I had a conversation with a friend about the movie and she mentioned that movies always stray a bit from the source material. To which I responded, which source material?
Superman's origin story has remained relatively unchanged over the past 75+ years, but the details of that origin have changed drastically over the decades. So, do you use the original origin story from the 1930s & 40s? The revamped origin from the 50s & 60s? The Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin in 1986, which was also titled "Man of Steel"? The origin from the "Birthright" story in the early-2000s? Or the origin story from the New DC 52 from 2011?
Well, regardless of the source material, this version of the Superman origin, I think, followed well the precedent set by "Batman Begins". Telling a linear story with non-linear elements, giving the audience the information needed to advance the story. No more, no less. It paces itself well, not lingering long in any one area of the story.
This story begins, as any Superman origin should, with Kal El's birth on Krypton and the events that lead to Krypton's eventual destruction. As I mentioned before, "Man of Steel" goes further into life on Krypton than has ever been depicted outside of the comics and animated series. It shows Krypton as a vast space-faring civilization with a genetically-based caste system. The citizens of Krypton are bred into the roles they play in society. Scientist, warrior, worker, leader, priest, artist. These are the role predetermined for you at the moment of your conception on Krypton. Except for Kal El. Jor El & Lara decided that they would conceive Kal without his life being predetermined. "Krypton's first natural birth in centuries."
The glimpse of Kryptonian society gives you an indication of what the antagonist of the film, General Zod, if fighting to preserve, flawed as it may seem to Kal El.
We then see the escape of the infant Kal El in the rocket bound for Earth. This part of the story, for me, gets less and less plausible as the years go on and technology changes and we're able to track celestial objects on course for Earth. The landfall of Kal El's ship as depicted in the "Smallville" television series seems to make more sense than every other depiction I've seen to date.
In "Smallville", the infant Kal El's ship arrives surrounded by fragments of the now dead Krypton. It seems to me that, in the 21st century, the ship would be more difficult to spot during a meteor shower that if it were just a lone craft falling to earth. If any government or military leader found a large enough chunk of meteor rock in the fields where the barrage fell, they would most likely be satisfied and not want to search forever for the lone object that just made landfall in a Kansas cornfield. This story, however, depicts the lone craft, and even makes mention of my concern when Jonathan Kent tells a teenaged Clark, "We expected someone from the government to come and take you away from us, but no one came." It makes me wonder how they'll address the presence of kryptonite in later films.
We pick up with an adult Clark Kent as he wanders the world trying to find his place in it. With his powers growing every day, he lives as a drifter, never staying in one place long. Although his wanderlust seems to be leading him to a specific destination, if not a destiny.
He eventually finds himself at a military encampment in the Arctic that has found a long-buried Kryptonian scout ship. He also has the first of his many encounters with Lois Lane over the course of the film.
After Clark takes possession of the ship, he meets the A.I. shade of Jor El and learns of his Kryptonian heritage.
As mentioned above, Kryptonian soldiers are born and bred to the protection and defense of Krypton, so General Zod was, I think, a great antagonist for this film, as opposed to going back to the the tired trope of bringing in Lex Luthor right outta the gate. Zod bridges the gap for Kal/Clark between what was lost on Krypton and, to an extent, why it should stay lost.
All-in-all, "Man of Steel" works on every level. If you haven't seen it yet, add it to your to-watch list.