On the whole, Man of Steel was a solid B. Act 1 was a huge problem, with awful pacing issues, as Zack Snyder regularly suffers from in the early scenes of his movies.
The script was a mess of poorly handled exposition. The scenes on Krypton were too short, which paradoxically made them too long; there was no character drama, merely a parade of plot points, which removed any sense of engagement, thus making the scenes far longer than they needed to be – a problem that could have been fixed had they merely taken their time on Krypton. By making the scenes longer, they would have been more interesting, and felt like less of a drag.
Michael Shannon was, of course, a boat-load of fun to watch. Zod, unfortunately, was a wash, a waste of screen time. He enters with ‘kill everyone’ and never leaves that one-note moustache twirl. I saw a glimmer of hope, right near the end – where Zod got his rote ‘villain gets a tiny redeeming quality’ speech. He says something along the lines of “Everything I do, no matter how violent, no matter how cruel, I do for my people.”
What he should have said was “Everything I do, no matter how violent, no matter how cruel… I fail my people.”
And if he entered not with ‘MUDERDEATHKILL’, but with an argument with Jor’El, he would have been far more potent an antagonist. “Our people are dying, our species facing its end. We can start over. We can rebuild our race to the best of our ability. We can take the best of us and start over.” This introduces his eugenics viewpoint without making him a hilarious cliche of a villain. He’s a desperate man who eventually turns to violence, rather than starting out with it.
But that would mean Snyder would have to wait before he gives us the shiny brightsplosions, and I don’t think he’d make it work.
On the other hand, I loved this version of Superman. I know a lot of people are hating it – Superman doesn’t do violence and he doesn’t kill people – I feel they are missing the point. Superman isn’t Superman yet. He’s learning to be the iconic superhero. MovieBob, in his ‘Big Picture’ talk on the movie (also check out his review, in which he nails the overexplained-but-still-nonsensical nature of the plot) talks about how there is no where to go once Superman has proven willing to kill. This, to me, is exactly the opposite of where the movie is going.
Superman did kill Zod. He gave in. He sank to that level. And it disgusts him. Now, he will never ever ever do it again, no matter the stakes. His careless, wanton destruction of the city will force him, in the future, to be more careful, letting ‘weaker’ villains like Lex Luthor take advantage of his growing idealism. This makes Luthor a legitimate villain with the potential to outdo Supes, even without the use of kryptonite.
I’ve never been a Superman fan, but this is an arc to the character I am excited to see. It may turn out well, it may crash and burn. But I want to watch it happen.