Man of Steel should make good sense in context with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
This essay examines the moorings of the story-arc of the Superman character from Man of Steel as presumably carried forward into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS). Although we are at this point forced to speculate about specific plot elements of the upcoming film, BvS's trailer and interviews about the film provide sufficient information to piece together a rough portrait of Snyder's development of the character that looks substantial and satisfying. This piece offers an optimistic vision of Snyder's apparent development of the character that proposes why it may succeed. (Note: Spoilers abound. If you haven't seen Man of Steel and don't want to be spoiled, leave now.)
Film Criticism Ground Rules
There are some ground rules to the thinking presented here that I'll get out of the way. The first is that a film is experienced as satisfying or not to a viewer for what are ultimately personal and idiosyncratic reasons. (And thank goodness. How boring it would be if we were always in perfect agreement.) We can discuss objective facts about a film. But the subjective experience of the film, and one's overall appreciation of it, is processed through each viewer's unique personality structure, personal tastes, and personal life history.
For example, one viewer may feel more of a personal affinity for the classic comic book representation of Superman that is anchored in defining elements of comic book canon. Another person may get more pleasure from seeing Superman artistically developed through the medium of film as a more mythic character that transcends the comic book version. Both types of fans have a right to their own personal appreciations of the character. The point is that the foundations for these personal tastes are ultimately individual.
To develop the idea further: for me, a film succeeds in the most basic terms if:
1) I care what happens to the characters (they matter to me, their fate matters to me)
2) I become interested and engaged in the story itself and how it unfolds (it takes me on a journey, and I'm willing to go on it)
3) I appreciate the cinematic craft of storytelling, i.e., specifically through the medium of film.
The latter consists of cinematography, the screenplay and script, acting performances, pacing of the action, CGI (where applicable), etc., and how well the director orchestrates all the various elements of the film. We can offer objective evidence for these three criteria in our own appreciation of a film. But I assert again that the deepest reasons why one might appreciate a film as such ultimately varies individually, from person to person. I will add that I can often enjoy a film for the most part even when only one or two of these elements are mostly in place, and even without them succeeding brilliantly. (I tend to be pretty forgiving as a viewer.)
This second basic idea I wish to posit is that comic books and film are fundamentally different mediums; and what "works" in the comics should not be expected to always translate well to the silver screen. The comic book uses exaggeration of what it is to be human through a kind of fantastic surrealism in which the actors (usually) possess god-like powers. The panels of a comic book are typically a saturated form of soap opera themes brought to life through the wildest realms of the creative imagination. The comic book is an imaginative space that is unfettered by "realism." The dream world gives us much the same thing. But when it comes to making a film that is more grounded in reality and is dramatically serious, it probably makes more sense bridge the gap between the purely imaginative and how such circumstances and events might actually take shape "in the real world" if they could actually happen.
So the comic book superhero film, in order to connect with the greatest number of fans, is most likely to be an adaptation of the comic book foundation. That is the most reasonable and mature expectation for a viewer to have, I would say. I can only speak for myself here, but I am happy for it. The source material in the comics can retain its own integrity as an art form—but the film adaptation makes it more relatable to everyday life. Myself, I prefer to see something fresh and more relatable done with the mythic and human psychological themes of the comic book superhero through cinema.
My Own Biases as a Fan
My view of Superman is shaped by the mid 60's to early 70's comic books (i.e., late Silver Age to early Bronze Age), the 50's television show (and associated feature film), the films featuring Christopher Reeve as Superman (except Superman IV: The Quest for Peace which I have not seen), and Superman Returns. I know relatively little of the later comic books' Superman, but I have read up on The Man of Steel comic series on Wikipedia. I have read The Death of Superman and Superman: Red Son. I'm mostly unfamiliar with the animated TV series and films featuring Superman. I love the live action films about superheroes but for some reason the animated versions have never held my interest.
Man of Steel – A Redefinition of Superman in Film
With that framework in mind let's begin dissecting Man of Steel. It seems to me that Man of Steel is intended as the foundation for a substantial redefinition of the Superman character from the one we are familiar with from previous Superman movies. Man of Steel seeks to open up the character as simultaneously more human and complex (i.e., flawed), and more "mythic"—and in the latter sense, seemingly more tragic.
Interviews with both Zack Snyder (director of both Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Ben Affleck (Batman in BvS and reportedly slated to direct and star in the next Batman stand-alone film) explain Warner Brothers’ approach to DC Comic’s superheroes as follows:
Snyder: "They truly are purer archetypes... They’re literally Biblical. If you get the DC characters right, they can be important, they can be about us."
Affleck: "There are the Greek myths and these are the American myths. The American myths are these superheroes."
Affleck: "[The DC approach to its Cinematic Universe]... is more mythic, it is more grand in that way, and it is a little more realistic."
And says Warner Brothers Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara "The worlds of DC are very different... They're steeped in realism, and they're a little bit edgier than Marvel's movies."
It does seem from Man of Steel (and reportedly BvS) that the comparatively greater realism to the approach is to envision what it might actually be like for these superheroes to actually exist in our world; to humanize them (i.e., make them more vulnerable and relatable); and to express this through the mythic themes of the character’s archetype.
So Snyder has a sophisticated vision for developing the character. In this sense Man of Steel's Superman may be viewed as struggling to break free from the simpler mold of the character from previous sources. As we see in Man of Steel when Kal is learning to fly, we should expect for there to be a learning curve for use of his god-like powers. But I like to associate this scene with the character breaking free not just from earth’s gravity but also in terms of who he can be to us, the film audience as well.
This movie essentially shatters the "apple pie and Chevrolet" Americana-based vision of Superman from the past. In the "first flight" scene we even see Superman disintegrate the side of a mountain as he breaks free!
I never felt like a [superhero] movie should exist in the real world before, but I feel like Superman should... All the Superman movies that have been made exist in some weird stylized world where everyone's, like, apple pie and Chevrolet and it's... like the American Dream in a weird way... [T]he thing I find interesting is... being able to release the character from that world, where he's been stuck and shackled, and bring him to our world and see what he does.
Fans have long noted the association of Superman being a rather Christ-like figure (huge differences notwithstanding); and Man of Steel does tweak some of those parallels. In Man of Steel Kal-El's birth is "miraculous" by virtue of being the first known natural childbirth on Krypton in over three centuries. He is sent with god-like powers to earth 'from the heavens' in a 'savior' role (or at the very least to be its knightly protector and champion). At a critical point, in an act of chivalrous self-sacrifice Superman surrenders himself to Zod, aware that his powerful foe will try to kill him, in order to prevent the destruction of humankind. Jor-El intends for Kal to inspire and lead the people of earth to realize their greatest potential, and to form a bridge to the destiny that he envisioned for Krypton, had his own people followed their better angels. Jor-El envisions that Kal will teach mankind about hope, choice, and how to be good and overcome evil. As we see in the BvS trailer, he will be a polarizing public figure. All of these are Christ-like themes.
The savior parallel is clearly important because reportedly that theme will veritably explode in BvS. And it makes sense that if we imagine how such a character in the real world would be received, many people would worship him as a kind of new god—but just as many would suspect him of being something akin to the Christian Anti-Christ. We have never seen this take on Superman before in film. Man of Steel introduces the basis for it. And as we have seen from the BvS trailer, it clearly will be developed extensively in the next film.
The Wandering Lost Soul
As noted, we are cued to expect Kal/Clark to struggle in finding his place as a god-like powerful alien in the human world, which Jonathan Kent cautions his son will dramatically alter the course of human civilization.
But in order to humanize this story, Snyder seems to have rendered it more in the form a Greek hero's odyssey with tragic undertones. Our first glimpse of the grown Superman is a lost and wandering soul, apparently lacking confidence despite his extraordinary abilities, and trying to find who he really is, on an journey of self-exploration. Clark seemingly wants to be, but is not yet, the paragon of moral virtue that we have come to associate with the fully developed Superman character. In our introduction to Clark as a young man he is a vagabond who is morally not above stealing someone's clothes and destroying a bully's eighteen-wheeler by impaling it on electricity poles (leaving the lines sparking as such). Granted, Clark had just heroically rescued the crew of an oil rig before stealing the clothes. But as BvS co-writer David Goyer explains "we will be dealing with this in coming films... He isn't fully-formed as Superman in [Man of Steel], and he will have to deal with the repercussions of that in the next one."
Superman as Morally Undeveloped
Final Battle with Zod
As fans have observed, the most glaring moral failings that Superman exhibits in Man of Steel are that
1) Superman seemingly does little to try to avoid the immense carnage wrought by his smackdown with General Zod, and
2) Superman purposefully takes a life by killing Zod (even if to protect innocents).
Many fans have complained that those acts are utterly inconsistent with what makes Superman who he is. And they point out that there are tactics that the classic Superman character would have tried in order to prevent loss of life. Namely, why didn’t Superman think to strive with all his might to drag Zod to a more remote location in order to protect the city from catastrophic collateral damage and (presumably massive) loss of life? And could Kal not have turned Zod's entire torso around when the General was aiming his heat-ray vision at the family? And so forth. Undoubtedly many fans must have felt that director Zack Snyder doesn’t at all "get" the Superman character on this account. As such, it seems that for many fans of the classic Superman character, Man of Steel's ending left a bitter taste in their mouths.
However sometimes in film possibilities are hinted at and it is left to the imagination to fill in the gaps. One possible interpretation is that Zod is so tremendously powerful and focused in his own right as an adversary, that Superman truly is unable to do anything but battle him as best as he can manage on Zod's terms. If so, it is a fair criticism that their melee doesn’t clearly show that. However Zod does note that he is a highly trained and skilled professional fighter, born and bred to kill in battle. Superman has no such training at all. Also, Zod explicitly states to Superman his intention to kill as many earthlings as he can, and to make Superman suffer by witnessing it. Zod perhaps fights with a tactical intention to cause as much destruction as possible, and to avoid being dragged away. It may also be that Zod was simply just too physically powerful (and martially skilled in rooting his center of gravity) for Superman to wrestle away from killing the family in his final moments, and therefore that Superman’s only choice was to break his neck. If so, Superman presumably he had just enough physical leverage on Zod to accomplish that via the hold he was using, yet not quite enough to change the direction Zod was facing.
If Superman fails to be clever enough in fighting Zod to have prevented the destruction of much of the city that is attributable to him being young and inexperienced—and therefore vulnerable, flawed, and human. The most powerful being on the planet is helpless: from a storytelling vantage, I think that makes for a much more relatable character. Usually we only see Superman rendered vulnerable by kryptonite. But I think I can identify more with a character that is at times unable to come up with the perfect solution right on the spot, makes mistakes, struggles, learns, and grows as the rest of us must.
I have to wonder if Snyder’s continued mythic treatment of Superman into BvS will be patterned somewhat after the Hercules myth (see addendum-ed section further below: "The Symbolism of the Greek Bastard Demigod"). In terms of psychological development, Hercules is through his twelve labors atoning for an act of madness in which during a blackout he slaughtered his own family; and through such atonement he is engaged in a kind of symbolically healing journey. Superman's participation in the destruction of much of Metropolis from the epic battle with Zod—and more personally for Superman, taking a life (even Zod's)—could serve a similar function.
Jonathan Kent: Do Not Protect Human Life at All Costs?
Another scene in which Clark fails to act to prevent loss of life is, in compliance with his foster father's direction, he obediently doesn’t intervene to rescue Jonathan from imminent death by tornado. Some fans felt that Superman would have, according to his heroic nature, been compelled to save him. But it is implicit that Jonathan felt that Clark was still unready to reveal himself to the world as Superman at that point. And thus for the sake of both the world and his son, Jonathan sacrifices himself.
As a dramatic device I think it is fair to complain that this feels just a bit strange or 'off'. But life does sometimes have its share of rather unreal feeling moments. And there certainly are moments where when faced with a need to act quickly and decisively people feel paralyzed. (Weigh in on this scene here if you like.)
Similarly, fans have complained that it was an unforgivable deviation from canon when Jonathan scolds Clark for revealing his powers by saving the school bus after its plunge into the river. When Clark asks his father rhetorically "What should I have done? Let them drown?" and Jonathan responds "Maybe..." it is criticized as markedly out of character for the comic book canon Jonathan. Jonathan completes the thought however by adding that "there's more at stake" than just the lives of the children on the school bus. He voices the concern that if the world learns of Superman before Clark is ready to handle the responsibility the consequences could actually be far worse.
Arguably, it doesn't seem to square that Jonathan would tell Clark it is acceptable to let a bus full of children drown based on something so relatively abstract. But on the other hand, it seems that Jonathan is so preoccupied with the dangers of the world learning of Superman that perhaps it has made him a bit neurotic.
I can see that it must difficult for many fans to accept that Jonathan Kent would ever frame the problem in such a way. But this actually does work toward making Superman more complex character if we appreciate it as part of a confusing double-bind that his two fathers have created for him:
The dilemma has to do with how the two fathers define choice for who Kal/Clark can potentially be. Jor-El is an opponent of the Kryptonian caste system in which citizens are genetically engineered as test tube babies for assigned roles in the society. (A concept echoed by young Clark reading Plato's The Republic in which Plato argues for a regimented system of education for assigned social roles.) That system, Jor-El notes, removes the healthy variables of choice and chance that he evidently believes are required for healthier evolution. Similarly Jor-El argues that Krypton made a foolhardy and literally fatal mistake by abandoning its exploration outward toward new worlds rather than remaining tied to one planet and draining the energy from its core. Jor-El apparently understands the crucial need for evolutionary diversity. As such, it seems that with respect to personal developmental needs as well Jor-El similarly supports individual choice--and with it the process of growing and learning from inevitable mistakes--as ultimately healthy for the species.
So I think we may assume that Kal-El acquires this value once he becomes a man and develops a relationship with Jor-El's artificial intelligence consciousness, and is mentored by him.
However, ironically, Jonathan Kent has raised Clark with no real choice at all for who he can be. According to Jonathan, Clark must at all cost hide his true identity--at least until he is truly ready to reveal himself. And Clark has a great destiny to fulfill that he cannot shirk.
Both fathers do concur about the latter. As Jor-El sees it, Kal has an inescapable destiny in housing Krypton's collective reservoir of DNA and through providing "an ideal to strive for" and "symbol of hope" as a "force for good" for human civilization. And sure enough, Jor-El literally tells Kal that his mission is to "save" humanity when Zod attempts to terraform Earth and annihilate the human species.
As Jonathan views it, it seems self-evident that Clark has a great destiny to fulfill by virtue of having been sent to Earth from an alien civilization, especially given Clark's superpowers. Jonathan is clearly anxious about Clark's destiny, however. He explicitly states that he fears that humanity could easily fear and reject him. And while purely speculative, it would not be surprising if Jonathan also has nagging concerns about the mystery of exactly who has sent Clark and why--and that it may not necessarily be for benevolent intentions. Jonathan may have had many a sleepless night pondering such questions.
I think it is worth noting that Jor-El seems to have no compunction about killing Zod's soldiers to fulfill his plan to get the Codex out of Krypton's rulers' hands and send it to another world within his son. From what we see in the film, there doesn't seem any reason to believe that Jor-El would teach Kal that killing isn't sometimes necessary.
An Alien Invasion Movie That Happens to Feature Superman?
Another criticism that some fans make of Man of Steel is that it places a comparative over-emphasis on the story of Krypton's death and Zod's invasion of earth, and then too little attention is given to developing the Superman character per se. As I indicated in my 'ground rules' for this criticism, there are infinite possible reasons why a viewer might enjoy or dislike a film, or various aspects of it, that ultimately stem from a personal idiosyncratic foundation. So it is understandable if a viewer dislikes this relative lack of attention to character development for Superman.
But it does seem that the Krytponian backstory and Zod's attempt to conquer earth in order to rebuild Krypton is pivotal to the story-arc for Superman as developed in BvS. As we see from the BvS trailer, Superman's public identity as an extra-terrestrial, and Zod's attempted destruction of humankind plus the collateral devastation of Metropolis wrought by Superman's battle with him, will be central to how earthlings relate to Superman.
Of course none of that was readily apparent when Man of Steel was released. But it is clear now. Thanks to the BvS trailer, since we fundamentally know where the story is headed--i.e., there will be turmoil regarding how the world views Superman, and presumably how Superman understands his own role and identity--telling the story of Superman's Kryptonian roots, and the epic, monumental event of Zod's gambit to claim earth at least make sense. A gigantic spaceship from an extra-terrestrial civilization suddenly appearing, and then attempting to annihilate the human species, is an event of almost unimaginable magnitude. In my opinion it fair to say that it overshadows Superman individually. And in truth Superman is but one actor in that epic event for the entire planet.
The detail given to the Kryptonian backstory in Man of Steel is actually both impressive and fascinating in my view:
For Superman's origin story the film borrows some key elements from the 1986 The Man of Steel comic series reboot by John Byrne in which Kryptonian civilization is harsher and emotionless than earlier depictions, and females have become sterile and childbirth takes place artificially and mechanically through cloning. Man of Steel's Krypton uses a Darwinian model in which the imperative to survive through power and dominance is placed at odds with the more abstract and sophisticated survival value of morality, social conscience, egalitarianism. Zod's second-in-command, Faora-Ul, even references the Darwinian model to Superman during their battle "The fact that you possess a sense of morality and we do not gives us an evolutionary advantage... and if history has proven anything it is that evolution always wins." The primitive drive to assure survival through a power-over relationship to the environment and other creatures is taken to an extremely advanced level technologically and societally. Superman's biological father Jor-El explains that the ruthless environmental conditions on Krypton resulted in harsher evolutionary adaptations for its people. In contrast, Jor-El is a visionary who seeks to promote a kind prosocial enlightenment that resembles many core mythic American values.
For all practical purposes, both the Krytponian ruling council and General Zod represent evil in the form of a drive for racial supremacy as maintained through a genetically engineered caste system; and in order to support and maintain it, a 'might makes right', and 'end justifies the means' philosophy (which as Zod rationalizes as "for the greater good of my people"). In other words, Zod represents societal evil in the form fascism and totalitarianism. Alternatively, Jor-El represents good through his advocacy of freedom, individual choice, a healthy respect for Nature rather than a quest to control it (i.e., seeking a return to natural childbirth; his ignored plea not to destroy the planet by harvesting its core), and moral conscience (i.e., literally for Kal-El to act as a "force for good").
Kryptonian civilization's use of a genetically engineered caste system underscores Superman's dilemma of sorting out his own individual sense of purpose, meaning, and identity, and what sorts of risks he should take given his powers. Kal-El's life was scripted for him before he was born according to his native civilization's hubris, his planet's geological fate, Jor-El's plans, and Zod's attempt to track him down and reclaim the Codex. Both Superman's powers and the circumstance of being sent to earth with Krypton’s Codex embedded in his DNA dictate a responsibility or duty to lead in some way on earth.
The American Myth is based in the themes of immigration to a land of opportunities (initially a primitive and wild frontier), rugged individualism, and risk-taking. And classical Superman is champion of "truth justice, and the American Way." There is a struggle embedded in the American myth of an enduring tension between the needs of the collective by coming together as a society through social law and order, on the one hand, and the human need for creative individualism and the pursuit of personal happiness, on the other. Those features of Superman’s classical mythic identity are maintained through the conundrum of Superman's role and purpose as externally imposed, and the human need to authentically be who wishes for himself.
An Addendum: The Symbolism of the Greek Bastard Demigod
I'm writing this particular section in November, 2015. After 1) having viewed the intriguing fan theory video A Thesis on Man of Steel which posits that a biological childbirth metaphor is used repeatedly throughout MoS via visual symbols that frame the film as a kind of birth process for Superman's newly emerging identity, and 2) considering a brilliant observation by another fan that earth has no say in being metaphorically 'violated' and 'impregnated' by Krypton, I believe that the tragic Greek hero feel of this film is all the more compelling.
The biological childbirth metaphor makes sense, especially given that Snyder's vision of Krypton is so heavily based on advanced biological engineering technology and philosophy. Accordingly, A Thesis on Man of Steel posits that Krypton has male imagery associated with it. Krypton behaves panspermically in its efforts to explore and inhabit other worlds. As Reel Analysis points out, the El citadel is phallic. Kal's ship is like a sperm. The launch is like ejaculation. Earth is then the egg in that metaphor. As mentioned, the earth does not have any say in the matter. The earth is then essentially being raped by Krypton in this metaphor. (Through the actions of Jor-El, specifically.)
Now, that is a troubling thing. And it should be disturbing to the viewer! However its purpose is to create some major dramatic tension in the film: Superman (among the three identities of Kal-El, Clark Kent, and Superman) is a bastard, and a product of a rape.
Critics of MoS often complain of its "joyless-ness." They note that the emotional feel of the film is hard, cold, and anxious. But we may understand the film as being rendered mythically akin a tragic Greek hero embarked on an odyssey of self-discovery. The hero is learning what his origin is; what his powers, abilities, strengths, and most valuable traits are (both to others and to himself); how he is to identify and relate to himself, his adopted world, the past conditions that created him and his Kryptonian heritage; who he wishes to be versus the person others tell him he be must be, etc.). If we are able to travel along with that journey, the Superman character at this stage of his development need not be cheerful and sanguine. In fact some viewers may enjoy seeing him worked with more creatively and dramatically in this way.
In Greek mythology Zeus has a compulsion to go around in secret disguises, clothed as a mortal, impregnating mortal women through deception to sow his seed and to create demigods. MoS framed in this way uses a similar kind of rape -> bastard -> hero metaphor. At least in the tradition of ancient Greek mythology this is not something that we expect to be a sunny or rosy type of tale.
One of the aspects of Man of Steel that I have come to admire is the importance of strong, empowered women in Superman’s life. It will be interesting to see if this is developed in BvS when Wonder Woman is introduced as Diana of Themyscira (per the New 52 version of the character from the comics). Wonder Woman will reportedly play a key role in BvS. This given rise to an intriguing speculation that the uber-powerful supervillain Doomsday, who the site Bleeding Cool has reported will appear in BvS, will be linked to her.
We shall see whether there is some similarity between Lara-El and Diana in terms of look and personality, even if Wonder Woman is clearly different in terms of having superpowers. One parallel is that both women have been raised in alien, harsh, and unforgiving societies that are in their own ways god-like (one literally and the other in terms of technology).
In any event, Man of Steel provides a distinct departure in its depiction of strong women when compared with earlier Superman films. Both of Superman's mothers are veritable Rocks of Gibraltar, displaying no fear of Zod and soldiering on come what may. Lois Lane is similarly fearless and straightforward. And as endearing as Margot Kidder's Lois was with Christopher Reeve's total mensch of the Superman character in 1978's Superman (and the wonderful romantic comedy chemistry they had), Amy Adams' sure-footed, adventurous, and daring Lois in Man of Steel offers a welcome counterpoint.
Man of Steel's Somber Tone and Blue/Gray Color Filtering
Critics and fans have complained that Man of Steel is unnecessarily dark and grim in mood, which is literally reflected in the color filtering of the film to give it a bluish gray hue.
We have seen Zack Snyder use filtering absolutely brilliantly in his masterpiece 300.
Snyder arguably makes great use of dark filtering as well in Watchmen.
But a fair question arises whether it is even appropriate, much less actually ideal, for a Superman film.
I would say that at least the somber emotional tone of Man of Steel is acceptable if we appreciate that the redefinition of the character and origin story as something more akin to a mythic Greek tragedy. Throughout the film Clark/Superman remains pensive, often looking emotionally weighed down and inwardly troubled. But this is because of the burden and the internal struggles related to his role in life, the epic responsibilities that have been placed upon Kal's shoulders, and (it seems to me) the possibility that he may never enjoy a meaningful choice about who he can be for himself. We will also see this very tension developed in BvS, when the entire world reacts to Superman and he must learn to cope with the world looking to him for many things that he may not be able to give.
Whether or not it truly improves the film for its color scale to literally appear gray is, again, a fair question. I have to admit that I rather like the look of the film with the original color restored as Video Lab has demonstrated in the above clip. I hope to be able to view the entire film one day in the true color format in order to compare. But in any event, by the same token, I can also accept the visual darkness of the film in combination with the understanding of the film as thematically dark, tense, and vaguely ominous.
(Addendum: For my taste, MoS's 4K blu ray's High Dynamic Range (HDR), which enhances color depth and vibrancy, does for me basically fix this problem that I have with the film. The color palette veers to the colder bluish range, which I'm still not crazy about but can accept. But, happily, in 4K the film is no longer desaturated or washed out looking. Even though it was essentially remastered from 2K, the 4k blu ray really looks great!)
As I outlined at the start in the 'ground rules' to this criticism, for all the reasons explained above Man of Steel does very much ultimately make me care about the characters in the film, engages me thoroughly in terms of the unfolding story, and I'm impressed with the cinematic craftsmanship of the film. My reasons for appreciating those things are idiosyncratic, but at the end of the day film appreciation is ultimately a personal subjective experience. The film works for me, personally. I was ready for something fresh to be done with the character in film.
Man of Steel has in fact become my favorite Superman movie now (easily replacing 1978's Superman: The Movie). This is in large part because the film apparently establishes the foundation of a story-arc for what looks to be fascinating further development of the Superman character in BvS. Superman reacted to by the world as a god is a truly epic premise. And Man of Steel film provides the context for what’s coming next for the character in the next film.
Man of Steel is, for me, the launch of an epic journey for a great American hero that is stylistically told as a mythic Greek tragedy. I can't wait to see how the tale develops in BvS.