Now. If you're looking for a spoiler-free review of Man of Steel, you can find my review right here. After the trailer, I'm going to be talking about the climax of Man of Steel. Let me repeat: You should assume that everything after the trailer is made out of spoilers. (I'll get back to that ministry thing after the jump, too.)
I'm going to have to arrange this as a spray of random thoughts:
•Superman doesn't kill. Say what you will about Superman II—that was an oversimplified editing choice that is corrected in the Donner Cut of the film—and John Byrne's 1986 Superman reboot—that was shitty storytelling—but I think one of the most important things about Superman is that he doesn't kill. So when Superman intentionally snaps the neck of General Zod at the end of Man of Steel, it retroactively soured me on the rest of the film. Comics writers Mark Waid and Brian Michael Bendis both published thoughtful reviews about the killing and the collateral damage and why Man of Steel might be a decent sci-fi movie, but is a shitty Superman movie. I agree with much of what they said. (Waid, by the way, is the writer who decided that Superman should be vegetarian. I absolutely agree with that decision. More than even Batman, Superman is all about saving lives, not taking them.) I wanted more scenes of Superman saving individual people. I hoped until the very last second that Superman would find another way out of the climactic situation, because that's what Superman does. I would have been so impressed with the film if the filmmakers had managed to find another way out of killing Zod. But they didn't, and the climactic moment of the movie—the act that the whole movie was building toward—was Superman breaking somebody's neck. I wasn't impressed. I was mostly just sad.
• And this is why that religious stuff I mentioned above the jump especially gets my panties in a twist. Man of Steel is definitely not a Christian movie. The amount of death that happens off-screen—cleanly, without mention—is astronomical. You can't make those sorts of visual cues to 9/11 and also suggest that everyone got out of those collapsing buildings alive. We know what happens when buildings fall down. The only individual human lives that Superman explicitly tries to save at the end of the film is the family that Zod is about to incinerate, right in front of him. So the message to me is that collateral damage is fine, but when you're faced with violence directly, you should employ any means necessary to stop the violence. That's not a message that a Superman movie should be sending, and it's definitely not a strong Christian message. It does very much remind me of the American response to the War on Terror, where we applaud surgical air strikes that are made far away from the personal level, but we get squeamish when we see photos of torture. Death and destruction is fine as long as we don't directly have to look at it. This is a sermon that a pastor would want to make?
• The Daily Planet stuff was pretty dumb. Jim Smith at MightyGodKing described the Perry White and Steve Lombard scenes best: "the only reason we have to care about them is that they’re going to be Superman’s coworkers in the future." That said, I am totally in favor of Lois Lane figuring out who Clark Kent is in the very beginning of the movie. It made her into a smart reporter. That said, I have a hard time imagining how Clark Kent is going to pass off as not-Superman in the next movie.
• And so let's talk sequel. There's a possibility that the film's creators can make Man of Steel2 fix a lot of my complaints: The collateral damage and the death of Zod could become the Waynes-in-Crime-Alley traumatic moment that makes Superman into Superman. But that's a very tall order. If it does happen in a convincing way, though, I reserve the right to go back and adjust my opinion about Man of Steel for the positive. I'm not convinced it will happen, especially if the sequel really is fast-tracked for next year. The acting was mostly great, and Zack Snyder, when he's not directing his own writing and kept on a short leash, is a great director of beautiful blockbusters, so there's a possibility that the next movie could be something special. I have higher hopes for Man of Steel 2 than I do for, say, Amazing Spider-Man 2.
• A lot of critics are being accused of wanting the movie to be a Donner-like Superman. That's not true in my case. I'm not crazy about the Donner Superman movies. I think that take on Luthor was awful, I think there were quite a few moments that demonstrated terrible storytelling, I think a lot of the movie hasn't aged well. I hated Superman Returns precisely because it hewed too closely to Donner's movie. But I do think that for the vast majority of his fictional "life," Superman has been portrayed as a man who does the right thing because it's the right thing, a hero who never kills, and someone who can rescue people when there's absolutely no hope. I think he's the one superhero who should always be okay for kids, who doesn't need a dark-and-gritty take. Ultimately, I guess this movie just wasn't for me, and that's fine—not every movie can be for me!—but I love the Superman character and I'm disappointed that they decided to go this way with him.
(Thanks to Slog tipper Renee for the link to Man of Steel Resources.)