After the enormous success of Christopher Nolan's Batman reboot, Warner Bros (who own the rights to the DC Comics range of characters) were keen to hand the reins of their other big name superhero over to Nolan.  Even though Bryan Singer had attempted his own Superman film merely a year after Nolan's Batman Begins, Superman Returns' $391 million worldwide box office wasn't seen as enough to ensure a franchise.  Now that Nolan had made his mark with grittier takes on comic book lore they wanted to get his fan-pleasing style stamped on this other franchise.

However, Nolan was unwilling to direct, so he - and Batman trilogy writer David S. Goyer - wrote the screenplay, but the megaphone was given over to Zack Snyder, a director who had already handled one of the most tricksy comic book properties when he directed a reasonably successful, if slavish, adaptation of Watchmen in 2009.

This new Superman tweaks some aspects of the traditional tale, and also applies a Batman Begins-style narrative structure in which a lot of Kal-El/Clark Kent's (Henry Cavill) story is told in flashback, whilst a more looming menace threatens the world.

We begin with Krypton on the brink of destruction, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his son to Earth, whislt General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his villainous army find themselves imprisoned in the phantom zone.  Kal-El lands in Smallville, Kansas where he's raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), and christened Clark.

Here the young Clark finds the changes he's going through to be frightening and alienating, his X-Ray vision causes disturbing sights in class, he is overwhelmed by his super hearing and stifled by his need to repress his powers.  This leads to him growing up to be something of a drifter, moving from place to place, but always finding people in need of his help.

Ultimately, as Zod catches up with him, this crosses Clark into the path of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and a situation in which he must use his powers to protect the people of Earth from destruction.

Whilst this is all somewhat de rigeur for any superhero origins film, where this adaptation comes crashing down is in its lack of humanity.  Whilst Clark is an alien amongst us that alienation, the changes he's going through, are ultimately relatable things, we can, at the very least find sympathy there, but his struggles are handled in such a leaden and cod-philosophical fashion that it's ultimately hard to muster any empathy for any of the characters in peril.  If anything, it's more about his acceptance of the fact that he should be a superhero, and once he makes that choice it's inevitable that he will overcome evil and therefore devoid of any genuine tension.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the battles were thrilling in some form, but they amount to little more than unfocused pummelling and the relentless destruction of as much property as possible.  Without wishing to get too bogged down with comparisons, ultimately the brilliance of Superman II - in which Christopher Reeve's Superman faced off against Terrence Stamp's General Zod - was how he out-smarted his adversaries, which is far more satisfying that the blunt force on display here.  Indeed, one set-piece is nothing more than an incomprehensible boss battle from the tie-in videogame.

Meanwhile there is so little in the way of interesting characterisation, with Henry Cavill's Kal-El a bland cookie-cutter Christ-like figure given little to work with emotionally, whilst Adams' Lois Lane just happens to be included in events for no discernible reason other than to provide deus ex machna alongside Russell Crowe's literal incarnation of that screenwriting fallback, Shannon gets to do some yelling, but there's something pretty ineffectual and petulant about his villain, lacking the calculated menace of a genuine General.  Oddly, the only character who earned any sympathy was Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy, a minor supporting role, but he actually seemed to go on a real journey throughout the film!

Sure, it's loud and expensive, but it's emotionally redundant, narratively dull and thunderously boring.  A cold, charmless film.