Sure they could have written a more traditional scene where Superman stops Zod without killing him, I like the fact they they took a different route and did something unexpected. I don't see Superman's reaction to killing Zod as being hammy. I thought it was good acting and emotional.
Or Superman could have ambiguously just thrown him into a pit of mist and clouds like in Superman II.
I love that movie, but come on! That scene doesn't bother me it is just ironic that people complain that Superman kills Zod in this movie and yet it is implied that he killed him in Superman II but because it is shown in such a "G" rated manner nobody bats an eye.
I thought that scene in SM II was weird, but come on. He could have been throwing him into anything. I've always just assumed it was some kind of prison, or somehow putting the back in the negative zone. Based on the tone of the other movies, I doubt he was supposed to have been killing them.
Anyway, Superman not killing is part of the character. Pre Gritty DC reboot, He would never kill Zod. Zod could be shooting his eyes at Lois or Ma Kent and he wouldn't snap his neck. But, comic superman was also a hopeful person and had personality, so maybe its not a good compariosn. Still, its like I said. The Zod neck snap is exactly the same as if Batman had just shot Bane with a gun in TDK Rises. Its an action that is totally against everything the hero is about. You could probably find a time in the golden age where superman killed someone, or bizarre rare occurrences of idiot writers doing it in more modern times. On the same token, Batman used a guy on Darkseid in Final Crisis (it was a super science gun, and it was already established that Darkseid would survive into the 31 century so he wasn't actually killing him, but it still kind of counts).
But, its still the most anti superman thing ever. The point of superman isn't to make him super realistic (which they didn't, but they tried). He's supposed to be a hopeful guy, a guy so good that he's literally a superhuman. He doesn't kill, and he saves the day. Making him (and the movie) dark and gritty was just a weird tone that didn't fit the character, and the killing was part of that. They definately have an uphill battle to make Superman/Batman good. I'm hoping they do something with superman realizing that he was wrong, and vowing to never kill again (maybe batman can teach him that lesson). That would atleast make the death not just a pointless moment for people who think every hero should kill the villains
Otherwise it becomes a comedy sketch, with Superman just snapping every villain's neck. If he'll do it with Zod with no real hesitation (and he really didn't hesitate, he didn't even try to move Zod or stop him, he just yelled at Zod few times) he has absolutely no reason to not snap everyone's neck. If he can justify Zod, he can easily justify killing any bad guy he comes across, from muggers to supervillains
Pre Gritty DC reboot, He would never kill Zod.
Superman executed 3 kryptonians as earlier as the late 80's. Caused him to have a mental breakdown for a while, but he did it.
ETA: This occurred in Superman #22 in 1988
For your viewing pleasure I have collected as many scans Superman #22 as I could find.
Written and penned by John Byrne this was the day Superman killed... again. If you read the scans you will see why Supes was justified in kill Zod, Zaora (Faora was renamed again for some reason) and Quex-Ul, and why the death of Zod in MOS is fine with me and other people.
Missing Page: Zod thanks Lex for freeing him and destroys the parallel universe Superboy's phantom zone projector. Zod and his followers begin their rampage on the parallel earth.
That is Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, Bruce Wayne/Batman and Hal Jordan/Greeen Lantern in the final panel. In this parallel universe they never became superheroes, but they are still defending planet.
I should clarify that these 3 Kryptonians are Pre-Crisis on infinite earth's Krytponian. Meaning their ability level is way beyond 1986 reboot Superman's level. Superman of the 86 reboot could only travel at the speed of sound and stuggled to move a large skyscapper or small mt. Pre Crisis K' could move a the speed of thought, and under extreme duress could push planets out of their orbit.
Yes that is Zod burning Bruce Wayne alive.
Missing a panel here. Zod and Zaora turn their heat vision on Supergirl.
Idk who Zod and Faora killed, but both Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen were viciously murdered.
The entire population of Earth 5 billion people (circa 1988) murdered by 3 Pre Crisis Kryptonians. Look at their faces. They are smilling about it and boasting they will restore their lost powers and continue to kill more people. They are unrepentant villains. The 86 reboot Superman did not have the knowledge of how to make a phantom zone projector. So he executed them.
Compare this to what we see in MOS in the dream sequence.
Zod hasn't even begun to assualt Earth and already he is displaying the same unrepentantly evil characteristics of his comic counterpart. Human lives mean nothing to him and his followers in both incarnations.
Superman ponders his actions at the end of the issue. The breakdown he would suffer would come in later issues after a battle with Braniac who mental assaulted Superman. After that battle Superman's mental state was weakend and he had recurring nightmares of what he did on the parallel earth to Zod and his followers. The comic Superman Exile deals with Superman leaving Earth as penance.
MOS has Superman execute Zod after (according to Zack Snyder) 5,000 people die. Zod threatend to make humanity suffer after Supes had ruined his plan to terraform the Earth and make a New Krytpon. As we see in the film, Zod was totally cool with wiping out humanity before Superman opposed him.
It may not be pretty but it can be called justice.