I recently watched the extended version of Superman II. I hadn’t watched it since I was a child, so I didn’t really remember it in detail. After watching it, I was genuinely surprised.

After depowering General Zod, Ursa, and Non, he seems to commit murder. Zod posed no threat, as his powers were gone, but Superman throws him against a wall and lets him fall, presumably to his death. Non leaps to attack Superman and falls in the same pit. Lois punches Ursa, who also falls into the pit.

None of them posed a threat to Superman and he could have easily saved them and had them incarcerated. This would be considered murder in a court of law.

So is Superman a murderer?

Yes, he does reverse time back to the beginning of the movie, in a deus ex machina moment. However, to me, that doesn’t change his actions at the time.

  • 2
    Isn't the time reversing in the first movie, not the second? In Superman II the only "reset" is the magical kiss that makes Lois forget everything. – Daniel Roseman Jan 17 '16 at 9:37
  • @DanielRoseman this was the extended Richard Donner cut. There were scenes not in the theatrical release. – user23298 Jan 17 '16 at 9:40
  • For those who down vote provide a reason. It's a legitimate question. – user23298 Jan 17 '16 at 9:42
  • 2
    @user23298 I'm guessing the reason for the downvotes is that you're essentially inviting an ethics discussion based entirely on personal opinion. Try to rephrase it in a way that would allow for a more objective answer. – Misha R Jan 17 '16 at 10:21
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    If I was Superman's lawyer, I'd be arguing for a change of venue to Krypton. – Valorum Jan 23 '16 at 15:53
up vote 16 down vote accepted

Yes, and no, and yes, and no and yes.

Yes

Superman clearly disposes of Zod when he's de-powered. This would appear to be the very definition of Excessive Force given that he's not an immediate threat to Superman.

No

Except that Zod does still arguably pose a substantial ongoing threat to Superman and Lois. Firstly, he might order Ursa to kill Lois. Secondly, he will almost certainly seek to regain his superpowers and attack Superman again. Superman could easily argue that he still feared for Lois' life (as a clear and present threat) as well as his own life in future, justifying his use of lethal force in self-defence.

Yes and No

Having said that, If Superman was in Massachusetts he'd probably be convicted of murder. Except that he's not, he's at the centre of the Artic, itself a hotly disputed legal grey zone, where normal laws don't apply

Yes

Except that they do apply in the Richard Donner Cut where we see that the Artic has its own Police Force, and presumably its own laws and judiciary.

No

Except that neither Zod, nor Superman are human. Although you could argue that Superman is a US citizen, Zod certainly isn't and there are no laws that specifically forbid the deliberate killing of non-humans.


So there you go. Clear as mud.

  • I wonder what the rational was regarding the deleted police scene mentioned in Valorums post (see Yes #2). It almost seems as if the writers were prescient of the very discussion we are having here and were attempting the "justice" part of Supes...motto. Then perhaps during editing it was realized that it makes no sense. Has anyone seen anything from the writers/producers/etc explaining this scene? – SynchronizeYourDogma Jan 5 '17 at 5:13
  • Hmmmm that has some funny side effects there. That would mean superman being an illegal immigrant is no real us citizen (clark kent I think was never officially adopted so it would count for him too). Thus LEx luthors attempts to kill superman are (without counting the crimes he did to use/create the weapons) completely legal...... – Thomas Jan 5 '17 at 8:40
  • @Thomas - Clark was officially adopted. That means he has a birth certificate and a fully legal identity. Also, it's still illegal to attempt to murder an immigrant. Where the grey area exists is whether it's a crime to attempt to murder an alien. No case law exists on that. – Valorum Jan 5 '17 at 9:15
  • With my comment I meant that superman is not an us citizen (officially at least in a few of the canons). Thus its not a murder of an us citizen and also he is an alien....so the murderer attempts from lex are perfectly legal in those canons (except that he does commit crimes to get the weapons, and while using them as he doesnt care about others dying as well,...) – Thomas Jan 5 '17 at 11:21
  • @Thomas wasn't he adopted by the Kent family as a baby? I am not familiar with the vaugeries of Superman canon so I can't really say if that is accepted or not. – SynchronizeYourDogma Jan 5 '17 at 17:38

There is no clearcut evidence in Superman II that anyone died at the end of the theatrical release of the film. although I admit it might be implied.

"but Superman throws him against a wall and lets him fall, presumably to his death. Non leaps to attack Superman and falls in the same pit. Lois punches Ursa, who also falls into the pit."

Yes, PRESUMABLY to their death(s). But we did not see a pit full of corpses, all we saw was Superman's conversation with Lex Luthor and Lois Lane, then it cuts away to him flying her back to civilization. Since it seems that it wasn't nearly as cold inside the fortress of solitude (no one was wearing winter coats or anything), one could also presume that Superman merely trapped them in the pit and came back later to take them to jail.

Furthermore, in other releases of the film and deleted scenes added to various viewings, the fate of the criminals is revealed. In one version they are arrested, and in another version Superman turns back time which re-imprisoned them in the phantom zone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman_II#Later_releases In 1984, when Superman II premiered on television, 24 minutes were re-inserted into the film (17 minutes on ABC). Much of the extra footage was directed by Richard Donner. In the ABC-TV version, a U.S. "polar patrol" is shown picking up the three Kryptonians and Lex Luthor at the end of the film. Without this ending, it appears that Superman has let the Kryptonians die, though Superman has a strict code against killing and their deaths aren't necessary once they are depowered. On the other hand, the theatrical version's ending implies that Luthor is left stranded at the Fortress of Solitude, leaving the viewer to wonder how he got to prison in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace — that question was answered in the extended versions where Superman reverses the rotation of the Earth where one of the things he does involves preventing Lex Luthor from escaping from prison. The ending of the extended cuts also has Superman, with Lois standing beside him, destroying the Fortress of Solitude.

  • For the record, in none of the draft scripts does Zod die; "ZOD is hurled helplessly through the air the entire length of the Fortress, crashes against the far wall, drops to the floor." - bigapricot.org/scripts/superman_II.txt – Valorum Jan 26 '16 at 21:41

He absolutely kills Zod. Zod has no powers, and he's essentially a human being at that point like Lara described to Superman when he was talking to her about his relationship with Lois. Superman breaks his hand, tosses him to a wall of ice, and lets him fall to nothingness and we're supposed to believe Zod survived it? If Clark was all messed up from the fight he got into at the diner after he lost his powers, how does Zod do anything after what Superman does to him? And we don't see how Superman gets his powers back. You can infer that it's just the reverse of the process to take them away, but the fact is we don't know. Only Superman knows. And if only Superman knows, how will Zod and his crew (assuming they survived the falls) know the process on how to regain their powers?

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