Movie Plot Breakdown of Man of Steel

By Stacy Melanie Jerger (@ApoideaEdits)


This is a plot breakdown of Man of Steel, the latest Superman movie. (I am by no means a Superman expert, so hopefully I got these details correct.)

Since this is an origin story, we’re first introduced to life on the planet Krypton, where Kal-El/Clark Kent’s race is from. However, Krypton is about to undergo self-destruction, due to its society’s choices (or rather lack of). The Kryponian’s have harvested the core of their planet past its limited resources, and it’s become unstable.

The Codex, the key to Kryptonian life, genetically engineers all infants (which are unnaturally bred) and determines every life’s role in society.

For instance, General Zod (Michael Shannon) was born for only one purpose: protect his race. This purpose causes him to turn on Krypton’s leaders, who he believes has endangered their race to planetary destruction.

Zod wants the Codex so he can start a new Kryptonian race on another planet. However, Jo-El (Russell Crowe) sees that Zod will take the same flaws to that new race that’s led to their current destruction.

Jo-El wants the Kryptonian race to learn from its mistakes and he made preparations. His wife gave birth naturally to a baby boy, Kal-El, the first natural birth on Krypton in thousands of years.

Before Jo-El and his wife send Kal-El to Earth where he will be safe, Jo-El steals the Codex and transforms its matter so it gets absorbed into Kal-El’s body. Some heavy symbolism right there! The one thing that determines everybody’s role in society is now embodied as an ultimate choice; Kal-El represents a freedom to choose.

Inciting Incident

Fast-forward to life on Earth… Some researchers in Canada have recently discovered something hidden under the ice, which turns out to be an old spaceship. (It was one of the colonizing spaceships Krypton had sent out thousands of years ago.) Kal-El aka Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) discovers his origins on this spaceship from his father’s hologram.

Even though Clark now has this knowledge, he still doesn’t know what to do with it until the ultimate disturbance hits Earth: A sighting of a Kryptonian ship orbiting in space. It’s Zod, and he demands Earth hand over Kal-El or the planet will face consequences.

Lock in/Doorway One (End of Act 1)

Clark has a touch decision to make. He grew up with a father (Kevin Costner) who taught him to hide his super powers, blend with humans, and that the world wasn’t ready for Clark. But has that changed now? Clark doesn’t trust Zod to leave Earth alone, but can he trust humanity instead?

He asks these questions to a pastor in a church. The pastor tells him that there isn’t always an assurance of trust, but sometimes one must take a leap of faith to find out. Clark takes his leap of faith and decides to work with the Army, who is still cautious around Clark, and to meet Zod.


As Clark thought, Zod had no intention of leaving Earth alone, and battles break out on Zod’s ship as well as Earth. Faora-Ul, Zod’s right hand soldier, and another Kryptonian fight Clark. During this destructive battle, Earth’s troops surround the three fighters, targeting them with machine guns. After Clark saves several troops and Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) from Faora-Ul, they realize Clark is not the enemy. It’s the beginning of a trusting alliance.

Main Culmination/Doorway 2 (End of Act 2)

All seems lost with Zod’s ship launching its World Builder on Earth, terraforming the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull. But Lois (Amy Adams) has information that could save them, giving Clark new hope. Clark’s spaceship he arrived in as an infant has a Phantom Drive and the ability to send Zod’s ship into a black hole.

Additional observation: Another moment of heavy symbolism! Clark must part with the only thing left of his origin, his baby ship, and the chance for a New Kryptonian. In doing so, he accepts a future his father Jo-El wanted: a Kryptonian race that cherishes a humanitarian way of life.

Clark reaffirms his choice in the final battle as he brings down Zod’s second ship. He says, “Krypton had its chance.”

Third Act Twist (Last Test for Hero)

Clark has saved Earth and sent Zod’s World Builder into the back hole, but with Zod left behind, Clark faces one last challenge. Zod cries that Clark has stripped him of his purpose he was born for since there are no more ways to re-create a Kryptonian race. His soul feels shattered and he wants to punish Clark and the planet Clark chose to save instead of his own race.

As the battle nears its ending, Clark realizes he has to make the hardest choice: kill someone, who is also the last member of his race.

Final thoughts...

Even though this is meant to be a serious action film, I wish a better romantic connection between Clark and Lois had been established more. Circumstances brought them together, but I would’ve liked to see them have chemistry aside from saving Earth. (That's just the romantic in me!)

Director Zack Snyder (also director of 300) once again doesn’t hesitate to put the male physique in all its glory on display. Fans of Henry Cavill won’t be disappointed! ;)