This has always bugged me about superhero comics in general when they touch on this topic, but this work especially, since it's part of the main theme: why does everyone act as though it's Superman's job to execute people like Atomic Skull? When a cop apprehends a serial killer, most people won't blame the cop if the killer later escapes and kills again; most will say that's the jury/judge's fault for not having him executed, or the prison's fault for letting him escape. A gun can kill Atomic Skull, so it's not like the state is unable to kill him, and there's no indication that Metropolis doesn't have the death penalty, so why didn't they just execute him, instead of locking him up in a Cardboard Prison and then getting pissy at Supes for not acting as though he was above the law and instead handing over a dangerous criminal to the proper authorities to deal with?
Because Superman is well-known to have power that brings him straight into Physical God territory. Superman could deal with the Atomic Skull in a million different ways, all non-lethal. He could dismember him so that he's just a head and a torso. He could lobotomize him. He could find a way to de-power him (after all, he de-powers The Elite). He could easily and quickly build a cell that doesn't hold him only so long as nothing goes wrong with the thing they've hooked him up to and doesn't use glass. He could do so many different things, but he doesn't. He tosses him in a cell and hopes really hard that the Atomic Skull doesn't escape again and kill more people for shits and giggles. Superman doesn't even try to prevent it, even though he could.
...Except crippling or dismembering him would be even more crueler than killing him, and doing so would be horribly dickish of them to do so. Police Officers don't cripple criminals to stop them breaking out later, and if they did they'd be in serious trouble for doing so. What you and many others are forgetting is that Superman, and other heroes, aren't trying to punish the guilty, they're protecting the innocent. They're just trying to help their community because they can, and don't have any legal sanctioning to do so. The reason they only go as far as apprehending and stopping the criminal is because, legally, that's all they can do.
But there's still the question of the depowering, which could have been averted if not for the end of the film showing Superman depowering the Elite.
The Atomic Skull is a walking radioactive skeleton. He has no normal body. Depowering him would kill him. This is different from The Elite who were still essentially human save for a few upgrades.
Atomic Skull is a stupid choice for a villain in this kind of story anyway. He isnīt even remotely human anymore, physically and mentally. In a logically functioning world he wouldnīt fall under human law or would have been sent to the chair a long time ago.
There really isn't any reason Superman wouldn't help if asked. He's thrown people into the Phantom Zone before and help destroy missiles. Unless there's something in the comics, Superman's argument doesn't prevent him from fulfilling judgment made at trial. Would he play executioner if requested by a judge? I can see performing brain surgery to stop Manchester Black as no different from a police officer having to shoot an armed robber; it is seen as reasonable force to resolve the situation.
And Skull isn't actually a skeleton-his flesh and blood is just invisible.
In the final battle, Superman pretends to have become Darker and Edgier, just to reveal it as a ruse and his robots saved all civilians from the colateral damage, but what about the property damage? When facing villains in big battles it's unavoidable, but this was a staged battle (at least from Superman's side), so why didn't he have his robots secretly averting it too?
It was too public. The robots would have been seen letting everyone know of the ruse and ruining Superman's point. Supes could easily have the robots help clean things up.
Every fight between Superman and any super-villain would end in damage like that. There is probably a fund to pay for reconstruction. And Superman would actively help clean up and rebuild to atone for the damage he caused. Also, most of the fight was on the moon and not in a city. Who in the comic-book world cares if the moon is destroyed?
Destroying the moon would suck for everyone, what with the massive flooding and all that stuff.
How did Lois know who Vera was? Black didn't show her his backstory. Unless Clark told her about it offscreen.
Still pretty surprising that Lois recognized her considering only Supes and the viewer actually saw young Vera. Lois deduced her identity way too quickly, in my opinion.
Here's this person who claims to know what's what about Black. Lois has already heard about Vera, the only close family Black's known to have. She is a smart, savvy reporter. She took a shot and ended up guessing right. She did frame it as question.
In the final battle, why doesn't Manchester Black pull his "telekinetically damage Superman's capillaries" trick again after the first time? It worked remarkably well before.
Superman was holding back that time.
Also, he's got super-capillaries. Black admits that it was pretty tough to do.
Maybe Black was building up to that attack during the entire fight on the moon while his teammates kept Superman distracted so he can focus on setting up his special attack when the time is right. During the second battle, Black is never given enough to just catch his breath and set up the attack again?
Something like that would have to be very precise and more complicated than throwing up a wall. Supes was constantly on the move and as pointed out did not give Black enough time to focus.
Superman invokes Beware Of The Superman to prove why their actions of scaring enemy into submission with such methods are wrong and it works. But does this count as hypocrisy on Superman's part and ultimately proves The Elite's right? The reason it worked is by virtue of using fear and scaring them straight.
The point Superman was trying to make was that it's horrible and terrifying to use such inhumane actions on other people, even if you're their enemy. In a sense, he seemingly treated the Elite EXACTLY as they had been treating bad guys up to this point. Or to put it in simpler terms: "You can dish it out, but you can't take it."
You have to appreciate a Superman who knows how to use Superdickery for good.
On a deeper level, it showed how twisted Might Makes Right is- Superman isn't beloved just because he's got superpowers out the wazoo, it's because he's kind enough to not use 'em to hurt people. Under the Elite's rule of killing anyone who displeased them (including political figures), the world would basically have to kowtow to their will and just hope not to piss them off. Superman turns the tables, his powers making him the supreme authority on all of Earth by Manchester's logic, and showed people that having an unstoppable, all-seeing figure who murders you the second you get out of line isn't as appealing as the Elite made it sound. You don't realize just how scary it is until you see it from someone like Superman, who's usually just so warm and friendly.
The problems here is even if Superman was trying to make a point, it's still hypocrisy on his part because he talks about how two wrongs don't make a right, but he still scared them into submission and performed a different form of Might Makes Right by forcibly taking away The Elite's powers and going on about how his way is the right way. Putting aside The Elite's actions, it seems Superman won't tolerate other forms of morality other than his own.
I think you could argue that once The Elite took it on themselves to murder heads of state with no sanction from the United Nations or any world authority, then later showed they were willing to blow up a city to get even with Superman, they could be counted as criminals and needed to be reeled in.
Superman took away Manchesters powers permanently. Something that he thinks is wrong to do to someone like Atomic Skull. He comes off very hypocritical in that regard.
In the original comic book even the lobotomy thing was a ruse to scare the crap out of Black. Superman had just given a temporary concussion to Black's brain anomaly so that it would shut down his powers only while the police locked him up properly.
As mentioned above, Atomic Skull is a skeleton/corpse kept alive by radiation. Taking his powers away would kill him.
My main problem is how Superman fought the Elite to prove his point that excessive violence is terrifying. If anything he should have used excessive force on a real villain like Atomic Skull who has no good side to him.
Because he knew deep down, they were not evil. They were just misguided and needed to be shown the right way. In fact, Coldcast joined a branch of the Justice League down the line in the comics.
What the hell is with Lois talking about the deaths on the train from Black's origin like it was just another of their "kill the bad guy" moments? He didn't even know he HAD his powers then! It's nowhere near his fault! Are Lois and Clark really that black and white?
I guess it was meant to show how callous Black is about collateral damage. Those people were a fair price so that his sister didn't have to die. A nobler person would have felt remorse that it happened and remind themselves that power Comes Great Responsibility.
Plus, I'm pretty sure the point was how he didn't tell Supes about the train deaths. Either way, it hardly negated his other actions, but yeah, it did seem kinda judgmental of them.
So, at the end of the film, Supes informs Black that his team is having their powers removed prior to being sent to a prison. That's all well and good and it makes sense for Menagerie and Coldcast, but the Hat's powers are magical in nature. How do you remove the ability and talent's necessary to do powerful magic like that?
Heh... Well, Hat's powers mainly seem to come from his... well... Hat, and a series of enchanted trinkets. Maybe Supes just confiscated those.
Superman taking off his cape and covering Atomic Skull's body with it - instead of any of the bodies of the innocent people Atomic Skull just killed for fun on the ground literally feet away - is just completely indefensible, out-of-character and absurd. He's not against killing villains because he loves them or something, it's because he believes in having a fair legal system run by a civilized public instead of individuals using might to make right.
Considering what Atomic Skull was, and that Supes seems to have a costume Made of Indestructium, there may have been a pragmatic reason for wrapping a radioactive corpse inside that cape until proper containment could be found.
I think Clark was probably bothered by the fact that Atomic Skull was just publicly executed to the sound of roaring applause. The people he killed would all be mourned by their families and loved ones, but no one was going to mourn a monster. It was less out of respect or affection for Atomic Skull and more to show that for all he did, he was still a person.
What the hell did the Elite plan to do? I mean, even if they would have managed to kill Supes, did they really think that they could just take over the world and shape it as it fits to them? They were still DOZENS of Superheroes on Earth, some of them even more powerful than Clark (Martian Manhunter, Flash). Whatever they planned to do, it was doomed to fail.
First the plan at that particular step was clearly take down Superman and everybody else will fall in line. Which many of the heroes very well might have and worse many villains may very well have joined them. I can easily see Luthor approaching them. Sinestro would fit in rather well with their philosophy as well. Like a lot of comic villain plots however it's usually not best to think past whatever they were presently working on. Almost all plans have some what do you plan to do when the heroes/villains next door decide they don't love your plan hiccup in them.
Maybe they've been reading The Authority and think it'll work out the way it does in that comic. If the author's on your side and makes sure anyone who opposes you is secretly evil, things have a way of working out.
Also, if I recall correctly, the film seemed to imply that Manchester Black had some sort of personality disorder which made him narcissistic, slightly lacking in the empathy department, and a teeny bit megalomaniacal. I don't think he was an outright sociopath, but he at least had tendencies here and there. The rest of the Elite were little more than low-level thugs personality-wise. Such people usually have big ideas and a lot of grandiose plans, but rarely have either the stability or the foresight necessary to maintain those plans in the long-term.