This post will directly talk about things that happen in the movie Man of Steel. I will not be attempting to avoid spoilers in any of the following discussion. This discussion not only won’t avoid spoilers, but has to deal with them rather directly to make its point. In case you now immediately regret your decision to start reading this article, or perhaps even just rue and lament it, I will give you a chance to navigate elsewhere before continuing onward.
Hopefully we’re all good now. Like a lot of people, I got around to seeing Man of Steel this weekend. I somehow made it through the film without a) vomiting to death from all the shaky cam (hooray two dramamines in preparation!) or b) being enslaved by Henry Cavill’s handsomeness. A tall order, but I managed to cowboy up. Please hold your applause to the end. I’m really not a hardline comic book guy. I haven’t read enough to feel strongly about any one interpretation of any character in question. So, while I was surprised to see all the casual destruction being belted out in the film, enough to warrant the name being changed to Man of Steel: Supes Don’t Give a Fuck, I don’t immediately feel the need to condemn the film because of it. In fact, when I sat down to really think about it, I realized that this was another one of those cases where I felt all of the criticisms were missing something key. This whole thing about Metropolis getting destroyed? It’s all the direct fault of Lois Lane. True, Superman could have helped avoid a lot of the destruction, but Lois ensured that the death count was going to be sky high no matter how he reacted.
I like to think that this is something that was done with forethought and intent. If it was, it serves as an amazing counterpoint to the issues of revelation that Superman deals with over the course of the film. It’s Lois deciding for everyone that the world is ready to know about Superman, and consequences be damned. Superman is struggling with this very idea over the course of the film, so it’s an interesting bit of juxtaposition as we get to see the consequences of even a single person misusing this information. One person discovers the truth, and this literally spirals into the deaths of millions.
This is not hyperbole.
See, Lois gets the lowdown on Superman with her journalistic skills, which is phenomenal. She then goes to publish the piece, probably entitled something totally sane like “Hunky Space Alien Hero Saves Me From Deadly Anti-theft Tech at Secret Government Base”, and Perry tells her no. At this point, Lois makes the decision to break her contract, leak the story to a tabloid internet site, and then encourage a guy she has previously skewered in the past to run with the story. She has decided that the truth must come out, despite Perry flat out warning her by saying, “Even if this was true, do you think people could handle it?”
As it turns out, that answer was not only no, but hell no. Within a few hours, General Zod hacks the Gibson and shows up on all electronic devices as a ghostly Brotherhood of Steel looking figure and demands that this secret alien refuge be turned over to him, or else. Pretty much the entire world then decides that Earth is totally a planet that extradites, so let’s find this fucking guy and kick him off our rock. Almost immediately, the owner of the tabloid site is getting news interviews and reveals that Lois Lane is the actual source of the piece and she knows who this guy really is!
It’s important to know that at this point in the story, Superman is not anywhere near Metropolis. He’s visiting his mother out in Kansas, having just finished meeting with Lois at his father’s grave. He’s there with her when the broadcast hits. He’s still there when he decides to turn himself over to the government. In fact, the only connection he has with Metropolis at all is because of Lois Lane.
The only reason that Metropolis is even on the radar of General Zod is because of Lois Lane. General Zod only demands Lois onto his ship because he believes it will give him emotional power over Superman. Once Zod fails to kill Superman in Smallville, he logically moves on to Metropolis, seeking to exploit his weakness where Lois is concerned. That’s her hometown in the same way that Smallville is Superman’s. If it wasn’t for Lois, any major metropolitan city would have sufficed as just the same threat, wouldn’t it? It’s only through the established stakes of Lois Lane that we care about Metropolis at all at this point in the story. Again, Superman has never even been there as far as we have seen at this point in the film.
The carnage in Metropolis then kicks off with the World Engine leveling city blocks, and with various spacecrafts shooting up the joint. Within moments, buildings are demolished, blocks are gone, and there is panic in the streets. Superman still hasn’t set foot in the city at this point. Of course, it’s at this point that people start saying that Superman should have tackled the problem in Metropolis first, and choosing the non-populated World Engine is part of the glaring issues with this incarnation of Superman. I tend to disagree with that, as I think there are two stated reasons for doing what he was doing. First, the Metropolis ship was slaved to the South Indian ship. This means that disabling the Metropolis ship wouldn’t have stopped the other engine at all, and Kryptoforming would have continued. Second, the Phantom Drive stuff had to target the populated ship, and required the stoppage of the other Engine to allow for the approach. While it doesn’t limit casualties as well as it could have, it does follow that this was a fairly reasonable plan to enact.
It’s only after this that Superman ends up fighting Zod. By this point, Metropolis has suffered casualties on a catastrophic scale, and the city infrastructure is proper fucked. The ensuing battle makes this much worse, but Zod again strives to keep the fight inside the city in order to maximize emotional distress. Without the threat of death to Lois Lane and her co-workers, this battle could have taken place literally anywhere else. It isn’t until the end of the fight that Zod seems to realize that he should try to intentionally harm humans. This means that without Lois, the fight might not have taken place in a major city AT ALL. He’s causing damage, but he’s really just pissed at Superman, and wants to get the job done. He doesn’t care about individually murdering people and causing mayhem, because the World Engine will end up killing them anyway. Total world destruction works as well from Smallville as it does from Metropolis, doesn’t it? I think it does.
Without Lois Lane deciding that the truth was more important than anything else, Metropolis would have escaped the film otherwise unharmed. The moment that Lois Lane gave up her journalist integrity by breaking her contract and then later by naming her source, or at the very least confirming it during the whole military interrogation scene, was the moment that Metropolis was going to serve as an object lesson. Thanks Lois. Thanks for destroying Metropolis.