(Warning: Man of Steel Spoilers)
Last week, like so many, I indulged myself in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel. Despite being a relative novice when it comes to all things Kal-El, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it has a lot to do before comparison with The Dark Knight trilogy, apart from the Nolan/Goyer/DC connections, there is still plenty to like. Henry Cavill really bought a great subtlety to both his Kryptonian and Earthling characters, Russell Crowe was on top form as Jor-El, Michael Shannon’s Zod had genuine antagonistic motivations and the story was very watchable and easy to become involved in.
However, one thing I have problems, in many superhero and sci-fi films lately, is the sheer amount of needless destruction and civilian deaths. Films like The Avengers, Transformers and Star Trek into Darkness have shown that it’s ok if thousands, if not millions of people are killed in an intergalactic crossfire. It’s like they have been competing for how many skyscrapers they can digitally bring down. Nobody cares about a couple of towering office blocks that may contain a huge number of innocent women and children anymore. As long as we complete our mission we can mourn for the fallen people later after the shawarma.
Man of Steel is hugely guilty of a biblical scale of wanton destruction. The last act alone must accumulate a body count in the thousands as General Zod and his Kryptonian brethren reek havoc on Metropolis. Worse than that, in trying to stop him, Superman inflicts just as much damage on his city. Skyscrapers turn to rubble, local amenities in tatters and local leisure facilities are no more. At least a claim could be made and the insurance companies could pay out? Well, I’d wager their offices are nothing but dust.
Now, I know the destruction of one city is insignificant considering the entire of Krypton was destroyed. But, in the final scene where Zod is threatening a family of four, Superman can’t do enough to help them, but the faceless thousands in the tower blocks will have to live with their fate.
Maybe it’s indicative of a post 9/11 America that all skyscrapers will fall without a second thought. I’m sure that the sheer amount of these Superhero films found success, in part, because America is in a period of their history where terrorism is a constant threat and the need for a hero is greater than ever. Man of Steel also shows its own armed forces joining Superman to fight which gives an extra patriotic aspect.
Some will argue that the destruction is an attempt to show the threat of the villain and what they are capable of. Some will argue that it’s an excuse to use a huge amount of CGI, and since it’s become so widely available and easy to use, filmmakers just can’t help themselves going over the top. I don’t agree with the last point too much because Snyder is known from going over the top but we see from 300 and Watchmen he has the ability to use CGI in a way that helps with the story instead of merely using it as a distraction from it.
Maybe the destruction in these films is for a different purpose. One great theory I heard was that Metropolis would be built up from nothing by Lex Luthor, which would in turn set up the next movie. There were already trucks with LexCorp hidden throughout the movie and it would be a very logical step to take.
I know that many were surprised and deafened by the obliteration of Metropolis, however, I still found the story entertaining, I liked the scenes between Kal-El with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane or his parents in Smallville and it made me want to know more about the Kryptonians and as I sit here considering a second viewing it’s leaving me wondering one thing, do insurance companies even pay out for acts of Zod?