Zack Snyder's Man of Steel
is a movie event with an actual movie inside, crying to get out. Despite its preposterous self-seriousness, its overgrown, CGI'ed-to-death climax, and its desperate efforts to depict the destruction of, well, everything on Earth, there's greatness in this retelling of the origin of Superman, moments of intimate grandeur, some marvelous, subtle acting, and a superhero costume that's a feat of mad mod genius. There's almost a story here. And the actors, including the picture's quietly dazzling star, Henry Cavill, do their damnedest to draw it out. But there’s no stopping what comic-book movies have become, especially those bearing the royal seal of Dark Knight
auteur Christopher Nolan. (He's one of Man of Steel
's producers and also helped develop the story.) In Man of Steel, the titan in the red cape is almost a distraction from the movie's larger mission to impress us with its spectacle and vague, lofty ideals. And once Michael Shannon's General Zod shows up on Earth with his dumb little goatee, you know it will only get bigger and emptier. It's a relief just to watch the actors act once in a while, and thankfully, Snyder is astute enough to punch some breathing holes in this steel-clad colossus. Amy Adams is a fine, no-nonsense Lois Lane; she makes nosiness sultry. And Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, in their depiction of heartland parents, turn corn-pone dialogue golden. No wonder their pensive, angst-ridden kid grows up to be Henry Cavill, so who grounds the movie. His Superman is more a listener than a talker. That's probably what happens when you have X-ray vision, and you can see Cavill soaking it all in.