Superman can go anywhere; that’s one reason kids wish they could be him. In this latest recapitulation of the comic book myth, director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and screenwriter/producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) take CGI pains to show off his super-mobility right after Clark Kent learns to fly and takes the old bod of steel out on a little shakeout flight, zooming canyons, skimming lakes, and soaring out of the stratosphere. The film goes everywhere, too, darting from blown-up Krypton to Earth and then jump-cutting into the future where Kal-El — now Clark and not yet Superman — suddenly is a bearded itinerant worker who keeps helping the mortal populace, but drawing unwanted attention to himself. And then the movie suddenly shifts from Superman to The Fugitive.
It’s fun and action-packed, but Man of Steel also feels a little crazy, jumpy, and surreal. Metropolis seems to be situated on a barren plain, like a city painted by Salvador Dali. Then there’s the weird device of daddy Jor-El (Russell Crowe), who converses with his son even though he’s technically dead. When Supes meets with the military, he floats over them like a deity while a child dressed in army fatigues stands on the army’s front line. Perhaps the most telling odd detail, however, is Clark giving his age — 33 — for no apparent reason; that’s the same age as another famous guy who spoke to an otherworldly father and offered himself up to save the world. It’s not subtle.
In the end, however, you may wonder why this motion picture goes so many places. Nolan and Snyder hit all the superhero marks — this movie does not leap tall buildings; it brings them crashing down — but faith, redemption, sacrifice (not to mention a nicely inclusive cast) keep getting foregrounded. I know the idea is a reborn Superman, but what’s left for the sequel? Harrowing Hell? Judgment passed on the living and the dead?