Short version? I really, really enjoyed the movie.
Not that Man of Steel isn’t without its problems. The opening sequence on Krypton needed a much better storyteller than director Zack Snyder. There was almost no narrative, just a bunch of visually cool scenes adding adding up to… well, Krypton explodes, yo… but you won’t find yourself caring very much.
The movie finds firmer footing on Earth, taking its own sweet time letting you really get to know the characters. The performances were all fine, especially Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She’s no Margot Kidder — who could be? — but she brings smarts and tough and tenderness to the role. She’s easily the best thing in the movie. Curiously, the chemistry between her and Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) was hit and miss. Sometimes the sparks flew, sometimes not. But in the end, I bought them and bought them together, so it all worked out. Cavill wasn’t really allowed to shine until the last act, and his performance probably owed more to Smallville‘s Tom Welling than to Christopher Reeve, but that’s OK, too. In the end, when Cavill is finally allowed to flash his impervious smile? He brought the full Chris Reeve-power wattage.
Also curious is the drab color scheme. Superman is a hero of primary colors, but his costume here is dark and drab. The first half of the movie is shot in winter or in the cloudy days of autumn, and even the summer scenes are reminiscent of those cloudless days when the sun bleaches everything to off-whites and muted pastels. That’s a big change from the beloved Superman: The Movie, but I’m not sure it’s a bad change. Just different, and at first slightly jarring.
Michael Shannon wasn’t given a whole lot to do as General Zod, other than chew the scenery and kick some ass. His quieter scenes were menacing enough however to make up some of the difference. I preferred Terence Stamp in the role in the otherwise-inferior Superman II. That’s a shame, because Shannon is capable of much more.
CAUTION: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD…