- This article is about the version of the character Superman from the continuity seen in the films Superman: The Movie through Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and in Superman Returns. For the character in general, see Superman.
Superman is the hero of Metropolis. He is a being of immense power, strength and invulnerability who after realizing his destiny to serve mankind uses his powers to protect and save others. He was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton, as the son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van. When his father realized that his planet was doomed, he and his wife Lara sent Kal-El to Earth, where he would be found by Jonathan and Martha Kent and given the name Clark Kent. When he grew up, Clark discovered he had superhuman powers and decided to use them for good.
Powers and abilities
- Kryptonian Physiology: Superman's cellular structure is more dense, resilient and biologically more effective than human tissue. Strangely enough, he does not seem to possess superhuman strength levels despite his enhanced cellular ability without constant exposure to yellow solar energy. Without such charging, his strength seems on par for a human of his height and weight who engages in regular physical activity. As an alien he possess several organs whose functions are not yet disclosed or understood but are believed to be part of and perhaps even the source of his biomatrix force field and reclamation aura. Superman's body also stores energy actively within his bio-cellular matrix as an energy pattern that is linked to his body's electromagnetic field. This energy powers most of Superman's electromagnetic capabilities such as flight and heat vision. It also supplements his physical strength by a factor of 12,000 times or so.
- Solar Energy Absorption: Technically, this is the main source of Superman's powers. Because Superman's powers are greatly due to exposure to Earth's yellow sun, his powers have been affected by extreme absorptions of solar power, whether voluntary or involuntary. However, Superman has used this to his advantage in battle in many instances, and to his detriment at certain times.
- Superhuman Strength: While the exact magnitude of Superman's strength is unknown, it is generally accepted that his strength easily surpasses the capacity to lift 900,000,000 tons, but how much more is not known exactly. This is because Superman's strength, like his other powers, has fluctuated over time. Technically Superman can augment his super strength to near infinite levels where he is has able to literally move planets from one solar system to another barehanded. Though he doesn't do this for fear of doing harm, but he can become "supercharged" and exceed his "normal" power levels as evident when his power absorption ability ran amok which needed the Parasite to drain off his excessive power levels. Currently he only maintains enough strength to do battle without killing, move mountains, but not enough to move planet sized objects on his own.
- Invulnerability: Superman's body is nigh-invulnerable (Has survived low yield nuclear explosions where he was in direct contact with a forty megaton detonation bomb but was knocked unconscious as a result). This ability's levels have changed over time, at times allowing him to fly into a sun and emerge unharmed, as evident most recently when he travelled through Krypton's red sun and survived. Has been seen to skirt the photosphere of the sun (10,000,000 degrees F). Superman has even been shown withstanding Darkseid's Omega Effect, a feat that was previously considered impossible. In addition, his immune system protects him from toxins and diseases. The most common explanations for his invulnerability are Superman having a super-dense molecular structure and/or a supercharged bioelectric "aura" which acts as an invisible "force field" around his body within a few millimeters from his skin, and presumably within his body as well. The proximity of this field to his skin means that loose clothes, for example, may be burned off of him, while cloth that is close to his body is protected by the "aura;" This phenomenon is sometimes cited as Superman's reason for wearing a skin-tight bodysuit. It is sometimes implied that he can unconsciously extend this field to an undetermined extent to protect a greater area, allowing him to carry huge objects within the Earth's atmosphere and without gravity or inertia tearing them apart around his human-sized hands.
- Superhuman Stamina and endurance: Superman has the ability to maintain continuous strenuous physical action for an undefined period. Theoretically, most incarnations of the character has unlimited stamina as his enhanced nourishment is produced from the solar energy his cells process; however his base physical structure still does need to process food stuffs as well as has the psychological need to eat and drink just as Earth humans do, despite the fact that his superhuman powers receives the majority of that power from a yellow sun. He does require sleep on occasion so he can dream. He can also hold his breath for an undefined duration.
- Flight: Superman is able to manipulate graviton particles by psionic means, in an unknown and apparently unconscious manner, to defy the forces of gravity. Under one Earth gravity Superman is capable of Mach speeds in excess of Mach 10 in atmosphere. He has been seen to fly to the moon in minutes so we can assume that he can fly faster than that outside of atmospheric interference. His control of his flight is perfect and he can perform aerobatic feats such as hovering, flying backwards and even lifting great weights while flying. Superman has limited ability to fly in outer space.
- Superhuman Speed: Superman is capable of enhanced reflex action and the ability to move at incredible speeds by sheer force of will. He is not quite as fast as the Flash and cannot achieve lightspeed under his own power, but can reach a high speed percentage of lightspeed in normal space. Superman can match most other speedsters in their ability to perform superfast movements, reactions, and processes. He can use this power to disarm opponents without heightened reflexes, catch bullets or shrapnel or cross vast distances in seconds. He has been seen flying from the Moon to the Earth in under 2 minutes. That is the equivalent of 2000 miles per second or 1% the speed of light. The source of this power remains unexplained.
- Super Breath: The ability to create hurricane force winds by blowing, and to chill his breath in order to freeze a target (this latter ability has also been called "freeze breath" and "arctic breath"). Superman can also breathe in large amounts of air, an ability used when dealing with and disposing things like clouds of poison gas.
- Superhuman Hearing: The ability to hear any sound at any volume or pitch. The only Earth creature who can detect sounds at the frequency he can is a blue whale (0.01-200,000 Hz). He has shown enough control to block out ambient sounds to focus on a specific source/frequency. He can identify a person by their heartbeat, or pick out a single voice in an entire city.
- Heat Vision: The ability to fire beams of intense heat at a target by looking at it with the conscious act of activating this power. Visually, the power is typically depicted as two beams of red light firing from his eyes. These beams can be made invisible, allowing Superman to work undetected. The maximum temperature of his heat vision is said to be around that of a nuclear detonation. Can reach tempertures of 11,000 degrees F. The area of effect can be consciously determined by Superman, down to the microscopic level. Recent stories imply the precision is so exact it can bypass a target's outer shell (not causing damage to a person's skull for surgical purposes) or even defenses (such as invulnerability or intangibility).
- Super Vision: He also possess a superior sensory arrangement of microscopic, telescopic, infrared and ultraviolet visual capabilities. He is able to see the entire spectrum. STAR Laboratories has not been able to complete define how Superman has been able to utilize his powerful senses, part of the mechanism is physical, part of it is believed to be psionic in nature. Abilities include:
- Electro-magnetic Spectrum Vision: can see well into most of the EM Spectrum. He can see and identify radio/television and any and all broadcast/transmitted frequencies, allowing him to avoid detection through radar or satellite monitoring methods. Superman can see the aura that every living thing generates. This ability is apparently one of the main reasons that Superman is a vegetarian, as he can see the passing of the "soul" at death.
- Telescopic Vision: The ability to focus his vision to see something at a great distance, without violating the laws of physics.
- X-Ray Vision: The ability to see through anything except lead. Opponents sometimes used lead-lined constructs in an attempt to hide things from Superman. He can see things behind a wall as if the wall were not there, or can "peel back" layer after layer of matter in his mind. Kal-El is able to focus his vision past layers of matter, literally seeing "through" them -- possibly perceiving x-rays, cosmic rays or other forms of energy invisible to normal human vision which pass through Earth's atmosphere (and solid objects) after emission from stars. Since it is passive, this ability would not generate harmful radiation in the same manner as a focused projection of hard X-rays.
- Microscopic Vision: The ability to see extremely small objects and images down to the atomic level.
Kal-El was born the son of Jor-El, a member of the Science Council on the planet Krypton, who had trouble convincing them that Krypton and its sun are on the verge of destruction. Undaunted by their ignorance, Jor-El develops a star ship in which he will send his son to a primitive planet called Earth. Both Jor-El and his wife Lara bid their son a sad goodbye as the star ship is launched from Krypton minutes before the planet and its sun explodes.
The star ship carrying Kal-El travels through space, causing the child to age a few years while also educating him. It burns up as it enters the Earth's atmosphere and crash-lands in a nearby Smallville field, causing Jonathan and Martha Kent to pull over and investigate. They see a young three-year-old child emerge from the wreckage unharmed. The Kents discuss what they wish to do with the child when the truck falls off the jack, almost crushing Jonathan who was working underneath it to change a flat tire. Kal-El easily lifts up the truck, making the Kents wonder if the child really came from outer space somewhere. ("Superman: The Movie")
As a teenager, Clark found himself able to leap great distances and heights, and would often bound through the cornfields near his home. One day, a particularly huge leap sent him flying into the roof of the barn, which he fell through and would have smashed the ground but instead he hovered a few inches above the ground. That was when he learned he could fly. ("Superman Returns")
At age 18, Kal-El, who is now Clark Kent, is busy putting away equipment for the Smallville High's football team when his friend Lana Lang invites him over to listen to records. Clark accepts the offer, but realizes that he has so much work to do and so watches Lana drive off with her friends. Frustrated, Clark kicks a football high into the air and then races back home at super-speed, amazingly outracing an approaching locomotive. His adopted father Jonathan Kent tells him that he was brought here to Earth with the powers he has for a purpose, and it wasn't for showing off in front of his friends. As Clark tries to get his father to race him to the house, Jonathan suffers a fatal stroke and dies, making Clark feel ashamed that with all his powers, he couldn't save his father.
Clark is no ordinary boy: he is incredibly agile and strong. But at the urging of his parents, he keeps his abilities hidden, frustratingly accepting the ridicule and scorn of his peers as he assumes a mild mannered temperament, fading into the background rather than becoming the star of the football team. But as Jonathan Kent reminds him, Clark was put on Earth "for a reason... (and) it's not to score touchdowns." Soon after, Jonathan has a fatal heart attack and dies, after which a grieving Clark conveys helplessness about having "all [these] powers and I couldn't even save him".
After a few months pass, Clark hears the call of a mysterious green crystal hidden in his parents' barn. He realizes that it is time to discover his purpose, and bids an emotional farewell to his Earth mother. He soon departs on a journey to the Arctic and uses the crystal to build the Fortress of Solitude, a majestic crystal palace in the architectural style of his home planet, Krypton. Inside, Kal-El learns the reason he was transported to Earth and his future role on the planet from holographic recordings of his father. After 12 years of education and training within the Fortress of Solitude, he emerges garbed in a red cape and blue body suit with the El family symbol on the chest and flies off. ("Superman: The Movie")
Clark returns to civilization, arriving in the city of Metropolis. He's hired as a reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper by its editor-in-chief, Perry White. While there, he meets teenage photographer Jimmy Olsen and the paper's star journalist, Lois Lane. Clark becomes immediately infatuated with Lois, but is unable to properly gain her affection while in the bumbling guise of Clark Kent. It isn't long before Clark's true nature is unveiled when, in his blue suit and red cape, he publicly rescues Lois from a helicopter accident atop the Daily Planet building.
Following a series of incidents in which Clark in his yet-unnamed guise comes to the rescue and saves the day, Perry White issues to all his reporters to find out as much information as possible about this mysterious hero. Lois receives an invitation to meet someone at her place, signed only "a friend." Following a perfunctory interview with the Man of Steel, Lois joins him on a flight over Metropolis, ostensibly to see how fast he can go. After their romantic flight, the costumed hero flies off and Lois says to herself, "What a super man", then pauses, and says "Superman!," thus giving the mysterious man his name.
Meanwhile, super criminal Lex Luthor is intent on committing "the greatest real-estate swindle of all time", with the unwitting aid of the U.S. government and the test launching of two ICBMs. To accomplish this, Luthor hopes to cause a major earthquake in California by using the missiles, one of which he has programmed to hit the San Andreas Fault (the other has been programmed to head east to detonate in Hackensack, New Jersey, providing a diversion for the westbound rocket). The quake will cause most of California to slide into the ocean, killing millions of people while simultaneously making the vast tracts of worthless desert land that he had quietly purchased skyrocket in value when it becomes the new West Coast of the United States.
With Superman's fame rapidly spreading, Luthor perceives him to be a serious problem, luring to his lair with a phony threat to gas the population of Metropolis. Having succeeded in attracting his attention, he traps the superhero with a nodule of kryptonite — the only thing to which he is vulnerable. However, Superman effects an escape with the help of Luthor's assistant, Eve Teschmacher, who is both attracted to Superman and frightened for the fate of her mother, who happens to live in Hackensack.
Superman keeps his promise and diverts the path of the Hackensack missile first, forcing it into space. In the meantime, the California missile hits the San Andreas Fault, triggering the massive earthquake Luthor had intended. The length of the fault is devastated by the initial quake, but Superman prevents the catastrophic landslide Luthor intended by plunging deep into the earth to shore up the fault line. However, the quake's violent aftershocks still cause massive damage that creates multiple disasters. As he builds a natural dam from rocks and boulders to stop the flooding caused by the breaching of the Hoover Dam, Superman realizes that he has forgotten about Lois. He discovers her car, fallen into a crevasse that opened up behind it and closed again, trapping her inside and crushing her to death.
Overcome with grief and fury, Superman flies into the upper atmosphere of Earth, where he hears Jor El's voice forbidding him to interfere in human history. Disobeying his father, Superman flies around the Earth until he is moving faster than the speed of light, thus travelling back in time. This is visually represented by the Earth appearing to spin backwards.
By reversing time, he prevents the Hoover Dam burst, and fixes the fault line in such a way that the crevasse doesn’t reach Lois’ car. The reversal stops at the point where the earthquake began. He then flies back to Lois, who is alive and well. Superman bids farewell and flies off, with a task to finish. Jimmy Olsen then mentions that it is unfortunate Clark is never here to see Superman, and it is this moment only that Lois suspects that Superman and Clark may be the same person, only to dismiss it as "the silliest idea". Superman captures Luthor and Otis and delivers them to prison. The prison warden thanks Superman for his efforts, while Superman modestly demurs, insisting that "we're all part of the same team" before flying off. ("Superman: The Movie")
The film begins with a prologue in which General Zod and his co-conspirators, Ursa and Non, are banished to the Phantom Zone by the Kryptonian elders as punishment for their crimes. The story then moves forward in time. Clark learns from Perry White that Lois is in France, where terrorists who have seized the Eiffel Tower and threatened to level the city with a hydrogen bomb. While in the course of rescuing Lois, the bomb is activated and Superman throws the elevator out of the atmosphere and into deep space, where it explodes. The shockwaves shatter the crystalline conduit into the Phantom Zone, now floating near Earth and Zod, Non, and Ursa are released. Lex Luthor, meanwhile, finally breaks out of jail with the help of Ms. Teschmacher using a hot air balloon, but leaves Otis behind as bait so he can escape. Using the black box device, he goes north to the Fortress of Solitude. Luthor, activating the Fortress control panel, then learns from hologram recordings of Jor-El about the three Kryptonian villains who have escaped. He decides that he will collaborate with the Kryptonian villains to defeat Superman and take over the world. Superman and Lois Lane at the Fortress of Solitude. Clark and Lois are on assignment in Niagara Falls, Ontario, investigating what Perry calls a "honeymoon racket." Superman rescues a boy who falls over the railing, and Lois suddenly decides it is far too convenient that Clark disappears every time Superman makes an appearance. She tries to prove it by jumping into the Niagara River, screaming for Superman to save her. Clark never changes identities but, unbeknownst to Lois, uses his heat vision to break off a tree branch for Lois to use to stay afloat. However, later in their hotel room, Clark's powers are revealed when he quickly retrieves his fallen glasses from the fireplace with his bare hands. Realizing that he wasn't burned, Lois realizes the truth. After some hesitation, Clark admits the truth and takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude, showing her the crystals which created and control the operations; Lois leaves the primary green crystal under her purse, outside the control panel. Kal-El speaks to his father through hologram about his desire to give up his responsibilities as Superman so he can live a normal life with Lois. Jor-El criticizes Kal-El for his decision, but nonetheless offers him a choice. In order for him to relinquish being Superman, he must enter a crystal chamber and be exposed to harnessed rays from the Krypton red sun. He will, therefore, lose his powers permanently and no longer be invulnerable as he has been before. Despite his father’s pleas to reconsider, Kal-El, without hesitance, enters the chamber and undergoes the de-powering process, which culminates in the destruction of the crystal control panel. The two retire to his bedchamber and sleep together.
Meanwhile, the three Kryptonian criminals have devastated a joint NASA-Soviet moon expedition, killing three astronauts. They fly to Earth, which they believe to be a planet called "Houston" (having overheard radio transmissions with Mission Control in Houston, Texas). They wreak havoc on a small town, easily defeating the U.S. military. After defacing Mount Rushmore, the trio attack the White House, where Zod forces the President of the United States to kneel before him. Returning from the Fortress of Solitude, Clark is beaten up in a diner by a bullying truck driver. His despondent mood worsens when, in horror, he watches the President announcing the surrender of Earth to General Zod. The President suddenly pleads for Superman's help and Zod issues a challenge to Superman to face him. Realizing the danger posed to the world and the terrible mistake he made, Clark heads back to the Fortress, now a darkened sanctum, and calls out to his father for help. Dreading that there may be no hope left, he then notices He sees the green crystal glowing where Lois accidentally left it– the same crystal that has called out to him in the first movie. He uses the crystal to activate the panel, and once more, Jor-El emerges in hologram. He tells Kal-El about his terrible mistake and offers him one last resort to regain his powers – he will channel all of his remaining energy to his son, thereupon dying. Jor-El bids farewell and emerges in full body and spirit; upon touching Kal-El, he restores his son’s powers and dies by fading away. Kal-El emerges once again…as Superman. He sees the green crystal glowing where Lois accidentally left it.
Lex Luthor visits a bored Zod at the White House and negotiates a means to lure Superman to the villains by holding Lois hostage. He also reveals that Superman is the son of Jor-El, their imprisoner. They arrive at the Daily Planet offices and seize Lois, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Superman, his powers fully restored. A destructive battle ensues among the four Kryptonians as Superman struggles with the new experience of battling multiple enemies of his power level. During the battle, Ursa and Zod discover Superman's weakness, his concern for human life, and use this against him. Finally, Superman flees, seemingly in defeat. Luthor convinces the villains that they must pursue Superman to his Fortress.
At the Fortress of Solitude, Superman attempts to distract the villains with a hologram that creates multiple images of himself. However, after grappling with Zod, Ursa and Non threaten to tear Lois limb from limb, and Superman agrees to release Zod and capitulate to them to spare her life. Superman manipulates Luthor into tricking the criminals, counting on Luthor to double-cross him. Superman is forced into the same depowering chamber he used before, and the red light that drains super-powers is actually set loose on the Fortress while Superman is safe inside the chamber. Superman feigns weakness and then crushes Zod's hand after seemingly accepting it in submission. Lois easily dispatches the now-powerless Ursa, and Non leaps towards Superman, only to find he can no longer fly. All three villains fall into the depths of Superman's fortress, apparently to their dooms. Superman and Lois, leaving Luthor stranded in the Fortress and fly away. Superman then uses his heat vision to destroy the Fortress. He then turns back to Lois, who realizes and agrees that Superman must continue to serve humanity, conforming to his father's wishes. After Superman flies her home, Lois begins to break down in despair. Although life would never be the same, she heartbreakingly assures Superman that she can be trusted to keep his secret identity, which Superman acknowledges consolingly, and he flies off. Superman, realizing that life with Lois can never be, decides to turn back time, flying around the Earth at tremendous speed and reversing events that have occurred throughout, such as the destruction and mayhem done to Metropolis during Superman's battle with the villains and the shattering of the Phantom Zone that releases the Kryptonian villains, as well as Lois' knowledge of his secret identity. The status quo is finally changed back to normal, although both Lois and Perry White seem to experience a sense of déjà vu.
Clark, now with his powers restored as Superman, goes to the diner and confronts Rocky, who is more than willing to pick a fight with him. Much to everyone's surprise, this strange, young man handles the bullying customer like a little child, eventually felling him across the counter and sending him crashing into the pinball machine, knocking him unconscious. Clark then offers to pay the owners of the diner for the damage. With those around wondering how the stranger was able to beat the bully, Clark simply replies:
"Oh, I’ve been... working out."
The film closes with Superman restoring the American flag atop the White House and assuring the President that he'll always rescue the Earth. ("Superman II")
In this third installment, Gus Gorman, an unemployed ne'er-do-well, discovers a knack for computer programming. After embezzling large amounts of money from his most recent employer's company payroll (through a technique known as salami slicing), Gorman is brought to the attention of the company CEO, Ross Webster. Webster, a wealthy man who runs a large conglomerate called Webscoe Industries, is obsessed with the computer's potential in aiding him in his schemes to rule the world, financially. Joined by his sister Vera and his "psychic nutritionist" Lorelei Ambrosia, Webster blackmails Gorman into helping him.
Meanwhile, Clark Kent has convinced his newspaper to allow him to return to Smallville for his high school reunion. En route, he extinguishes a fire in a chemical plant containing numerous vials of unstable Beltric acid, which, in gaseous form, would obliterate the entire population of the Eastern seaboard. During the fire, intrepid photographer Jimmy Olsen is injured with a broken fibula; Superman saves the plant (while neutralizing the acid threat) by freezing the surface of a nearby lake and dropping the enormous icy mass onto the plant.
In Smallville, Clark is reunited with childhood friend Lana Lang. Lana is now a divorcee with a young son named Ricky. Clark and Lana begin to share affection for each other, though Lana's former boyfriend Brad, Clark's childhood bully and now an alcoholic security guard, is still vying for her attention.
In Metropolis, Webster attempts to monopolize the world's coffee crop. Infuriated by Colombia's refusal to do business with him, he orders Gorman to command an American weather satellite, Vulcan, to create a hurricane to decimate the nation's entire coffee crop. Webster's scheme is thwarted when Superman flies into the eye of the hurricane, neutralizing it and saving the year's harvest. Perceiving Superman as a threat to his plans, Webster then orders Gorman to use his computer knowledge to create synthetic Kryptonite, remembering Lois Lane's Daily Planet interview from Superman, during which Superman identified it as his only weakness. Gus attempts to create a synthetic version of Kryptonite, but, after the computer fails to analyze an "unknown" element in Kryptonite, he improvises by replacing the unidentified element with tar (not an actual element on the periodic table), garnered from a pack of cigarettes.
Lana convinces Superman to make a personal appearance at her son's birthday party, but Smallville turns it into a hometown celebration for Superman. Gus and Vera, disguised as an Army general and a WAC officer, give Superman the chunk of kryptonite as a gift, and are dismayed to see that it appears to have no effect on him. However, the compound begins to produce symptoms: Superman becomes selfish, focusing on his lust for Lana, which causes him to delay in rescuing a truck driver from his jackknifed rig. Superman begins to question his own self-worth, and, as the Kryptonite takes effect, Superman becomes depressed, angry, and casually destructive, committing petty acts of vandalism such as blowing out the Olympic torch and straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Ross, seeing this, creates new plans and orders a supercomputer to be built.
Superman sullenly assuages his depression with a drinking binge, but is overcome by guilt and undergoes a nervous breakdown. After nearly crash-landing in a junkyard, he splits into two personas: the evil, selfish Superman and the moral, righteous Clark Kent. The evil Superman and Clark Kent, the embodiment of Superman's remaining good qualities, engage in an epic battle. Although Clark is initially overpowered by his alter ego, he eventually takes the upper hand, feverishly strangling his evil identity until it fades from sight. Thereafter, he is restored to his benevolent former self.
After defending himself from an MX missile, he does battle with Gorman's supercomputer, which, after attempting to suffocate him, severely weakens the Man of Steel with a ray of real Kryptonite. Gorman, guilt-ridden and horrified by the prospect of "going down in history as the man who killed Superman", manages to destroy the deadly weapon with a firefighter's axe, whereupon Superman flees. The computer begins to malfunction by becoming self-aware, defending itself against Gus and draining power from nearby electrical towers, causing massive blackouts. Ross and Lorelei are able to escape from the control room, but Vera is pulled into the main entrance of the computer and transformed into a cyborg. Empowered by the supercomputer, Vera attacks her brother and Lorelei with beams of energy, which weaken and immobilize them.
Superman returns with a small vial of acid derived from the chemical plant he saved earlier in the film; the intense heat emitted by the supercomputer causes the acid to turn volatile, destroying the machine and turning Vera back to normal. Superman flies away with Gus, leaving Webster and his cronies to face the authorities. After dropping Gus off at a West Virginia coal mine, where he gives him a job reference, Superman returns to Metropolis and reunites with Lana Lang, who has decided to relocate to the big city and finds employment as Perry White's new secretary. Flying away into outer space, he smiles to indicate that all is well.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Superman begins the movie saving Russian astronauts in Space when the ship loses oxygen. His alter ego, Clark Kent, later goes to his hometown of Smallville to check on his family's farm. He takes a crystal, the last one, actually. Its power can only be used one time, and that will be his last link with Krypton. When he returns to Metropolis, he learns that the Daily Planet has been taken over by a tabloid tycoon who fires Perry White and hires his sexy daughter Lacy (Mariel Hemingway) as the new editor. Lacy very soon takes a liking to Clark, and tries to seduce him by asking him to come to her office while she is sitting on her desk showing off her long, smooth legs. Clark tries to rebuff her advances, but she tricks him into going on a date with her.
Everyone soon learns that the United States and the Soviet Union may soon engage in nuclear war, threatening the survival of the planet. Before taking action, he departs to the North Pole to seek advice from the spirits of his Kryptonian ancestors at the Fortress of Solitude, who warn him to not interfere, but rather flee to other worlds where war is long forgotten. At a meeting of the United Nations, he tells the assembly that he is going to rid the Earth of all nuclear weapons. Over the next several days, Superman takes all the nuclear weapons and gathers them into a gigantic net in orbit above the planet. When he has almost all the weapons, he closes the net and tosses it into the sun.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor's nephew Lenny helps break Luthor out of prison. The pair steal a strand of hair that Superman had donated to a museum, whereupon Luthor creates a genetic matrix from the strand of hair, and attaches it to the final American nuclear missile. After the missile is fired off into the air, Superman grabs the missile and throws it into the sun. A few moments after the missile explodes on the sun's surface, a ball of energy is discharged from the sun, which rapidly develops into a "Nuclear Man" (Mark Pillow). This Nuclear Man then finds his way to his "father" Luthor, who establishes that while he is indeed powerful, he will deactivate if isolated from the sun's rays or suitably bright artificial light. This resembles the Greek legend of Antaeus, a wrestler whose strength came solely from his bodily contact with the Earth.
A worldwide battle soon follows between Luthor's creation and the Man of Steel. While successfully saving the Statue of Liberty, Superman is injured by the radioactive nails of Nuclear Man. To Lois' disgust, The Daily Planet, which has been turned into a tabloid newspaper, blares the headline that Superman is dead. Lois indicates a desire to quit, and seizes Superman's cape for herself. Lacy begins to understand Lois' point, and tries to follow her. Lacy also reveals that she actually cares about Clark. Lois ventures to Clark's apartment. Felled by radiation sickness, Clark staggers weakly to the terrace of his apartment, where he retrieves the last benevolent Kryptonian crystal and uses it to heal himself.
Nuclear Man develops a crush on Lacy, and threatens mayhem if he is not introduced to her. Superman therefore agrees to take Nuclear Man to Lacy. In an attempt to disable the villain, Superman lures Nuclear Man into an elevator in the building, traps Nuclear Man in it, and pulls the elevator out of the building and flies to the dark side of the moon, heaving the elevator onto the ground there, not realizing that its doors are slightly open. As the sun rises, Nuclear Man breaks out of his makeshift prison and the two resume battle on the moon's surface. At the end of the battle, Superman is driven into the ground by his opponent.
Nuclear Man then returns to Earth. Meanwhile, Lacy begins to understand Lois' point, and warns her father that they've got to quit being so recklessly sensationalistic and irresponsible with the paper and it's media power. He tries to tell her more of his usual that the business of newspapers is business, but she angrily counters that "No, Daddy! The business of newspapers is journalism!" If they don't, she warns, a disaster is sure to follow. Mister Warfield scoffs at this, until Nuclear Man bursts in and abducts Lacy. He flies her into outer space (where she, strangely enough, is unaffected by the lack of breathable atmosphere and air pressure). Meanwhile, Superman pushes the moon out of its normal orbit, casting Earth into a solar eclipse which terminates Nuclear Man's powers. He then rescues Lacy from the arms of Nuclear Man, of whom he disposes by returning him to Earth and sealing him into the core of a nuclear power plant. Superman thwarts Lex and Lenny, returning Lex Luthor to prison while Lenny is taken to Boys Town.
Mister White comes in then, restoring the old decorations, to Mister Warfield's disgust. It is revealed that Mister White has been to the banks, gathering help in securing a loan to buy back the controlling shares of the Daily Planet, to protect it from any further abuse by making Mister Warfield a mere minority shareholder. Now that Mister White is the practical owner, the Daily Planet can return to being a serious paper, to the relief of Lois and Jimmy.
Later, in a press conference, Superman declares only partial victory in his peace campaign, saying "There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly, that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them." He then flies into space, smiling optimistically.
- Note: This film, while intentionally remaining in continuity with Superman: The Movie and Superman II, seems to disregard Superman III and Superman IV from its backstory.
Superman has been missing for five years after astronomers discovered the remains of Krypton. He had left in order to visit the planet, but, finding nothing left alive, he heads back to Earth. On the way back however, he was intercepted by Mongul, who captured him and made him fight in a series of battles, in each of which Superman was able to prevail. After defeating Mongul himself and escaping, Superman resumes his trip towards Earth. ("Superman Returns", "Superman Returns: The Video Game")
He returns to Earth with his spacecraft crashing back into his adoptive mother's crop field, and awakes the next morning reminiscing of his childhood. He returns to work as Clark Kent at The Daily Planet in Metropolis, where he learns Lois Lane is now a mother and has won the Pulitzer Prize for her article Why the World Doesn't Need Superman. During Superman's absence, Lex Luthor has been released from prison, conned a rich widow into a sham wedding to get his hands on her money, and stolen Kryptonian crystals from the Fortress of Solitude. Luthor returns to Metropolis and experiments with a tiny fragment in a pool which grows to immense size. The growing crystal causes a blackout, affecting the take off of a space shuttle-like vehicle tethered to a Boeing 777, which Lois Lane is aboard, covering the story. Clark flies into action as Superman and stops the plane from crashing into a baseball field. ("Superman Returns")
The world rejoices in Superman's return, but Lois is more concerned with the blackout. Clark meets her fiancé Richard White, nephew of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White, and their son Jason. Superman is hurt when he overhears a conversation between Lois and Richard in which she says she never loved Superman. He buries himself in his work, including halting a bank heist, repelling some minor attacks on Metropolis, and saving Kitty, Luthor's co-conspirator. While Kitty distracts Superman, Luthor steals kryptonite from a museum. Perry assigns Lois to interview Superman whilst Clark investigates the blackout. At night, Lois goes out for a smoke on top of the The Daily Planet and Superman takes her for a flight, during which he apologizes for leaving her. ("Superman Returns", "Superman Returns: The Video Game")
After her latest Superman interview, Lois focuses her attention on the blackout again and learns where it started. Lois and Jason sneak onto Luthor's ship, not realizing who owns it, and are captured. Luthor reveals his grand scheme: using one of the stolen Kryptonian crystals to grow a new landmass, even though he is aware it will destroy already existing continents and kill billions. He also inquires as to who is the father of Jason after noticing Lois' reaction to the kryptonite being near her son. Luthor launches the crystal (now encased in kryptonite) into the sea, causing a chain reaction resulting in its massive growth. Lois faxes their co-ordinates to The Daily Planet and is attacked by a henchman. Jason throws a piano at him in an apparent display of super strength, and after hearing news of the incident, Luthor imprisons them in a galley as he escapes in a helicopter. The landmass' growth causes destruction in Metropolis which Superman attends to, and Richard arrives in a sea plane to rescue Lois and Jason from the ship, which splits in half and sinks with them trapped inside. Superman rescues them and he flies off to find Luthor, who has returned to the landmass.
Meeting Luthor, Superman discovers the landmass is filled with kryptonite, which allows Luthor and his henchmen to beat and torture him. Luthor stabs Superman with a shard of kryptonite, after which he falls into the ocean. Lois makes Richard turn back to rescue Superman, and she removes the kryptonite shard from his back. Superman regains consciousness, gathers more energy from the Sun, and lifts the landmass into the atmosphere. Luthor and Kitty escape in their helicopter, but not before Kitty tosses the crystals; she and Luthor are stranded on a desert island some time later. Superman throws the landmass into space, but weakened by the kryptonite, crash lands back to Metropolis. The doctors cannot penetrate his body with their medical equipment, but manage to remove the rest of the kryptonite from his wound. While Superman remains in a coma, Lois and Jason visit Superman at the hospital, where, careful not to let Jason overhear, Lois whispers a secret in Superman's ear. Superman later awakens and flies to see Jason, reciting his father's last speech to him as he sleeps. Lois also starts writing Why the World Needs Superman. ("Superman Returns")
- The Superman suit used in the final season of Smallville bears a close resemblance the version used in Superman Returns.
|Versions of the character Superman|
|Historical Versions||William Dunn • The Superman • Kal-El|
|Alternate Universes||Earth-One • Earth-Two • Earth-31 • Red Son • Tangent • Calvin Ellis • Ultraman|
|Future Versions||Kingdom Come • Superman X • Willigig • Kaleb • Superman Prime • Superman of the 30th Century • Superman of the 67th Century • Superman XII • Superstar • Superego • Kal Kent • Supercilia • Titano • Kan • Layna • Superman of Xudar|
|In Other Media||Films Continuity • DCAU Continuity • Lois & Clark Continuity • Smallville Continuity • スーパーマン @ Tokyo Continuity • Man of Steel Continuity|