Superman, as we all know, is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, but he's not always strong enough to keep a film franchise in the air. The Christopher Reeve series soared for a while in the 1970s and 1980s before nose-diving, and Bryan Singer's 2006 relaunch, Superman Returns, didn't get off the ground.

Man of Steel should fare better. It's produced by Christopher Nolan and scripted by David S Goyer, who collaborated with Nolan on his mean and moody Batman films. And it's directed by Zack Snyder, who made 300. So, if nothing else, he has plenty of experience at showing gym-toned men attacking each other. The snag is that Man of Steel seems to be two films, rather than one, and while the first of them can be quite marvellous, the second crashes and burns.

Film One has Superbaby being born on the dying planet of Krypton, and then being packed into a spacepod by his father (Russell Crowe) and sent off to Earth. Once he touches down, the film slips back and forth in time, like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life but with added oil-rig explosions. We see Superboy being raised on a Kansas farm by the good-hearted Kent family (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), and being confused and upset by his burgeoning powers. And we see him as a troubled, bearded drifter played by Henry Cavill, who joins Christian Bale and Andrew Garfield in the gang of British actors who have nabbed the roles of iconic American superheroes