`Man of Steel¿

Henry Cavill stars as Superman in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / August 24, 2011)

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's the expectations for Warner Bros.' "Man of Steel"!

The Superman picture comes at a crucial time for the studio. With the completion of the "Dark Knight" trilogy last year, Warner Bros. needs a new superhero franchise.

In the near term, Warner Bros. could also use a blockbuster. "Man of Steel," which was directed by Zack Snyder and co-produced by "Dark Knight" filmmaker Christopher Nolan, is opening Friday on the heels of the studio's somewhat disappointing "The Hangover Part III." And with the riskier sci-fi spectacle "Pacific Rim" slated to open in July, a strong showing for "Man of Steel" would ease pressure on Warner Bros. for the rest of the summer.

PHOTOS: 'Man of Steel' sneak peek

In the long term, the studio is hoping to bank on Superman as its new superhero centerpiece for several summers to come — the same goal it had for its 2006 "Superman Returns," which failed to deliver.

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-- Daniel Miller, Los Angeles Times