It is a sign of the kind of inflationary bombast that typifies modern Hollywood summer blockbusters in general, and Zach Snyder movies in particular, that in his latest incarnation, Superman – who was already the most monolithic of superheroes, a symbol of American exceptionalism, and a movie icon – becomes no less than a Christ-like figure and the salvation of all mankind. “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards,” says the ghost of his father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe).
But before all that, and despite the fact that Superman’s origin story is already widely known, there is a huge amount of exposition and backstory that this film wants to put in place. We spend almost an hour on Krypton, which as Snyder envisages it is a weird mix of medieval fantasy worlds and apocalyptic sci-fi; a dying planet swirling with dragons and spaceships.
Even after the film comes back down to earth, and Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) has more fully assimilated into the human race, the non-stop action continues to be pitched at an oversized and exhausting level. And with too few moments of believable human interaction, too little humour, and characters who are too thinly drawn, it’s easy to lose sight of what Superman is fighting for, and whether it’s even worth it.