Here There Be Spoilers!
Let me start off by saying that Man Of Steel is a very good movie.
What seems to be causing it to catch flak from a significant number of Film Critics is that too many of them were demanding a perfect movie. The problem with making this demand is that perfection can be a very subjective thing, especially when it comes to getting professional critics to agree on something. If you manage to please Smith, you're likely to piss off Patel. And if you somehow make both Smith and Patel happy, Krueger will probably accuse you of being a no talent hack.
Having taken the critics to task, please allow me to point out the three fixes that I believe could have turned this good movie into a great one.
- A -
At 143 minutes, the story is about 25 too long.
At least 15 minutes of this is due to the “Destruction Of Krypton” chapter that began the story.
When Paramount produced Raiders Of The Lost Arc … Did Lucas and Spielberg feel it necessary to spend 20 minutes showing the audience how the Arc was stolen from the Israelites, by the Babylonians, and then accidentally misplaced for something like five thousand years?
The production team clearly understood that starting the story on that note would cause a significant distraction from the main storyline. So they wisely began the movie by introducing Indiana Jones and demonstrating what he does best. Then they allowed the back story concerning the Arc to gradually creep in along the way.
Man Of Steel should have used the same type of beginning. It could easily have started with Clark Kent working on an oil rig that was being torn apart by tidal waves and explosions. Then flash back to a part of his childhood before leading him up to his discovery of the Kryptonian scout ship. As the story progressed, General Zod and the Ghost of Jor-EL would have had plenty of opportunities to fill in the missing pieces. Everything would have run much more tightly and smoothly and the production budget would have been a few million lower.
- B -
Another 10 minutes could easily have been shaved off by being just a tad stingy about the time allowed for the Action scenes. The cold hard truth is that Action is never more than a dance partner for Plot. While a judicious use of Action can greatly enhance a Plot, the first should never be used as a replacement for the other. During the final third of the movie, there were too many instances where I felt like I was watching someone else play a video game. There reached a certain point where I wanted all the bombing and the fist fights to stop for a little while. I wanted to get back to the actual plot. But this other guy … the guy who was working the video game … He just kept playing Hack & Slash for another ten minutes till he finally had to drop the control pad and rush off to the Men's Room.
- C -
The biggest mistake the story tellers made was that they did not respect the character of General Zod. More to the point, they betrayed the man at almost the exact same spot where they started letting the action sequences get out of hand. Having proceeded in the same basic direction for the first two thirds of the story ... Zod suddenly took a left turn, that was completely unjustified, based on how he had behaved up till that point.
Is Zod a fanatic?
But the man is compassionate fanatic … genetically bred, and judiciously trained. The preservation of life (especially Kryptonian life) is of the utmost importance to him. Zod did not try to seize power on Krypton until it became crystal clear that the Grand Council was completely incapable of dealing with the imminent destruction that was facing the planet.
In his attempted coup, Zod was working towards the same basic goal as Jor-EL. Each man wanted to protect the genetic information Codex and eventually use it to rebirth the Kryptonian race on a new world.
If life is this important to the man, why does he suddenly try to use the terraforming power of the World Ship to transform Earth into a replication of Krypton. There are thousands of lifeless planets out there that would be perfectly suitable for his purpose. Why take a tool of resurrection and turn it into a weapon of cataclysmic destruction by unleashing its power on a world where a lesser (but quite promising) civilization already exists?
The man is understandably miffed when he learns that Jor-EL had transferred the genetic information of the Codex into the cellular structure of Kal-EL. But miffed isn't enough to drive a compassionate dictator to commit genocide. Before taking an action that extreme, he needs to perceive Earth and its people as a threat.
The Humans need to have shown that they are to be feared. And Man Of Steel always left the forces of Earth stopping a few steps shy of that mark.
What if the military had succeeded in killing one or two of Zod's gladiators? Not an easy task, but one that could be accomplished by tapping into the R&D resources of a major conglomerate like Lex Corp.
Think about it. The name kept popping up here and there during the course of the story. A sign on this chemical tanker. A banner hanging over that construction site.
A multinational organization which would conceivably be working on the development of a number of devices that might be of use to the military, if the planet were facing a threat from beyond our solar system. Something like a variable wavelength LASER projector. A machine that could be programmed to mimic the energy that would be produced by a red sun.
Most likely, there would be only two prototypes. Each would need to be cranked up way above the safety limit if it were going to be effective against a Kryptonian. Which means that each device would most likely burn out after only one shot.
The weapons are deployed. We succeed in killing one warrior and severely wounding another. Zod doesn't need to know that these are our only two guns. We've got his attention now. He understands that we're a credible threat. We're sure he'll do the logical thing and decide to back off.
Which is exactly when General Zod makes the decision to double down and go for broke. His reasoning is quite sound. If the Humans are this much of a threat now, what will they be capable of doing in a thousand years?
That's when Zod unleashes the power of the World Ship. The Human's did something completely unexpected. Now its his turn.
In spite of the fact that the movie's producers were foolish enough to not seek out my scripting advice, I find myself eagerly looking forward to watching a sequel. And I'm especially curious as to what part Lex Corp and its founder will play.
Only time will tell.