Originally Posted by Marvin
Whatever you and your audience what to believe JorEl and his contemporaries are, the minute you are made privy to his armor and training you are shown a higher order of characterization than that of being told "People on Krypton are born to fill roles in society" and "Your father was our foremost scientist". You are being told what the character in question in fact is, it's this revelation that you need to measure against his task.
JorEl isn't simply a pencil pusher and Zod isn't a god of confrontation. Clearly.
I agree with the "higher order of characterization" of Jor-El, ass-kicking foremost scientist -- Krypton's renaissance man. The problem lies in making Jor-El out to be not "simply a mere pencil pusher" at the expense of
If we look at the Kryptonians who fought in the movie, according to feats, Zod ranks lowest.
1. Jor-El beats Zod in a fair fight, proving he "isn't simply a pencil pusher and Zod isn't a god of confrontation".
2. Clark holds off both Faora and Nam-Ek, the former portrayed to be the most skilled Kryptonian, the latter the biggest/strongest.
3. Clark (farm-trained) is pretty much even-steven with Zod (trained his entire life) till killing him.
Two questions arise here. First, how is Clark, a farm boy, so strong? Probably cos he's the son of Jor-El, former badass. Second, why isn't Zod that strong? And if "Zod isn't a god of confrontation", some criticism of how the Metropolis fight panned out stands.
A criticism of the Metropolis fight is that Clark doesn't seem to be concerned about the citizens. The response is that he's too preoccupied with a genocidal mad man and subduing him is the prime responsibility, which is fair enough -- until we go back to the Smallville fight and see Clark fending off two, arguably more powerful, Kryptonians while saving lives and showing concern for the folk of Smallville, at his own disadvantage. In Metropolis, Zod wasn't physically beastly, wasn't crafty (wasn't using humans as meat shields, for example).
While it isn't clear who's the best fighter of the lot (maybe there's really little separating Jor-El, Zod, Faora and Nam-Ek from one another), what's clear is that Zod isn't more powerful than two of Faora and Nam-Ek.
The movie also needed for Zod to be a god of confrontation, because, he's the final boss, the stakes were higher, for the people of earth. For the spectacle of struggle required to force Clark's hand to kill. As for showing Jor-El to be more than just a lab rat? Well, he could have been shown to be beating Nam-Ek, which would be pretty impressive alone seeing the size difference.
Personally, I'd have Jor-El beat Nam-Ek, before Zod comes in and takes Jor-El down in the Krypton act.