As both a massive DC comics (and comics in general) fan, as well as an avid cinema student - it was excruciating to sit through. I was with a huge crowd on my diehard comic nerd friends, all of us very forgiving when it comes to bad adaptations of our favorite works, and all of us were dumbfounded by how terribly it went wrong. We are not ones to pay attention to critical reviews, and really try to give works a chance on their own. So even having seen Man of Steel, and really not liking it, we were all willing to give it a full chance - scrambling to buy our tickets for the first showing on opening night. Turns out we didn’t need to do so as the movie theater, on of the most popular in town, was absolutely deserted.
You seem to be generalizing when you state that people can’t seem to tell you exactly what is wrong with the writing or editing, and that this is a crutch for not having a real criticism against something you don’t like. Or that people just say that there is “too much talking” or it’s “too dark”. I think you may just be avoiding many great dissections of this problematic movie. I would first point you to a fantastic blow-by-blow breakdown I heard after watching the film, by 1 DC comic expert who is not a professional movie reviewer and 1 movie reviewer who isn’t necessarily a comic expert, dissecting what is wrong from both the perspective of the source material as well as from a movie-making standpoint: Polygon’s Cutscene review of the film.
I am in the camp of “gritty is great”, “I love dialogue” and “most action movies rely too much on action”, so I don’t seem to be approaching this from the same direction as people you’ve encountered. As @SteampunkBanana says above - the lack of real weight behind the decisions that characters make, a lack of cohesion for even the most basic movements that the plot makes, as well as a jumbled mess of confusing, mistimed, and baffling scenes and cuts show the lack of care or skill that went into the writing and editing of the film. Just a couple of basic, tiny examples in the spoilers, as critiquing all of the major flaws in this form would take pages - something other people have already done well. I’m not even going to get into the absurd divergences from the comics or characters, because it’s an adaptation so I have to give them some breathing room. OBVIOUS MOVIE SPOILERS, INCLUDING ENDING, BELOW
[spoiler]Quite simply - the movie constantly undermines itself, at every turn, removing any of the weight that dramatic points or relationships might have. The core conflict in the movie, Superman vs Batman, hinges on the fact that Wayne is sad that Superman is hurting people? How overly simplistic can you get? The beauty and weight behind the original BvS struggle was the long history of friendship and fighting side-by-side that Wanye and Clark share, and the evolution of seeing how they approach a problem from their difference of perspective and history. None of this is present in the film, the flimsiness which is revealed when the fighting stops as they realize their moms share the same name. Obviously Wayne really cares about his people that died, right? Talk about values.
Or the fact that they establish numerous times in the movie that Superman can be revived, and Kryptonians can be resurrected - which takes away ANY real suspense of the dangerous situations that Superman might be in. Who cares if Doomsday kills him? We already know that he can come back to life. So why bother? It’s similar to when a movie shows you a character, healthy and whole, at the beginning, and have the rest of the movie in flashback. This is a fun narrative device, but then when you put your character in any life-threatening situation, you weaken the importance of those scenes, as we know that the character makes it to the end just fine. Not to mention the almost quarter hour they spend on people simply grieving the loss of their friend and Superman, only to have it VERY CLEAR in the last moments of the film that Supe is okay. Why did we need to dwell for so long on this when you undermine it in the last beat of the film? Why? Because Snyder can’t stop doing this sort of garbage, cardboard emotional self-aggrandizement. It’s the same reason he spends SO LONG on that absurd recreation of the death of the Waynes, and flashes back to it over and over. Because he thinks that showing you sad things equals you feeling sad. It doesn’t. There is never any real emotional struggle that Wayne shows, other than the beginning, with the loss of his employees (which is VERY well done…and further confuses me as to how they could mess everything else up so badly).
Another example of atrocious writing/editing is the main villain’s “scheme”, if you could even call it that. The Rube Goldburgian set of circumstances that had to happen, one after the other, for Luthor to get his way is just…mind boggling. And confusing to NO END how they even got started. How did Lex know who Superman or Batman were? How did he find Clark’s mom? Why did he think that holding Clark’s mom would get him to do that exact thing - find Batman and fight him? What if Clark decided to, I don’t know, do anything else to get his mother back? At any point of the chain, there were so many other, better decisions that the characters should have, and would have, made - but Snyder forced them into the worst of them just to move things along. That is shoddy workmanship to the core.
The extensive scenes of people clicking through file directories just so we could get a couple of tiny videos of each other Justice League member that we will only see later. And this happens TWICE! There is no need for this! The only people who really get the references anyways are the comic fans, who are going to probably get the references from the logos or filenames, not to mention the incredible amount of time and detail shown on the computers both times. And yet even that was confusing, so maybe it was good that they spent 15 minutes spelling it out? I’ve seen every episode of Teen Titans, read through Infinite Crises a few times…and was still unable to figure out that it was Cyborg being shown there. /smh
Why have the scene with Lois Lane throwing the spear in the water, only needing to have it minutes later? There is no reason other than to create another dumb “Lois Lane is trapped” moment, that is fixed, again, in seconds. It was a completely pointless scene that added nothing to the narrative, other than another simple way to have Superman save his girl from simple calamity. There is never any feeling at all of actual tension, or “Will Supe save her?” Of course he will. Why bother? There are no real stakes.
A prime example of poor editing and storytelling is underlined even in the small details - like Lois taking the helicopter across the river. How much time did they waste showing her procuring the helicopter, going to the roof, getting in the helicopter, and taking off, landing again, and exiting…all with no dialogue? Just have her say “I need a copter”, and then EXITING. That’s all we need! We know she got in and flew there, and there is nothing in that scene that adds to suspense, expands the characters, develops the story, heightens the emotion, or anything else that might be helpful to the movie. She’s just travelling from one place to another. There is absolutely no point to a scene like that, and this film is riddled with similarly wasted time.
And come on! 5 minutes of showing Batman doing crossfit? Here’s Bruce hammering a tire in the fog with spark flying around him! Here’s Bruce pushing the tire up a ramp! Here is Bruce doing pullups with the tire attached to him! Here is Bruce flipping the tire towards the camera angrily! We get it. Affleck works out. Again…totally unnecessary for the film or character.
The scene with, who I can only assume is, The Flash? Are you kidding me? Again, another scene with 0 context, explanation, or weight to the film. They even try to get you to believe that it was probably a dream, like the number of other terrible fantasy sequences that they trick the audience with.
And these are only a few of the myriad of awful decisions, bad editing choices, and shoddy work that went into the script. But really, in the end, it lacked heart, which is something the Marvel movies have been getting right. A reason to care for any of the characters, or anything that is going on. Stakes. Weight. Reason.
Maybe another director can figure it out. I sure hope so.