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In the recent movie Man of Steel buildings collapsed, a big part of the city was destroyed, and much of that occurred when Kal-El was directly in the fight. That bugged me a lot. I expected tactics that put the fight at some neutral area, avoiding collateral damage.

Instead it looked almost deliberate to fly through buildings to allow more and more collapsing effects. I'd estimate casualties of a few hundred thousand.

Is that normal for the story, or is it indeed an overreach for sake of showing effects?

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  • I would like to refer you to Justice League: Unlimited's epic fight between Superman and Darkseid. In it, not only do the two fight in the middle of this same populated city, but Superman makes it a point to keep the fight within the city as well as fighting at full strength and using the various buildings as weapons against Darkseid. Yet, there seems to be no questioning about that fight which easily had the same amount of casualties, if not more. – Robert Dec 23 '14 at 15:56
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Superman, the character with 75 years of written canon about him and his behavior, would have been absolutely concerned about the collateral damage caused in the movie. In addition, the character of Superman was concerned with the protection of all life where possible, so the death of Zod is problematic, especially for Superman fans.

Honestly, I think there is room for considering this part of the story development as well as an overreach for the sake of showing special effects. In any true depiction of a being as powerful as Superman, collateral damage is almost a given. Imagine two beings with his power in an all out brawl and the damage should be nothing less than catastrophic. However horrible, this was, in my opinion, an accurate depiction of superior technology at its most destructive.

Historically Speaking

  • The first appearance of the character of The Superman was little more than a villain with telepathic powers. Superman was later retooled when he wasn't able to be sold and became more of a law and order driven hero. Some of his earliest appearances he was much less concerned with protecting people and was known to be quite rough in his treatment of criminals.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, then students at Cleveland's Glenville High School, first conceived Superman as a bald telepathic villain bent on world domination.[5][6] The character first appeared in "The Reign of the Superman", a short story from Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3, a fanzine published by Siegel in 1933.[6] Siegel re-envisioned the character later that year as a hero bearing no resemblance to his villainous namesake, with Shuster visually modeling Superman on Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent, on a combination of Harold Lloyd[13][14] and Shuster himself, with the name "Clark Kent" derived from movie stars Clark Gable and Kent Taylor.

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Collateral Damage

  • In his entire comic career as a superhero, there have been few instances of such devastation as seen in the Man of Steel. To be fair, Metropolis has had its instances of major collateral damage when enemies such as Darkseid, Brainiac and for sheer destructive capacity Doomsday showed up there. The Death of Superman left the center of Metropolis a wreck. (But still nowhere near as bad as Man of Steel. It look like a thermobaric weapon went off in the center of town.)

  • Kal-El did make several attempts to bring his battle with Zod out of the city, but every time he tried to move the battle Zod would pin him down and force him to fight right where he was. I am certain this was a strategic move by Zod to make Kal limit himself and the use of his powers.

  • In his defense, the character in Man of Steel is unique among the iterations of the character of Kal-El. Up until he put on his suit, he had almost no experience using his powers at their maximum capacity and had no idea of his true potential for devastation. Nor did it seem to occur to him that the Kryptonians would not exercise the restraint using their powers that he did.

This modernized version of Superman has had a rough start showing both the inherent destructive capacity he is capable of and the threat of enemies with sufficient power to cause him injury makes everyone around him vulnerable. I am hopeful the writers will build on the destruction of parts of Metropolis and a renewed effort of Superman to protect all life.

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The structure of the story really didn't leave Kal-El much choice. He needed to fight and defeat Zod. Zod did not need (except perhaps emotionally) to defeat Kal El, which meant the ground was his to choose. If Kal-El had flown away to try to draw Zod off, all Zod would have had to do was start burning people and property to the ground with his newly-discovered heat vision, with consequences that certainly would have been far worse.

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    I agree. Perhaps we could point out places here and there where didn't HAVE to throw someone through a gas station and blow it up in KS or maybe could have dodged a building or two in Metropolis, but generally speaking, the fights clearly came to him. He couldn't just surrender, b/c it was revealed that the fate of the world was at stake (notice he surrendered willingly to protect earth before knowing that earth was in jeopardy). – FoxMan2099 Jun 22 '13 at 20:10

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