Saw Man of Steel over the weekend and, TL;DR, I loved it.
I'm going to hit a few points in particular, the things I didn't like and then address the big criticisms at the end. If you want to be spoiler free, don't click the JUMP. I'll be "spoiler lite" at first, but get spoiler heavy at the very end.
It surprised me to find out that this film was very much a science fiction movie. It addressed what it would be like for the world to find out that there are, in fact, aliens and also Kal-El's struggle with his ... shall we say, citizenship status. It was the scifi superhero movie that Green Lantern tried to be. While GL did fine in space, he floundered on Earth. Not so here.
Yes, there's a crap-ton of action and the camera's a bit shaky. Lots of BSG-style snap-zooms.
What didn't I like ... hmm. Well, the reviewers are right on one point and that's the lack of humor. There are a couple of funny moments, but those are few and far between. I think a big reason for this has to do with the plot. Because the timing of Superman's "coming out" is tied to the potential destruction of the world, there's not much time for cracking wise. Quips would have seemed out of place for a good hour or so of the film. I saw a couple of reviews that said the film skimped on the romance. You see, if the world's coming to an end, there's no time for love, Dr. Jones. Lois and Supes kiss. There's a hint of more to come.
Some have also said that there's a lack of "humanity." Well ... that's kind of the point. He knows he's an alien and he's been told for years by his adoptive parents that "they" (black helicopter types) might come to get him. Despite being loving people, the Kents have unwittingly fostered a sense of alienation (pun) within Clark and made him stand at a distance from mankind. A big part of the movie is about him learning to trust humanity (something Jonathan Kent didn't believe possible) and, in turn, Clark becoming human, too.
Here are a few points I want to make and expound upon.
- Lois Lane. Whatever concerns I had about Disney princess Amy Adams playing the part vanished when she referred to comparing anatomy. Follow that up with some actual journalistic detective work and you have the only version of Lois Lane on screen to date who seems like she may have won a Pulitzer. And thank Rao that she isn't being dumbed down to not see the mind-numbingly obvious. Very good move to let her be clued in from the start.
- Krypton. Beautiful and alien all at once. I wanted to spend more time there. And the concept of their society, too, was fantastic and well realized. Particularly the caste-based breeding program which brings me to ...
- Zod. Great job, Michael Shannon. Zod isn't some power-hungry tyrant, nor is he insane. He is simply doing that for which he was created.
- The Kents. A different death for Jonathan and a very different dynamic. Very real, though. Couple the dysfunction of having a semi-rebellious child who knows he was adopted with the palpable fear they had of him being discovered and taken away ... strong, strong stuff. I also liked how relaxed Martha seemed to be after Jonathan's death. (And I liked her line that seemed to homage 1978's, "Say, Jim! Whoo! That's a bad outfit!")
- Superbeings doing super things. An element previous films never seemed to capture, though the various DC animated series (Superman, Justice League) did: super power and super speed. I laughed during the scene where Faora takes on the soldiers and she zip-zip-zipped from one to the other, taking them out. It was marvelous. And the massive destruction caused by the end fight ... oof. Stunning, amazing and exactly what I hoped for. (I'll elaborate on the destruction at the very end.)
- Distancing itself from what came before. There are, of course, multiple ways this was accomplished but I'll focus on two. Origin. Despite this being an origin story, it stays away from the linear setup given to us in 1978's film. The flashbacks were effective and well spaced throughout the film. Music. Hans Zimmer has been in this position before. He had to score a new Batman movie back in '05 without using the iconic Danny Elfman score from 1989. For MoS, he had to score a new Superman movie without using the amazing John Williams score. I've seen some moronic reviewers point to this as a weakness. Seriously? If you're trying set up a new vision for a character, why would you want to connect yourself to previous versions so viscerally? The quiet Clark Kent theme is evocative and the Superman theme (heard in earnest at the start of the end credits) is rousing. What more could you want?
- Odds and ends. How the heat vision looks. The flush of x-ray, etc., imagery. The fact that there are probably a few people in Smallville who put two and two together (I'm looking at you, Pete). Jon Peters finally got Superman to fight a mechanical spider (sorta). The shockwaves from each punch that Zod and Superman deliver on each other. The sound of the World Machine's gravity weapon. The satellite in space that Zod and Superman destroyed. The name of the bully truck driver. The name of the general's assistant (the captain at the end; it's not a perfect match, but it's close). The laughter in the theater caused by seeing the launching of black dildos within which Zod and crew are encased. The next-to-the-last line in the movie.
- Henry Cavill. Last but not least. An unenviable position to be in, for certain, but he carried it very well.