A recent joke asks, "What's the different between ignorance and apathy?"
Answer: I don't know, and I don't care.
That pretty much sums up my reaction to "Man of Steel," the new Superman update from director Zack Snyder.
This film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Henry Cavill as Superman in “Man of Steel.”
The film is well acted and certainly has its heart in the right place - and it makes a respectable go at reinventing one of pop culture's most enduring icons; but on the whole I was so bored, restless and frustrated that I nearly walked out.
Maybe I'm just sick to death of watching bigger and bigger things - trucks, locomotives, oil rigs, New York City - get knocked over, tossed around or blown to bits; and I'm similarly tired of limitless powers and invincibility, plus a bunch of weird "rules" about who can get hurt by what and why.
"Man of Steel" compounds all this with a chaotic, trigger-happy plot that is hopelessly murky and full of holes.
As in other incarnations, this film's hero is sent to earth from a collapsing home-world and raised by a human couple; what's different here is that his extraordinary power is seen as a burden, something he cannot reveal lest it provoke fear and rejection - so it's always a struggle when he must decide whether to help folks in trouble.
In "Man of Steel," those "folks" eventually comprise all of humanity, threatened with extinction by a crazed fellow Kryptonian who wants to reestablish his race on our planet.
Among the more annoying logistical lapses here is his fiddling with the earth's gravitation, causing vehicles to leap hundreds of feet in the air or implode where they sit; yet this fluctuating "gravity field" has no effect whatsoever on the humans standing nearby!
Similarly, the film insists that changes in the atmosphere render Kryptonians almost fatally weak - yet they can fly around quite easily in outer space.
And don't even get me started on the technology of Planet Krypton, which is far more advanced than ours but apparently incapable of even basic security around its most singularly priceless asset.
In addition, the film is so drunk on its ability to wreak havoc that it allows Superman - who's supposed to be intensely compassionate - to carelessly blow up gas stations and skyscrapers, killing hundreds if not thousands of people.
Worse yet, "Man of Steel" then smashes its way quickly and clumsily through the last hour, leaving us in the dark about much key plot material.
Newcomer Henry Cavill is fairly appealing, but his characterization - like most others here - is cursory and shallow; Snyder ("300") is more interested in staging overwrought action than building relationships.
Kevin Costner is fine as Superman's earthly father, and Diane Lane is so brilliant as Mom - so nuanced, so vital, so alive - that she makes everyone else look anemic.
Many viewers were disappointed by this over-hyped film, so there may be some doubt about a sequel.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Don't know, don't care.
** (out of four)
The film is rated PG-13 for action violence.