Even if you’ve never seen the films or read the comics, you may have absorbed the specifics of this particular story through prolonged cultural osmosis. Man of Steel is about an alien boy flung to Earth by his parents moments before they, and their entire race, are consumed by a very loud apocalypse. The boy carries with him the genetic make-up of his lost people and, under the care of a kindly Kansas couple, grows up to be extremely good at punching.
What can be done to refresh this familiar old tale? Well, lots, actually, and to its credit, Man of Steel at least has ideas about what makes the big man tick. What if that famous serene half-smile isn’t the smugness of a demigod, but the result of a lifetime of zen-like mastery of powers that would melt the brain of your average Joe? What does Superman look like before he’s figured out how to be Superman? Worthy questions, but Man of Steel spends more time exploring alien politics, setting up convoluted world-ending threats and following squadrons of tertiary characters rather than developing its leading chap.