The Similarities and Differences of Man of Steel and Donner’s Superman – Part 3: Action and Heroism


Well here it is my last part to my overall look at the 3 Best Superman films that have been made. I wanted to wait until after San Diego Comic Con as that news is certainly more pressing, I also wanted to watch the films once again to give you the best analysis possible. So if you managed to follow me through the last two parts, than please continue on and maybe you will understand why I feel Man of Steel ranks among the Richard Donner classics, if not better match them. Once again I’d like to point out this is based on those who don’t read comics, so I am simply looking at these films based on the idea that much of the audience don’t know the comic book version of Superman and have only seen the film and TV interpretations. I may reference Smallville as that was heavily inspired by the Richard Donner version as well. But will keep it to the three films first and foremost. This part will focus on Action and Heroism and how it is similar and differs. So without further adieu let’s get this last part started already.


Written by Mario Puzo & Tom Mankiewicz; Directed by Richard Donner; Superman played by Christopher Reeve, Lois Lane Played by Margot Kidder, Lex Luthor played by Gene Hackman, General Zod played by Terence Stamp, Non played by Jack O’Halloran, Ursa played by Sarah Douglas

{I will mention some stuff from Richard Lester cut of Superman II}

ACTION: {Action in the first film is measured by any destruction created as there are no real battles}

The action in the first film has two main points, first of course is Krypton and its ultimate fate, however seeing as the whole planet explodes I will skip to the end of the film. So here goes

  • SCENE 1: Superman having already showed himself and giving an interview with Lois Lane earlier is confronted by Lex through a signal meant for dogs to hear. As he arrives on the Metropolis streets above Lex’s hideout below he tells people to back up and drills himself down. This reminiscent of the scene in Man of Steel where before battle in Smallville he warns people to get inside as he doesn’t know what to expect, will discuss that scene later on. After arriving below he goes through a series of challenges(only seen in the 2001 Extended Cut)such as gun fire, freezing and burning alive before breaking through his secret door that killed a Detective earlier in the film. This scene definitely shows Lex Luthor’s intelligence, which is later shown again in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as John Shea’s Lex sends Dean Cain’s Superman through his own set of test to determine how strong and powerful he really is. I also suspect we will get something similar in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. 
  • SCENE 2: After Superman is saved by Ms Teschmacher, played by Valerie Perrine, Superman immediately goes after the two missiles that have been redirected to Hackensack, NJ & the San Andreas Fault line, he manages to send the NJ missile to space, but is too late to stop the one heading to San Andreas Fault. This causes a ripple effect that he must now fix as much as possible. I will point out the Saves in a different part, as for the destruction of the final act, the San Andreas fault opens wide enough to swallow Lois’ car up and bury her alive. He attempts to fix the fault line as much as possible but is unsuccessful. The Hoover Dam breaks causing mass flooding into a small town right below it, while he is unable to save the people already below he is able to stop the continuous flooding by sending a huge rock below creating a wall. This type of damage and casualties however was beyond his control, same as it was in Man of Steel, in Man of Steel, the destruction being caused was due to the World Engine and he had to destroy one of them, then later on when he was fighting at the end the collapsed buildings were not his control as Zod was the one causing it.

SAVES: Here I will discuss the Saves of Superman: The Movie

  • SCENE 1: After his first day at the Daily Planet he joins Lois out the door and they are both confronted by a gunman, as Lois drops her purse and kicks the shooters he lets one round off and Clark’s catches the bullet, claiming he just fainted.
  • SCENE 2: Lois is traveling to her next news story on a helicopter and as the helicopter is ready to go a mechanical malfunction, caused by a loose cable occurs causing the helicopter to crash onto the edge of the roof of the Daily Planet, Clark luckily sees this and transforms for the 2nd time(first time was in the fortress)and saves Lois who begins to fall, than as the helicopter with the pilot and navigator still inside begin to fall he catches the helicopter and safely brings it down.
  • SCENE 3: After the above save Superman then decides to continue helping he saves Air Force One, who’s engine was hit by a lightning blast, he catches some bank robbers and a jewel thief. He also saves a cat from a tree. All these saves occurs in a series of 10 minutes, in Man of Steel we also see his saves within a certain time span. The moment where the robber hits Superman with a crossbar is in a way showing how strong he is, plus its him just having fun. In Man of Steel he uses his strength as a way to save a group of oil rig workers make it onto a helicopter to safety. In Man of Steel he also has a moment of fun as he shows off his ability to break out of handcuffs with ease and see through solid objects.
  • SCENE 4: Superman who is doing an interview with Lois sends her out to fly above the city, as they are enjoying the fly he ends up letting her go and flies down to save her(personally I think this is his way of flirting with her).
  • SCENE 5: During the final act Superman rebuilds a train track, saves a bus full of kids on the Golden Gate Bridge and saves many others when the Hoover Dam burst. He also manages to save Jimmy who was at the Hoover Dam and fell. The school bus save was again done in Man of Steel, however it was much more intense and showed Jonathan giving Clark a lecture on him keeping his powers a secret, something Jonathan on Smallville also did, a parent’s first job is to protect their child first than others.
  • SCENE 6: Unable to save Lois’ life Superman goes into a rage and against his birth father’s wishes he turns the world back in time reversing all the damage and deaths, including Lois. {The original ending did not have this and although they had no real end for the film or a real solution to killing Lois, the film was going to end originally with the Kryptonians being blown out of they Phantom Zone prison and heading to Earth screaming FREE!!

That’s it for the first film, moving onto Superman II


  • SCENE 1: In the Richard Donner version of Superman II, the missile that was headed toward NJ was sent out into space, this action caused an explosion in space that set free the 3 Kryptonians setting up Superman II. In the Richard Lester version a hostage situation in Paris, France causes Superman to send the Hydrogen Bomb filled Eiffel Tower Elevator into space causing the same explosion.
  • SCENE 2: Clark, now powerless and with Lois heads to a Diner where they run into a Trucker who not only hits on Lois but insist on taking a seat that Clark and Lois had told him was Clark’s. Clark, decides to challenge the driver to a fight and is sent through a plate-glass window.
  • SCENE 3: After regaining his abilities Superman heads to Metropolis and confront the Kryptonians who have teamed up with Lex Luthor to a fight. He flees with the trio going after him, causing debris to hit the streets. He lands and so does Zod, Zod then throws a concrete wall at Superman, Superman uses his heat vision to cause the concrete to explode sending debris to the streets below.
  • SCENE 4: After Superman is punched into a metal wall(in the Donner cut its the Torch of the Statue of Liberty)he goes back and punches Non into the Empire State Buildings antenna sending is down to the street below(in the Richard Lester cut he is held by Non and Ursa accidentally hits Non with a metal pipe sending him into it).
  • SCENE 5: Next up after realizing Superman cares about the humans he begins to focus his power on the people, first blowing up a few cars, than using his heat vision to rapidly heat up a trucks engine, until Superman deflects the beams back at him and cools the engine down. This is an action that Zod vowed he was also going to do and eventually began to do toward the end.
  • SCENE 6: After a few shots of the damage being caused Non sends Superman down into the sewers where their fight begins to cause the streets above to act as if there is an earthquake, until Superman sends Non through the streets and smashing through several occupied offices above, sending more debris down. Just like in Man of Steel the few times Superman is on the offensive the damage caused is minimal but unavoidable.
  • SCENE 7: Ursa than sends a sewer manhole cover into Superman like a frisbee causing him to crash into a car breaking the glass. Than Zod confronts him as Superman is sent into a cigarette truck, he then kicks Zod onto the street and grabs him circling him into a Coca-Cola sign, which explodes and send debris and electrical sparks to the street below.
  • SCENE 8: Zod upset at his recent defeats order Ursa and Non to throw a bus full of people at Superman, despite Superman’s pleas they send the bus hurling at him causing the citizens to think he is dead.
  • SCENE 9: The Kryptonians are now confronted by the people of Metropolis who think Superman is dead and begins to use their super breath to keep them afar, causing a sort of severe windstorm. Superman after a few minutes emerges and noticing the constant destruction he and the Kryptonians caused flees to the Fortress of Solitude where Lex leads them
  • SCENE 10: Another battles ensues at the Fortress but nO damages, however after Lex betrays Superman’s trust and tells the Kryptonians about the isolation chamber that harnesses the red son’s rays and will strip them of their powers, Superman is forced to go in to protect the world. When he emerges he acts like a possum and kneels as Zod takes him hand he than crushes Zods hand and throws him into the abyss below. Non than throws himself into the abyss as he doesn’t understand yet that Superman was somehow able to deflects the rays into the fortress himself and stay protected inside and then Lois punches Ursa down below. Richard Donner shot a scene where we see they are all still alive but in both his version and the Richard Lester version this scenes is still left out, which means the Kryptonians are dead as they are now human and at the least into arctic cold waters.

NOTE: There is more destruction throughout the film that is caused by the Kryptonians without Superman’s knowledge, such as monument destroyed and a town up in flames with just the military attempting to stop them. They also overtake the White House


  • SCENE 1: In the Richard Donner Cut there was no Eiffel Tower hostage situation and Lois figures out Clark is Superman right away and to prove it she jumps out the window, forcing Clark to rush down opening up a cabana and then rushing back up. Lois lands and bounces off the cabana and into a fruit stand looking up and still seeing Clark up there. In the Richard Lester version we got the Eiffel Tower save
  • SCENE 2: Lois and Clark both end up going to Niagara Falls posing as newlyweds in the hopes of getting proof that one of the hotels are taking advantage of a new couple by charging too much. While there a young boy whose parents are not paying attention goes over the rail and ends up falling down toward the water, Clark than turns into Superman and saves him. Making Lois curious as she doesn’t see Clark near the hot dog stand. In the Richard Lester cut the scene continues with Lois once again attempting to prove Clark is Superman by diving into the raging waters again, Clark is able to save her again without her noticing it.
  • SCENE 3: During the final battle with the Kryptonians Superman saves a young mother and her baby as the Empire State Building antenna almost falls on top of her. Just as he saves one of the military pilots in his Smallville battle in Man of Steel.
  • SCENE 4: In the original Richard Donner cut of Superman 2 Superman reverses time and changes everything to before the Kryptonians were free from their Phantom Zone prison, although this would mean that the missile going toward the San Andreas fault is still going there.
  • SCENE 5: Afterward Clark goes back to the diner that he had the fight earlier, the truck driver punches Clark after being insulted and breaks his hand, Clark than sends hims across the table into an arcade machine, paying for any damage.

That is for the Saves and Damages of Superman/Superman II now onto

MAN OF STEEL man_of_steel_poster

Written by David S Goyer, Christopher Nolan, Directed by Zack Snyder, Starring Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Antje Trau as Faora, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Russell Crowe as Jor-El


The action in the film is very real world imagery, which I think is what turned many people off, still for me and many others it worked very well. So here we go

  • SCENE 1: Early in the film we see Clark working at a bar, after stopping a group of men from grabbing onto one of the waitresses, the main trouble maker Lobo pours beer on Clark’s head with the waitress telling him to let it go, as he begins to leave Lobo throws a beer can at him. Later in the day we see as Lobo leaves his truck is not thrown into a street pole, this is very similar to how Clark reacted in the Smallville pilot after his high school bully strung him up in a cornfield he stacks his bully and his bullies friends trucks on top of each other. It’s also similar to how Clark beat up the truck driver(who by that point supposedly doesn’t know who he is since the world has been turned back)out of revenge.
  • SCENE 2: After escaping from Zod’s ship and heading back toward Earth, Zod, Faora and the rest head to Martha’s home and threaten her about Clark’s ship and the Codex sending a truck into her roof, this causes Clark, still learning of his abilities to tackle him, punching him senseless through a 7 Eleven causing it to explode.  This is similar in a way to how Superman punched Non through the sewers and into the building above the street, he did not see where he was sending his opponent.
  • SCENE 3: After the battle with Zod,  Faora begins to fight Clark, first Superman warns those to head back inside and as the military starts to shoot at them Namek lunges at them destroying a plane causing it fall into the streets, as Faora is about to destroy another plane Superman intercepts her throwing her into an IHOP and then into a bank. He then sends her through the rest of the building into the Smallville streets, as he attempts to beat on her Namek grabs him slamming him down several times and then throws toward Faora who clothesline him into the streets. Namek and Faora continue their assault on Superman as the military comes into play, although Superman is not an enemy they are ordered to shoot with extreme prejudice. After saving a military guy who was shooting at him.
  • SCENE 4: As Faora starts to thrash through the military who have been shooting at her Superman continues to fight with Namek. Superman is able to get the upper hand and sends Namek into a set of empty trains.
  • SCENE 5: Zod learning that he doesn’t need Superman alive to get the codex begins his plan by sending both World Engine’s down, one in Metropolis and one in the Indian Ocean, Superman able to speed his way to the other side has Lois and the military use his ship to activate the Phantom Drive in the hopes of sending all the Kryptonians back into the Phantom Zone. As he goes to the Indian Oceans he fights many tentacles but is successful in stopping it, however plenty of damage has already begun in Metropolis as it is slowly turn the Earth’s soil into Kryptonian soil and destroying many buildings in the process.
  • SCENE 6: You can watch this video by MAN OF STEEL ANSWERS, which shows the final fights and destruction, as you’ll see Zod causes most of the further destruction with Superman mostly on the defense.


As with the Final Fight with Zod, MAN OF STEEL ANSWERS has provided a detailed look at how much Superman did save people in Man of Steel 

NOTE: While the World Engine is destroying the city Perry White does attempt to save Jenny instead of leaving her behind, this shows that Superman is living in a world where he is not the only hero and there are others willing to help and protect. Also with the recent Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer we see further that is the truth. It’s also reminiscent of the Metropolis citizens going after the Kryptonians when they think Superman is dead in Superman II.


The differences in the older films and Man of Steel are mostly within the technology and how people view films differently. When Superman: The Movie was made, comic book films were still  for kids in the minds of many people. In Man of Steel, the understanding is that comic book films are not just for kids and they need more than just a hero being a hero. Zod, Faora and the other Kryptonians are the biggest change though as in the original film he is presented as a mad dictator, someone who only wants people to see him as God. In Man of Steel, they are genetically engineered to have a certain purpose. So Zod’s purpose as he says “No matter how cruel” is for the survival of his people, so all his actions in his mind are based on a heroic measure. We also see early on in the film that he wanted Jor-El by his side as they were once friends, something that wasn’t in the original film either. Zod’s purpose at first in Superman II was to rule Earth, but as soon as he found out that Superman was alive he wanted revenge.



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