Man of Steel, like all films from Zack Snyder, is far above average in some aspects, and far below average in others. In fact, it’s about typical of his work. It’s flashy and punchy and zingy, but it glosses over character and plot developments. Unlike 300, though, this film does manage to get characters into the final product, even if they aren’t fully fleshed out. It’s an okay film, and definitely a visual triumph, but if you’re looking for a gripping time, you might want to look elsewhere. It’s the perfect popcorn blockbuster.
Snyder, who cut his teeth on television commercials for automobile companies and Reebok, has always been fantastic at visuals. The opening credits for Watchmen, a series of alternate universe vignettes that play out over Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-changing,” and most of the fights in 300, despite the overuse of slo-mo, are great examples. As a result, Man of Steel looks great. The fight scenes are action-packed, even for moviegoers already overdosed on packs of action, and certain visual spectacles, like a huge building collapsing as our heroes run for cover, and, notably, the 70s-sci-fi-influenced planet of Krypton, with its dragons, underwater nurseries, and scarlet-skinned suns in the backdrop. No one can make a film look as good as Snyder, James Cameron exempted.
But the characters are given no time to develop: the most we get is Clark’s parents telling him what a good person he is, and Clark in turn telling everyone how good America and Earth are. It’s all telling, no showing, because the ‘showing’ is too busy wowing us with how epic everything is.
One character does get developed, and is easily the best part of the film: General Zod. The guy is the only one with a clear idea of what he hopes to accomplish, he’s the only one who gets screen time from the first ten minutes to the final ten minutes, and he’s even the only person who really makes a worth-while effort to save Krypton in the prologue. He’s a powerhouse. He essentially saves the movie by serving as its spine. With a sequel and the Justice League movie in the works, we’ll see a lot more of Superman, but without Zod, we won’t really know any of the characters.