|Superman carries Lois Lane to safety, naturally|
Shot to Earth as an infant from dying Krypton by his father, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe), Kal-El (Henry Cavill) is adopted by the Kents and faces his greatest challenge before he's even begun his career as Superman proper: General Zod (Michael Shannon), an evil Krptonian despot, has escaped from the Phantom Zone and wants the codex that can make Krypton live again. Unfortunately, this will result in Earth and its inhabitants being destroyed. Superman sets out to stop him with the aid of the military, but it's an uphill battle. There's the germ of a good idea in Man of Steel, but its execution is highly disappointing. The story isn't told in a linear fashion but is interrupted with frequent annoying flashbacks, giving the whole project a disjointed continuity that pulls you out of the story instead of pulling you in. There are also some pretty stupid moments, such as when Johnathan Kent (Kevin Costner) simply allows himself to die so that Superman won't reveal himself too soon [even though Superman can move super-fast, and the awful effect Kent's death will have on his wife]! The prologue on Krypton is overlong and relatively uninteresting, and dead Jor-El (or rather his "consciousness") seems to pop up all the time more to make use of Crowe than for any other logical reason. The movie has a kind of Marvel X-Men flavor to it, especially in Superman's uneasy relationship with the authorities. Handsome Cavill strikes the right note as a Superman at the very start of his career, but the rest of the casting is problematic. A lady reporter doesn't always have to be aggressive and perky to a fault, but Amy Adams is a bit too drab as Lois Lane. Laurence Fishburne as an African-Amerrican Perry White is adequate, but he wasn't that great as a leading man, let alone a character actor. Crowe, Costner, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent are okay, but Christopher Meloni quit Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for only a small role as an Army man? You don't really see enough of Ayelet Zurer to judge her performance as the evil Krptonian Lara Lor-Van. As Zod, Shannon isn't bad, but he's somewhat lacking in dramatic flair but for a couple of sequences [after all, this is a comic book movie, not a drama, and a little overplaying is allowable]. The best thing in the movie -- and virtually the only time it really comes alive -- is when Zod and Superman take to the skies and have a lively, protracted fight to the death. Otherwise, this Man of Steel rarely flies. The original Christopher Reeve version may have had its flaws, but it was better than this. Man of Steel is about on the level of the equally disappointing Superman Returns. As I predicted Man of Steel is much less entertaining than the excellent animated feature, Superman vs. the Elite. Cavill will reprise the role of Superman in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman, and will also play Napoleon Solo in the big-screen version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; he was also in the crappy Immortals.
Verdict: The really great Superman movie has yet to be made. **1/2.