The release of “Man of Steel” marked a significant moment in the DC Universe (DCU), especially in hindsight. Initially, the film was met with controversy, largely stemming from its pivotal ending. Zack Snyder, the director, made a bold decision to deviate from Superman’s longstanding “no killing” rule, having him end General Zod’s life to protect an ordinary family from Zod’s destructive powers.
This departure from Superman’s ethical code was a decision not taken lightly by writer David S. Goyer and Snyder, facing opposition, notably from producer Christopher Nolan. Nolan vehemently expressed skepticism, initially declaring, “there’s no way you can do this.”
Snyder provided insight into the creative discussions: “David, Chris, and I had long talks about it, and I said that I really feel like we should kill Zod, and that Superman should kill him. The ‘why?’ of it for me was that if it was truly an origin story, his aversion to killing is unexplained…”
To address concerns, the ending was adjusted to emphasize the imminent threat to the family, presenting Superman with a dire choice. Goyer explained, “I wanted to create a scenario where Superman, either he’s going to see [Metropolis’ citizens] chopped in half, or he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.”
With this modification, Nolan eventually came around to the idea. Goyer’s concept, involving heat vision and a life-or-death situation, received the producer’s approval. Goyer had also sought approval from DC Comics, although some prominent writers, such as Mark Waid, known for “Superman: Birthright,” expressed outrage at the decision to portray Superman as a killer.
This controversy surrounding Superman’s character continued in subsequent films, particularly in “Batman v Superman,” where his portrayal took a darker turn. The character’s arc culminated in his own demise. The DCU further encountered challenges with films like “Justice League” and the initial “Suicide Squad.” Subsequently, many DCU releases, including “Black Adam” in late 2022, faced struggles at the box office.