For all the Christian iconography and focus on myth building, you'd hope the filmmakers learned something about hubris. They didn't. Pure ambition consumes every level of the film-- the duration spent on Krypton, the godly scale of most action sequences (that on the first go round mastered almost everything Marvel's ever tried to accomplish with action scenes), that it has an awful lot more in common with E.T., Independence Day, and Avatar rather than Iron Man, but the biggest gamble was deciding Clark Kent doesn't need much of a character arc. Typically this might mean a hollowness to character development, but by bifurcating past and present as Goyer has, it necessitates that the viewer comes to understand Clark as he is rather than watch him grow and develop as a character. For the first half of the film, he remains an enigma that, for me, made it a struggle to care. The times spent on the farm are often powerful despite being wildly cliche, but the editing from scene to scene and even shot to shot was, well, a mess to the point where every moment I'm pulled in, some perplexing editing choice pushes me right out. A more linear narrative would have helped, but because the editing issues extend to cutting between bars, streets, farms, interrogation rooms, and military compounds, we may have been left nearly as puzzled.
Clark marches on as an unknowable bearded guy with a perfect physique that finds himself in more disaster scenarios than John McClane. However, Lois Lane has a great line of dialogue explaining why they kept him on the peripheral. He's unknowable precisely because that's all he was then to mankind. Us, as well as to her. She's our Watson to Clark's Sherlock, and the more they're on screen together, the more connected to Clark we become. From this point on, we come to know Clark more intimately, although he's often too busy employing a hundred employees at Weta to remember he's a character. Weirdly, critics saw the fireworks and apparently reacted by dismissing any depth or themes they came across. For instance, Lois is a surprisingly active protagonist in a genre often doomed with brainless sexist caricatures. She bravely thrusts herself into the forefront of danger for the greater good, and the criticism she becomes a simple damsel in distress is nonsense. Additionally, Clark faces a series of colossal decisions during the last half involving 'his people' that hang on the guidance we've seen his parents bestow upon him, bringing full circle the time spent with them. There's some interesting things going on here ethically, and that doesn't change throughout the film. All of his parents (and Lois) are highlights, and bring warmth to a film so engulfed in blue. Unfortunately, the whole cast isn't up to par. Some actors can chew through stilted dialogue, and Michael Shannon is not one of them, and while Zod and his ferocious sidekick may be far above most Marvel villains, they don't touch Nolan's vision of the Rogue Gallery.
Man of Steel is a confused film, and that's largely due to biting off a lot more than Zack or Goyer could chew. For all the intelligence, occasional depth, and the creativity brought to some truly mind blowing set pieces, it struggles with a perplexingly poor narrative structure that leaves viewers cold in a film full of warm moments. Some huge moments are awkwardly rushed, and it's grumpy cat atmosphere damages the hope it constantly spouts having. But, it's earnest, bold, and elevated by a wonderful score that perfectly captures this iteration Superman. With a better script and director, this had a shot at being something special-- a genre bending alien invasion superhero masterpiece. However, the arrogance that they could pull something this daring off without damaging the integrity of their film leaves a bad taste in my mouth, even if I really did enjoy the flavor.