Over the last few days I've seen a blur of mixed reviews go by on various social networks and have avoided reading anything detailed to avoid spoilers. Now that I've seen it though, it's my turn to throw out some spoilers for you to avoid if you haven't seen the movie. That means spoilers are ahead, so beware.My overall feeling for the movie very much mirrors the mixture of feelings I had seen on twitter and other networks. Man of Steel was a good movie, but it wasn't a great movie. Sure, it will be successful, I think it probably already is. Heck, they announced the go-ahead on the sequel before the movie was even out. I don't think they succeeded in setting the right tone for the DC Universe, with Man of Steel leading the way. It seemed much more as if this movie was following in the footsteps already established from The Dark Knight Trilogy, feeling far too heavy and dark - and that's coming from someone that was a fan of the more serious direction they were taking Superman, and a fan of the Dark Knight Trilogy...
I loved the opening act and its focus on Krypton. Getting to see more of its society and Zod's motivations was a great setup for the Superman mythos. Then telling the story of Clark's youth in flashbacks really kept the story moving as we followed Clark to the point where he finds the costume and takes the first steps to truly becoming Superman. (Never mind the fact that for some reason, his costume was sitting there ready for him on a ship that arrived 18,000 years before he did - but it's ok, I made up my own reason since they didn't feel the need to supply one.)
Most of the first half of the movie was great, but once Zod showed up, things soured a bit for me. I'm still trying to figure out why Zod wanted Lois as well as Kal-El. I can see why David Goyer wrote it, which was to get Lois on his ship, doing more in the movie, including finding a way to stop Zod; but I can't quite figure out why Zod wanted her on his ship. We also find out that it doesn't take kryptonite to weaken Superman, it just takes the same atmosphere type they had on Krypton.
Once the fighting began, we were headed down the path that makes for pretty Michael Bay action, sans the common sense. Don't get me wrong, the fights were crazy, spectacular and what one might expect of super powerful individuals -- ones that don't care about hurting innocents. I was amazed that Superman seemed content to fly his enemies into everything but less populated areas.
The first battle in Smallville is small potatoes compared to Metropolis though. Never mind that Zod just happens to park his ship over that city, a few blocks from the Daily Planet, to begin terraforming Earth. The destruction Zod puts on the city, for anyone that remembers 9/11, is staggering. Watching skyscraper after skyscraper fall and knowing millions of people dying, even if they were not showing it, was gut wrenching. But Zod is the villain, we except him to destroy the world, its when Superman throws down with him, destroying even more of the city, that he really fails to be the hero you expect of Superman. The Superman that knows he needs to get the fight out of the city is gone, this is the new darker, no holds barred, Superman.
But it's the ending that is really heart breaking - watching Superman decide to kill Zod. Sure they did a great job setting it up to offer him a good enough reason - I mean, it's alright to kill thousands of people you won't see because a building fell over, but gotta watch Zod kill a couple more with heat vision, that's a neck breaking. It's a fundamental shift in what Superman should be, but most of all a break from what both his fathers taught him about being a good man, instead showing Zod essentially controlled the outcome of that battle.
Aside from the above, I also think they tried to do too much in the movie. Setting up Krypton/Zod in the beginning and the moving on to letting Superman develop into a hero, not an anonymous one, but becoming the man the planet knows as Superman and saving Zod for a second movie would have been a better move. I would have preferred to root for Superman because I liked the character, the hero, not just because I had to root for him so the planet didn't die. Not that I want to see them march out Lex Luthor yet again, but some smaller villain that offered Superman a chance to grow into his role would have served them better.
I know I focused on what bothered me about the movie, but I didn't hate it, it was just disappointing. The characters were great: Lois, Perry, the Kents, Superman, Zod, were all well cast. I liked the new suit, I like the idea of a more serious take on Superman and overall, it was a pretty good movie, even if not very fun. It will get DC one step closer to getting more movies rolling, I just worry that Snyder, Nolan and Goyer are not the men for the job.