And then there was the night when the President of the United States appeared in the sky above Metropolis, and tried to beat a guy to death with a bus.
So here we are, ladies and gentlemen, at the event we’ve all been waiting for: the big super-on-super action scene, where things stop being polite and start getting real. For the first time ever on the big screen, in color and on purpose, we’ve got the titans of the skies battling it out mano a mano for unquestioned air supremacy over a couple of blocks in Midtown.
And the thing that strikes me, from the comfort of the backseat four decades later, is how dumb this is. Not that it’s a bad scene, or stupid filmmaking. This is exactly what people paid their money to see in the first-ever blockbuster supersequel, and the movie delivers. But these characters are fucking idiots, and they’re about to have a big dumb fistfight in the sky.
The scene begins with Superman standing on a flagpole outside the Daily Planet office, annoying the undisputed leaders of the formerly free world, and General Zod bellows, “Bow down before me, son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!” And then he points at the floor with a dramatic flourish, to indicate where he would prefer the Son of Jor-El to kneel.
And then they go and hurl themselves head-first through the window. These people think that they run the entirety of the planet Earth right now, and this is how they behave. I can just imagine Jen Psaki, trying to explain this to the White House press corps.
And then they all go and distribute themselves across the skyline, to have the stupidest possible conversation.
“Son of Jor-El!” says the Master of All He Surveys, positioning himself topside at a construction site. “We were beginning to think you were a coward.”
“I’m not a coward, Zod!” is the retort.
Then Non floats by and goes rraaaaaaajhhhhhhh, and Ursa cries, “Let him prove it!”
So that’s where we’re at, strategy-wise: Prove you’re not a coward. They flew all the way here from Washington, D.C.
So then Zod’s like, “Then die, as you deserve to!” and he throws, I don’t know, part of a house, I guess? And Superman’s like, oh no, part of a house. And then he burns it up with the heat vision that Zod knows perfectly well that he has.
Also: “I’m not a coward” — “Then die, as you deserve to!” For not being a coward? These people need to listen to themselves for a minute.
At that point, for reasons of his own, Superman decides to go fly around aimlessly for a minute. “Take him!” says Zod to his officially stupidest minion. “He’s yours!” Why?
There’s a little bit of flying over the river, and then they start flying over the streets again, and then Superman hears Ursa’s voice, saying, “Superman!”
And he just stops what he’s doing, and looks around, and Non punches him in the face.
Their strategy was to distract him by saying “Superman” and then punch him in the face. That was a successful strategy.
The thing that’s amazing to me is how mythological this isn’t. This is the ultimate battle of good versus evil, on which hangs the destiny of countless billions, and they’re just throwing architecture at each other. It’s like they’ve been given the lantern that hangs at the crossroads of the end of all things, and they can’t figure out how to turn it on.
Next thing that happens: Superman kicks Zod in the face.
And then Ursa goes and gets a big stick. I’m not even trying to dumb this down for comic effect; they are consistently going and making these choices. Big stick.
Ursa yells to Non to “Hold him!” which allows Superman the time to notice that she’s swinging a stick, so he ducks out of Non’s grasp and Ursa ends up hitting Non, knocking him all the way backwards to smack into the Empire State Building, and what was the original plan for that move? Non was supposed to hold Superman so that Ursa could hit Superman with the stick… which would still knock both of them backwards. Non’s the one who would have hit the building anyway. How are you so bad at this?
The thing they’re not really grappling with is the fact that they’re all indestructible, which means that none of this is going to have any effect. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw an indestructible guy at stuff. He’s indestructible. He’s going to be fine. This entire battle is happening because there are four of you and you haven’t figured that out yet.
The problem is that this battle is entirely literal; there’s no mental or emotional or metaphorical struggle going on here. This isn’t a moment when Superman comes face to face with his own fears, or the consequences of his actions, or the sins of his father, or the terrible dent that he’s made in human history. It’s four people in the sky, hitting each other with sticks.
I mean, they don’t even do “We’re not so different, you and I.” How dumb is your dumb scene when you can’t even do that?
2.42: Save My Baby!!
— Danny Horn