Zack Snyder On 'Man Of Steel' Death Toll: "What About 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'?"

The first reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are in, and they're... well, see for yourself. But this isn't the first time some fans and critics have taken issue with Zack Snyder's vision of the DC universe. Back when Man of Steel opened, one of the most frequently raised complaints was the ending's high body count. But Snyder's stood by that controversial finale, and he's doing so still — this time by taking aim at another giant blockbuster, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Snyder admitted he was caught off guard by detractors of Man of Steel. "I was surprised with the fervency of the defense of the concept of Superman," he said. "I feel like they were taking it personally that I was trying to grow up their character." The filmmaker remembered a time when someone told him Man of Steel had more collateral damage than any movie in recent memory:

I went, really? And I said, well, what about ['Star Wars: The Force Awakens']? In 'Star Wars' they destroy five planets with billions of people on them. That's gotta be one of the highest death toll movies in history, the new 'Star Wars' movie, if you just do the math.

Snyder's right in terms of sheer numbers. Metropolis may be a bustling city, but it's got nothing on the entire planets that were disintegrated in Force Awakens. However, one major difference is that in The Force Awakens, it was the villains causing the deaths. In Man of Steel, lots of people die because Superman and Zod engage in battle over their city, with Superman making little effort to steer the action elsewhere.

The director's defense doesn't get to the real heart of the issue with Man of Steel's body count. Superman is supposed to be a protector, a warrior of light, and his apparent disregard for the death toll goes against that notion of the character — to say nothing of his willingness to kill Zod. (For me, personally, I was most skeeved out by his making out with Lois Lane atop all that rubble.) You can argue that it all makes sense in context, and many people have, but Superman is a singular icon, which means his followers have different ideas about what he should mean and what he should stand for.

In any case, it sounds like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice addresses a lot of those complaints, perhaps even to a fault. According to Peter, the film deals with the fallout of all that destruction in Man of Steel, largely by showing it from Bruce Wayne's perspective, and then goes out of its way to assure the audience that collateral damage has been minimized this time around. In that same WSJ interview, Snyder brings up another possible unintended consequence of Superman's presence in Metropolis:

There's a fun conversation — we filmed it, it's not in the cut — but there's a conversation when [Superman] saves the girl from the garment factory, we had a line where a guy goes, but now all the garment factory owners, they're not concerned with safety because they just figure Superman will show up to save them if the building catches on fire. It's sort of a catch-22 to being the ex machina, being the hand of God: the hand of God can't be everywhere the same time. You're headed for a fall.

It's an interesting idea that a lot of superhero properties have grappled with: are these costumed do-gooders doing more harm than good? We'll have to see when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters — though given that its heroes are already looking to reunite for two Justice League movies, I'm guessing they decide it's better to fight that fight than not.