Faora: A Villainess Done Right
Your average bigscreen Superman villain tends to issue dramatic declarations, possesses a motivation to conquer Earth for better or worse, and has a propensity to make things go BOOM. So it’s no surprise that Michael Shannon’s General Zod in Man of Steel, with his orders to “Release the World Engine!” and his inability to count, came off as campy.
Yet every bit of camp that Man of Steel injected into Zod was immediately transformed into badass points for his second-in-command, Faora-Ul (played by Antje Traue). Through crisp, calculated combat moves and a zeal for extreme Darwinian evolution, Faora thoroughly upstaged her boss and established herself as an enemy for Superman to fear.
I enjoyed watching Faora drub Superman not because I have a thing for seeing superheroes getting beat up, but because I saw a few things that made my inner feminist smile.
1) Faora is wearing standard-issue Kryptonian armor. There were no crazy high heels, or boob windows, or a skirt for strategic skin display. It was pretty much the same outfit that the male soldiers were wearing. Yes, there was a boob plate, but one could argue that because Kryptonians are as dense as lead on Earth that the plate wouldn’t kill Faora even if it broke. The armor was still a step in the right direction.
2) Her skills are emphasized more than her beauty. Every man in uniform did a doubletake when Faora took her first steps on Earth. But that moment was quickly forgotten when she started giving Superman and some airmen the fight of their lives a few minutes later.
3) It wasn’t explicitly stated that she was sleeping with Zod. He touched her shoulder once, but there was no other implication in the movie that their relationship was intimate. Even if the two were sleeping together, the filmmakers did an excellent job of showing that Faora’s main motivation was not to please “her man.” Sure, she was following Zod’s orders, but her fight dialogue with Superman revealed that she was driven by a burning desire to revive the Kryptonian people and create a new home for them, even if it required the genocide of a “lesser” alien species.
Considering the source material for Faora’s character, I’m thrilled that they chose to portray her this way on the big screen. In comics, she is an expert in the Kryptonian martial art Horo-Kanu, and she sent Superman packing in their first encounter. Yet Faora in comics is also a vicious man-hater. The crime that got her banished to the Phantom Zone was the brutal killing of several Kryptonian men. Multiply the musical Chicago times 23 with more blood, and you have the idea.
I appreciated that the folks in charge let this origin story slip away for the film. For one thing, Man of Steel had enough backstory as it was. But more importantly, just because a woman is strong and has the ability to beat men to a bloody pulp doesn’t automatically mean that she hates all men and exists solely to punish them. Depicting Faora as a man-hater who cuts the balls off of every man who smiled at her would have diminished her character and made her just as campy as Zod, if not more.
So thank you, Man of Steel creative team, for choosing to show that a female villain, like her male peers, can be driven by a misguided sense of duty to achieve great and terrible things. If Faora is reincarnated in comics, I’m crossing my fingers that the writer will follow your lead. (Though if Gail Simone gets the gig, I don’t think we’ll have to worry.) Also, I know this is a lot to ask, but if you find a logical way to bring Faora back from the Phantom Zone for a future Superman film, PLEASE DO.
Meagen Voss is a recovering scientist who hones her fiction skills at night and wields her science writing skills by day. She resides in Carrboro, North Carolina with two conniving cats. You can find more of her online musings at her website or on Twitter @AssortedChaos.
Meagen writes about comics, cultural commentary, and cons!