Movie Masters Superman vs. Zod addendum

In today's Superman vs. Zod review, I said that there was no way millions of people died in Man of Steel. Go-go-gadget math skills!

Let's assume that Metropolis is roughly equivalent to New York City. NYC has a total population of 8.3 million people, and 1.6 million of that number live in Manhattan. Manhattan is the "business" district, the equivalent of the area where the Kryptonian ship lands.

Judging by the clothes people are shown wearing, the movie takes place during the summer. When the ship arrives, we can clearly see the position of the sun and, using the "15-minute finger estimate" technique we all learned from Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild, we can tell it's about half an hour to 45 minutes before sunset. In the summer, that means the time was approximately 8pm.

While "millions" of people may work in the center of the city during the day, they all go home at night. In fact, the movie specifically shows people commuting away from downtown. Even if, for some reason, the citizens didn't begin evacuating as soon as the big scary ship got there, the population was already far lower than it would be at its daytime peak. (Yes, it was about 10 minutes before the Daily Planet staff left, but they're newsmen: it's their job to stay as long as possible.)

Yes, there were people who were immediately at the epicenter and were thus unable to escape. And yes, they died. We're not saying that no one died in Metropolis, we're saying that "millions of dead" is a stupid exaggeration with no basis in reality.

Since Man of Steel's detractors keep comparing it to 9/11, let's look at those numbers. It was a truly horrific event, and 2,600 people died in the seven World Trade Plaza buildings that went down - an average of 371 people per building. At an average of 371 casualties per building, Man of Steel would have had to destroy nearly 22,000 buildings to reach the mythical 8 million people! Do you know how many actual building there are on the island of Manhattan? Not "taxable lots" (which include things like vacant lots and individual condo units), but real buildings. Apartment blocks, offices, garages, etc. How many are there? About 50-60,000. So to destroy 22,000 buildings, the movie would have had to destroy half to one-third of all standing structures in Manhattan.

Like a friend of mine said, "I don't know how many buildings were actually destroyed in the film. I wasn't counting, I was enjoying the movie. I didn't know there'd be a test after." I didn't count either. But when we see an aerial view of the city, there are still buildings standing approximately two blocks away, so let's say they got everything in a four-block diameter.

In Manhattan, north-south blocks are approximately 20 to a mile; east-west blocks are approximately 10. That means a square mile in Manhattan contains 200 blocks. We know Manhattan is 23 square miles, so that's about 4,600 blocks on the island; if the 60,000 buildings were distributed evenly, there would be 13 buildings per block; a circle with a two-block radius would contain 12.5 blocks, or 163 buildings. If there are 371 average deaths per building, that would mean 60,473 deaths - a truly mind-numbing number of dead Metropolites, but nowhere near the "millions" claimed.

Of course, you might add some more from Clark and Zod's fight (12 more buildings - yes, I counted), but most of those buildings were visibly empty. You could maybe push the total to 61,000. Now, that's still about 61,000 more deaths than I'd want to see Superman allow, but this movie wasn't about Superman - it was about Clark Kent becoming the man who won't allow 61,000 deaths to happen again...

--yo

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9 Responses to Movie Masters Superman vs. Zod addendum

  1. Friginator says:

    Yeah, because in the comics Metropolis is ALWAYS still intact after big fights. Is this actually a big controversy online? About how many NONEXISTENT people HYPOTHETICALLY died OFF-SCREEN in an action movie? Of all the flaws in Man of Steel, that's a pretty small one for people to complain about.

    And it's not like you couldn't make the same argument for the 1978 film, or for Superman Returns. It's just that Man of Steel didn't have a bunch of shots of Superman fixing train tracks and vaporizing falling glass in the middle of the destruction.

    • yo go re says:

      Oh man, the 1978 film. Okay, in that one, Superman can't save Lois because he's repairing a dam and saving a city from being flooded, right? But then he reverses time, goes back and saves Lois. We're specifically shown that his actions in the past are causing different effects - not PARALLEL effects (as though there were briefly two Supermen running around), different ones. He's replacing his old actions. Which means in order to save Lois, he just let that entire city drown so he could spend five minutes flirting. But gosh, he's got red underwear and cracks wise, so clearly he MUST be a better version of Superman than the new one!

      And let's not even get into the fact that Superman kills Zod in the beloved Superman II, as well...

      • Friginator says:

        Not to mention that not only has he killed in the comics, but executed three unarmed Kryptonians at once after they destroyed a pocket dimension. Everyone seems to forget that one. Superman #22, 1988. He's killed pre-Crisis, he's killed post-Crisis. It's not written in stone. The point is that he doesn't want to.

        • yo go re says:

          Not just unarmed, unpowered. He exposed them to Gold Kryptonite first, so they were basically plain humans when he killed them...

  2. Sebastian says:

    He even killed Doomsday! Although, he later came back, so I dont know if it counts...

    • yo go re says:

      That fight also destroyed HUGE parts of Metropolis...

      • Krycek says:

        True, but in the comic where Doomsday does make it to Metropolis (Superman: The Man of Steel #19), Superman at least tries to take the monster and the fight out to outer space. It doesn't work, because Doomsday wont let him, but at least he tried. Superman in the movie is about as irresponsible as the younger generation of "heroes" seen in Kingdom Come, zero regard for collateral damage.

        Man Of Steel wasn't a flop, but it was enough of a letdown that now Warner feels they need to throw Batman in the sequel. After the incredible marketing push, for Man of Steel to make less than 300 million domestically (less than the first Iron Man movie) is a disappointment. Then again, Superman has been poorly handled by Warner/DC for years.

        • yo go re says:

          Zod didn't develop the ability to fly until near the end of the fight - and pretty much as soon as he did, they went to space. Before that, what would Clark going to space have accomplished? Leaving Zod in the middle of Metropolis to destroy whatever he wanted without anyone to stop/slow him down? That's not a very good plan.

          WB isn't making Superman/Batman because this was a disappointment, they're making it because it's an awesome thing to make. They want their own "Avengers," and this is the fastest way to do it (with the added bonus that it will help ease the heat of the nerdrage that will surely come with the casting of a new Batman). If it was a disappointment, it wouldn't be getting a sequel - just ask Superman Returns...

  3. Ant says:

    Thanks so much for putting this up. I'm so weary of the Man of Steel hate I see online for a movie I genuinely loved. I'm glad you feel the same way, good job

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