I’ve enjoyed Zack Snyder’s past work (generally for the visuals and the action) but I feel more ambivalent about Man of Steel. Henry Cavill is an excellent Superman, bringing the character’s earnestness and isolation to life, and Snyder presents a coherent style for Kryptonian technology, but the overall tone of the movie is bleak – the colours are leached out blues and greys, and there’s no comedy or joking around.
More time was spent on the villain Zod and Superman’s deceased father than developing connections between Superman and humans – while probably deliberate, this distances the audience and the protagonist, and makes the movie feel tragic rather than enjoyable. I guess the story is tragic, about an orphan searching for his heritage and then fighting against the last of his kind for a world that fears him – but it’s not uplifting, and it’s less drama than sad resignation.
The action scenes feel extremely realistic (of course, planes don’t bomb ground targets anywhere near as low as they do in the movie) in the sense that Superman and Zod clash through banks and gas stations and diners, and stuff breaks and you see it – it doesn’t feel like bland CGI exploding in the background.
I’m not thrilled with the choices that Superman’s fathers made; given what happened both to Krypton and Jonathan Kent, you’d be forgiven for thinking they made the wrong decisions.
I think the movie achieves what it intends: telling the story of Superman before Clark Kent, an alien in multiple senses, aloof and detached, misunderstood by humans and separate from his own people; however it’s a difficult story to watch.