Movie review: Superman’s new start holds hope for bright future in “Man of Steel”

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From the June 13, 2013 edition

At what point do we grow weary of superhero movies? At what point do we reach saturation? Apparently, not yet.

“Man of Steel” is the second attempt in less than a decade to revive the Superman series. And while most agree that Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” faltered, I’m happy to report that “Man of Steel” generally soars.

The team assembled to tackle this series is pretty super from the movie-geek perspective. Director Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”) is at the helm, working from a script by David S. Goyer, the screenwriter behind Christopher Nolan’s superlative “Dark Knight” trilogy. Oh, and speaking of Nolan, he produces and co-wrote the story for “Man of Steel.”

We begin on Krypton, the home planet of Kal-El, the boy who would be Superman. Fearing the imminent destruction of the planet, his father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), places the infant boy on a spacecraft after clashing with the militant General Zod (Michael Shannon).

Years later, we meet a Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) struggling with his place on this planet — and the superpowers his reaction to our atmosphere provides. He struggles to reveal himself to humankind, a decision that is hastened by the prying investigation of newspaper reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

This beloved, all-American tale feels fresh if familiar. A punchy Goyer script keeps things moving with well-placed flashbacks filling in Clark’s childhood, with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane playing his parents. The flashback technique also allows for a steady dose of action sequences amid the unfolding character drama. It’s well played.

Snyder is more known for visual flair than character development, but when he unleashes his action urges, the results are destructive and exhilarating. He keeps up a breathless pace, although the film runs a bit long.

Cahill is a charming and likable Superman, evocative of Christopher Reeve. Shannon is one of my favorite actors working today, and he has fun chewing into Zod, even if the villain remains a little undeveloped.

“Man of Steel” is saddled with some of the clunkiness that get these superhero origin stories bogged down. The good news is that it points to a punchier sequel where things could get really interesting. Remember “Spider-Man 2”? “The Dark Knight”? I’m already looking forward to the next Superman chapter.

I guess I’m not tired of superheroes yet.