I really wish superhero movies would stop retelling the origins of some of the most famous, well-known characters in comic books.  Man of Steel adds a few new wrinkles to the Superman story, but overall it doesn't feel all that new.
Krypton is destroyed, of course, but more happens before then.  Jor-El (Russell Crowe) knows that the planet is doomed, but he also believes Kryptonian society became too static, breeding their people for specific purposes.  General Zod (Michael Shannon) believes in exterminating weak Kryptonian bloodlines, staging a coup and killing Jor-El -- but not before Jor-El can send his son Kal-El to Earth to create his own destiny.  As for Zod, he and his followers are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone.

Jump ahead to Earth, where Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is trying to find his way in the world.  Clark uses his powers to help others, but his human father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) tells him to keep his powers a secret because the world isn't ready for him yet.  Reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tracks Clark down based on the people he saved, while his mother Martha (Diane Lane) offers him a mother's unconditional love.  And a program lets a computer simulation of Jor-El offer Clark advice.

Then Zod and his followers show up on Earth, with a plan that involves destroying humanity to create a new Krypton.  It's time for Clark to don his slightly-less-traditional red-and-blue outfit and become Superman, to save the Earth!

I wish Man of Steel had been more entertaining.  Cavill does good as both Clark and Superman, a hero in the making who can't stop helping people but isn't sure how they'll react to him.  Shannon is terrific as Zod, full of a manic zeal and conviction that, to him, justify all violence.  On the flip side, Russell Crowe gets tiring as the Kryptonian "ghost dad" offering endless advice, Costner seems a little bland, and Amy Adams lacks the certain spark and determination that make Lois Lane a human match for Superman.

Director Zack Snyder handles action far better than drama.  The movie flounders during the first half, as we get barraged by a seemingly-endless number of flashbacks.  Once Superman and the Kryptonians start zipping around the screen, things pick up considerably.  There are a few plot holes, but these are balanced by the epic scale of the battles.

Based on the initial box-office success, Man of Steel will probably be the start of a new Superman franchise.  I'm curious to see what happens next -- and what they can do when the origin doesn't need to be re-told yet again.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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