Several major spoilers ahead.
A lot was riding on this movie.
For DC Comics, if there is to be any hint of a build-up toward a Justice League movie, a la The Avengers, Superman not only needs to be the frontman, but he needs to be intriguing, developed with characterization and not the same old predictable Superman. And he needs to make us go “Wow.”
Well, put a check mark next to all of those, because “Man of Steel” not only reimagined the origin story (yes, again) well, but it was an entertaining flick in the process.
“Man of Steel” gives us a good glimpse of the dire situation on Krypton, Superman’s home planet that reached unstable enough levels that the planet was going to be destroyed. Superman’s father, Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe), was able to foresee the calamity and took the necessary precautions to preserve both his newborn son and his race by infusing Superman (Kal-El) with DNA genetics and sending him off in space to find his new home, Earth.
Meanwhile, General Zod (Michael Shannon) tries to stop Jor-El (and fails). Zod later gets punished and locked away, which actually turns out to be a good thing since this is what saves him from death on Krypton.
Why all this is important is because Zod comes back at the end of the film, having finally located Superman. At first, Zod simply tries to bring back Superman to rejoin what’s left of their race. But after refusing, Zod concludes that he must take down Superman to retrieve the genetics; in some ways, Zod was doing what he thought was right, making him a more intriguing villain than most.
The main thing to take away from all this is how isolated Superman (now Clark Kent) feels. Make no mistake that the Man of Steel is not of this world. As a kid, he had nothing to guide him after discovering his superpowers, no explanation for why he was so different. He even had feelings of abandonment. He figured he was foreign, other-worldly, but not why, or how. That was a difficult, wonderful, sympathetic way to identify with his character early on, which came into play at the end of the film (more on that later).
His Earthly father, Jonathan Kent (played well by Kevin Costner) tried to help Clark through his early childhood struggles. They wisely thought it best to hide his powers, though not to be ashamed of them.
After he discovers the truth about his past, though, Clark embraces his powers. When Zod discovers his location and demands that Superman turn himself in, he now is presented with a difficult decision. Zod had to be destroyed, but doing so would eradicate all known connections to his people.
Page 2 of 2 - In one of the best fight scenes in all superhero movies, Superman and Zod duke it out, crushing buildings left and right, flying at breakneck speeds (the only bad thing about the action scenes were the rough edits and shaky camerawork, but they were tolerable). A side note: it was awesome that Superman became weaker when he wasn’t exposed to the Earth’s sun, a staple in the comics, proving Kryptonite isn’t the only way to slow him down.
Eventually, Superman made the decision to kill Zod (a nuance from what we all previously knew about Superman, who usually doesn’t kill his enemies). After that moment, he yells out a loud shriek of anger as his anguish over that decision crept through in a great scene. Superman chose to make the people of Earth his own, and now we have a new way to identify with him.
Lois Lane (played well by Amy Adams) might have had a small part in Superman’s decision. The start of their romance was subtle, but no doubt their love story will grow.
“Man of Steel” did everything it needed to do.