made Aquaman out to be. That fact hurts my soul, because this scene is one of the realest I’ve seen in a movie.
I guess that viewers just can’t get over the simplistic fact that saying, “Martha,” saves Superman’s life, though they’re either willfully or just don’t realize they ignoring the HUGE realization moment that occurs there.
We as viewers have to take into account the events that directly led up to that moment, which is what I will swear on as being THE most brutal fight in any comic book movie, EVER. We saw the two most iconic heroes in comic book history duke it out in the most vicious manner they possibly could, hell, it came down to Batman actually using the kitchen sink. Though, the particular point I’m talking about that we have to take into context is what Batman is saying, that being,
“You’re not brave… men are brave. You say that you want to help people, but you can’t feel their pain… their mortality… It’s time you learn what it means to be a man.”
“I bet your parents taught you that you mean something, that you’re here for a reason. My parents taught me a different lesson, dying in the gutter for no reason at all… They taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to.”
In Batman’s eyes he was fighting a “hostile alien” who possessed the power of a God and could, for all he knew, wipe out the entirety of mankind. He didn’t view him as an equal. He didn’t see Superman as human. He saw a threat, and “after twenty years in Gotham” he knew what threats were capable of… DEATH. Batman wasn’t going to allow Superman to turn out to be the Joker and kill the people of Earth like Joker had Jason Todd.
Now, I’m sure there are people asking what that has to do with Superman saying, “Martha.” It has everything to do with it, and I’ll tell you why, Bruce had been Batman for twenty-plus years, he’d seen people he loved killed, he’d seen good guys go bad and people leave. Think of a soldier in such an intense and stressful environment as war, and when they come back they tend to have PTSD. Bruce has a PTSD moment when Superman said, “Martha.” It triggered him back to when he was eight-years old in that alley and watched his parents killed in front of him. It took him right to when he watched his mother and father bleeding out in the street, and when he heard Superman, he heard his father calling to his mother, “Martha.”
Two things specifically happened:
- Bruce had spent his entire life working to stop little kids from having to see their parents killed in front of them, and in that moment he’d seen that the twenty years of back-breaking, blood, sweat and tears work went down the drain if he went through with killing Superman. Because in that moment, Bruce saw that he was Joe Chill.
- After brutally beating down who he thought to be a God, and who he was absolutely certain that had no idea what it meant to be a man/human, he saw Superman was more human than himself. Willing to die to save his mother, Martha.
The scene was a million times more than just some joke. The “Martha” scene served to touch on a real condition, and how it could and would affect one of the most popular CB characters in history. It showed us how unfortunate, heart and soul-crushing events could corrupt the most incorruptible characters, Batman. It showed even more how the light of another could bring a man who’d given up out of the darkness.
I had said before that as a writer the job is to write interesting and compelling stories that readers will enjoy and appreciate as time goes on. I honestly don’t know of any other comic book movie that personifies that like BATMAN v SUPERMAN, as it’s probably one of the most discussed CB movies and the fan base for it continues to grow as those who once hated it realized the great story that’s in front of them. My goal here was not to force you to enjoy, or even appreciate these two scenes, but to just open your eyes even a little to how much depth and layers there are to them. How truly astounding they are, and those responsible are.