After the all-round disaster that was Batman & Robin, the colourful and eccentric Batman films of the nineties descended to nothing more than a hard-nippled joke, and the franchise seemed impossible to continue. However, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy managed to reboot the hero through character-driven narrative, compelling villains, insightful social commentary and ambitious, live-action set pieces - resulting in a trilogy that was both commercially and critically successful. So when I saw Nolan's name attached to the seemingly brooding, and almost arthouse, trailer for Man Of Steel I expected the Nolan magic was going to be at work again.
Of course, in my excitement, I had foolishly overlooked the director credit for Zack Snyder whose last three films (Watchmen, Legends Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole, Sucker Punch) had all been big-budget flops at the domestic box office that were panned by critics. This realisation dawned on me very quickly as I struggled to stay awake through nearly two and half hours of loud, dumb CGI set-pieces, strung together with empty dialogue from humourless, undeveloped characters.
Man Of Steel is such an omnishambles that it is difficult to ascertain what Zack Snyder was actually attempting to achieve. After some explosive CGI battle scenes and Russell Crowe fighting all over the world, Kal-El is sent away from Krypton in an inter-galactic Moses basket to the planet Earth. His realisation of his true identity, and the development of his strengths, is dealt with in as little time as possible in order to make way for some more big CGI explosions. When there is dialogue, it is humourless, dull and far more pseudo-philosophical than the crass, thrill-less set pieces that it punctuates.
If Snyder set out to make a serious and brooding Dark Knight-style superhero film, then he has failed spectacularly as Man Of Steel has a total absence of character exploration, interest in a believable villain or real, live-action jeopardy; which makes the remaining dialogue sound incredibly clumsy. Moreover, in The Dark Knight Batman had to go into hiding for seven years as the deaths of two characters may have shaken the hope of the people; yet the millions of human deaths and the billions of dollars of damage caused by Superman during the city battle in Man Of Steel don't even weigh slightly on his conscience. Instead, he is called a hero and thanked for saving the day, whilst Metropolis slowly burns to the ground behind him. I wouldn't have been surprised if "America, F*** Yeah!" played over the credits.
Of course, not all superhero films have to be dark and cerebral - look at last year's Avengers, which was a fun, mega-budget blockbuster that featured huge CGI battles in the middle of cities, and an ensemble cast of well-known actors playing entertaining and likeable characters. If Man Of Steel is trying to replicate the broad, blockbuster action of Avengers then unfortunately it fails yet again. There is a total vacuum of charisma and humour from the movie's stars, and it is an uphill struggle for the audience to enjoy being in the company of any of its characters. The only possible laughs this boring and asinine Superman movie can offer are ironic sniggers at the sheer stupidity of Snyder's grandiose treatment of a meaningless blockbuster.
It was perhaps naïve to think that Christopher Nolan's influence as producer could reboot Superman with the same success as Batman Begins. Yet, as Zach Snyder is already announced to be directing the sequel, Man Of Steel may just be the first in a long line of boring, loud, inane, joyless and underwhelming movies, overloaded with CGI and void of any jeopardy or charisma.