Releasing a summer superhero flick is de rigueur in Hollywood. This year was no exception, with Zach Snyder and Christopher Nolan offering their addition to the pantheon of Superman films—Man of Steel. Though juiced on graphics, the story lacks muscle in other key areas.
The film is the prequel for America’s favorite Kryptonian, but the herky-jerky manner in which it’s done impedes the story. For all non-DC Comic readers, the basics are as follows: Clark (the dimple-chinned Henry Cavill), whose real name is Kal-El, was sent to Earth by his father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), and mother, Lara (Ayelet Zurer). Foreseeing their planet’s impending doom, they embed the source of Krypton DNA in their infant son and pack him off to terra firma.
Kal crash lands in Kansas, where he is found and adopted by a kindly rural couple, the Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). They name him Clark and raise him as their own, all the while trying to hide his other-worldly, super-human strength. This results in much consternation for Clark, who, still unready to don the hero’s cape, doesn’t understand why he’s different from everybody else.
How he manages to reconcile that tension is never completely explained, but somehow Clark’s ready to fight General Zod (Michael Shannon), his diabolical nemesis, who’s trying to exterminate him and extract his DNA.
Clark’s cheerleader throughout is Lois Lane (Amy Adams), an intrepid and somewhat annoying reporter for The Daily Planet. She believes in Clark when few others do and conveniently falls into harm’s way multiple times, giving him plenty of opportunities to test his super powers.
All this practice pays off when Superman must fight General Zod and his ilk in a never-ending, over-the-top action sequence that leaves any semblance of plot or character development buried in the computer-generated rubble. Man of Steel is relatively clean (PG-13 for sci-fi action and mild language), but it takes viewers on a long and bumpy ride they’ll need a brain of steel to endure.