Films based on Marvel comic books, such as "Iron Man 3," have generated 47 percent more in U.S. box-office sales on average than DC Comics movies.


This Superman settles scores. And takes his shirt off.

This "Man of Steel" flies up, up and away, with his teeth bared and his fists clenched.

This Lois Lane knows his story, straight off. There's little mystery about him.

If every generation gets the Superman it deserves, "Man of Steel" suggests we've earned one utterly without wit or charm, a grim, muscle-bound 33-year-old struggling to reconcile the past he is just learning about, trying to fit in with a military that may or may not consider him a threat but that needs his help when his fellow Kryptonians come to call.

"Man of Steel" is a radical re-interpretation of the Superman myth, no sin in itself. The Zack Snyder ("300" / "Sucker Punch") version, scripted by David S. Goyer (story by Christopher Nolan), dwells much longer on Krypton and re-arranges the story, hurling us into the adult Kal-El's Wolverine-like loner life as an American adult, showing us his formative childhood with his adoptive parents the Kents (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) only in flashbacks.

It gives his Kryptonian nemesis, General Zod, a mission - however misguided. And a point of view. So Michael Shannon, who plays him, isn't all that scary,

Without the wit, winks, flirtation and old-fashioned sentiment of the "Truth, justice and the American way" take on the character, all Henry Cavill ("Immortals") has to do is mix it up in a lot of "Transformers" inspired brawls with armored-plated aliens and occasionally agonize over it all.

Yes, most of the far sillier "Transformers" movies were more fun.

From its production design - ugly, black, insectoid spaceships - to its instantly forgettable Hans Zimmer musical score, this movie goes out of its way to remove itself from the Christopher Reeve "Superman" movies. And it is the poorer for it.

Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer play the parents who pack their baby up and ship him off their doomed planet. The sad resignation of the Marlon Brando version of father Jor-El is lost because General Zod stages a coup, mid-planetary meltdown, giving this overlong prologue shoot-outs and armored brawls. And Crowe's Jor-El never quite goes away.

We spend far too little time with the story's heart, the ways the baby is embodied with good old-fashioned heartland virtues. Costner and Lane have the film's best scenes.

"Decide the kind of man you want to be," Clark Kent's dad tells him, urging him to keep his ID secret, to use his powers sparingly, with care. The grown-up Clark wanders the bars and crab fishing fleets, committing the occasional supernatural act of compassion and the occasional supernatural fit of pique.

Amy Adams is an over-achieving Lois Lane, totally clued in on the evidence of an alien among us by the military.

Laurence Fishburne is a dull Daily Planet editor Perry White.

Take away the antecedents (no Jimmy Olsen, boy photographer), strip the character's Americanness (to make it easier to sell overseas) and it's still a competent movie - state of the art explosions, implosions and what-not.

But take away the whimsy and the fun, and one has to wonder why Snyder, Goyer, Nolan and Warner Bros. bothered.


Man of Steel


• Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

• Director: Zack Snyder.

• Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Lawrence Fishburne.

• Running time: 143 minutes.

Pow! Marvel pummels DC Comics at box office

When it comes to box-office dollars, the Avengers and other Marvel superheroes are mightier than DC Comics.

Films based on Marvel comic books have generated 47 percent more in U.S. box-office sales on average than DC Comics movies, according to data compiled by Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries. The 28 Marvel films dating back to 1998 have averaged $190 million, compared with $129 million for 23 DC Comics movies starting with "Superman" in 1978.

"The Avengers," the 2012 movie featuring Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, was the highest-grossing film for either comic-book brand, with $1.5 billion in global receipts. The success of Marvel movies has given a boost to Walt Disney Co., which acquired Marvel Entertainment Inc. at the end of 2009 for about $4 billion. Time Warner Inc., meanwhile, has hitched its fortunes to DC Comics fare, including the Batman films and this week's "Man of Steel" release.

"Time Warner is clearly relying on DC Comics to replace (if even possible) the Harry Potter franchise," Sweeney, who relied on data from Box Office Mojo and SNL Kagan, said in an email. The Harry Potter films, based on the J.K. Rowling books, ended their run in 2011.

Box-office inflation has helped Marvel outshine DC Comics. Marvel has released 13 films since 2007, while DC has only delivered seven, Sweeney said in his report. Average ticket prices have tripled since 1980, giving more recent films Hulk- sized dollar figures. The total domestic grosses for Marvel are $5.3 billion, compared with about $3 billion for DC, according to Sweeney.

For Time Warner, which acquired DC Comics when Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications in 1990, "The Dark Knight Rises" was its biggest comic-book blockbuster. The 2012 film - the third installment in a series directed by Christopher Nola - has generated about $1.1 billion in global receipts, according to Box Office Mojo.

In 2009, Time Warner placed DC Comics under its film division, highlighting its growing reliance on using the iconic characters to generate hits. In addition to Superman and Batman, DC superheroes include Aquaman, the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman.