The “S” is the Key to a Man of Steel Enneagram

Preface. I have only seen this movie once and that was as few days ago, and I do not trust my memory enough to faithfully retell the tale as it was told to me, so please take this as a best effort enneagram with lots of gaps and re-imaginings.


1 Superman’s life is a directionless and dangerous journey that he is not in control of.

He is born when Krypton is in trouble, Zod is imprisoned and Superman is sent to Earth. Clark is depicted as a “David Banner/Hulk” like directionless-do-gooder-drifter saving people in an oil rig disaster and then moving on. He was raised to hide his powers, even to the point of letting people get hurt, as his Dad suggests after the incident in which he saved some kids from drowning in a bus crash.

2 Superman’s home world of Krypton is destroyed (and as we learn later, Zod is released).

The dissemination of information about Zod is pretty wishy washy as we really don’t learn of his release from the inter-dimensional prison until much later during a dream within a dream sequence when Superman is being tortured and is weak and disoriented due to the atmosphere aboard Zod’s ship. If that sounded like a mouthful it was visually just as garbled to me. But a world being destroyed is what I see as the Two as it is directly reflected in the Eight when a world is threatened and saved.

3 Holo-Jor-El gives vital information.

Clark uses the “S” key and meets his Dad as a holograph who tells him who he is, where he is from, and what Krypton did to destroy itself.

4  Working against humanity.

Lois tries to figure out who Superman is. Her best, and only, intrepid reporter stuff is seen here, but it should have been expanded to include her uncovering clues that would later be used to aid in the plan she plays a part in creating in the Seven, more on that later. Zod targets Earth. Clark has flashbacks showing his conflict with his powers and distrust in humanity. I don’t remember if Clark’s Dad dies in this section but this is where it belongs as it results in added conflict between he and humanity with his acting against his instincts by not saving his life. At some point Superman learns that he was the first natural born child on Krypton for lthousands of years and this belongs here in the Four too as it solidifies Superman’s intergalactic outcast position for even if Krypton had survived he would have been an outcast there as well.

Switch. Lois cares about Clark and she answers his “big questions”;

Yes, humanity can be empathetic, Lois empathizes with Clarks struggle and agrees to not release her story on Superman. 

No, he can not run forever because another reporter will find him and will not keep his secret.

Yes, he loves her and this is a good sign that she likes him, which means maybe he can be accepted as he is, super-warts and all.

5 Working with humanity

Zod arrives and threatens Earths inhabitants to hand over Clark. Clark works with humanity, after talking with a Priest, and surrenders to the Military who hand him over to Zod. In this section Superman slips Lois his “S” key, which, when you read all the movie-wide change suggestions I make in the Eight, you will see that this is a BIG DEAL, this is like bigger than giving your best girl your fraternity pin, this is akin to bringing her home to meet your parents. This scene could have definitely been played with a dash of playful heart in it, right in the middle of the darkest hour. Instead it was played as a stiff “Keep this safe, they might torture me.” moment.

6 Holo-Jor-El gives vital information.

The “S” key is once again used to summon Holographic JorEl who helps Lois escape Zod’s ship and gives her vital information on how to destroy said ship. I see a different approach here, with Lois uncovering clues which will later be pieced together in the Seven to create the plan for the Eight, more on that later, but it basically mirrors and deepens the Holo-Jor-El from the Three, only it is with Lois, and this fact should somehow have some joy in it. After all, this is the closest Lois is going to ever get to meeting Clark’s Dad and perhaps if Jor El behaves as though he is conversing with Cal El and she probes him with personal questions about Clark all the while dodging laser beams and punches, this could serve to flatten and delineate the boundaries of the whole “I am Jor El’s conciousness” thing and broaden and raise way up Lois’ charm and spunk factor.

7  Superman reacts and then plans.

Following Holo-Jor-El’s orders to smash open a bulkhead Superman sees and split second decides to save Lois as her damaged escape pod falls to earth, then he immediately determines that his Mom is in danger, because he suspects Zod will look for the Codex at her farm, so he split second decides to save her, literally leaving Lois in the dust. Reacting to his anger (which is an involuntary method of decision making) over seeing Zod toss his Mom aside Clark launches a torrential rain of blows against Zod which take out half of Smallville.


Sometimes a Seven contains inept attempts to reach the Eight and in that light the above mentioned scenes are decent examples of seven stuff, with Superman deciding and acting in mostly a reactionary method he, and we the viewer, should be learning that he can’t do this alone, this is arguably a lesson better suited for the four, as a team building exercise, but the seven is a place to try things, to strike out in different directions. Its ok as long as these struggles are looking for the path that will lead to the eight. 

During these sequences may have been a good point for the filmmakers to show Superman snap out of his rage, perhaps at the point of  nearly killing Zod, and momentarily reflect on the destruction that can be wrought in the wake of his losing control, as well as his willingness to kill another, and in that moment Zod would escape. It could be a set up for when he actually does kill Zod in cold blood later in the Eight. More on that in my reworked Eight though.

I also would consider that Holo-Jor-El’s orders to smash open the bulkhead in order to save Lois was a mistake in that he should be neatly contained in the Three and Six, this would mean that his arguing with Zod scene would have to go away and any pertinent info revealed there played out elsewhere. As for the bulkhead tip to Clark, I’d rather have Clark alone and kind of relapsed into his old “hear everything” state as he is still reacting to the atmosphere change on the ship and let him focus on, not his Mom anymore, but on Lois which will calm him enough to see she is in danger and then he decides to smash through the ship on his own. Then when she is safe he goes to save the second most important woman in his life.

The real Seven occurs when the team, consisting of Superman, Lois, and the Military, finally get together and compare notes and come up with, and decide to act on, the plan to achieve the Eight. Lois brings the intel she got from Holo-Jor-El, the Military brings the local muscle and Superman is sent  half way around the world to do his part there. This works for me as it emphasizes the theme that Superman can’t do this alone. What doesn’t work is Lois being given highly technical other worldly physics to remember back in the Six and then telling them all how this is going to go down, that is a stretch, but it does make her the “gatherer and disseminator of information” which does fit her reporter role. Perhaps having her showing pictures or notes she might have taken as she was gathering info and then having the Military interpret those notes. (See my later note regarding having her use a camera phone to secretly capture critical intel.) Or something that sets up an epiphany moment as she whips out vital info as a missing piece of the puzzle, this sort of thing would have worked better here. This bringer-of-vital-clues role for Lois in the Seven could have given her some real intrepid-reporter things to do earlier in the film as well. I see her taking a picture of  the vital-thing-that-will-react-to-Superman’s-baby-capsule while on board Zod’s ship only to have her camera destroyed by the She-Zod and then she snaps it again in secret with her camera phone as she’s being dragged away. Or some such intrepid reporter type stuff.

8 Superman’s homeworld of Earth is saved and Zod is destroyed.

The plan from the Seven works and Earth is saved from being Kryptonated.  Zod pops back up in true horror genre fashion, unexpectedly and against all reason, and fights on. A lot of gratuitous destruction, and presumably death, occurs in the wake of their fight and then Superman, obviously emotionally distraught, snaps Zod’s neck, killing him for good.

Notes: Had they taken my earlier advice from the last time he and Zod came to blows then this fight would have been handled differently. I like that Zod basically asks for death by saying that he can never stop, and never will stop, killing, but Superman seems just as out of control of the fight as he was when Zod pushed his Mommy down earlier. I want to see some emotional learning curve in evidence for Superman here, at least some recognition that the falling buildings are killing people and an attempt to steer the fight away from downtown. This could then be recognized by Zod and used to gain advantage.

The killing of Zod via a neck snap does not work for me, first off I’ve had military trained MMA fighters and chiropractors tell me that it is simply not that easy, and second, it  was a waste of a death scene. However the heat vision threatening humans finale works for me,  but only in this way. I believe this scene only in as much as I believe Zod wants to die. In other words he is not fighting back against Superman at this point, he is struggling to die with honor, a genetically modified birthless psychopathic senseless sense of honor to be sure, but it is what he was bred for and he will force Superman to give him his death. So,at this point I suggest that Superman doesn’t give Zod the death he wants, I suggest something like the following. (Hold on tight because this will take a bit of explaining.)

Way back at the beginning when we see Jor El insert the “S” key into the baby capsule we add a shot of him first pulling the key from his super-suit like he’s pulling a IV drip from his forearm, like its plugged into him via a port in the suit. Nothing gross and gooey, just a quick yank and a grimace. This would also help answer the whole Holo-Jor-El is actually “conscious” issue as the key that contains him was literally plugged into him, which also explains why Mrs El can’t be there to see her baby all grown up when Holo-Jor-El says something to that effect earlier in the film. Another added scene must be Lois, being the intrepid reporter that she is, noticing that Zod has a similar key shaped receptacle in his suit at some point earlier when they are on his ship perhaps. Maybe its in one of the pictures I say she takes with her phone. And finally, she must find the “S” key in the rubble, it having been blown clear of the baby capsule during the big inter-dimensional explosion. Now we are caught up to the point where Superman is locked in an eternal stranglehold with Zod as she watches as Superman is wrestling Zod’s head away from burning the innocents and we see that Superman cannot hold him back forever, that they are at an impasse, so she makes the connection and plugs the Jor-El key into Zod. He immediately stops flaming and goes into seizures and much agonizing scene chewing actor death throws ensue and he dies in a twitching heap.

9 – Superman’s life has direction and purpose.

Superman smashes an expensive drone plane in front of the General. Here we see Superman laying down (smashing down) the rules of engagement that he is setting for his relationship with humanity, specifically with the United States military. He is going to protect his own privacy, violently if he deems necessary. And as Clark Kent he get’s to be near Lois and keep an eye on current events. And by the way, Lois knows full well who Clark Kent’s alter ego is in this reboot, which adds to my overall take on this version which is that this one is all about his trust in her.

Like I said at the beginning I am aware that I am missing huge parts of this movie, and perhaps, in time, I will fill in some of the missing elements. Ideally I believe that an enneagram of any film should consist of the following: a scene by scene faithful summary of the film with a “best fit” enneagram overlaid onto it, followed by an ideal enneagram with the summary rearranged and missing scenes suggested to better tell the tale. However, I did not follow my own rule as it was too much work and would have required me to see the movie again to faithfully summarize it. Hat’s off to my fellow intrepid enneagram reporters as I now am reminded as to just how much work these things are. Stay tuned as I may one day see it again and complete this post and in the mean time … happy enneagramming!

1 Comment

  1. Well done, sir. Very well done. Also, very complicated. You have described a better movie with a more satisfying Lois, a Superman more true to his canon-established nature and a Clark who experiences an arc. A Clark-arc. Eep.

    Since you’ve solved so many of the film’s problems, I ask you this: At the climax you suggest (if I read you correctly) that Superman does not kill Zod, as that would be against his entire character. But Zod must die, even by his own estimation. Thus, you have Lois kill Zod, consciously, through the use of the S key.


    I like all the ways that resolves the ending, but where does that leave the Clark arc? Without Lois, would he have ever come to a resolution of the Zod problem? If not, which is certainly a possibility — a true Superman weakness is his lack of ruthlessness when it’s needed — what effect does that have on Clark’s character and his behavior in the 9?

    Everything you’ve written sounds so good that I want to hear you take it all the way to the end. You may even end up suggesting the crisis for Superman 2.

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