Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker who has always taken great care to preserve the legacy of the characters he brings to the big screen. From Batman to Superman, Nolan has approached each character with unparalleled reverence in superhero filmmaking.
And it was this reverence that led Christopher Nolan to refuse a controversial scene in the 2013 blockbuster Man of Steel. The scene in question involves Superman, played by Henry Cavill, killing the villainous General Zod, played by Michael Shannon.
The Controversial Scene That Almost Never Happened
In the scene, Zod is about to kill a family with his heat vision when Superman snaps his neck, effectively ending the threat. The scene caused controversy among fans and critics alike, with some arguing that Superman, a character known for his strict moral code, would never kill someone in cold blood.
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But according to producer Christopher Nolan, it was never a question of whether or not Superman would kill Zod. Instead, the issue was handling the scene in a way that would respect the character’s legacy and the world Nolan had created with his Dark Knight trilogy.
“The ‘Why?’ of it for me was that if it was truly an origin story, his aversion to killing is unexplained … I wanted to create a scenario where Superman, either he’s going to see [Metropolis’ citizens] chopped in half, or he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.”
Christopher Nolan’s initial reaction to the scene was one of disbelief. “There’s no way you can do this,” he told screenwriter David Goyer. But Goyer was convinced that the scene was necessary to establish Superman’s moral code and his aversion to killing.
“[Chris] originally said, ‘There’s no way you can do this,'”
Goyer had written the scene in a way that showed Superman struggling to stop Zod from killing the family, a moment that ultimately convinced Christopher Nolan to approve the scene.
“I wrote the scene, gave it to Chris, and he said, ‘Okay, you’ve convinced me.'”
Whether or not Superman should kill was irrelevant to Christopher Nolan. It was important to treat the moment carefully, not to cheapen the character’s heritage or the universe Nolan established in his Dark Knight films.
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Nolan was hesitant to include a sequence in which Superman breaks his rule against killing because of how central that code had been to his previous Batman films.
Christopher Nolan’s Legacy Lives On
Nolan was satisfied that the moment might work after reading Goyer’s script, which had Superman debating whether or not to murder Zod. The point was to demonstrate that adhering to Superman’s rule of nonviolence was not automatic for him but rather a constant internal battle.
The criticism surrounding the moment emphasizes the need to handle cherished personalities properly. Because of his reverence for Superman and his heritage, Christopher Nolan hesitated to include the sequence in Man of Steel.
And it was because of this reverence that the sequence was included, albeit with some modifications, to ensure it remained respectful to the protagonist and his moral compass. Finally, the debate over that sequence in Man of Steel should be a cautionary tale about handling cherished characters.
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That sequence was included because of Nolan’s thoughtful consideration of the character and his legacy. Nolan’s treatment of Superman was incredibly respectful, and he did all he could to safeguard the character’s heritage, regardless of whether fans agreed with the decision to include the moment.