I'm going to try do this review spoiler free. Wish me luck.
I'm feeling conflicted about this movie. On the one hand it was brilliant, both visually and in capturing a specific version of an icon, in a way that we haven't seen before on film. On the other, this was a very serious movie without a hint of the humor that made the original Superman movie so good. It makes me wonder if maybe in the attempt to distance themselves from the past, they went too far.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot to like here. All the actors deliver excellent performances; even the bit players have screen presence. Yet none of them detract from Henry Cavill's Superman, who is a dominant presence throughout the entire film. Cavill imparted the right level of conflict and emotion to make his character vulnerable and sympathetic, which is probably the right way to go with someone who is essentially a god.
Russell Crowe was awesome as Jor-El (Superman's biological father). He delivered pathos and humanity to a character that needed to be sympathetic. He also played a much bigger part than I thought he would. Crowe's Jor-El is much more front and center in this version, and it totally works. I'm not quite sure if I can say the same for Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Although she has a significant part, and they didn't go the usual route with the character, I thought she didn't quite fit into the story as well as I would've liked. Not that it was Amy's fault. She was a decent Lois Lane, but I didn't feel a ton of chemistry between Lois and Clark.
The rest of the supporting characters were just that, supporting. The Daily Planet was full of people that worked as characters, but were mostly irrelevant except as innocent people suffering from Zod's path of destruction. Which brings me to the villains. There are two primary villains in this: General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Faora (Antje Traue). Of the two, I liked Faora quite a bit more than Zod. She was ruthless without becoming the caricature that was Ursa (Superman II). She also had some of the best action scenes in the film. The way she moved was elegant and brutal, and it really showed how dangerous Superman's powers could be if he didn't hold back.
Zod was also a great villain, but I'm not sure he was the villain that should've been in this film. In the context of the plot, he works. In the scope of the story, he has purpose and he fits perfectly into the character arc Clark goes through. But I think he was almost too big for this story. He was too heavy, too serious. An origin story has a lot of heavy lifting to do without getting bogged down with a super serious villain, too. That being said, I think there was a lot that I liked about the Zod character and his evil mastermind scheme, even though it was a bit cliché. I just wonder if the director (Zach Snyder) and the writer (David Goyer) went too big this time.
One last note. I think it's interesting that this story felt more like a science fiction epic about an alien invasion than it did a superhero movie. Without the familiar characters, this could've been a totally original story. I do need to reiterate one thing though -- this was one of the most visually stunning movies I've seen all year. It easily beats Iron Man 3 in that department.
Krypton was a fully realized place, and it was gorgeous. The alien animals that were shown gave just the right hint of reality to the world.
I loved the way the Kryptonian technology felt old and used, but very advanced.
Henry Cavill in the suit makes everyone who's ever worn it look tiny in comparison. He looks like the comic come to life.
The Kents (Kevin Costner, Diane Lane) were really wonderful, even though they were basically only seen in flashbacks.
The big tornado scene (that they talked about deleting after recent events) was heart wrenching and very well done. It didn't feel out of place at all.
Overall, it was a fascinating and engaging experience that I do recommend. I just wish they had managed to put a bit more humor and awe into it.
3 out of 4 Kryptonian flying horses with four wings.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.