Roughly, there are two kinds of superhero origin stories; the kind where far too much time is spent explaining the hero’s background, and not enough of the action you were hoping for, and the kind where there’s so much action that you don’t have time to develop any interest in the protagonist. Man Of Steel wants to have it both ways, or maybe neither; there’s no real sense of who Superman is, but there’s also not much in the way of action, and then there’s an incredibly long fight sequence at the end that you’re too tired to care about.
It’s odd, really, or almost an expression of intellectual bad faith that Zack Snyder would make Watchmen, a film that harpoons the ridiculousness of comic book heroes, and then make a Superman film, the bestockinged avenger being easily one of the cheesiest characters to be drawn. Or is this what counts for irony these days?
General Zod, the villain of the piece, isn’t as enjoyably camp as he was in Terence Stamp’s day. He’s just very very cross, and gifted with such an unspecific set of powers that the final battle with Superman is utterly uninvolving. Not knowing what Zod can or can’t do means the spectacle of two men throwing each other through buildings is strangely dull. There’s nothing really at stake, because it’s never clear what would put either of them in danger. And, sadly, the nth time a man throws another man through a skyscraper, you stop being excited and begin to yawn.
Henry Cavill does his best with the material but there’s not that much to work with. Russell Crowe feels wasted, wandering around, an omniscient hologram, and as for Laurence Fishburne, he appears to be a raddled version of Morpheus who took the wrong pill by mistake.
The fight scenes are also a bit confusing, or I’m getting old; it’s never abundantly clear who is doing what to who. On the positive side, we get lots of Superman flying around, and Ancient Kevin Costner isn’t so bad to watch, although the make-up job on Superman’s mother is just that little bit off, where it really looks like a young person dressed up to look old. Lamb dressed as mutton still freaks me out.
The film freaked out our unborn child too. It turns out the constant assault of an imax cinema and Hans Zimmer’s greatest hits are not what a fetus likes, and it wriggled and kicked to show its discontent. Poor thing didn’t even have a choice in the matter.
It was also far too bloody long, although strangely the most interesting bit for me, the oil-rig rescue near the start, was over much too soon. I suppose they needed to make room for the alien destruction of New York. Because it’s not like anyone has tried that in a film recently, is it?