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As a longtime collector of comic books, I’m pre-disposed to like super hero movies. This one was a challenge. A retelling of Superman’s origin from Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), Man of Steel is big, bulky and disjointed, with key points of the story told through distracting flashbacks. A long opening chunk of the movie is set on Krypton, where Superman’s father Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe) has been re-imagined as an action hero, flying a winged beast through a collapsing city and battling the evil General Zod over the future of their dying race. In this telling, young Kal-El becomes a symbol of Jor-El’s hope for the species, and Zod vows to hunt him down. If you accept superhero stories are a form of American mythology, there should be room for new interpretations and you can’t get too hung up on any one version being correct. The problem with this approach, though, is that Jor-El never recedes into the background (he reappears after his death as a sort of helpful ghost who engineers plot points) and Superman becomes a pawn in his own story. Structurally, the plot – which ties Superman’s origin to the climactic battle with Zod  – obscures the development of much else we associate with the Superman, so we never see Clark Kent at the Daily Planet, his youth is told in flashbacks, and Lois Lane (played with style by Amy Adams) is crammed awkwardly into the narrative. The movie is all first and third acts. Man of Steel also suffers from a gloom that feels borrowed from the last Star Trek movie, and particularly, the Dark Knight trilogy. In the comics, there’s the idea that Gotham City is New York south of 14th St., and Metropolis is the city north of 14th. That tonal difference should be reflected in the characters and their stories. Here, the clouds rarely part and when Superman plays earnest and sincere – asking a skeptical humanity to trust him – he comes across as a naive simpleton.

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