- "You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders. "
- ―Jor-El to Superman[src]
The film is directed by Zack Snyder and stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Antje Traue as Faora-Ul, Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van, Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. It also co-stars Michael Kelly as Steve Lombard, Harry Lennix as General Calvin Swanwick, and Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton.
On the distant planet Krypton, Lara Lor-Van, has just given birth to a son, whom they name Kal-El. She and her husband Jor-El have birthed their son naturally, in violation of the basic laws of the planet, where babies are to be bred through genetic engineering with a planetary "codex" that imprints just what a person's place in life will be. Jor-El and his wife have chosen this path, as their planet is on the brink of destruction. Harvesting their planet's core for resources has made it unstable and on the brink of implosion. After the birth of his son, Jor-El appears before the Kryptonian Law Council, pleading with them to allow him to save the planet's Growth Codex and to search for a habitable world beyond Krypton.
However, the council is suddenly set upon by General Zod and numerous Sword of Rao followers, swiftly murdering High Eminence Ro-Zar and intending to take control of the planet in a coup d'état. Though Jor-El likewise disagrees with Council, he refuses to join General Zod, despite being a former long-time friend of the latter. Zod orders Jor-El to be arrested, but Jor-El quickly escapes and flees to an area nearby, wherein the planet's birthing chamber resides. Stealing the Growth Codex from the chamber, Jor-El races back to his home, where his wife Lara has found a planet to send their baby, the planet Earth. Though Lara is sad at the loss of their child, Jor-El claims he will be free of the limitations imposed by Kryptonians and prosper among humanity.
As they prepare to launch the pod containing their son, General Zod and his followers enter their residence, demanding that Jor-El hand over the codex. Jor-El refuses and informs Zod of Kal-El's birth and the embodiment he represents. Enraged at this "heresy" Zod battles Jor-El, but is quickly overwhelmed. Lara, about to launch the pod, is pleaded to by Zod to abort the launch, claiming the Codex is Krypton's future and only chance of survival. Ignoring Zod, Lara activates the launch and the pod shoots into the sky. Angered that Jor-El and his wife have doomed the Kryptonian race with the removal of the codex, General Zod murders Jor-El and orders his followers to shoot down the pod. However, his orders are suddenly canceled when Kryptonian Sapphire Guards' ships appear, arresting them. In the confusion, the pod's Phantom Drive activates and opens a portal to the Phantom Zone and disappears.
As punishment, General Zod and his Sword of Rao followers are banished to the Phantom Zone by High Eminence Lor-Em. Zod mocks the Council and that even though their planet will soon be gone, the leaders will not grant him and his followers a quick death. He also swears to Lara, who is present, that he will find her son. Shortly after, Krypton is destroyed. Many worlds away, the pod carrying Kal-El rockets into Earth's atmosphere, touching down near Smallville, Kansas. He was taken in by local farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who raised the baby as their own son, naming him Clark Kent.
Flashbacks of Clark's childhood and life in Smallville are incrementally revealed, detailing his struggle of adapting to Earth and attempts to reconcile his extraordinary abilities. As a child, it is shown that on a particular day in elementary school Clark experiences a sensory overload as his X-ray vision activates uncontrollably while also taking numerous sounds, agitating him. Locking himself in a supply closet, Martha arrives and helps Clark to overcome the sensory overload by guiding him to focus only on what he wants to - in this case, his mother's voice. Years later as a teenager, Clark saves numerous of his fellow students when their bus accidentally crashes into a river, causing his abilities to be exposed. Jonathan Kent eventually reveals to a young Clark of his alien heritage by showing him the pod Clark arrived in as an explanation to his abilities. Jonathan also tells Clark it is imperative that he finds out his origins and the reason for him being sent to Earth.
Years later, Clark drifts around North America on a pilgrimage. On board a ship, he and the crew are soon alerted to a distress call for help from a flaming oil rig. Clark quickly disappears from the ship and is on the rig moments later, rescuing the crew and getting them to board a Coast Guard chopper. He is unable to join them, as he rushes to keep a part of the rig from collapsing. As the chopper flies away with the rig's crew, the rig collapses down on him and he ends up floating in the water. Clark manages to return to land and borrows some clothes.
Clark then gets a job at a diner in Canada. As he works, he hears some soldiers talking quietly about some object found in the ice to the north. When a trucker in the diner starts harassing one of the waitresses, Clark warns the man to stop. The trucker taunts Clark and splashes him with a drink. Retaining his anger, Clark takes off his apron and leaves the stop without saying a word as the trucker continues to taunt him by throwing a can at his neck. Later, as the trucker leaves, he is shocked to find his rig impaled on several of the tree logs he was hauling.
Lois Lane, a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper, lands at the base in Canada where the investigation of the object Clark overheard earlier is taking place. There she is met by Professor Emil Hamilton and Colonel Nathan Hardy. Lois is informed that drilling is still commencing within the ice to get to uncover the craft, but ice drilling tests have at least confirmed that the ice surrounding the object is tens of thousands of years old.
Going out in the evening to shoot some pictures, Lois sees a man walking on a ridge near the drilling site, not wearing any cold-weather clothing. Intrigued, Lois follows the man and finds a tunnel bored into the ice. Clark then finds a strange spacecraft, and goes inside, finding a panel that opens up. Noticing the panel's hole being of a similar shape to his command key given to him by Jonathan, Clark enters the command key into the hole which causes a person to suddenly appear nearby as well as causing the ship to come online. He doesn't say a word but just starts walking off. Clark attempts to catch up to this person, but he always seems to be several steps ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Lois has found her way onto the ship but is attacked by a sentry bot. Her screams cause Clark to come running. After dismantling the sentry by crushing it with his bare hands, he sees that Lois has a wound in her lower abdomen. He tells her she's bleeding internally and uses his heat vision to cauterize the wound. Shortly after, military forces nearby are all surprised when the ice starts to crack, and a giant ship emerges, flying off.
Lois is found the next day and shortly thereafter writes up an article about what she experienced. However, her editor at the Daily Planet, Perry White, refuses to publish it. Undeterred, Lois reaches out to a contact of hers named Glen Woodburn and allows him to publish her story. Though he cautions that she could get in trouble for leaking the story, she claims she wants to do this, in hopes that it will catch the attention of the person she met.
Meanwhile, Clark has piloted the spaceship to another remote location in the Arctic. It turns out the figure he was following is a hologram of his Father Jor-El's consciousness, who is appearing via the key Clark inserted into the ship. Jor-El explains to him the history of the planet Krypton and that the ship Clark found was a sentry ship sent out many years before when Kryptonians had attempted to colonize other planets. At the ship's Genesis Chamber, Jor-El tells Clark of how the creation of artificial birth control caused him and Lara to believe Krypton lost something precious: the element of choice. The nature of Kal's birth was the embodiment of the belief of aspiring to greater things rather than having a predetermined way of life.
Jor-El further explains the reasoning for Clark's powers: Earth's sun has powered Clark's muscles and senses as his cells absorb the sun's radiation and that Earth's gravity is also much weaker which enables him to perform huge leaps. Jor-El also shows Clark a dark blue and red uniform that will symbolize his mission: to help the people of Earth and act as their guardian. Stepping outside the ship, Clark begins to push his powers: first taking flying leaps, before eventually being able to fly at great speeds, breaking the sound barrier.
Meanwhile, Lois begins tracking down leads to her mystery man. Her sleuthing leads her to Smallville, and eventually, Martha Kent. Visiting the grave of Jonathan Kent, she is surprised when her mystery man appears (albeit in nondescript clothing). Lois claims she wants to tell Clark's story, but he tells her of how he abides by his father's request to not reveal himself until the world 'was ready.', using the story of Jonathan's death in a tornado and how he prevented Clark from saving him for the sake of Clark's exposure as an example. Respecting Clark's wishes, Lois drops her story and returns to Metropolis where she is suspended for several weeks by Perry White for releasing her previous article despite his protests. Perry, however, commends her for dropping the story. Clark then visits his mother and happily tells her that he has found where he came from, and who his true parents are. Though Martha fears that her son will now be taken from her, Clark assures her it won't happen.
Meanwhile, the military has received word of a strange ship in geosynchronous orbit around the planet. Soon, others report the strange sighting but are surprised when power is cut off to all parts of the world, and a message is broadcast from General Zod. He threatens Earth by demanding either the people of Earth hand over Kal-El or Kal-El do it himself within 24 hours or consequences will ensue. A worldwide manhunt is initiated to find Clark while the world debates over the alien threat. Glen Woodburn is interviewed about the aliens and drops Lois' name, which soon results in numerous FBI agents being sent to intercept her. She is then held in custody by the army.
Back in Smallville, Clark goes to a local church, and confesses to the pastor there, that he is the one the extra-terrestrials are searching for. Though he admits he is conflicted: he doesn't trust that General Zod will leave Earth in peace, but he is also wondering if he should trust humanity. His decision is made when the Pastor tells him that sometimes one must take a leap of faith.
Clark then appears before the Army in his Kryptonian suit, willing to surrender on condition that he can meet with Lois and that she be freed. Clark is handcuffed, and he and Lois have a short conversation in an interrogation room. She asks him about the "S" on his chest which he tells her is not an S as Humans know it, but the Kryptonian symbol of hope. Clark stands up and effortlessly breaks his handcuffs and tells the onlookers behind the room's window that consist of Swanwick, Hardy, and Hamilton among others that he is not their enemy, but is, however, afraid of Zod's intentions.
In a remote desert, a black craft appears to bring him to Zod's ship. The craft is commanded by Faora, who also demands of General Swanwick that Lois also is taken with them. Though Colonel Hardy points out that the deal was originally for "the alien" to be handed over, Lois goes along anyway. Before they reach Zod's ship, Lois is fitted with a breathing apparatus, as the atmosphere on the ship will not be suitable for her. When Faora is distracted, Clark slips Lois the command key he used to restart the Arctic ship.
On board the ship, Zod welcomes Clark, who a few moments later, collapses to the floor of the ship, seemingly unable to breathe. Though Lois is worried for him, Zod assures her that Clark's body is simply adjusting to the Kryptonian atmosphere aboard the ship. Clark passes out and finds himself in a dreamlike vision of his family's farm. Zod explains to Clark that after the destruction of Krypton, the portal to the Phantom Zone where they were trapped, was opened again. Utilizing the portal's Phantom Drive, they were able to transport themselves all across the galaxy. Searching out the various planets which colonizing ships were sent, their searches for a new planet proved unfruitful, as each of the colonists sent to these various planets was found to have perished. However, Zod and his followers took what they could from the remnants of their civilization, including a World Engine - a machine used to terraform planets to the needs of Kryptonians.
When Clark activated the scout ship in the Arctic, it sent out a signal, which leads Zod and his officers to Earth. Zod then claims that he then intends to turn Earth into a New Krypton, but Clark is unwilling to go along with this plan as the human race would go extinct as a result of the terraforming. Awakening from the vision, Zod informs Clark of his murder of Jor-El, proving that with or without Clark, he will revive their civilization and further not anyone to prevent him from doing what is best for his people. As Zod leaves, one of his men, Jax-Ur, obtains a blood sample from Clark as the Black Zero's atmospherics have nullified Clark's powers, rendering him "as weak as a human".
Meanwhile, Lois is thrown into a holding cell, where she comes across a panel with a small hole. Lois notes it is the same size as the key she has. Inserting it allows the information from Jor-El to appear before her. The key causes the ship's atmosphere to alter towards more suitable conditions for Clark and Lois, and Jor-El gives Lois valuable information for stopping Zod, along with leading her to an escape pod. The changing of atmosphere allows Clark to break his bonds, and Jor-El appears before him, pointing out that Lois needs to be saved (as her escape pod was ruptured by laser fire).
Clark manages to save Lois from the pod, but his attention is soon drawn to his mother, who is set upon by Zod and Faora who have come to the Kent farm, looking for the codex. Faora finds Clark's pod, but no sign of the codex. When Zod threatens Martha an enraged Clark races to save her, tackling Zod and hitting him with such force, that the two end up thrown into the heart of downtown Smallville.
Upon recovering, Zod's breather short-circuits, and his body begins to adapt to the Earthen environment, as he suddenly gains X-Ray vision, and his hearing begins to take in everything at once (just like Clark did when he gained these powers long ago). The effect is debilitating to Zod as his senses overload and he is forced to retreat. Clark claims that his parents helped him hone his skills to control the sensory overload, but his assurance is thrown aside when a ship recovers the stunned Zod, and Faora and a larger Kryptonian Nam-Ek attempt to bring Clark down.
Word of the alien presence in Smallville has reached the Army, and Col. Hardy approaches with helicopters and planes. Hardy claims that all three of the aliens (including Clark) are hostile, and all form of weaponry is thrown at them. Though Faora and Nam-Ek escape, Clark is able to change Hardy's mind when he saves the Colonel along with several other soldiers. Clark returns to his mother but also encounters Lois, who explains to him what Jor-El told her on the ship.
Back on his ship, Zod is informed what happened to the codex. It is discovered that Jor-El had it transplanted into Clark's cells, making him the source to create a new Kryptonian life. When Zod is informed that Clark does not need to be taken alive to retrieve the codex, he puts his plans into effect.
Zod then launches the World Engine. As it touches down near the South Indian Ocean, Zod's ship hovers over Metropolis. Using the Phantom Drive, Zod activates the World Engine, which creates a link with the ship through the Earth, beginning the process of terraforming Earth, creating a stronger gravitational pull. The effect causes massive destruction, flattening cars and shaking skyscrapers apart. The force of the machine also causes objects to repeatedly rise and plummet to Earth.
As Swanwick contemplates what to do, he receives word that Clark (now being called "Superman" by some of the soldiers), has a plan. Using the information that Lois obtained, Clark reasons that if the pod that brought him to Earth is activated by the key he has, it will start up the Phantom Drive inside. As well, if it collides with Zod's ship which also has its drive activated, a black hole will warp the ship and the people inside into the Phantom Zone.
Meanwhile, Zod leaves his ship, and heads for the ship Clark found in the Arctic. Onboard, the ship is a gestation chamber with many unborn fetuses. The projection of Jor-El speaks to Zod, telling him to halt his operation, but Zod refuses to listen to the words of a ghost and is willing to do what he can as general of Krypton to revive its civilization and planet. Zod's key eventually overrides Jor-El's, and the ship now responds to Zod, causing Jor-El's hologram to disappear.
Col Hardy, Dr. Hamilton, and Lois board a plane to take the pod to Metropolis, while Superman flies around the world to try and stop the World Engine. However, he is assailed by a Kryptonian defense mechanism within the machine that attempts to fend him off with long tentacles.
The situation over Metropolis worsens as none of the planes are able to get close to Zod's machine, which has created a gravitational vacuum that keeps the transport unable to properly drop Clark's pod. Deep underneath the World Engine, Clark struggles to assure himself and eventually overcomes the engine's atmospherics, launching himself through it which causes the connection to go out and the machine to explode. With the gravitational disruption gone, Hardy flies the transport closer to Zod's ship, but it is intercepted by Faora, who attempts to stop them. In the Indian Ocean, a weak Clark extends his arm to the sun and slowly regains his strength.
Zod, having taken command of the scout ship, quickly arrives in Metropolis. As he attempts to destroy the Military plane, Clark swoops in and crashes into the ship's control panel. Zod pleads for Clark to once again let him complete his plan to revive Krypton. "Krypton had its chance," yells Clark, who then uses his heat-vision to tear apart the ship, causing it to crash, and the ship's Genesis Chamber to fracture.
Faora's attempt to stop the plane ultimately fails as Hardy steers the plane into the ship. As Lois was on the rear of the plane as it tilted down towards the ship, she loses her balance and falls. The collision of the two Phantom Drives causes the Military aircraft, and Zod's ship (along with the people on the vessels), to disappear in a created singularity.
Clark manages to save Lois and puts her safely on the ground. Nearby, the sound of moving metal is heard, and Clark finds Zod, thoroughly enraged. Zod tells Clark that he was engineered to be a General of Krypton and to protect it and its people. With nothing left to revive the planet, Zod seethes that Clark has taken his soul and promises to kill the humans one at a time, in retribution for Clark's betrayal towards his race.
The two then battle across Metropolis, smashing through buildings. During the fight, Zod adapts further to Earth's atmosphere, spawning heat-vision and the ability for flight. The battle soon sends them into a train station, where Zod activates his heat vision, aiming it at a trapped family. "If you love these people so much, then you can mourn for them," he shouts. Clark begs Zod to stop, but when Zod claims he will never stop, Clark begrudgingly snaps the General's neck, killing him. Distraught, Clark agonizes over killing Zod even though he had no other option. Lois appears and comforts Clark.
The film then cuts ahead sometime later, with Swanwick and Major Carrie Farris finding Superman downing a drone. Superman claims that he knows they had sent it to find his home on Earth, but he wants the search to stop and that he'll continue to fight for what is right and the security of Earth.
Clark then returns to Smallville, where he and Martha visit Jonathan's grave. Clark claims he wishes his father could have seen what he did, but Martha Kent says he did. When she asks what Clark intends to do now, he claims he'll get a job where he can be updated on what is going on with the world, and be able to ask questions if needed. Clark then travels to the Daily Planet building and is introduced to Lois Lane by Perry White. Lois, pretending not to know Clark, jokingly welcomes him "to the Planet". "Glad to be here, Lois" an amused Clark retorts.
- Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
- Amy Adams as Lois Lane
- Michael Shannon as General Zod
- Diane Lane as Martha Kent
- Russell Crowe as Jor-El
- Antje Traue as Faora-Ul
- Harry Lennix as General Calvin Swanwick
- Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton
- Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy
- Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent
- Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van
- Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
- Richard Cetrone as Tor-An
- Mackenzie Gray as Jax-Ur
- Julian Richings as Lor-Em
- Mary Black as Ro-Zar
- Samantha Jo as Car-Vex
- Michael Kelly as Steve Lombard
- Rebecca Buller as Jenny Jurwich
- Christina Wren as Major Carrie Farris
- David Lewis as Major Laramore
- Tahmoh Penikett as Jed Eubanks
- Doug Abrahams as Heraldson
- Brad Kelly as Byrne
- Alessandro Juliani as Officer Sekowsky
- Jack Foley as Teenage Pete Ross
- Jadin Gould as Lana Lang
- Robert Gerdisch as Whitney Fordham
- Coburn Goss as Father Daniel Leone
- Lesley Bevan as Ms. Rampling
- Chad Krowchuk as Glen Woodburn
- Ian Tracey as Ludlow
- Carmen Lavigne as Chrissy
- Howard Siegel as Weaver
- Heidi Kettenring as Helen Ross
- Joseph Cranford as Pete Ross
- Carla Gugino as Kelor
- Bruce Bohne as Bibbo Bibowski
- Rowen Kahn as Ken Braverman
- Revard Dufresne as Dev-Em
- Apollonia Vanova as Nadira
- Rondel Reynoldson as Kelex
- Chris Palermo as Sergeant Vance
- Tom Nagel as A-10 Pilot
- Stuart Ambrose as A-10 Pilot
- Ryan Mitchell as Bus Boy
- Mike Dopud as Canadian Airman
- Mark Gibbon as Roughneck
- Kyle Riefsnyder as Little Bird Gunship Pilot
- Kwesi Ameyaw as Canadian Airman
- Justin Butler as Student
- Jackson Berlin as F-35 Pilot
- Ian Rozylo as Northcom Threat Analyst
- David Paetkau as Northcom Threat Analyst
- Danny Coonley as Student
- Clint Carleton as Roughneck
- Alexa Gengelbach as Bus Girl
- Elizabeth Thai as Northcom Threat Analyst
- George Canyon as F-35 Pilot
- Caroline Thomas as Bus Girl
- Stephanie Song as Bus Girl
- Jacqueline Scislowski as Student
- Sally Elting as Student
- Aaron Smolinski as Communications Officer
- Daxam (flashbacks)
- Rao System
- Solar System
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
- Mars (video)
- Phantom Zone
- Battle of Krypton
- Rescue at the Bright Aurora
- Kryptonian Expansion (mentioned)
- Showdown in Smallville
- Battle of Metropolis
- Growth codex
- House of El Command Key
- Kryptonian Battle Armor
- Liquid Geo
- Plasma Carbine
- Phantom Drive
- Phantom Zone Projector
- Service Androids
- Superman's Skinsuit
- Pulitzer Prize (mentioned)
- Debbie Sue
- Scout Ships
- Kryptonian Attack Ship
- Kryptonian Dropship
- Black Zero
- Kal-El's Starcraft
- Smallville Sentinel
- House of El
- House of Em
- Daily Planet
- Sword of Rao
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Metropolis Police Department
- WGBS News
- Blaze Comics
- S.T.A.R. Labs
- Wayne Enterprises (mentioned)
- Alexander Keith's Brewery
In August 2008, Warner Bros. decided to completely reboot the Superman film series. Jeff Robinov planned to have the film released either by 2010 or 2011. Paul Levitz stated in an interview that Batman holds the key to the Superman reboot. He elaborated, "Everyone is waiting for Nolan to sign on for another Batman, once that happens, the release date for Superman and all other future projects will follow." August 2009 saw a court ruling in which Jerry Siegel's family recaptured 50% of the rights to Superman's origins and Siegel's share of the copyright in Action Comics #1. In addition, a judge ruled that Warner Bros. did not owe the families additional royalties from previous films. However, if they did not begin production on a Superman film by 2011, then the Siegel estate would have been able to sue for lost revenue on an unproduced film.
Man of Steel employs a nonlinear plotline narrative, telling parts of the story through flashbacks. During story discussions for The Dark Knight Rises in 2010, David S. Goyer told Christopher Nolan of his ideas on how to present Superman in a modern context. Impressed with Goyer's concept, Nolan pitched the idea to Warner Bros., who hired Nolan to produce and Goyer to write a film based on the financial and critical success of The Dark Knight. Nolan admired Bryan Singer's work on Superman Returns for its connection to Richard Donner's films, stating that "A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that's what I know how to do," emphasizing the idea that Batman exists in a world where he is the only superhero and a similar approach to the Man of Steel would assure the integrity needed for the film. "Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other." Nolan, however, clarified that the new film would not have any relationship with the previous film series.
Although originally intended to be the first installment of a standalone Superman trilogy, it was decided that film would serve as the first installment of a DC Extended Universe following the box office success of The Avengers (2012). Jeff Robinov, Warner Bros. President, stated "It's setting the tone for what the movies are going to be like going forward. In that, it's definitely the first step." Plans included for the film to contain references to the existence of other superheroes, alluding to future films in the DCEU. Guillermo del Toro, with whom Goyer worked on Blade II, turned down the director's position on the reboot because of his commitment on a film adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, while Robert Zemeckis was also approached, before Zack Snyder was hired in October 2010. Casting began the following November.
|Films in the DC Extended Universe|
|Films||Man of Steel • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice • Suicide Squad • Wonder Woman • Justice League • Aquaman • Shazam! • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)|
|Upcoming films||Wonder Woman 1984 • The Batman • The Suicide Squad • Black Adam • Shazam! 2 • The Flash • Aquaman 2|
|Announced films||Batgirl • Blackhawk • Blue Beetle • Cyborg • Deathstroke • Gotham City Sirens • Green Lantern Corps • Justice League Dark • Justice League sequel • Lobo • Man of Steel 2 • Nightwing • Plastic Man • Supergirl • The New Gods • The Trench|