By Susan JAMES
Nearly everyone on planet Earth knows the history of a man called Super. Child of alien parents, shipped into space to save him from certain death on his home world of Krypton, pint-sized refuge at a Kansas farm whose owners raise him as their own. Given the familiarity of the story it isn’t surprising that to freshen it up writer David S. Goyer and director Zack Snyder have tinkered with the details. But their tweaks to a well-known tale stop at the fringes and that’s the trouble. Expecting everyone to already know what’s going on, they’ve decided to spend their time and money on CGI battle scenes that take up most of the nearly 2½ hours of running time.
Tapped to play the iconic role of Cal-El/Clark Kent, British actor Henry Cavill is big enough and imposing enough to fill the super suit and not look silly. But his chiseled jaw and steely gaze lacks any kind of emotional depth. Having a hologram of your biological father tell you in a general way that you were sent to Earth to save it, a message constantly echoed by your foster father, doesn’t really give you much to go on. A long shot of Cal/Clark posed in church in front of a stained glass window of Jesus is just one too many metaphors.
Diane Lane plays Cal/Clark’s foster mother and her performance is the most grounded in the film. When he is with her, her foster son seems like someone we’d like to get to know. As Lois Lane, Amy Adams plays the all-American girl-next-door and it’s hard not to compare her to Gwyneth Paltrow’s all-American Pepper Potts in the ‘Iron Man’ series. Unfortunately this Lois wears blandness like a beige cloak. Wouldn’t it be nice if for once the superhero’s all-American girl looked like Lucy Liu or Archie Panjabi or Tamara Taylor?
The film opens with an intense sequence of scenes on Krypton showing Lara (Ayelet Zurer) giving birth to baby Cal and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) doing battle with General Zod as their planet is about to implode. An interesting casting choice was made in Michael Shannon as Zod. A doppelganger for Joaquin Phoenix, his scenes with Crowe have the effect of re-creating key scenes from ‘Gladiator’. When the prison ship carrying the evil general and his killer crew shows up on Earth to capture Cal and Krypton-form the planet for their new home, the results are never in doubt. So the director and CGI guys have lavished their attention on the resulting battle scenes that seem to go on forever.
If you like minimal storylines, pared down interaction and endless explosions, you’ll love this new entry in the superheroes sweepstakes. But in between battles when Cal/Clark and Zod fight it out to the death, you might find yourself wondering why the corn in Kansas, despite the season, is always as high as an elephant’s eye, or ask yourself why every school kid in the state is an insufferable bully or ponder on why the heck Kevin Costner looks 100 years old? The end of the movie positions a mild-mannered reporter at a great metropolitan newspaper under the command of legendary editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). And the real story begins — maybe. See you at the movies!