What escapes Man of Steel is the sense of wonder and exhilaration that made 1978's Superman work so well. I appreciate a different take on the Superman legend, but this newest version of the DC Comics character is dark, drab, and cheerless.
In an overly elaborate, effects-heavy opening set on the dying planet of Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) races against time to save the life of his newborn son, Kal-El, by placing the baby in a spaceship and sending him to a distant planet called Earth. Complicating Jor-El's plan is a mutiny by General Zod (a broad Michael Shannon). Eventually, the child makes it to Earth, where he is found to be blessed with extraordinary superpowers.
Kal-El is discovered and raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), and given the name Clark. He grows up to be a drifter, attempting to hide his powers from humanity, fearing that he will be ostracized. Occasionally, Clark does use his powers to save lives, and after an oil rig rescue, intrepid reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) starts closing in on him. However, when Zod and pals show up on Earth to transform it into another Krypton, Kal-El/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) has no choice but to reveal himself and use his powers in an attempt to defeat them.
David S. Goyer's sloppy screenplay has an awkward fl ashback structure that never lets the viewer in emotionally. All of the scenes of a young Clark growing up in Smallville are Kodak commercial fl ashbacks. These are supposed to be the scenes that give the story its weight, yet they are mostly fl uffy little snippets. However, the scene when young Clark's X-ray vision kicks in is effectively terrifying.
Mostly, though, the actors—very good actors, mind you—have little to do. They aren't given many moments to act, because they are at the mercy of the endless onslaught of special effects. There is absolutely zero on-screen chemistry between Cavill and Adams.
Director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) further ruins the fi lm with insistent handheld shaky-cam and artifi cially created zooming and racking of focus during the ear-cleansing and non-stop action that pretty much populates the entire second half of the movie. By the time the fi nal showdown gets underway, it's numbing and ineffectual. you can see a digital character thrown through a skyscraper only so many times before it loses its charm. And that is why Man of Steel sucks—it's charmless.