Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Nightmare Fuel / Man of Steel

Go To
The new Krypton must be built over a foundation...

  • It's more understated than other examples, but there's the Codex, the source of life for Kryptonians, originally being located on the incomplete skull of some long-dead, forgotten Kryptonian.
    • It becomes Fridge Horror later on. When Zod tells Jor-El's Digital Avatar that he would rebuild Krypton on Kal-El's bones, it isn't a metaphor.

  • Zod's Villainous Breakdown during his trial scene. His Madness Mantra just adds icing to the cake.
    Zod: [to Lara] You... you believe your son is safe... I will find him. I will reclaim what you have taken from us! I will find him. I will find him, Lara. I WILL FIND HIM!

  • The process inflicted upon Zod and his followers as they're sent into the Phantom Zone. It looks like dark ice rising up and consuming them, and also looks VERY painful; some of them cry out in agony as the ice reaches their heads, even the stoic Faora.

  • The destruction of Krypton. Bonus points for Lara watching it without her husband.
    • Greg Cox's description in his adaptation of the film isn't much better:
      The damage inflicted by the war was nothing compared to what was upon them now.
      An apocalyptic vista stretched as far as the eye could see as [Lara] gazed out upon the end of her world. Volcanic eruptions, spewing radioactive green magma, tore apart the landscape. Kandor's distant towers toppled as the capital was flattered by never-ending quakes. A pyroclastic cloud large enough to engulf an entire city surged across the veldt, setting the grasslands ablaze. Panicked wildlife stampeded for their lives, but there was nowhere to run—all of Krypton was ripped asunder by cataclysmic convulsions.
      Herds of frantic Rondors tumbled headlong into gaping chasms that cracked open the surface of the planet. Desperate birds took flight, only to burst into flame as blasts of super-heated air ignited their wings. Artificial ponds and reservoirs boiled over, sending scalding plumes of steam high into the dark night sky.
      Lara watched stoically as the devastation spread toward the Citadel, which was already being rocked to its foundations.
      Bioengineered masonry that had withstood the passage of centuries broke away and tumbled down the sides of crumbling granite cliffs. Avalanches spilled havoc and death on the burning natural preserve below. Clouds of ash and smoke blotted out the moons' light.
      A nuclear volcano, eradicating Kandor in an instant, sent a tidal wave of heat and sound screaming toward the Citadel, which was instantly reduced to atoms by the ferocious blast. No eyes survived to witness the destruction.
      Not a single relic remained.
      Krypton itself soon followed. Vast tectonic plates buckled, venting mountainous sheets of glowing ejecta into the upper atmosphere and beyond. Continents crumbled and seas boiled over, as the planet's contaminated core built to a critical mass. A series of global detonations overcame the tremendous gravity that held the planet together.
      And then Krypton blew apart in a final, apocalyptic paroxysm that could be seen from light-years away.
      Doomsday had come.

  • Young Clark's out-of-control senses give the poor kid some very nightmarish moments. Seeing walking skeletons and floating, working internal organs, while hearing loud, unbearable noises coming from all directions. The way the scene is shot is very reminiscent of an autistic child have a Sensory Overload-induced meltdown, and is bound to hit close to home for viewers who are on the autism spectrum, and who have most likely been in a similar situation themselves.
    • It then gets cranked Up to Eleven when Zod and Faora have their life support systems forcibly removed in the final showdown. Clark had a whole lifetime to adjust. Zod and Faora spent most of their lifetime in the Phantom Zone, and thus took much longer to adjust to Earth's environment and their newfound powers. It's strongly suggested that it takes Zod up until the World Engine docked in Krypton is destroyed, roughly 16-20 minutes (of elapsed time). And the high-pitched-whine that Clark experienced is made much more intense when we are forced to experience Zod's and Faora's adjustment through their point of view, to the moment that, despite all the terror they have (theoretically) or will about to cause, you can still feel their pain.

  • The scene where the school bus crashes into the river and begins to fill up with water. It may be the first chronological example of Clark using his powers for good, but it is truly frightening for any parent who sends their child to school and worries about traffic accidents. The loudness of the tire blowout did not help.

  • Advertisement:
  • When Clark first enters the ancient Kryptonian scout-ship (which essentially becomes the Fortress of Solitude), he finds a mostly-decayed skeleton inside a preservation pod.

  • Clark using his heat vision to cauterize Lois's wound aboard the scout-ship. A stab wound getting burned...while she's conscious.

  • The tornado sequence, especially after the recent tornado outbreak in Oklahoma.
    • Clark watches his father die. He watches Jonathan's body get swept up and ravaged by the harsh tornado winds. Pray he was denied from seeing the body after it was found...

  • The viral TV spot of Zod's message to Earth is pretty chilling.
    • The prelude to the actual message is in itself Nightmare Fuel. The lights go out and only the TV works, and there's this strange, ghostly screech coming from it, and it goes on for at least half a minute as it steadily rises in this awful, metallic violation. For a moment, the film turns into a horror movie.
    • Martha certainly thinks so. When the power flicks back on, she practically jumps out of her skin.
    • It doesn't help that it resembles real-world Nightmare Fuel, like the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion.

  • Clark's flashbacks to when he was a child. Anyone who has been bullied can relate to this greatly. And real kids being bullied can't stop buses with their bare hands. How much fear was Clark in, every day, that this time he might get pushed too far. . .

  • Zod's flashback: Being freed from the Phantom Zone...just because those who imprisoned you have been vaporized in a planet-wide cataclysm, and being forced to watch, despite what you thought were your best intents, your home planet tearing itself into oblivion and being unable to stop it, spending the remainder of your years space-hopping from Kryptonian outpost to Kryptonian outpost, only to be greeted by centuries-old skeletons.

  • Clark appearing to be sinking in a mountain of skulls. It's only an implanted vision via Zod's Mind Probe, but the threat it represents is very, very real.
    • Before that happens, we see Clark cough up blood and collapse to the ground, while Lois desperately shouts for the uncaring Kryptonians to help him. After, he wakes up Strapped to an Operating Table. Moments later, Jax-Ur draws blood from him as he struggles and groans in pain.

  • Kryptonian heat vision. If you look closely, you can see the skin around their eyes blister and burn as well as them physically wincing. Each time they use it, they are literally burning their eyes out, in a similar manner to how Wolverine has to cut his skin every time to use his claws. Luckily, Kryptonian healing factor is still in effect...

  • Lois falling toward Earth in an out-of-control escape pod...that begins to burn up from the atmospheric re-entry.

  • Every scene where the Kryptonians fight humans and we see just how terrifying someone with these powers would be in real life.
    • Nam-Ek grabbing a pilot and ripping the man apart so that he explodes into fine red mist. It's a very brief shot, but that doesn't mean it's not a shock.
    • Faora's style of fighting (combined with her dark attitude) is sometimes both this and awesome at the same time.

  • This chilling line from Faora:
    Faora: You will not win. For every human you save, we will kill a million more.

  • The droning sound that the World Engine and Zod's ship makes. Made more horrifying by the gravity effects that the sounds indicate.

  • many people lost their lives as result of the World Engine? Plus Superman and Zod's fight?
    • According to this, 129,000 confirmed dead with another 250,000 likely dead, meaning that 379,000 people died in the crossfire note .
    • Holy shit! Seven-hundred-fifty billion dollars worth of damage done to Metropolis and the other side of the world, with a two TRILLION dollar worldwide impact. For comparison, The Avengers (2012), another awesome but highly destructive film, clocked in at one-hundred-twenty billion dollars of damage. It's a bit distressing that the next installment will take place during a worldwide economic depression unless some rich folks lend a hand in reconstruction.
    • Just imagine the ways people would have died in this film: Crushed by the debris, caught in fires and explosions; falling from God-knows-how high up—hell, even the tornado scene doesn't guarantee that everyone on that road made it to the underpass. And then there's death by the World Engine. You know, how Jenny, Perry, and Steve could have died had Superman not destroyed the opposite Engine in time.
    • How the battle plays out and all the sheer destruction really hits home that this is a much more real-world approach to Superman. When this kind of action happens, it's not all bright and heroic, and everyone manages to get to safety and people have time to cheer their hero(es) on. It's manic, horrifying, and outright catastrophic. The attitude during this a far cry from most other comic book action hero films where this is usually the triumphant moment of fighting back. Now Superman knows he can't drag any fights of this scale into Metropolis...or anywhere with a civilian population, for that matter, until he learns to make even better use of the powers he has.
    • Consider this about the World Engine. As part of the terraforming process, it's explicitly stated to be increasing the density of Earth's core, which it's doing for the entire time until it's stopped. The long-term ramifications of this tampering are never fully revealed, particularly since the process was interrupted before it was completed. Particularly chilling is that similar tampering with their core is what destroyed Krypton in the first place.
      • The gravity effects are explicitly shown to expand from their central points. We watch in horror as cars are lifted up, then crushed—not by the fall, but by the enhanced gravity. And while we don't see it as graphically, people running from the pulses are shown being dragged down by the effect.

  • The implication that there might be concentrated Kryptonian particulates in the air now... Kryptonite might be a ways from making it to Earth after the explosion, but who says a certain genius can't make use of something like that...
    • It's potentially worse. We see Zod's ship pull in a massive amount of debris from Krypton when it engaged its hyperdrive, so depending on whether that debris continued to piggy-back in their wake as they searched for Kal-El, some of it possibly might have ended up in Earth orbit.

  • Zod declaring he will kill all the humans just to spite Superman.
    Zod: If you love these people so much, you can mourn for them!

  • Superman breaking Zod's neck. Even he is traumatized by this.
    • Made even more traumatizing by the fact that, by his own hands, he killed the only other living Kryptonian in the galaxy, excluding the ones trapped in the Phantom Zone. Kal-El is not only the last Kyrptonian; he made himself the last.
      • And if you notice though, it looks like Zod's eyes were still working, or at least his heat vision beams were. That possibly means that, even if for a couple seconds after getting his neck snapped, that either he was still alive, or at least his brain was still functioning, because when someone is fully decapitated (i.e. their spinal cord at the neck disconnects from the skull), they're only alive brain-wise for a few more seconds, someone can be internally decapitated from a broken neck as well depending on how it was broken, so who's to say if a human injury doesn't have the same effect on a Kryptonian, as their only difference is alien abilities, specialty growing chamber, and as far as we can tell, skin density and adaptability.

  • The fate of Zod's followers. They are trapped inside the Phantom Zone without an intact ship or cryo-freeze to protect them. And recall that Kryptonians in this continuity can starve... eventually.
    • If that's not enough Nightmare Fuel, how about this: It's not just Zod's followers that ended up in the Phantom Zone. Colonel Hardy and Doctor Hamilton are trapped in there, too. Two human beings are trapped inside a prison dimension with all the Kryptonians they condemned, plus any criminals left still inside there. They'll be lucky if they starve to death.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: