In 1978, Richard Donner invented the modern superhero film with the first of the Christopher Reeve Superman films. In 2005, Christopher Nolan brought Batman back to the big screen and effectively reinvented the genre. All superhero movies owe a huge debt to Donner, and in the last eight years every good one (and several of the bad) have been equally indebted to Nolan. No one film could possibly claim to owe quite as much as Man of Steel, though.

The first big screen Superman since 2006's 'Superman Returns', 'Man of Steel' is DC Comic's attempt to match the impossible successes both of Marvel's Avengers series and their own Dark Knight trilogy. It started well, with the studio bringing in Nolan himself not just as producer, but to develop the film's plot too. Over the last few months the hype surrounding Man Of Steel has built to incredible levels. Some have hoped for the next great superhero film – the one that The Dark Knight Rises failed to provide the world with. Others simply expected the best Superman film yet. Looking over the five previous Superman films, this shouldn't even be that great a challenge.

Man Of Steel is not better than Superman. It is not better than Superman Returns. Hell, Man Of Steel is worse than either of the first two Superman sequels. In fact, the only Superman film that is worse than Man Of Steel is the fourth one, subtitled 'The Quest For Peace', which featured a solar-powered villain and saw Superman physically moving the moon in order to save the day. It might be the one Superman film worse than Man Of Steel, but it's not worse by nearly the margin you might hope.

The film opens, as Donner's original did, on the ailing planet of Krypton. The native people have harvested their planet's core, and as a result the place is about to get a whole lot more explodey than they'd like. Only two people acknowledge this coming apocalypse, though – Russell Crowe's Brando-lite Jor-El, and Michael Shannon's rogue general, Zod. As the latter attempts to save his planet by way of violent military coup, the former decides to send his son (the first Kryptonian in centuries to be born outside of the planet's ant colony-styled artificial birthing system) away from the planet. Amidst a fatal battle with Zod, Jor-El rockets his son towards the fledgling planet of Earth.

Now, I can cover all that in one paragraph. Why director Zack Snyder felt the need to spend a good twenty-five minutes on Krypton, we'll never know. It's a slow start to the film, helped in no way by Crowe's intensely dull Jor-El, and Krypton's ugly landscapes. In the first Superman, the planet was all sparkly and white, like a scene from a Channel 4 documentary about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here it's all murky and brown, like a scene from a Channel 4 documentary about obsessive hoarders.

By the time we eventually get to Earth, Snyder's film opts to avoid easy comparisons with Donner's by offering us only glimpses of the young Clark Kent. A miraculous feat here, a humble avoidance of conflict there. Kent's adoptive father, played by Kevin Costner, is strangely similar to his real dad – gruff, overly sentimental and filled with misjudged inspirational quotes.

Between glimpses of Kent's past, the audience follows the all-grown-up version, played by Henry Cavill. Looking to discover the nature of his powers, and the truth behind his origins, Kent travels from job to job, living on the edge of society, wearing shirts only when absolutely necessary. To be fair to Cavill, Superman has never looked more, well, super. Once upon a time studios boasted that you'd believe a man can fly. Now, for the first time, you might just believe that he can hold up a falling oil rig, too. Cavill is also an utterly uncharismatic Superman – which, alongside his ridiculous torso, sort of makes him the perfect fit for the role.

It's hard to structure a review of Man Of Steel, not least because the film itself is all over the place. The traditional Superman story is tossed aside, with Lois Lane aware of the hero's identity before he's even donned his suit, and the Fortress of Solitude replaced by an old Kryptonian spaceship that has been buried under the Arctic for thousands of years. When Zod re-appears to have Earth provide him with the alien they've been harbouring for 33 years, only two people on the planet actually know who he's talking about.

In fact, there isn't much in Man Of Steel that feels like a Superman movie. We never get to see Kent change into his suit, by way of phone box or anything else. There are no cheerful moments in which a man with god-like powers turns up to stop the most minor of traffic incidents or purse-snatchings. In fact, Kent doesn't even make it to Metropolis until the final half hour of the film. What's more, the film is a blundering mess of violence. Superman was always about feats of strength, the incredible nature of his powers. Here, rather than using his powers to lift impossible items, fly great distances and hear the screams for help of an innocent victim ten miles away, Superman punches. That's all he does. And boy, does he do a lot of it.

In cinema, violence works much like nudity. It's fine, in any amount, as long as it makes sense within the context of the plot. If it isn't necessary, then it's just porn. Snyder has always danced back and forth over the line between the necessary and the pornographic, and just like in Sucker Punch, Man Of Steel's violence is more often than not entirely the latter. There are fight scenes that exist purely for the sake of it, and the action is shot so relentlessly that after a while it ceases to be interesting in any way. By the end of the film the fight scenes between Superman and his similarly super foes are little more than tiresome. Back and forth exchanges of mega-punches. Hit after hit of super-human aliens throwing each other through buildings, and lorries, and petrol stations, and anything else that can shatter or burn. It is impossible to relate to any of this violence, either. The audience never winces and thinks 'God, that would hurt', either because we know that it doesn't hurt them, or because we simply can't imagine the various pains of being thrown to hard that you crash through three perfectly-aligned buildings. We're just humans. We don't do that. Throw me at a building and the very furthest I'll go is through one single-glazed window, onto the office carpet on the other side, where I'll proceed to lie, very much dead.

There is, regrettably, so much about Man Of Steel that makes no sense whatsoever. Take, for example, the death of Kent's Earth father – who nobly gets killed insisting he try and save a dog from incredible peril whilst telling his super-powered son to help a completely healthy woman walk twenty-five feet to a nearby bridge. We're supposed to understand that Kent Sr. doesn't want Clark to reveal his powers, but there is no need to reveal them – as demonstrated by the very fact that Sr. believes he can save the dog despite being entirely human. In terms of superhero parent loss, the death of Jonathan Kent should go down as one of the most unnecessary in cinema history.

In another, very different way, the death of Kent's actual father in the opening scenes is just as meaningless – with Jor-El returning repeatedly by way of his 'stored consciousness' throughout the film. This is frustrating on multiple levels – not least because Crowe plays arguably the dullest character in a film absolutely rammed full of very dull characters.

Man Of Steel is a film that comes as the result of possibly the longest chain of successive misjudgments in the history of comic book movies. The action is unrelenting, messily shot and intensely tiresome. The story is an unqualified mess, both in content and structure. The acting is unremarkable, and the film goes on for far, far too long. When the inevitable victory eventually arrives, you'll find yourself wondering what would have stopped it from happening some forty minutes earlier. Man Of Steel pales by comparison to other recent DC Comics film adaptations. It even makes The Green Lantern look like a reasonable, well-judged film. Sure, you'll believe a man can fly, but you'll be hard-pressed to find yourself caring.