The hype. Oh, the hype. I think there was too much. For a character with a track record like Superman, I have no clue how people expected so much from this movie. And that's exactly what happened. As we left the theater, nobody seemed to love Man of Steel. They liked it, but this crowd expected to be blown away. They were expecting the perfect superhero movie, and unfortunately this isn't it.
The fact that Christopher Nolan's name is somewhere in the credits made people's expectations skyrocket. And now that the Batman series is "done" DC needs to figure out where they go from here. I will say this though, if this movie was trying to be the first step into a Justice League movie, I didn't spot it. But enough banter, lets get to the actual movie.. (slight spoilers ahead)
The movie opens on Krypton where Jor-El is trying to convince the kryptonian leaders that the planet has no hope. General Zod walks in and attempts a coup, which leads to our first action scenes. The problem is that this is an obvious alien world, with alien terms for things, and absolutely nothing is explained to us. They reference something called 'the codex' and how it's the key to their salvation. Of course, we need to take this for certain even though we have no idea what this thing is... You know, it's totally alien to us. But no one explains anything here, so we just have to take their word that this codex thing is important.
For the most part the portion of the movie that takes place on Krypton is pretty, but quite forgettable. Obvious exposition, it's the type of exposition that gets regurgitated over and over again. Why do we need to hear Jor-El's consciousness explain to Clark step by step what happened when we just saw it happen ten minutes before? It feels like significant chunks of movie time are wasted recapping what happened earlier on. The plot isn't elaborate enough to merit this much explanation.
Being an "origin story" I'm surprised by how well the childhood/growth was handled. Through flashbacks they successfully stray away from having the first half of the movie being superkid doing mundane miracles. Unfortunately they flash back a bit too often, and it really breaks the tension at moments where you just want to see what happens next. Just when a huge confrontation is about to happen we hop back to a touching father/son moment that comes off cheesy because you're more interested in what's happening in the present.
And about those father/son moments... There are way too many of them. I get that you've got Crowe and Costner as the father figures and each of them deserves proper screen time, but it really starts weighing the movie down at a certain point. Due to all the flashing back, there's a real lack of action here. He's not in the costume enough. He's not fighting enough. There's just way too much exposition.
The action scenes are brilliant though. While the camera gets a bit shaky for my taste, everything looks awesome. Destruction has rarely looked this impressive. The breakthrough character in these scenes is definitely Faora-Ul who kicks all sorts of ass. Seeing her zip around at super speed annihilating just about everyone and everything in sight is one of the coolest visuals I've seen in a while.
The final confrontation between Zod and Superman is as massive a battle as you'll ever see on the big screen. A fight scene that really delivers. The type of fight scene that makes me hopeful for a decent DBZ movie at some point. And yes, I did have to reference Goku in this article at leas once.
Performance wise there isn't really anything for me to gripe about. Henry Cavill wore the cape well; charming yet intimidating, it works. Kevin Costner may seem overly cheesy at times, but he's by no means unbearable. Zod was a fun villain for a first movie, and Michael Shannon did a good job being the villain who believes he's doing the right thing. Lois Lane wasn't as tough as she should have been, but they got the nosy intrepid reporter part right; and I love Amy Adams. But, as I said earlier, the breakout star of here is without a doubt Antje Traue as Faora-Ul; a real badass second villain was the spark those initial action scenes needed.
All in all, it's an enjoyable movie. It's just one of those movies where you just want to fast forward to the fight scenes, and unfortunately there aren't that many... The initial action sequence on Krypton is pretty, but it's really just filler. I've only seen it once, and I really get the feeling that my complaints would only intensify on a second viewing. While definitely better than Superman Returns and much more enjoyable than Smallville there is still plenty of room for improvement.