56% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is fair to say that the reviews have been mixed. That pretty much sums up my feelings on the film as well, as they have been mixed before I had seen it, and they continue to be mixed afterward.
I'm actually one of the few comic book fans who defends Superman Returns, and I was disappointed that they had no plans to bring Brandon Routh back for more adventures as the Last Kryptonian. While they kinda painted themselves in a corner with the whole son of Superman thing, I still think that there was room to take things in a new direction for another movie. So, I wasn't feeling too good about the reboot of the franchise. Then I heard that Christopher Nolan would be producing, and I got more positive. When I saw the trailer, I started to get really excited. I'll admit it - I'm one of those guys who got a tear in his eye in the snippet where Kevin "Pa Kent" Costner says, "You are my son". I was thinking that this movie was going to do for Superman what Batman Begins did for Batman.
Then the mixed reviews and negative comments from friends on Facebook started coming in. Was it possible that they could create such a moving trailer to an absolute stinkpot of a movie? I began to fear the worst, and today I finally saw it.
As I said, my feelings are mixed. It's certainly not the worst superhero movie ever, the honor for that going to Batman and Robin. It's also better than some of the not-so-good-but-not-horrifically-awful movies like Spider-Man 3, Green Lantern and Daredevil. Yet it certainly doesn't belong in the same category as Christopher Nolan's Batman films or even any of the Avengers-related Marvel movies.
It's hard to explain how I feel. When I compare it to something like Thor, which I thoroughly enjoyed but didn't feel as though it's the kind of movie that would win over people who normally don't like superhero movies, it's simultaneously better and worse. There are moments in Man of Steel that I absolutely loved more than anything that Thor had to offer, yet there weren't nearly as many moments in Thor that had me scratching my head, wondering what the hell was going on.
If I was to explain what worked, I would have to start with the music. It's hard to imagine something being as moving as the original John Williams Superman: The Motion Picture score, but I think that Hans Zimmer has it beat with this one. The casting was definitely good as well, with Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russel Crowe, and Laurence Fishburne all being good choices who properly embodied their iconic characters. Also, the flashbacks of young Clark Kent all worked, and they created a new twist on a familiar story - where Superman's greatest fear is how people will reject him for being different. As I've heard it said before, Superman's real weakness isn't Kryptonite but his heart, and that certainly comes through with this film.
I guess the bad parts were all plot-related for the most part. As my wife said, they were just trying to cram way too much into it, what with both the origin and an alien invasion. Also, there was a bit where Superman put Lois Lane down in a field while she happened to have the secret to stopping Zod, yet she doesn't say anything until she reunites with him later for a dramatic moment where she reveals to him that she knows how to stop Zod. Huh? Why not say something earlier? And why is she always able to be exactly where he is?
Usually I just go with the flow in a movie like this. Characterization and dialogue are always a lot more important to me than being devoid of plot holes, but there were just so many in this that I couldn't help but be annoyed by it all.
Also, some of the action scenes at the end were just plain confusing. I couldn't tell exactly what the hell Superman was trying to do to that thing that was over the Indian Ocean. It just involved a lot of him grimacing and stuff blowing up.
So, it wasn't nearly as good as I had hoped, but at least it wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared. I'm not sure whether that makes it the best of the lamer superhero movies or the worst of the better ones, but overall it just doesn't come together, despite having some truly great moments in it. Looks like they're on the fast-track to make a sequel to this one with basically the same creative team. Considering the great stuff, I think that they have the potential to make a phenomenal Superman movie; it's just too bad that this one wasn't it.