Man of Steel: 5 out of 10

A significant point of most modern Summer Blockbusters is the spectacle of the Final Fight, in which The Hero finally catches up with The Villain and they battle until one of them drops. This generally involves chases through intricate landscapes, multiple points of view, significant death tolls, and a whole lot of punching, along with a significant expenditure on special effects budgets. And while this occasionally all comes together into something interesting, it more often collapses into incoherence and sensory overload.

Man of Steel is a poster child of this problem. Its interminable Final Fight ends in Superman and General Zod simply punching each other, back and forth, destroying their surroundings but otherwise showing no pain, only occasionally stumbling upon the devastation that was wrought earlier in the battle. It was dark, heavy, and frustratingly long; and once complete, it was obvious that the movie didn't want to address the large-scale effects. In short: incoherent sensory overload.

This was disappointing in large part because the first part of the movie had actually gone pretty well. Knowing that this was yet-another superhero origin story, the directors chose to elide many of the power discovery/training montages and focus on characters and themes. This was aided by good casting: Russell Crowe as Jor-El showed a useful mix of gravitas and bad-ass, and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane showed love and concern without saying a word. Clark/Kal-El could simply be defined in relationship to these characters, and that worked.

The first act - Krypton - perhaps went on longer than necessary, but they more-or-less worked. There was a feeling that this was a both high-tech and alien world, and that its inhabitants had sown their own destruction - so far, so good. The next acts - Clark Grows Up and Clark Meets His People - were also better than expected, keeping Clark a cipher as he tries to understand his relationship to human society and decide just how much he should be using his powers to help others.

But things had pretty well fallen apart by the time that we entered the final act: FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. This was generic, overblown, and full of plot contrivances, characters acting stupidly, and poor time continuity. By the time it was done, most of my goodwill for the first half of the movie was used up.

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

One positive thing I can say is that there were a few moments when the Kryptonian powers truly showed potential, mostly shown by Faora, the mostly-faceless second-in-command to General Zod. She dove into buildings instead of using the door, she moved faster in battle than her enemies could respond to, and she consistently used the environment as a weapon. She even showed her warrior bona with a quip on how it's good to die in battle - more than could be said for anybody else in her cohort. If the rest of her cohort had been as well developed (on a per-screen-time basis), we would have ended up with a better movie.