OUT OF 4
Director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) has joined forces with producer Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight) to give us a “Superman” prequel that exudes gravitas but lacks any semblance of humor. “Man of Steel” is a back-story-loaded tentpole science fiction picture which has flourishes of grandeur but ultimately disappoints more than it pleases.
It starts with a rare natural birth on Krypton (the parents are a dark Russell Crowe and an enigmatic Ayelet Zurer) and ends with a wink on Planet Earth implying we will get to the real comic book story latter.
Its strength lies in the brilliant production design of Alex McDowell. The darkly revisionist premise tells the story of the alien known as Kal-El aka “Superman” But the S is now a symbol of “hope” and the actual name “Superman” is hardly uttered. We get a Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who knows his identity early on and who would have been killed several times except for the extraordinary actions of our hero. Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) looks the part and does what he can with the sparse dialog and pedestrian directing style of Snyder.
The most interesting part of the film are the scenes where young Kal-El aka Clark Kent is growing up in Kansas (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are the foster parents) confused and adapting his powers to this foreign world and getting ready to do battle with the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon) who arrives from the dead planet Krypton with the intent of destroying the Earth.
Eventually the film settles into a battle between Zod and Superman and these two aliens battle it out to the end with countless CGI scenes of mayhem and destruction. At 2 hours and 23 minutes it leaves us wondering how many flying trucks or falling buildings we can watch before we feel let down. Warners has created a brilliant marketing campaign for this picture. Let’s hope that in future iterations we get a story or characters that can capture our imagination as much as the advertising.