Zod Fight Analysis: Oil Tanker Objections – Novice v. Veteran Expectations – Collateral Damage Assessment

Some critics seem really hung-up on Superman prioritizing 7.2 billion people over one side of a car park.  It seems ridiculous to have to get that granular and justify a single, instinctual heat-of-the-moment choice by a first-time combatant (just hours earlier a life-long pacifist) against a veteran soldier… but this keeps coming up!


Really, nearly anything Superman does to stay alive and increase his chances of saving the World is reasonable given his inexperience, but some try to make a tenuous moral calculation out of it.

So assuming we’re going to hypocritically judge Superman for skills and experience he doesn’t have, does dodging still make sense?  Sure it does.  Zod didn’t do it for fun.  Zod was trying to take Kal out.  Kal already knows that something like this can leave him dazed long enough to get killed by Zod.  If Zod kills Kal EVERYONE dies… so Kal has no choice but to dodge.

Moreover, I don’t get the moral panic over one side of a parking deck getting hit.  People park their cars to leave them… not to stay in them all day.  The civilian density in a garage is predictably low (which is why they always disclaim theft on their premises) and certainly lower than an explosion in the streets with visible civilians all around!  Kal picked unlikely-to-zero garage deaths vs. certain civilian street deaths with a high possibility of global extinction… seems a reasonable choice even under the calculations he had no time to do (and which the critics didn’t bother to do despite having all the time in the world).


The angst over the cladding is also misplaced.  Zod was already raining down debris, the street was clear from Kal’s perspective, and shedding cladding won’t cause a steel skyscraper to collapse.  Did anyone think those were load-bearing windows in The Matrix?  Of course not!  Cladding is cosmetic not structural.  You’d no more assume a building was held up by its cladding than to believe skyscrapers stand on glass.

[Literally] Flying Tackle

Kal has one effective attack.  Here he has the advantage of flight, height, contained collateral, no civilians, and a direct shot.  If he can KO Zod here, the madness can end and stem the tide.  He’d be crazy not to TRY and end it… but it doesn’t end.  They’re both insanely durable, insanely strong, but only Zod is actually trained, practiced, and experienced in fighting (even if he’s not the best).

Expectation vs. Observation

It is ridiculous to ask Kal to kill Zod instantly, to force Zod to leave Metropolis when he doesn’t want to, or to do anything really.  It’s hard enough for Kal to knock Zod out, much less impose any kind of strategy, will, or intentions upon his physical equal.  While some traditions allow Superman greater strength due to storing more radiation than other Kryptonians, we’re never told or shown that in the film, and the World Engine leaves Kal completely drained, removing that possibility as a factor.

There seems to be a massive gap between what some critics unrealistically expect of a first-time fighter and what we actually see Kal’s performance to realistically be… Zod nearly knocks Kal down for every one of Kal’s clean punches.  Kal relies more on messy collisions and tackles because it’s all he knows and all that’s effective against a more skilled combatant.  Zod is plainly the better fighter and it doesn’t matter how much Kal cares about civilian casualties or collateral damage… he’s just trying to stay alive!

Beginner’s Luck

How did Kal win then?  He put more power into his hits because he didn’t know any better.  A novice throws hay-makers which, in this case, tap into his power.  Zod, meanwhile, fought like you’d be trained to fight… measuring your opponent, using precise counters to avoid leaving yourself open, etc.  His training meant he was fighting smart, but not unleashing as much as he could be.  As inexperienced Kal was with fighting, Zod was with having powers.  Kal was able to hang with Zod long enough that Zod became frustrated, lost his composure, and ended up forcing Kal’s hand into ending it.

US Debt Ceiling Visualized | DemonOcracy

If you’ve got an idea for a myth that my meager editing abilities might be able to tackle let me know for future videos!

Man Of Steel Answers Insight Commentary (MOSAIC) Podcast covers these kinds of questions and more in depth for fans of Man of Steel and those excited by the DC Cinematic Universe.

Web: ManOfSteelAnswers.com
Twitter: @mosanswers
Subscribe: iTunes / RSS / Stitcher / YouTube http://feeds.feedburner.com/ManOfSteelAnswers
Proud member of the Superman Podcast Network!

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I’m glad you keep making these videos Doctor, it’s really good to come back to certain topics in order to better understand them, I took the liberty of sharing them on Reddit, hope you don’t mind.

    And btw, I have a little doubt that doesn’t wants to leave my chest, so I’m going to ask your opinion about it. It’s about actor Henry Cavill;

    Do you think that by playing Superman, Mr. Cavill has more chances of having a successful acting career?

    At first glare it looks that way, who doesn’t wants to have Superman in their films? However, by looking at other actors that play in major comic book movies, I couldn’t help but realize that some actor’s fame seems totally dependant in, and obscured by, the hero they play.

    Robert Downey Jr., for example; before being Iron Man he was barely recognizable in the film industry, and even after all the MCU’s success, some could think that his career as an actor skyrocketed, but some may think otherwise. Apart from the Sherlock Holmes films, the non-MARVEL movies were he stars rarely become noteworthy or massive successes, and the same could be said about Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johanson, and some others. When people sees them, all they see is the character they are on screen, It’s almost as if they are imprisoned by the superhero they play.

    Some like Samuel L. Jackson already had healthy careers before joining the superhero genre, just like Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, and even Jesse Eisenberg, and they will continue to be whether their superhero interpretations are successful or not.

    Plus, with the Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s…performance, that doubt grew even more, so I just wanna know your point of view:

    You think Henry Cavill will be “imprisoned” by the role of Superman?

    • A great question which has a timely answer. Opening this weekend? The Amazing Spider-Man & General Zod versus Spider-Man & Sabertooth. 99 Homes stars Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon and Pawn Sacrifice stars Tobey Maguire and Liev Schreiber (not to mention Peter Sarsgaard, who played Hector Hammond in Green Lantern). I had the privilege of seeing an early screening of 99 Homes and it’s gripping… the moral dilemma theme was going to be a basis for a RRSSS but I haven’t had the time to do a write-up. The ubiquity of the superhero genre has made transitioning in and out of comic book roles relatively painless and without the kind of stigma it once did. Superhero films attract Oscar caliber actors and no one blinks if an actor goes on to deliver an Oscar worthy performance outside a superhero film… no one says, “She’s only good in superhero films.”

      We see that even for Brandon Routh, who did bear a bit of the stigma of being Superman… but as soon as superhero films became a Summer staple, he was back and acting on a routine basis, even if not necessarily on the silver screen.

      With respect to Cavill, the role of Superman has afforded him incredible opportunity and he’s been level-headed, humble, and grateful for it. On the blog there’s a post about hope and in it, I link to an interview where Cavill relates how he was walking dogs and tending bar just to stay in the USA for a season to audition, then he’d run out of money, return to the UK, and start the cycle again and again. Today, he’s starred as lead in two feature films and set to star in at least three more blockbusters (with more basically guaranteed), he’s started his own production company, and had the opportunity to turn down the lead in another feature when problems arose (Stratton)… whereas in the past he might be forced to go through such a troubled production.

      Actors want their work to be seen and appreciated, they want to make a living and earn an appropriate wage for their work, and they want to keep working. Right now, Cavill is getting all of those things from Warner Brothers alone. Compared to where he was without Superman, it’s an actor’s dream and Cavill understands that. The role is going to open more doors for him down the road than he would have and was getting on his own. I wouldn’t worry about Henry.

      • Thanks for answering me Doctor, I appreciate the time you invest to answer your listener’s questions. But just to make sure, you don’t think The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s underperformance will ‘hurt’ his career nor WB’s opinion of him?

        After all, almost none of the film’s “criticisms” were aimed at Cavill’s performance, so they can’t blame the soft reception of the film to him, right?

        • Not at all.

          Fantastic Four has a stellar cast.
          Jupiter Ascending has some notable talent.
          Aloha stacked the deck with its cast.
          Black Hat features a MCU regular and Emmy-winning Viola Davis

          Yet, people are clamoring to see Creed, Tatum is in a Tarantino film, Mara is in the electric The Martian, etc. etc.

          The age of the Hollywood Star has faded some, rarely to people go see a movie solely out of loyalty to an actor, but an actor is still a part of the film’s marketing and so long as you turn in a few highlights, you’re all but bulletproof from stigma. Eddie Redmayne’s Theory of Everything forgives Jupiter Ascending. Bradley Cooper’s American Sniper means he can do as many dry hangover performances as he wants. Even someone like Johnny Depp, who has consistently turned in terrible performances again and again, has found redemption in Black Mass.

          More important than any one performance is the opportunity to keep trying until you give a performance of a lifetime. Superman gives Cavill that opportunity and like any of the actors in the box office bombs above, all it takes is a single stellar performance for people to recognize the problem was with the film and not you. Franky, Cavill’s already proven his acting chops before Man of Steel, and U.N.C.L.E. so he’s already bulletproof in that sense… he just needs an opportunity to show he’s even better than that, and the visibility, connections, and funds of Superman means he’ll have the chance to do just that.

          Henry has an extremely bright future if he keeps delivering on Superman. For all we know, his performance in BvS is going to blow people away.

  2. Any thoughts on whether you think Suicide Squad will be rated R (based off the tone and the director’s previous work) and what that’d mean for the movie universe as a whole?

    • A director’s previous work is not the best indicator of a film’s prospective MPAA rating. Christopher Nolan’s tone and previous work were all Rated R, but Batman Begins was squarely PG-13. Bryan Singer’s tone and previous notable works were all Rated R, before directing comic book films. And on and on. The smart money is on it being PG-13 because the Studio agrees on an audience demographic before hiring a director who understands they are coming onto a pre-existing intellectual property with a built-in audience which has always has PG-13 range content. As such, it doesn’t mean anything for the movie universe as a whole.

  3. Hey, Doc, great perspective in this one.

    Something that struck me in this video (and I think others) is that you seem to conclude that Kal won this fight because he got lucky. Forgive me if you’ve covered this, but personally I subscribe to the notion that the whole thing was orchestrated by the one person who you rightly point out was in control of the fight all along: Zod. I think that Zod wanted to die, and the only honorable way for a warrior to die for him is in combat to a worthy opponent. “A good death is its own reward” as the lady said.

    Here’s a quote from Snyder on the subject: “And I wanted to create this scenario where Superman is going to see those people get chopped in half, and he’s got to do what he’s go to do. And I think Zod knows that. It’s almost [suicide] in a way, it is, it’s like death by cop, you know in a way. In his mind if Kal has the ability to kill him, then that’s a noble way for him to die.”
    (Empire Magazine interview: http://www.empireonline.com/features/man-of-steel-secrets/p5)

    My thoughts on the idea are as follows: Zod had been programmed since before birth to protect Krypton, and with the World Engine and Black Zero and all his men gone, there was no longer any chance of recreating a Krypton to protect. As evidenced by the rigidity of his thinking and purpose throughout the movie, he is incapable of going against his genetic coding, his “programming.” His life’s sole purpose was to protect Krypton, and with his purpose over, his life is therefore over as well. He was cheated of his purpose, but he wouldn’t be cheated of his “good death.”

    Before they fight, Zod says repeatedly that he has nothing to live for and that he’s going to kill everyone on Earth to hurt Kal. But he doesn’t. He attacks Kal instead. And you’re right, Zod MASSIVELY outmatches and outclasses Kal the entire fight, and he probably could have ended it or at least neutralized Kal long enough to take out half the planet. But he doesn’t. At the end, when Kal has him in a headlock, Zod finally threatens to kill someone. But he doesn’t. He just holds his beam next to the family. Kal screams “Stop!!” to which Zod cooly replies “Never.” But Zod hadn’t even started, he hadn’t done anything, he hadn’t killed one person that he claimed he was going to kill (at least not directly or intentionally). He just held the threat there to provoke Kal into finishing him off.

    This reading also adds an interesting element to Kal’s story as well, because if Zod manipulated into killing him, it lets him off the hook a little bit more. Now, while he likely doesn’t regret it, much has been made of the idea that he would rather not have done it. So the fact that he will be trying to avoid killing again, not only when someone doesn’t want to die at his hands, but when someone DOES, that is something that will make him an even better hero.

    Again, not sure if you’ve covered this, but I’m curious to know what your thoughts on it are.

    • Phil great insights, don’t have time to get into them too much but the next episode planned is about fighting so I may address it more thoroughly there. I have a bit of hesitation about the “suicide by cop” theory and I rely on Zack saying “in a way” as a qualifier rather than “it is.. death by cop”… but hopefully go into it more soon.

  4. Can you do a video on Lois being on Zod’s ship and why it was necessary for her to be there.

    • Thanks for watching and commenting. I think I’ve covered this on the podcast and blog, but this one is a little tougher to do in a video… it requires setting up a lot of facts based on inference that aren’t explicitly in the video. It also spawns a ton of side questions. I think the basic argument is built on the following:

      1. Zod only cares about the Codex.
      2. Zod wants the Codex but doesn’t know where it is.
      3. Given 1 & 2, Zod wants information on the Codex.
      4. Zod fears losing the Codex (corollary of 1).
      5. If humanity knows 1, they have leverage on Zod.
      6. Therefore Zod pursues 3 INDIRECTLY… his ultimatum is designed to secure Kal-El, his best clue to the Codex, without explicitly asking-for and telling humanity he needs the Codex on their planet and in their grasp.
      7. Lois is outed on national TV as the only human who knows Kal-El’s identity.
      8. In studying and monitoring Earth in preparation for making his ultimatum, Zod learns 7.
      9. Zod infers that if Lois knows a secret Kal kept (his identity), she may have special knowledge about the Codex’s location.
      10. Zod does not demand Lois in advance because Kal is sufficient and as to not reveal the connection prior to securing Kal; but does make the demand at the last minute since the opportunity presented itself and asking for her then wouldn’t allow Earth time to put together why Zod wants both
      11. Therefore, Lois wasn’t strictly necessary, but she was a reasonable target of opportunity given what Zod was after, her public knowledge of Kal’s id, etc.

      There should probably be some facts in there about how Kal-El’s vessel was shielded from detection, which explained why Zod couldn’t just simply scan for it and find it. A lot of the above play into why Lois was on the C-17. They couldn’t test the engine because THEN Zod COULD detect it, so they had one shot at surprise. The Kryptonians have already proven they can jam signals with their ultimatum. Lois is the only human being to have ever welded Kryptonian tech, to have been on a Kryptonian vessel, and who received the plan directly. Rather than have her relate her experience remotely (if signal jammed) or inadvertently leave something out or waste time relating every-single-detail second hand… she simply volunteers to deploy her experience onsite IF necessary (and it was, even if for a silly thing like pushing the key all the way in).

      Anyways, I think it makes sense in the context of the film and with the right frame of mind, but it’s hard to translate that into a solid and convincing video I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *