When The Avengers ended with wanton destruction, people applauded the gigantic set piece for its action and team-up fun. When Man of Steel ended with wanton destruction, got angry.
Some comic book-savvy people were up in arms that Superman could punchasize Zod throughout the city without a seeming second thought for collateral damage. The key distinction being that Captain America gets to pull buses and restaurants full of people away from the line of fire before jumping back into the fray, and Superman can’t be bothered to pull himself away from sky-wrestling a murderous being with God-like powers to tell the cops where to build a parameter.
Not to be flippant, but the distinction always seemed like an academic one to me – tied to Superman’s historical character and the fact that he’s one superbeing without a team at his side (in that movie). Of course a bunch of people died during Man of Steel. Of course a bunch of people died in The Avengers.
Now we have proof of the latter. From the new Netflix/Marvel show Daredevil comes a newspaper headline after the Battle of New York where it suggests “hundreds” were killed.
Plus, I like both portrayals of war zones for different reasons. In one, a military-minded hero with plenty of back-up uses his time to save what lives he can while aliens seek to end life on earth. In the other, a figure still trying to understand himself as a large-scale hero focuses on ending a threat that seeks to end life on earth.
On the other hand, it’s the sequence in The Avengers that shows the devastation of a large metropolitan area as relatively, falsely casualty-less. Cap saves some people (who later thank him on the news), and the streets and buildings getting banged up seem almost barren throughout. It works because this isn’t supposed to be a gritty, realistic portrayal, but that also makes it blissful in its naivete. The people Cap saves become ciphers for what should be blocks and blocks of a densely populated business district full of bystanders. In that light, the estimation of hundreds seems low, and it’s just as nightmarish as the conclusion of Man of Steel, if not more so because it puts a fun face on violence without seeing a single person lose their life.
At the very least, it casts their post-battle shawarma stop in a totally different light.
Hat tip to writer Cam Williams for the original screenshot.