It seems to me that Man of Steel is two movies. Its ironic, as Hollywood has a habit of maximising profit potential by stretching things out- Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions bloating a story that could have been told in one sequel just fine, or stretching out The Hobbit into not just two films but three. Man of Steel seems to me to be a film that needed a Part One and a Part Two. As it is it just rushes along without hardly any pause, incident upon incident, action set-piece upon action set-piece until it just threatens to fall apart. Which is not to suggest it has no quiet moments but it lacks, well, room to breathe.
Part of this seems to stem from a mantra that runs throughout the film to correct all the perceived mistakes of Superman Returns. Post-release that film was widely considered both a critical and financial failure. I don’t believe it was either, but the filmmakers and studio were obviously hellbent on rebooting the franchise as a Anti-Superman Returns. So gone was any reverence to Richard Donner’s film. This is a new Superman. Even if it essentially retells the story of Superman:The Movie and its sequel, the two films squeezed into one. Gone is the slow pace of Superman Returns and its nod back to what came before. This is new. This is loud.
A prologue Krypton sequence attempts to lay the groundwork of the film but this is undermined by not being given time enough. We are thrown into the story without everything being established properly, had this been two films an hour spent with Jor-El and Zod and the dying Krypton would have served both characters better. Heightened the tragedy, because after all, that’s what it is. Krypton ultimately fails, but Earth offers both Zod and Jor-El (through his son) redemption, albeit of opposing ways. This is rather lost when everything collapses into a senseless blitzkrieg of CGI explosions and battles and references to a codex. It just feels silly. There’s no drama to the noise and spectacle. No real involvement.
I wish this had been two movies, the first ending with Clark Kent established as Superman, the second starting with Zod arriving to wreak havoc trying to bring Krypton back, representing the very opposite of what our hero does. I think over the spread of two films it might have meant more. It’s not a terrible film by any means, it just lacks substance somehow. Zod’s Kryptonian cohorts are mere cyphers, Zod himself lacking the gravitas that he promises. We see Superman but none of the innocent Clark Kent reporting for The Daily Planet. That is left for a sequel we won’t likely get anyway, derailed by a desperate-sounding attempt to mimic Marvel’s film franchises by making Superman versus Batman instead. Spinning up a DC universe of superheroes on the silver screen.
Still, my viewpoint is inevitable really, as I much prefer the first two Christopher Reeve films. They had more charm, more heart.