“The most interesting thing about the popularity of superhero movies is that they are insanely expensive to make, yet they spring from a plebian, populist artform,” The Guardian‘s Joe Queenan wrote two days ago. “Comic books, at least until recently, were cheap. They were beautifully drawn and exciting, but they were still basically cheap. That was the point. Movies are not cheap, especially not in 3D. Comic-book heroes, like football players, have lost all contact with their proletarian roots.

“Some people will read all this and say: ‘You’re over-intellectualizing. You’re reading too much into it.’ This may be true. But these charges are always made by people who never over-intellectualize anything, who never read too much into things. They are made by people who want you to take the X-Men seriously, as legitimate fiction. And then when you do, they say that you are over-intellectualizing.

“After all, they say, it’s only a movie. That’s exactly right. It’s only a movie. But it’s the same movie — over and over and over again.”

And yet as the lights go down and these corporate-strategies-disguised-as-films are about to begin, I’m always a little hopeful. Every time I’m open to potential greatness, or at least intense engagement. I say to myself, ‘I know what’s probably going to happen, but wait — this might be the exception.’

Which is one reason why I felt so appalled and bludgeoned by the last 80 minutes of Man of Steel, or from the point when Michael Shannon‘s General Zod and his crew enter the earth’s atmosphere. From that point on Steel becomes a duke-out and destruction film — so oppressively committed to relentless slugging and so in love with wrecking everything in sight that you start to wonder what’s wrong with director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyerwhat the hell is wrong with these guys? They think this crap is exciting? This is as far as their imagination takes them?