Source: Man of Steel (2013)
He looks and sounds the part, I have no problems with that, and while I'm not a fan of the pantsless uniform, it works in the context of the film's production design. Given Krypton's more fantasy-based fashions, it has the feel of some Roman Centurion's outfit, with a longer cape. We don't see a lot of Cavill's mild-mannered reporter, we do see a lot of Clark - as a Smallville resident, as a drifter, holding various jobs, etc. - I can't say I enjoy the character's anger management issues, but I accept this was meant to be a "becoming a hero" sort of story where Clark's powers have been repressed and come out in fits of rage (it doesn't happen often, but what he does to the trucks strikes me as particularly petty). He must first reject Pa Kent's view that his "coming out" would bring society to its knees (read in that what you will), and accept his destiny. Only then can he be comfortable with who he is. That's a perfectly legitimate take on the idea, and maybe that's why the movie plays coy with calling him "Superman". By the end, when he's announced he'll defend the Earth on his own terms and is declared "hot" by G.I. Jane, it's like we're now where we should be. Superman can exist in our world without him (or us) being ashamed of him. (I'm sure the sequel will do its best to prove me wrong.)
Let's address the elephant in the room: Superman kills Zod by snapping his neck. This was one of the unavoidable spoilers because it made people shout "that isn't Superman!" on the Twitter real loud. Of course, that's a fanboy reaction. The people I was with didn't realize superheroes weren't meant to kill, because guess what, they do kill in most movies. It's a weakness of films like this where villains must be dealt with definitively as opposed to comics, where villains must be kept around for return engagements. Of course, the other Phantom Zone villains were put back in storage, so why not Zod? Now, when I saw the sequence, I thought it worked for two reasons: 1) It was written as a no-win scenario (Snell tells you why it wasn't really, and yes, better writing would have avoided the dilemma entirely, but an inexperienced Superman might not see many option, especially for what to do next after the Phantom Zone warp has closed) and 2) Superman's reaction to killing was visceral. You wanted a "crying Superman"? You got one. He's never doing THAT again. I was far more ambivalent about the wholesale destruction of Smallville, to tell you the truth, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
STUFF I LIKED!
-Krypton. Trading the stupid crystal look which I so hated with a fantastic Barsoom kind of aesthetic was a big draw for me. I'd have watched a whole movie about action hero Jor-El in this kind of environment. It was grand science-fiction, borrowing elements from Byrne's sterile Krypton, while retaining a certain lusty physicality in Krypton's first couple. The idea that their technology didn't have screens that project light, but instead a kind of living metal showing things in relief was brilliant.
-One of my very favorite versions of the Superman origin story is the Bruce Timm's animated series pilot, which in many ways this steals from. It's Zod instead of Brainiac, but Superman finishing what his father began by facing a threat just as much from Krypton as he is himself works very well for me.
-The supporting cast. While the relentless action doesn't give all of them room to shine and the writing doesn't always give them their best chance, the characters meant to return are all well-played by very watchable actors. Amy Adams' Lois Lane is awesome, a real kickass go-getter. Laurence Fishburne's Perry White is a man who takes care of his people, both professionally and physically. Diane Lane's Ma Kent is earthy and supportive. Michael "Stamper" Kelly is an odd casting choice for Steve Lombard physically, but I enjoy the heck out of him. And Richard Schiff is a bonus as Emil Hamilton (does he die though?) who gets his own hero moment. So as you can see, one of the thematic threads of the film is giving Clark many human role models so he can ultimately choose to be "one of us" and not "one of them". (Zod makes that pretty easy though.)
-LexCorp gets a reference, and it would seem that, at the very least, Metropolis' destruction would justify Luthor's hatred of Superman and set him up as the city's rebuilder and jealous co-savior.
-All the action we were missing in Superman Returns! And a bit more besides (my cup runneth over). Returns was intent on not having Superman throw a punch. Not the case here, and we get a lot of super-feats, in different styles (thanks to the villains).
-Faora-Ul is a way creepier and cooler villain than Zod. Move over bacon, now for something more reptilian!
-So Superman's flight powers have a telekinetic element? Or he harnesses gravity somehow? I don't dislike it, it's interesting.
-I'm not a big fan of Zack Snyder's, but he IS an crafter of images. In 300 and Watchmen, he was way too obsessed with recreating others' images, but here gets to create his own. The movie looks gorgeous even in its muted color palette.
-That last line. Loved it. I can't believe I've never seen it or read it before (though it may exist somewhere).
STUFF I DIDN'T!
-It looks like since Marvel's cornered the market on fun superheroes who can do comedy, and Green Lantern, meant to be the same, tanked, DC is going all out on the dark, dour, humorless and pretentious superhero angle. It works for Batman, but the Nolan formula takes away from Superman and is at odds with the character AND Man of Steel's exhilarating action scenes. The next film needs more fun and cheek.
-The Dark Knight was all about impossible choices, and the ability of various characters to navigate those choices, sometimes finding a third option, sometimes failing miserably. They tried this with Man of Steel, but because Superman has so many options open to him, they are false choices. The Dark Knight's strength is Man of Steel's weakness. Pa Kent's death by tornado is stupid because Clark could have saved him many many times over. And we've already talked about Zod's death as a failure of the writing. The one moral dilemma that worked was whether to help recreate Krypton as per Jor-El's wishes or choose to become the Last Son of Kyrpton by choosing humanity, and even there... "Krypton had its chance" is easy to say when Zod and his cohorts are so committed to genocide.
-There is a lot of destruction in this movie, and countless lives were destroyed and lost for sure. That Superman is seldom seen trying to save anyone who didn't previously have a line is problematic. In most comic book stories, the Metropolis battle would have taken place in an abandoned construction/demolition site, and the Man of Steel would have lured the villains away from Smallville as soon as possible (way to go, U.S. military, let's bomb a small Kansas town). Of course, what's more egregious is that the Metropolis battle is pretty much the exact same sequence as the equally problematic Avengers' climax - alien invaders make buildings fall down until they are sucked into a dimensional warp! Been there, done that, Mr. Snyder.
-The PG-13 rating. I'm fine with the film going for more intense action and violence, but it gave them permission to use stronger language which really doesn't fit a superhero movie, in my opinion. And it adds absolutely nothing to the story or tone.
-What was the big hoopla with Jimmy Olsen being turned into a girl? Jenny is not credited as an Olsen, nor is she a photographer or a redhead. There's nothing to connect her to Jimmy, as if they'd let the door open for Turtle-Boy to show up later. Pointless.
-They missed a trick by not having the boat Clark works on be called the Lori Lemaris. Lana gets a nod, Lois is a strong presence in the film, where's Lori?! (My friends wanted Aquaman to swim up and save Clark while he was reenacting the start of The Bourne Identity, and yeah, some finny legs in frame would have been a cool foreshadowing of a Justice League movie, but no, that would have been FUN.)
But what did YOU think? I know everyone has an opinion on this.