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  • Accidental Innuendo: When Dr Hamilton tries to get the Phantom Drive to work, Lois points out the S-key and yells "it's supposed to go in all the way!" Cue the audiences yelling "That's what she said!".
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Pa Kent:
      • Is he a good man trying to teach Clark patience and discretion? Or is he being paranoid and overprotective, teaching Clark to put his secret ahead of all the people he could save?
      • Did Pa Kent grab the Idiot Ball when he died by not letting Clark save him, thus causing the boy a lifetime of emotional trauma?
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    • Jor-El:
      • Is he a well-intentioned but self-centered Mad Scientist, or apathetic towards the suffering of his own people and concerned instead with making his progeny the glory of the Kryptonian race?
      • Just like Marlon Brando's Jor-El, this Jor-El sends his son to Earth with the intention of him becoming a hero. While Brando's Jor-El forcibly subjected his Clark to over a decade's worth of Mind Meld, here they just talk for an indeterminate but surely shorter time, and it comes after Clark has already been a much less public hero for a long time. To some, this still makes Jor-El look like a Manipulative Bastard with a god complex while Clark again comes across as just doing what he's told by rote. And either way, it's a far cry from the comics where Clark became Superman on his own, without any input from his space dad.
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    • Is Zod just a bloodline supremacist seeking to remake Krypton after his own prejudices, or a loyal soldier driven to extremes by the circumstances? Is clinging to the hope of restoring Krypton the only thing keeping him marginally sane after his world was destroyed, or is his "genetic programming" so powerful he's compelled to do anything and everything to fulfill his mission?
    • Superman: With over 80 years of stories about the character, does this film's version qualify as a good interpretation of the character?
      • Many old school fans, especially supporters of the Reeve movies, feel this movie completely missed the point with a dark, depressed Superman. Many older fans were also disappointed that this copied and amplified the flaws of the Reeve movies, such as the depiction of Jor-El (see above).
      • However, just as many old fans are of the opinion this film had the balls to show Superman as the badass he is in several stories, as well as an altruistic and compassionate human being as opposed to an alien Übermensch.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Clark comes across as gloomy in his first few scenes and all of his youth, but his demeanor becomes much more upbeat once he dons his Superman outfit.
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    • For instance, Jor-El told Clark that his home planet is destroyed and he is the last of his kind, yet Clark is just happy to have finally found some answers.
    • Despite being arrested by the military who plan to hand him over to Zod, Clark's spirits lift when he meets with Lois again and he shows no ill will towards those who distrust him. Though, that may be because he did turn himself over willingly, and because he makes it very clear that if he didn't want to be there, there is absolutely nothing anyone could do to prevent him leaving.
    • After destroying the World Engine, Sup and Lois stand in the charred crater in the middle of Metropolis, filled with likely hundreds of dead citizens who couldn't be saved in time... and promptly start making out and trading quips.
    • Some time after destroying his ship and killing Zod – effectively wiping out what's left of his long sought-after home world – Clark cheerfully tells his mother that he's finally figured out a way to balance his dual identities.
  • Anvilicious:
    • The film goes out of its way to portray Superman as some sort of messiah for the human race. It even has a shot of Clark, tormented by his decision over whether or not to surrender himself to Zod, framed by a stained glass depiction of Jesus Christ's Passion at the Garden of Gethsemane (prior to surrendering himself to the high priests) to push the point across. However, that one may be more subtle than Superman floating out of Zod's ship into space in a crucified Jesus pose.
    • To some extent the film is just following the template of the first Superman film for the Jor-El/Clark relationship - as did Superman Returns, which was meant to be a sequel. But for some, the Jor-El/God and Superman/Jesus theme was already anvilicious in the first film, even more so in Returns, and could have been avoided or downplayed for a reboot, since the comics have never had this theme.
    • It should also be noted that some Christians prefer this film's symbolism over the other films'. Clark Kent as a fallible human being (or alien immigrant from a failed society) struggling with his doubts and seeking guidance in a house of God doesn't jar quite as much as a direct Christ parallel who's also a deadbeat dad from a "superior" culture.
  • Applicability: In a Folding Ideas video, Dan Olson argued the movie is unintentionally an encapsulation of the problems with American foreign policy in the 21st century, particularly with Superman's disregard for the collateral damage caused during his fight with Zod.
  • Awesome Music: See here.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Pa Kent is one for spending most of his screen time telling Clark he doesn't feel he's ready to become a great hero. Some interpret this as him being unwilling to let go of his son but ultimately accepting that he needs to risk his life to save the world, and for others it sounds more like he was telling him not to save people at all.
    • Superman gets this for having an Adaptational Angst Upgrade. Some viewers found him too angsty in a similar vein to the leads in Dragon Ball Evolution or The Amazing Spider-Man, while others are more welcome since it feels appropriate for an inexperienced protagonist faced with difficult decisions.
  • Broken Base: Jonathaan Kent's Heroic Sacrifice. Some see it as genuinely touching and well done, while others think of it as stupid and unnecessary, as Clark could have saved him without exposing himself to the world.
  • Catharsis Factor: After five straight live-action movies, Man of Steel finally allows Superman display his full power in a straight-up fight. Mixed audience reactions aside, this is the one movie that does Superman justice as an Action Hero.
  • "Common Knowledge": The final fight scene with Zod has garnered this reputation. People generally describe it as the fight destroying the entire city with Clark being responsible for most of the destruction and being completely indifferent to the rest. In reality, most of Metropolis is left completely untouched and the destruction seems worse than it is because of the focus given to it and the fact that the film doesn't hold back from showing how terrifying it is from a civilian perspective. Similarly, Clark is personally responsible for almost none of it as much of it was done by Zod's world engine or Zod himself and Clark did make an effort to lead him into space and even made a point of avoiding buildings when he punched him at one point. As for claims of indifference, he was busy trying to stop Zod to begin with who wasn't exactly an easy opponent.
  • Critical Dissonance:
    • Downplayed. The film has a rating of 55% with critics and a 75% with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, it really polarized hardcore Superman fans due to the liberties taken with the source material (not just the costume, either). Despite this, the movie had very positive audience reactions and word of mouth, and collected the highest-grossing June opening weekend at the time (before being surpassed by Jurassic World two years later).
    • The soundtrack as well. It earned one star reviews from some critics, but debuted in top 5 on iTunes.
  • Cry for the Devil: The brief moment when Zod laments that now he has "no people" (after his crew was sent into the Phantom Zone and the Scout Ship with the genesis chamber got wrecked). It's cut short by his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but still poignant.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Zod and Faora. The former gets this because of his sympathetic motivations and entertaining performance, while the latter because Evil Is Sexy and the fact she is a full blown badass.
  • Director Displacement: Due to the success of The Dark Knight Trilogy, many associate Man of Steel with executive producer Christopher Nolan rather than director Zack Snyder.
  • Ending Fatigue: The last 45+ minutes of the movie being action set-piece after action set-piece and brawl after brawl—combined with a relatively short denouement after the climax—left some fans weary. Other fans however felt it was a massive cathartic release after having five straight live action Superman films without having Kal-El really cut loose and display his power set to its fullest. Notably, the film has Clark have heart-to-hearts with Lois following rescues three times in the third act.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Faora has received a surprisingly large amount of positive fan attention considering her status as a tertiary character who has few lines or screen time. However, she offers one of the best fight scenes in the movie, leaving everyone raving over her. It's a great stroke of luck for her actress Antje Traue, who before this film was beginning to seriously consider quitting acting.
    • Colonel Hardy for having the courage to start a Knife Fight with Faora despite being severely outmatched. He even quips a Pre-Mortem One-Liner before doing a suicide run into Zod's ship, sending her and himself into the Phantom Zone.
  • Evil Is Cool: Zod and his minions sport some pretty badass ships, armor and weapons.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Faora's earned herself quite the brigade of fans on both genders.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Henry Cavill fans vs Tom Welling fans and Brandon Routh fans over who is the preferred live-action Superman, with Christopher Reeve-only fans against them all.
    • And now there's fans of Cavill vs fans of Tyler Hoechlin from Supergirl.
    • It's also lumped in with the rivalry between fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fans of Nolan's Batman trilogy and more directly, the DC Extended Universe.
    • Has a very interesting one with Godzilla (2014). In that film, Godzilla would conspicuously go out of his way to avoid pointless destruction, causing many jokes to cropped up that he was a better hero than this film's Superman. Although this does downplay a lot of the collateral damage that Godzilla causes just by showing up.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While it was a success in America, it has been repeatedly noted that Man of Steel did particularly well in Britain (likely because of Henry Cavill). It also did well in Southeast Asia, even setting the highest-ever opening day record in the Philippines.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Jonathan Kent had already gotten a lot of hate for telling Clark he was wrong to save his classmates from the bus crash, but then the Supergirl (2015) series made him look even worse, as Kara also gets a family member chewing her out for revealing herself to the world... and not only does Alex have a much more concrete and understandable reason for it, but she completely turns around just by the end of the first episode.
    • Lara worried that the people of Earth would ostracise and kill her son. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that's exactly what happens.
    • Only a month-and-a-half after Man of Steel premiered, the animated film Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was released. In that story about history getting altered, what happened to Kal-El was even more horrible than what Lara feared.
    • Superman being forced to snap Zod's neck painted him as a much darker interpretation of the character. Years later, Brightburn would take a darker route.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • Thirteen years before this movie was released, Henry Cavill worked as an extra in the film Proof of Life, which Russell Crowe starred in. During the filming of the movie, Cavill asked Crowe for advice about acting, since he had aspirations of pursuing a full-time career as an actor. A few days after their conversation, he received a box of goodies from Crowe that included a signed picture of him in Gladiator with the words, "Dear Henry: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" written on it. Fast-forward to 2013: Henry Cavill is playing Superman opposite Russell Crowe, who's playing his father and mentor, Jor-El. This was discussed here. Man of Steel is also the first time they've seen each other since that first meeting.
    • Jor-El's view of humans as flawed yet inherently good is validated by the end of Suicide Squad.
    • From what's been seen of his youth, Clark didn't have the best of times when he was in high school. Then at the end of SHAZAM! (2019) he visits Billy and his siblings while they're at school and has lunch with them. For Superman to go from being a social misfit to being one of the two most popular figures at school must have really pulled at his heart strings.
  • He Really Can Act: In spite of the divisiveness on the film, a consensus that has been formed is that Henry Cavill (at the time a largely unknown and underused actor) did well in the role. Especially since he was facing an uphill battle from the start with being compared to Christopher Reeve.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • It's widely believed that the novel Gladiator was the inspiration for Superman. Now let's see, what is Superman's father in this movie famous for playing again?
    • As the meme goes: "That awesome moment when you realise your father and your adopted father were both Robin Hood". Which in itself is a weak reference to a certain Boy Wonder, and a certain Emerald Archer.
    • Russell Crowe once had a song called "I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando". Now he's playing Brando's role as Jor-El.
    • There's brief footage of a polar bear, calling to mind producer Jon Peters' rabid insistence that Kevin Smith include a polar bear fight scene in his 90s Superman script.
    • Amy Adams served as a Smallville Villain of the Week back in 2001.
    • The first full trailer debuted with The Hobbit, after the teasers used music from The Lord of the Rings.
    • Henry Cavill was previously cast as Clark in McG's 2004 Superman film, before it was cancelled and became Superman Returns.
    • John Cleese's 2004 comic Superman True Brit, which shows a world where Superman was raised in England, is kind of funny now that Superman's actor is British.
    • With Superman's battle with the World Engine, producer Jon Peters' technically has a Superman film in which Superman battles a spider-like creature. Kevin Smith points this out in his podcast review of the film.
    • In light of screenwriter David S. Goyer's comments about Clark's religion, this joke:
    Q: Who is Superman's most religious nemesis?
    A: Lex Lutheran!
    • The soundtrack at the climax of Superman Returns is "Saving the World". Now remember the main theme for Man of Steel.
    • Ben Affleck turned down the offer to direct Man Of Steel. Now he plays Batman in the same universe. He also played George Reeves in Hollywoodland and wore Superman's suit in that movie. And speaking of which, Diane Lane also starred in this as Toni Mannix, who had an affair with George Reeves. And given that Diane played Martha Kent (Superman's adopted mother) in Man of Steel, does that count as Cast Incest? Oh, this is worth an headache.
    • Supes destroying a government surveillance drone tracking him is this in light of the recent controversy over the NSA.
    • When Zod unleashes his heat vision for the first time inside a building, if you look quickly, you can see a "Keep calm and call Batman" poster. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we now know that they were inside a Wayne Industries building. And its destruction is one of the reasons Batman's angry.
    • In an interview leading up the the release of the film, Snyder commented that a design of Superman in jeans and a t-shirt was discussed as a potential costume. Following Convergence, the design in question actually was used when Superman briefly lost his superpowers.
    • The first movie of what became the Marvel Cinematic Universe is called "Iron Man," while the first movie in the DC Universe is called "Man of Steel." In the song "Iron Man," the character is actually made of steel.
  • Inferred Holocaust: The total damage and loss of life from the Metropolis battle has been estimated by architectural experts, and that it's unlikely that the city could be repaired. That being said, Superman could easily become involved in the process of reconstructing the city, and the presence of Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor in this universe would signify that some billionaires would chip in to help out with a portion of the reconstruction. Apparently averted by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which revealed that the city was able to be rebuilt in two years. Apparently, the Man Of Steel Universe isn't quite as dark as it was previously thought.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: The film has faced many accusations of trying to piggyback on the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, with its dark tone and washed out color palate, except those things don't fit Superman at all.
  • It Was His Sled: Superman kills Zod, which inspires his Thou Shall Not Kill policy from then on.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Zod is a genocidal megalomaniac, but his character depth, Michael Shannon's performance and his tearful tone of voice when his army is sent back to The Phantom Zone and his plans to make a new Krypton are ruined push him into this territory.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Zod's "I WILL FIND HIM!!" And he says it four times in the film. The "Where's Waldo" Crossovers have already begun.
    • "What does the [letter on costume] stand for?"
    • "WHERE DID YOU [action]? ON A FARM!?"
    • Thanks to trolls interpreting Superman's neck snap of Zod differently, referring to Superman as the "Man of Murder".
    • "STOP INVINCIBLE SON" - Jonathan Kent's decision to sacrifice himself has been met with some derision by /tv/.
    • Tied to Fandom Rivalry, images of Superman mocking The Avengers with "It took 6 of you stop an alien invasion? Seriously?" cropped up days after Man of Steel's release. Conversely, Avengers fans made a rebuttal image with Tony Stark pointing out that they managed to stop their invasion without destroying the whole damn city.
    • "Hopeman," to refer to Cavill's Superman. It comes from the film's aversion to using the name Superman and the "On my world it means hope" line being used in most of the marketing.
    • Some people have started calling the World Engine the "Dubstep Engine".
    • Still images of the scene where Superman screams in anguish while on the verge of tears after killing Zod have become a popular reaction image, especially for articles or threads dealing with something negative pertaining to the DCEU.
  • Mis-blamed:
    • Zack Snyder was criticized by many DC comics purists for removing Superman's red trunks. Said purists forget that it was the execs at both Warner Bros. and DC Comics who mandated that Superman be depicted without said trunks since 2011.
    • Many people, including Screen Junkies, have blamed Christopher Nolan for the infamous scene of Superman killing Zod. As noted in the Trivia section, Christopher Nolan wasn't the one who initially suggested this scene, and actually was against it before being convinced otherwise.
    • Snyder got a lot of flack for the film glossing over the collateral damage Superman causes (see Inferred Holocaust), and ending the film with him still apparently seen as a pure hero. He did intend to explore the hit this would cause to Superman's reputation, but then decided there wouldn't be proper room for it and held it back for the sequel.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Zod has a number of possible crossing points:
    • Faora gives a breather to Lois, because humans can't breathe the Kryptonian atmosphere. When Clark starts coughing up blood and passes out, Zod explains that Clark can't quite breathe the Kryptonian atmosphere either after living on Earth for so long, and they were counting on it to de-power him. Meaning Zod was perfectly willing to kill Clark from the beginning.
    • He attempts to threaten Superman's adoptive mother, almost killing her… not really a smart move on Zod's part.
    • Not hesitating to destroy the human population just so the Kryptonians can thrive again - even though they already had the means to repopulate their race, possibly on another planet. Not to mention that they could repopulate on Earth without killing the native inhabitants in the terraforming process, it would just take some adaptation time, which is relatively simple to achieve as demonstrated by the few minutes it takes Zod himself to adapt, and maybe moreso since these new Kryptonians would've been born into the environment. Though to be fair to Zod, he expresses zero joy in this.
    • Attempting to use his heat vision to fry some innocent bystanders just to see what Superman could do. Superman ends up breaking his neck, but because of Superman's morality, he goes into a breakdown.
    • In-universe: the leaders of Krypton view Zod's failed rebellion as this trope, and sentence him and his followers to the Phantom Zone.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Superman's flight sounds (taking off, breaking the sound barrier, etc.)
  • Narm: Has its own page.
  • Never Live It Down: Has its own page with the rest of DCEU.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Superman kills Zod, which some might think is a dark, new direction for the character, but it's actually been done before in Superman Vol. 2 #22 (the end of The Supergirl Saga) and by all appearances in Superman II.
    • In addition, some have taken issue with the notion that Superman didn't have a code against killing at first or that he needed to try it once and decide he didn't like it. However, there is evidence from post-Crisis comics to support this, in particular a story called "The Green Bullet" by John Ostrander, printed in JLA 80-Page Giant #1: Superman refers to the execution of Zod in Superman #22 and implies this was what cemented his code to begin with.
    • A lot of stuff that several reviewers have credited (or accused) Man of Steel of adding to the Superman mythos are actually from the comics, such as Superman's "S" symbol being the Kryptonian symbol meaning "hope", Kryptonians being Designer Babies, one of the Kryptonians being in a Mad Scientist (the character is named in the credits as Jax-Ur, a character dating back to 1961), Superman being treated with fear and distrust from some people, and even Kryptonian dragons.
    • An insecure, angst-ridden Superman is not at all a new concept, as Christopher Reeve's original interpretation was so torn between being a hero and being "normal" that he actually tried to become human. The DCAU Superman lost his temper many times, in both his Clark Kent persona and his secret identity, and was willing to kill Darkseid with his own hands (or at least stand by while others did the job).
    • Johnathan telling Clark that people would fear him unless he kept his powers hidden was something that Siegel and Shuster had planned from the very beginning.
    • Superman not having red trunks on his suit. They were already scrapped in the New 52 comics, and a photo of the defunct Justice League Mortal project showed that there already was to be a live action adaptation without them.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Jadin Gould did in just a few seconds of screentime what Kristin Kreuk couldn't do in eight seasons of Smallville: turn Lana Lang into a sympathetic and likeable character.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Superman of all people, gets hit with this sometimes, being painted by detractors as selfish and having to be goaded into heroics, despite being a Heroic Bystander and being compelled to help long before he got the suit, and ultimately choosing Earth and humanity over his own people. Also, his Destructive Savior tendencies are blown out of proportion since he was responsible for only a fraction of the devastation. Likewise his killing of Zod is sometimes treated as an antithesis of Superman's character, despite it clearly being the only option he had, Clark being visibly averse to doing it (he literally begs Zod to stop his attempted massacre before he finally does the deed), and of course his reaction afterwards making it abundantly clear he took no pleasure in doing so.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Some found Zod to be a much more sympathetic and developed character than Superman himself despite his crossings into the Moral Event Horizon. This could be attributed to Michael Shannon's emotional portrayal of him, showing how dedicated he is to following his fate as Krypton's top warrior. Especially his justification for his actions – he was literally born to be a warrior and protect Krypton and its citizens, no matter what. His Villainous Breakdown towards the end, where he claims that Superman has taken his soul by destroying any hope of rebuilding Krypton, definitely helped cement this.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Superman taking flight and breaking the sound barrier.
    • Superman punching Zod across the Metropolis skyline.
    • Superman breaking Zod's neck.
  • Signature Song: "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?" as the new Superman theme. "Arcade" is also a contender.
  • Snark Bait: By MAD and RedLetterMedia, which called the film a film too embarrassed to use the name Superman.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general consensus among critics boils down to this, with many agreeing the film is definitely an entertaining blockbuster, but not quite the masterpiece that the trailers and creative team indicated it would be. Audience reception was much more positive. Comic fans are in more of a division (particularly because of the scene where Superman is forced to kill).
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • The conflict between Superman and Zod mirrors in many ways the central dramatic beats in Alan Moore's Miracleman — A fight between two superpowered beings that causes massive collateral damage in a populated area; this fight also serving as the moment where humanity learns of superpowered beings with capabilities and technologies beyond anything they are capable of, and the hero being forced to kill the bad guy to save innocent lives by snapping his neck. Given that Snyder is surprisingly knowledgeable and adept about comics lore for a major film-maker (especially from the '80s) this is very likely an intentional influence on his film.
    • Due to the quality of the fight scenes, fans feel that the film was a better Dragon Ball movie than the official Dragonball movie. The fight scenes in Man of Steel were brawls translated into live actions from the Superman comics... which in turn were more similar to Dragon Ball style combat in the anime and manga than the "floatier" martial arts style used in Dragonball Evolution.
    • There are also those who believe it does better as an Invincible movie than a Superman movie.
    • Although inspired by Superman: Birthright, Superman: Secret Identity, and All-Star Superman, it shares eerily similar themes, tone, plot, and characterization with Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski. Some even say it's a better adaptation of that than the actual inspiration.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Debate arose as to whether Lois and Clark actually make a good couple in this film, arguing that they only know each other for a few days, don't show much in common, and their "Glad To Be Alive Kiss" feel shoehorned into the last act.
  • Tainted by the Preview: People were already divided over the involvement of Zack Snyder (because of Sucker Punch) and David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan (because some thought their approach for Batman wouldn't fit Superman). Then the first ever picture of Henry Cavill in the Superman costume drew mixed reactions for its dark and gloomy tone and muted blue filter. Then the first ever teaser trailer drew mixed and confused reactions for its dark and gloomy tone, muted blue filter, and Clark Kent on a fishing boat. The first full trailer again drew mixed reactions for the same reasons though there was finally a taste of the promised action, and many dismissed Hans Zimmer's score just from the snippet used. Add in the people who believe the Donner/Reeve/Brando/Williams films will never ever be bettered and are offended by this film's existence, and you have one heck of a Broken Base. Safe to say the base was broken from the start.
  • They Copied It, So It Sucks!: Some viewers noticed it followed Batman Begins's steps way too closely, as it not only imitated said film's path for its hero (such as traveling the world to find one's self) but also elements such as the anachronistic order, the Well-Intentioned Extremist villain who attacks the hero's home (Gotham/Earth) with a device that alters the environment, the function of Lois Lane and Rachel Dawes and the relationship between the hero and the Government (specially between the trustworthy Gordon/Hardy and the skeptical Loeb/Swanwick), along with hints of the arch enemy in a future installment.
  • Tough Act to Follow:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Pete Ross in this film had a lot of potential to enhance Clark's character arc. As a childhood bully towards Clark, he changes his tune once Clark saves him and the rest of their class from drowning, helping Clark up once he is accosted by other bullies during their teen years. Elaborating on their friendship could have been a good way of establishing Clark's view that despite humanity being bad at times, they could change their ways and become good with his inspiration. Unfortunately, Pete's only other major appearance outside of the flashbacks is him giving a brief interview with Lois Lane, leaving his and Clark's friendship undeveloped.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The more positive-yet-critical views of the film see the promise of a "realistic look at Superman" to be this. The idea of Superman growing up in more modern, cynical times could have been the grounds for a nice Decon-Recon Switch, showing that even in times of tragedy, Superman can find it in himself to be an inspiring figure for humanity. While the film tries to deliver on this, it ultimately focuses too much time towards Clark going through tragedy and alienation and too little towards him finding the drive needed to become a hero. Thus, several viewers see the shift towards Superman declaring himself a defender of humanity to be jarring and unearned.
    • Just like the old films, Jor-El has too much bearing on Clark becoming Superman, with the added complication of Pa Kent's unconventional portrayal. Traditionally (even as far back as the 30's), it is the Kents' upbringing which gives Superman the morals and responsibility needed to use his abilities for good, but despite them having tender moments with Clark, very little of this moral, earthly upbringing is seen. Thankfully, they did downplay Jor-El and Krypton in later films.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Surprisingly, Ludlow (the rude truck driver) of all people is actually this to a lot of viewers. The scene when he finds his truck completely destroyed by Clark is meant to come across as a Kick the Son of a Bitch moment, instead many viewers actually felt bad for him and his truck. It's likely because the truck was his livelihood and they found Clark's response was a Disproportionate Retribution. In fact most of the reviewers who are critical of this movie actually point to this scene as a reason why CLARK might be unlikable. Forgetting or ignoring the fact that Ludlow was asking for trouble by not only spitting on, drenching with beer, and throwing an empty can at the back of Clark's head when he was politely asked to stop causing trouble, but The Trucker also harassed and groped the waitress that Clark was defending. And also forgetting the fact that Christopher Reeve's Superman himself physically harmed a similar jerkass truck driver in Superman II, while Cavill's Clark didn't even touch Ludlow and took on his truck instead.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Jonathan Kent's unflinching demand for Clark to suppress his abilities goes so far as for him to suggest his son should have let a busload of children drown rather than out himself by saving them. It's obvious that he wants to protect Clark and let him have a normal childhood, but he never even attempts to explain why he believes letting innocent kids die was the better choice. He then refuses rescue and forces Clark to watch as he's killed by a tornado, because safeguarding his son's anonymity is apparently more important than not leaving him traumatized and fatherless.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • A Zack Snyder staple, but special mention goes to Zod's armor. You'd never guess it's CGI.
    • A major highlight are the action scenes, which are a live-action adaptation of how Superman's fights are drawn in the comic books. Man of Steel properly adapts the speed and power the Kryptonians display in the comic books, and their fights are powerful brawls, whereas prior depictions relied a lot more on Coconut Superpowers and some degree of obvious Wire Fu.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Some think the 38-year-old Amy Adams is too old to play Lois Lane, also being nine years older than Cavill. In response, comics writer Mark Millar has argued that an older actress fits, since Lois is already an experienced journalist when Superman debuts. Also, Amy is somewhat famous for looking and seeming much younger than she really is, constantly playing sweet and youthful characters convincingly.
    • Some have objected to Henry Cavill just because he's not American, though this has largely died down after his performance and convincing accent were favorably received.
    • For some, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White just because he's not white.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: During close-up shots, you can see Superman's chest hair just poking up from the lower collar area.
    • According to iMdb, Henry Cavill insisted that it was totally plausible and acceptable for Superman to be both muscular and have chest hair, citing The Death of Superman comic storyline as an example; indeed, Superman is shown bare chested and with chest hair at several points.
    • Superman also sports some conspicuously large sideburns.
  • The Woobie:
    • Clark, from the beginning of the movie to the climax. Traumatized by his emerging powers and regarded as a freak by his peers, frightens his classmates when he saves their lives, learns that he's not just adopted, he's an alien, has a You're Not My Father argument with his adoptive father Jonathan Kent and then minutes later watches Jonathan Kent die because he insisted that Clark not expose himself to save him. That's all before he turns eighteen. As an adult, he helps people in need but forsakes a permanent job and home since he feels unable to settle down where people know his secret. He eventually discovers that he is the last survivor of his home planet, only to soon learn that there are other survivors - and they're a bunch of bad guys who want to rebuild Krypton by wiping out humanity. He is able to stop their plan but only after half a city is destroyed, Zod forces Clark to kill him. After he kills Zod you want to cheer when Lois gives him a much-needed hug. The fact that he's able to keep his chin up and rise above all this makes him a Woobie Of Steel.
    • Martha had to raise a child with unique needs and issues, watched her husband die minutes after said son, in a fit of anger, called them both out on "not being his real parents", before then said son disappeared for years. When he returns and happily tells her about how he found his birth-culture, she looks like her heart broke but wants to keep a brave face since he's so happy.

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