Christopher Nolan has a lot to answer for with Batman Begins in bringing to the world of cinema the concept of ‘the reboot’. Before that film, fictional characters were deemed to have followed an arc and when the audience got tired of them they were either spectacularly killed off or (like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) quietly forgotten. Now, with ‘the reboot’, old stories are ‘re-imagined’ again. In the case of Superman, this seems to have happened so often that you expect Bill Murray to be playing the lead. I mean, for God’s sake, Brandon Routh is not even cold in his acting grave yet… will no one show a little respect??
But, what the hey… with Christopher Nolan’s help here we have Henry Cavill – tall, handsome and, according to my wife, well buffed British actor donning the big “S” (no, not the letter S, but “hope” in Kryptonese) to right the world’s wrongs. With more of a back story to start with on the planet Krypton, (and a little too much of the ‘Thor’ brand of special effects), Russell Crowe – very good and, thankfully, not singing this time – launches his infant son away from the exploding planet to fend for himself on planet Earth. In the very enjoyable first half of the film, we see through a series of flashbacks – Clark Kent growing up in Smallville but struggling to come to terms with his emerging powers. His foster parents (Kevin Costner and Dianne Lane) teach him to restrain his natural instincts to save everyone in favour of keeping his secret under-wraps… something he struggles to do until (rather incomprehensibly) a trapped dog and a tornado lead to tragic consequences.
So far, so reboot lickin’ good. Where the film takes a turn for the worst is when renegade General Zod appears with his minions seeking to capture Superman and extract the collective DNA of the whole of Krypton’s children from his body. (No, I didn’t understand this either). There is something wholly unsatisfying in seeing two superhuman characters, who you KNOW can’t kill each other, duke it out TRYING to kill each other for half a film. Buildings fall. Enough glass is broken to keep the glaziers of Metropolis in business for several years. And then – without providing spoilers – there is a most unsatisfactory denouement: what appears to be a gruesome and vicious murder of innocents (but never shown or made clear…. to get the rating perhaps??) is followed by a totally lame victory of Superman over his adversary. (Sorry? Did I spoil that? Yeah, Superman wins).
The rest of the cast do their best. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is cute but largely inconsequential. Michael Shannon plays Zod like Terence Stamp but on steroids. Richard Schiff – ex of West Wing – stands out, as does Kevin Costner for the limited number of scenes he is in. Looking back through his filmography, this is the first really mainstream film he’s been in (at least, that I recognise) since ‘Thirteen Days’ back in 2000 – so it is good to see him back.
So, as a popcorn muncher of a diversion during the summer break, it’s not too bad, but there are better films out there to spend your cinema pound on.
Fad Rating: FFF.