“You’ll believe a man can fly,” ads for 1978’s still-majestic Superman promised. Oy, to have such problems: These days, I’d settle for a director who could crack wise once in a while. Zack Snyder’s dull-as-dirt Man of Steel (the second reboot in seven years and still not getting it done) feels like a straitjacketed affair, scared of ever wandering into humor, self-deprecation or romantic byplay. Produced by king of pain Christopher Nolan, it forgets to give the new Kal-El (muscle-bound Henry Cavill) a single recognizable emotion, save The Dark Knight’s all-purpose brood—which isn’t going to cut it when our S-clad hero, more than any other, has to inspire a gushing citywide love (so well-captured in the Koch-era original). The film’s coyness is frustrating: Did they really need to cut Clark Kent’s mild-mannered reporter from most of the scenario? That’s the concept, guys. Deal with it.
Here’s what the somber fan base seems to want these days: an elaborate, Krypton-set intro, complete with Avatar-like flying creatures and Russell Crowe running around with various keys and skulls (don’t ask); plenty of rain-dappled Kansas pageantry made for misty-eyed dads; and an all-too-talky Zod (Michael Shannon, nowhere near as enraged as he was in his viral sorority video). The better actors—Kevin Costner, chiefly, as the adoptive Earth father—strain to supply warmth, but mostly, the minutes stretch into great expanses of blahness, much of them filled with Transformers-grade skyscraper snapping and bloodless catastrophe. Open your mouth, you want to say to Cavill; inspire us a little. Unfortunately, the movie’s title is apt.
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