You know there’s too much 3D in a film when a minor character gets trapped under a crumbling building and you’re desperate for them to escape because you’re not going home until they do. This is the problem with Man of Steel: after the first few scenes – where we see Superman’s family deal with the death of their planet in a more heartfelt way than ever before – there are so many repetitive action sequences that there is little time for anything else.
Gone are the comedy mix-ups at the Daily Planet as supposedly brilliant reporters fail to recognise that, behind a pair of geek chic glasses, mild-mannered Clark Kent is the man flying across their front pages in a slightly too long red cape. Instead, we have a relentless space invasion from Superman’s nemesis General Zod (Michael Shannon), who predictably wants to take over the earth and kill the human race.
While Superman is determined to save hapless individuals in peril, he smashes through so many tower blocks that his death count must be vast. It’s only when he snaps Zod’s neck at the end that he does a wistful look into the mid-distance. Perhaps he’s thinking: how weird, why didn’t repeatedly dragging this bloke’s face down the side of buildings finish him off four hours earlier?
The Superman franchise isn’t great because of Superman; it’s great because of Clark Kent – and we don’t get to see him in his iconic specs until the final scene. This potentially nice twist is offset by the fact that we have to sit through reams of CGI carnage to get to it. The battle to embrace or reject our destiny, to fit in or step outside the status quo, is where the heart of Superman lies – not in the logistics of intergalactic warfare.
Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is vaguely setup as the go-getter journalist we know so well, but ends up a bystander, waiting to fall into Superman’s arms with all of the cold predictability and awkwardness of a wedding first dance. Henry Cavill is convincing as Superman, but doesn’t really get the chance to be anything more than a Christopher Reeve/ Dean Cain look-alike. “He’s really hot,” a female member of the military clumsily quips, as he flies overhead. The actress clearly finds it a painful line to say, not because it isn’t true, but because it’s a self-conscious attempt to create chemistry missing elsewhere.