David Goyer is right: The ‘Superman doesn’t kill’ rule hurts the character

Man of Steel

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ was one of the few films this summer that actually managed to live up to the hype, but it wasn’t without controversy. Whether it was on social media websites or just in the comments sections of many reviews, there seemed to be many fans who were upset with the ending because “Superman doesn’t kill.”

David Goyer has now weighed in on the subject, and he’s spot on in his analysis: The “Superman doesn’t kill” rule hurts the character.

Ditital Spy reports:

“We were pretty sure that was going to be controversial,” Goyer said. “It’s not like we were deluding ourselves, and we weren’t just doing it to be cool. We felt, in the case of Zod, we wanted to put the character in an impossible situation and make an impossible choice.

“This is one area, and I’ve written comic books as well and this is where I disagree with some of my fellow comic book writers – ‘Superman doesn’t kill’. It’s a rule that exists outside of the narrative and I just don’t believe in rules like that. I believe when you’re writing film or television, you can’t rely on a crutch or rule that exists outside of the narrative of the film.

“So the situation was, Zod says ‘I’m not going to stop until you kill me or I kill you.’ The reality is no prison on the planet could hold him and in our film Superman can’t fly to the moon, and we didn’t want to come up with that crutch.

“Also our movie was in a way Superman Begins, he’s not really Superman until the end of the film. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films. Because he’s Superman and because people idolize him he will have to hold himself to a higher standard.” …

Boom. This is the exact argument I had with Dan Slott’s version of Peter Parker (before he killed the character and replaced Spider-Man with a guy who tried to exterminate six billion people).  In Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott’s Peter Parker had a “no one dies” rule, which came across as absurd and silly because sometimes heroes are placed in impossible situations. Sometimes they must make a decision that ends a life in order to save a life. Those are the sorts of stories that add new layers and depth to a character, and the response from advocates of “no one dies” or “Superman doesn’t kill” rules tends to be weak.

Dan Slott’s response to my critique of the “no one dies” mentality was to call me an idiot over and over again while abusing the caps-lock button, and then to distort what I said. The “Superman doesn’t kill” crowd often goes into a realm of thought occupied by anti-war protesters. “War is bad. Always. Nothing good ever comes from war. Nothing. … Superman doesn’t kill. Ever. Because taking a life is always bad. Always.”

Well, okay. On some level, yes. Sane people don’t thirst for war and don’t enjoy the thought of having to kill. But war did help end slavery in the United States and it also brought down Nazi Germany, for example. That’s why we honor the fallen. We know that in many ways the price for liberty is often paid for in blood.

Thomas Paine puts it more beautifully than I ever could:

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated,” (Thomas Paine)

Years ago I worked with a Quaker, and she said there was nothing — nothing — that could convince her to take up arms against her fellow man. I said that I respected her decision, but that it would be nice if she acknowledged that her safety and security was then dependent on better men and women than she, who would stand up to those who would deny her of life and liberty. She was livid — and I was unapologetic.

If armed men burst into my Quaker-coworker’s house in the middle of the night and tried to harm her children, would she just stand there and watch? Or, would she find her inner Superman and attempt to extinguish the threat to her children? Would she, placed in that situation, be willing to possibly end lives to save lives? I would hope so.

If Superman fans want the best stories possible, in print or projected on the big screen, they should stop trying to get writers to adhere to random rules that limit the possibilities for character growth. It would be bizarre if creators tried to turn Superman into Batman, but at the same time he should not be spared the pain, sorrow, anguish and regret that can often come by making a life-or-death decision. If he truly is a hero, then he will exit the gauntlet a better person and teach us all something about ourselves in the process.

Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ hits audiences with big ideas, soars over small-minded critics

Man of Steel Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ aims for epic, and on almost every level it delivers. That is probably why it set a new best-ever opening weekend record for June. It has grossed $125.1 million by its first Sunday in theaters. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and yet the “professional” critics have been less kind. That is because ‘Man of Steel’ is about big ideas, and many critics have small minds.

A snapshot of some of the worse reviews indicate critics wanted something “fun,” which is probably a euphemism for “This isn’t anything like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.”

  • “Skimps on fun and romance.” (Newsday)
  • “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Richard Roeper
  • “Man of Steel (has) a cold heart that no amount of spectacle can compensate for.” (Art House Film Guide)
  • “Where’s the fun?” (Movieline)

Could Zack Snyder have made a plucky Superman film? Sure. But that’s not what he wanted to do. He wanted to explore what it would really be like if someone like Superman walked among us. How would it affect him? How would the world react? Would it be a blessing or a curse?

Here’s what I said upon the release of the first trailer:

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

That is exactly the movie Zack Synder has made. It’s a movie about finding out why were put on this earth and what our purpose is. It’s about first knowing the difference between right and wrong — and then choosing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. It’s about having faith and hope and trust in our fellow man, but acknowledging that we are all fallible. It’s about a hero who we call Superman, but it’s also about the hero inside each and every one of us. ‘Man of Steel’ honors the individual, but stresses the importance of selfless service and the commitment we have to our family and our community.

The critics who say this movie has no “joy” are the ones who sound like they’re from another planet. ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the most uplifting superhero movies I’ve seen in ages, and it’s made better by a cast of actors who all basically knock it out of the ballpark.

Diane Lane is fantastic as Martha Kent, and the scene it which she soothes a young Clark as he struggles to understand his powers is pitch perfect. The tenderness she shows reminds us all of our own mother’s best moments — all heroes in their own right.

Kevin Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is equally as impressive. He understands that work is a virtue. He has strong hands and a dirty shirt from his labor, but his heart is pure. He does his best to instill honesty and integrity in his boy in an imperfect world. And, even as he wrestles with moral conundrums, he gives his son a road map that will help him navigate life’s most difficult terrain.

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent. He is not Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent — nor should he have been. Director Zack Snyder knows that when you start asking questions like “Who is Superman?” that you are also asking “Who is Clark Kent?” and “Who is Kal-El?” And the answer is that at his core he is pure, he is strong and he is kind. He embodies courage and selfless service. He represents our highest ideals — the ones we know we can never fully attain, but die honorably trying to pursue. How Clark’s essence manifests itself on screen will very from actor to actor, but Henry Cavill’s Superman does the character proud.

‘Man of Steel’ has its flaws, but one of them is certainly not the absence of joy. Zack Snyder knew exactly what he wanted, and everyone from the actors on screen to the special effects guys gave it to him. Love it or hate it, ‘Man of Steel’ is the finished product born out of a very clear vision of what a modern Superman movie needed to be in order to succeed.

At a pivotal point in the film, Clark realizes that as impressive as his powers are, he has not even begun to tap the well of potential inside of him. It’s a powerful scene — one in which millions of viewers will likely reflect on their own efforts to harness the greatness within them. That is a joyous thing. That gives us reason to smile, and hope for the future of all mankind.

Don’t worry about the critics, Mr. Snyder. People around the world have now listened to the words of Jor-El and know that while he was speaking to the character Clark, he was also speaking to them: they too can “accomplish wonders.” And for that, we are thankful.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill

‘Soldier of Steel’ campaign: Gym Jones shows what real men are made of

Mark Twight Gym Jones

Years ago I met a friend who was heavily influenced by the Gym Jones training philosophy. I had always thought I was a pretty fit guy — and then I met Mike. Those workouts broke me. They were truly a humbling experience, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They taught me a lot about myself, as well as just how much more was possible if I was willing to venture deeper into the realm of pain and anguish than I ever had before. Some of our greatest moments of mental, physical and spiritual growth are born out of pain and suffering, and in a bizarre way the person who realizes this truth comes to love and appreciate such feelings in proper doses. And that is why I highly suggest watching the “Solider of Steel” video for the new ‘Man of Steel’ movie by Zack Snyder.

When I was in the military, there was a joke that was made during our morning PT or in the middle of road marches: “Pain is weakness leaving the body!” Gym Jones offers plenty of pain, but there is so much more. It’s the kind of philosophy that turns boys into men.

Mark Twight, Gym Jones trainer, explains:

For me in the mountains, fitness was often the difference between life and death. In a military environment, it can be the same thing — you never  never want to come up short due to a lack of conditioning. When we talk about training one of the most important characteristics I believe, is functional training. And by functional I mean “transferable.” The training that you do in the gym should be transferable to the actual task, which means that if I have to sprint forward to grab a buddy who might be injured and drag him back to a point of cover, then sitting on the a bench wearing a little seat belt doing  quad extensions is not transferable. When you’re training for your military tasks you should be training to develop functional fitness, not the appearance of fitness.

Point number one in our training philosophy in the gym is that the mind is primary. And one of the outcomes of training the mind in the gym is the development of values. Values that are very similar to military values. One of the things for me that is important in the gym is that you always do what you say you’re going to do. You show up every single day. What we practice in here becomes  a habit, and if my habit is always to do less that’s how I’m going to behave in the field. So get in the habit of doing more than you’re asked to do.

Respect starts with self respect. If you respect yourself, you prove to others that you are worthy of their respect. One of the things I like to do is to set up a tag-team type of workout, where one guy has to accomplish a particular task all the while his teammate is suffering. And the faster he does it the less his teammate suffers. These types of workouts really cause a person to digger deeper than they would to save themselves because we will always work harder in the service of someone else.

In the gym context we always know when people are telling the truth and when they are not telling the truth. If you do what you say you’re doing when in comes to diet, then the result is going to be obvious. If you do what you say that you’re doing in terms training, then the result will be obvious. When we make that honor, that honesty, part of our daily life, then it becomes automatic.

A lot of times we assign homework to people outside of the gym because I need to know how they’re going to behave on their own. Does that person have the integrity to do what they said they were going to do? In the training environment, if we practice on a daily basis confronting the things that we’re afraid of and confront our fear — if we get in that habit — then we’ll be to express that in an automatic way once we get outside into the real world.

Wow. Mr. Twight’s passage is a thing of beauty. If all Americans were exposed to this philosophy, let’s just say that the political landscape would change dramatically within a single generation.

Gym Jones is not for everyone. It should be, but it’s not. The reason is because it doesn’t accept excuses, and the modern world is filled with people who live to make excuses for their failures, be it with their diet, love life, personal finances, physical fitness or any number of things.

Regardless, check out the other videos if you get a chance. If you’re interested in taking the first step in transforming you mind, body and spirit they’re a great place to start.

Editor’s note: The image of that guy falling off the rowing machine into a lump on the ground in Episode 3 just gave me a flashback. Sometimes hitting the floor is the best way to motivate someone to reach for the stars.

Here I am doing a workout inspired by Gym Jones, 2009. Pain never felt so good.
Here I am doing a workout inspired by Gym Jones, 2009. Pain never felt so good.

If you see ‘Man of Steel’ and a cop, you’ve really only seen one hero; Just ask Boston

Superman Man of Steel

The new ‘Man of Steel’ trailer is out, and it looks mighty good. And, truthfully, it couldn’t come at a better time.

Jor El says of his son: “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

The problem with ideals is that once you establish them, the people who “stumble” will be on full display for all the world to see. The smart stumblers don’t like that. And so, over the years the purveyors of popular culture have sought to do away with ideals, hoping to hide their fallibility in the process.

The easy wrong is always more popular than the hard right, and millions of Americans are seeing that over time too many easy wrongs only lead to heartache and despair. The United States as a whole is culturally lost, and a well-made Superman film just might get a few people to look for ways to right the ship.

Regardless, when trying to make sense of a world where lunatics detonate bombs amongst throngs of innocent civilians watching a marathon, we need not go to the movie theater to find a hero. They’re all around us if we’re willing to look.

Bill Iffrig, 78, lies on the ground as police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Iffrig, of Lake Stevens, Wash., was running his third Boston Marathon and near the finish line when he was knocked down by one of two bomb blasts. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, John Tlumacki)
Bill Iffrig, 78, lies on the ground as police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Iffrig, of Lake Stevens, Wash., was running his third Boston Marathon and near the finish line when he was knocked down by one of two bomb blasts. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, John Tlumacki)

On Monday, April 15, The Associated Press’ Jonh Tlumacki responded to the Boston Marathon terror attack not by running for his life, but by freezing; he then captured the men and women who spring into action when disaster strikes. It’s an amazing photo, one that shows just how instinctual it is for some individuals to protect and defend their fellow citizens during a time of crisis.

There are always those who run away from danger — and those who run towards it. Those who run toward the flames aren’t inherently better people than those seeking safety, but at the same time a healthy civil society holds its law enforcement personnel in high esteem.

It’s sad that even in the initial moments of such a gruesome event that there were newscasters who chose to speculate in divisive and sick ways. Only seriously warped minds would watch a bomb blast that left three people dead and scores wounded, only to wonder how the political calculus of it all would play out.

Regardless, if you see a cop, a fireman or and EMS working in the near future you might want to stop them and say “thanks” just like you would a soldier returning home from overseas. Given that modern day terrorism has erased the traditional definition of a battlefield, it’s increasingly likely that local authorities will find themselves caught up in the fog of war. Luckily, we have men like Mr. Tlumacki who are willing to chronicle the heroics.

The Man of Steel’s One Weakness: Political Hacks

Is Henry Cavill's Superman the kind that fights for "Truth, Justice, and...All That Stuff", or will he fight for the American Way? The intensity in his eyes says director Zack Synder has the Man of Steel back on track.

The first images of Henry Cavill as Superman are up and about. He looks good. Case closed, which frees us up to ask the more important question: Who is the Man of Steel? Underneath all those bulging biceps—deep down inside—what’s really making him tick? What motivates him? Who is he at the center of his being?

Not too long ago moviegoers were asking the same thing about Captain America, and it turned out that despite the director’s best efforts at self-sabotage, it turned out to be a good film.

Because Superman is an American icon, writers and directors worth their salt need to have a firm grasp on America’s core principles. Superman should exude our highest ideals, which is why doing him “right” is extremely difficult. Placed in the hands of a confused writer or pseudo-intellectual, the character will collapse under his own weight. Writer Grant Morrison (who can be brilliant at times) misses the mark when he says:

“Each decade, these characters represent our own best idea of what we’d like to be, our own big idea…Superman started out as a socialist fighter for the oppressed in 1938, but that was the time of the Depression. In the ’80s, he’s a yuppie,” (H/T Four Color Media Monitor).

Wrong. Only bad writers are so lured by a sign of the time that they’d boil a character down to something that can be summed up in pithy pejoratives or political talking points. Only bad writers mistake universal rights for international opinion. Only bad writing essentially creates FDR’s Superman and Reagan’s Superman. Good writing transcends the kind of political sniping Grant Morrison sets the stage for.

So when Henry Cavill says he wants to “[be] as true as I can be to the original character and who the character is,” someone needs to follow up with the soon-to-be Clark Kent. They need to poke and prod his muscles with something deeper than, “How cool is it to put the big ‘S’ on every morning for work?”

I have confidence that Zack Snyder will do Superman proud. In fact, I would argue that his spot-on understanding of Dr. Manhattan (an awesome, yet cynical, take on what Superman would end up like if he existed) has prepared him for the task. He’s ready.

And now, it’s time to watch Rorschach die in all his awesomeness.