Man of Steel, released in June 2013, is the latest entry in the Supermanmovie franchise, based on the DC Comicssuperhero. The film is directed by Zack Snyder, produced by Christopher Nolan, and written by David S. Goyer and Nolan, with Hans Zimmer composing the score. Following Superman Returns, a sequel to the first two Superman movies, Man of Steel is instead a Continuity Reboot retelling his origin story, much like the Nolan-directed Batman Begins did for the Batman film series.The cast includes Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman (born Kal-El), Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent, Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zorer as Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Antje Traue as Zod's accomplice Faora, Richard Schiff as Professor Emil Hamilton, Christopher Meloni as Colonel Hardy and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White.The film opened on June 14 in the United States but was released earlier in some countries. It's also notable for being the first movie to use Warner Bros. ' new "90 Years" logo, which was designed by Dan Pappalardo of the Troika Design Group.At San Diego Comic-Con 2013, a sequel was announced that will be a Cross Over with Batman. It has a tentative release date of 2015. On August 22, 2013, Ben Affleck was announced to have been cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman for the upcoming sequel. On December 4, 2013, news reports confirmed that Wonder Woman will also make an appearance in the film, with actress Gal Gadot as the Amazonian princess.
This film contains examples of:
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Achilles' Heel: A rather clever one, Clark was overwhelmed by his burgeoning Super Senses and other powers and took some time to control them. He realizes in his first major confrontation that Zod and his crew were using sealed atmosphere Powered Armor that minimized the reactions they would get from the yellow sun. By breaking those seals they were overwhelmed just as much as young Clark was. Zod later comments that it is a weakness they will adapt to and Zod later fights Superman with all those same powers.
The film also offers another natural weakness for Superman besides the stand-bys of red sun energy and Kryptonite. Specifically the atmosphere of Krypton was a lot thinner and Clark had spent his whole life in a much thicker environment.
Action Survivor: Lois, who with an unfamiliar weapon and the help of Jor-El's Virtual Ghost, manages to fight her way off Zod's ship. She clearly has no fighting experience and visibly fumbles with the Kryptonian gun, but unlike her other incarnations, she is definitely no Distressed Damsel.
Adaptation Expansion: This movie spends more time delving into Kryptonian society, and explaining the sociopolitical and ecological situation before its destruction, than any film adaptation before it. The explanation behind Krypton's destruction is unique to this movie, as is the detail about the abandoned Kryptonian space program.
Adaptation Dye-Job: The usually black-haired Lois Lane and redheaded Lana Lang have traded hair colors.
The Fortress of Solitude is cut out of this version. Its closest counterpart is an 18,000-year-old Kryptonian spacecraft that Clark finds buried in the Arctic (an artifact from an abandoned Kryptonian space program that sent explorers all over the galaxy). Which crashed.
Aliens Speaking English: The scenes on Krypton could have been Translation Convention, and of course Clark has spent nearly his whole life on Earth, but it gets a little weird when the other Kryptonians have little trouble speaking perfect English as soon as they land. The landing message demanding Clark's surrender was broadcast all over the world, shown in whatever the native language of the area is. We can assume that they've figured out how to communicate in whatever languages are necessary.
All of the Other Reindeer: Clark was bullied and rejected by many as a kid because of the unusual behavior caused by not being able to control his powers, and his isolated nature from trying to keep them a secret.
The tie-in prequel comic (which is presumably completely canon, since its story is credited to Goyer) reveals that Thanagar exists in this continuity — as does Kara Zor-El, whose ship lands in Canada thousands of years before the beginning of the film.
How Clark goes from a full beard to clean-shaven is never explained, though in the comics (and the TV show Lois and Clark) he shaves with heat vision and a mirror (or other reflective surfaces). The omission is kind of a cop-out since a Gillette ad campaign to promote the film was "How Does He Shave?"
America Saves the Day: The Kryptonians are clearly a global-level threat, but you wouldn't get the impression that any armed forces exist outside of American ones. No other country's military gets involved at all. This is almost plausible since most of the conflict takes place on American soil, but at one point, a World Engine is deployed on the other side of the globe, and not one non-American military force is shown investigating or sending aircraft to intercept it. True, they may not have gotten there in time, but some indication that other states are involved would have averted the trope.
At the end of the movie, Superman argues with General Swanwick that he will never become a threat to America's interests since "I grew up in Kansas. I'm as American as you can get". (which is arguably also a lampshading to the first Fake American Superman)
Anachronic Order: Starts out with the destruction of Krypton, then jumps ahead to Clark in his thirties, followed by various flashbakcs of his life. Of course, the Superman mythos have become so ingrained in pop culture that audience members will probably understand the flashbacks easily. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 75 years...
The flashbacks also help the film's overall pacing since the audience isn't treated to a big info dump at the beginning of the movie.
Ancient Astronauts: The explorers from the Kryptonian space program crash-landed on Earth sometime during the Stone Age. The prequel comic implies that their spacecraft's arrival showed up in the mythologies of some early humans.
Asshole Victim: A non-lethal example. After a bully sexually harasses a waitress in a bar and (tries to) gets violent when asked politely to leave, Clark takes out his truck. The damage is scary, but it's hard to feel sorry for the guy.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Downplayed by most Kryptonians, but Zod is able to figure out the mechanics of flying and how to use heat vision, as well as using the heat vision's cool-down period against Supe.
Badass: Every Kryptonian but special mention has to go to Faora and her tag team partner Tor-An.
Beware the Superman: Even the literal one, despite not being an enemy, is still a reason of concern for the military due to his abilities. The destruction caused by the Kryptonians through the film play this trope straight.
Big Bad: General Zod serves as the film's main antagonist, though he appears to be more misguided than evil.
When Superman is in military custody, he breaks the handcuffs he was in, effortlessly, to show that they couldn't control him.
He also does this in Zod's mothership when he's being held prisoner.
Brought Down to Normal : Superman, when exposed to a Krypton-like environment, loses his powers quite quickly; in fact, it works as his Kryptonite Factor in this film. The inverse works on the other Kryptonians: Exposure to Earth's environment (and more specifically, its people) causes Sensory Overload in Kryptonians that are not accustomed to it.
The Brute: In the Smallville fight a nameless, faceless, 7 foot tall soldier fights Superman alongside Faora. He noticeably matches him in strength while Faora has speed and skill.
Bullfight Boss: Unfortunately Superman was the bull and Faora was the bullfighter. She landed a couple of good ones on him by reading that he'll fly at her and then weaving out of the way before hammering him in the back.
Bullet Time: Notably averted, under enforcement by the director. The action never slows down and the movements of the characters are shown in real time, to the point the camera itself can barely keep up. That, and the natural durability of the characters, really hammers home just how insanely fast and powerful the Kryptonians are.
Bullying a Dragon: Even if you aren't aware he's a godlike alien, is it really a wise move to antagonize the man easily a foot taller than you and built like a brick shithouse, Jerkass trucker guy?
Clark: It's not an 'S'. On my world, it means 'hope'.
Lois: Well, here, it's... an S.
The Cameo: Lana Lang and Steve Lombard are in the movie but have smaller roles than others of Superman's supporting cast.
Canon Foreigner: Colonel Hardy and General Swanwick don't exist in the comics Man of Steel is based on. The same is true of Jenny Jurwich, the intern at the Daily Planet who is one of the five named characters there.
Though Swanwick might be considered a stand-in for Lois Lane's father General Sam Lane, who filled the military brass role in Superman: Secret Origin.
In addition Colonel Hardy is referred to by the codename "Guardian" near the end of the movie. Colonel Hardy is seemingly a replacement for Jim Harper, aka Guardian.
The Codex. It turns out to be encoded in Clark's own cells, thus giving Zod a reason to kill Clark so he can extract it from his corpse.
The Kryptonian spacecraft key with Jor-El's digital avatar stored on it. Lois uses it to summon Jor-El while imprisoned on Zod's spaceship so that she can escape and find a way to defeat Zod.
Clark's inability to control his enhanced senses as a child. It turns out to be an important detail when he goes up against Zod's soldiers, who haven't had a lifetime to acclimate to their sun-enhanced abilities. The sensory overload quickly incapacitates them when their environmental suits are breached. Zod ultimately figures his abilities out, but Clark's lifetime on Earth is likely a trump card in the end.
The hyperdrive on Clark's spacecraft. It's made from the same technology as Zod's hyperdrive—which he made by reverse-engineering the Phantom Zone projector. With some tweaking, the military is able to use it to send Zod's soldiers back to the Phantom Zone.
Clark Kenting: Clark Kenting is deconstructed and reconstructed, Lois tracks "the alien" through his aliases and good deeds, but he goes through a variety of looks in the movie, including a full beard, partial stubble, clean shaven with his hair slicked back and slouching with hats covering his face. Then when he joins the Daily Planet, his disguise is nothing but messy hair, a pair of very thick glasses (which he almost forgot to put on), lots of conflicting patterns and a tweed jacket and a less commanding voice. Lois obviously has no trouble recognizing him, but she plays along so the rest of the Daily Planet doesn't find out. Justified since she's spoken to Superman - slicked back hair and perfect posture in costume, (and Clark Kent, slouching but with a baseball cap covering his face and normal casual clothes, and a previous alias Joe, covered in snow gear and with facial stubble) personally several times while the others have yet to have seen him up close. Henry Cavill actually pulls off looking different, more or less (he's practically invisible as Joe the first time he and Lois meet), until the last version which may have been a shout out to Clark Kenting, in general.
Colonel Badass: Colonel Hardy. When he comes up against Faora, he starts in a helicopter. She crashes it. He then crawls out of the wreckage and empties two guns into her (after watching her effortlessly annihilate his men). When he clicks dry without their having the slightest effect, he pulls out a knife. She's impressed enough to let him get into a fighting stance, pass on some Kryptonian wisdom, and draw her own knife instead of just walking all over him.
Jonathan tells the young Clark that he has to decide what kind of man he wants to be, since with his powers he can change the world.
Though Jor-El's primary concern is his son's survival, he's not ignorant of the implications Kal-El's superpowers will have on Earth, among humans, so he or his avatar tells him to live in humanity's service. Though Clark was already helping people due to his own morals, but not yet as a career.
Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: The first time that Lois tries to suggest the name "Superman" to Clark, she's cut off by an intercom message. Much later, when one of the soldiers actually uses the name, General Swanwick looks at him like he's an idiot. The soldier sheepishly explains, "The alien. It's what they're calling him now."
He's not even credited as "Superman" in the end credits, just "Clark Kent/Kal-El". And ths is ignoring the fact that the movie is not even called Superman.
Concepts Are Cheap: One of the main conflicts of the story basically comes down to eugenics versus freedom, predestination versus fortune, and faith versus ambition. While those words are never exactly used, similar words such as "degenerate bloodlines", "destiny" and "heresy" are used by Zod while Jor-El refers to "choice" and "chance" as precious and mentions "dreams" off-handedly.
Cool Helmet: The Kryptonians wear full body armor, but their helmets are mostly made of shaped forcefields that enclose their heads. They are of variable opacity, will deflect any Earth weapon, and also serve to shield their wearer against sensory overload while on Earth—'Cool Helmet' indeed.
Lois is also given one when she and Superman are sent to meet Zod, because their ship is filled with Kryptonian-like atmosphere in which humans would have difficulty breathing.
The Coup: Zod, some of his officers and loyal henchmen storm Krypton's high council and gun down a few of its member. They then declare that they would execute the remaining leaders for treason by reason of incompetent leadership and then assume control of Krypton. The coup fails due to Jor-El intervening and the surviving loyalist forces rallying after the initial shock.
A shirtless Clark underwater with his arms extended, after the oil rig he's on collapses.
On leaving the Kryptonian ship, he floats out through a hole in the wall in this pose.
In a pre-crucifixion example, when Clark is in a church pondering whether he should surrender himself to Zod, a stained glass window of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is prominently in the background.
Cruel and Unusual Death: When Kryptonians attack normal human beings, you can expect a lot of deaths that come close to this, but the one that passes firmly into this trope is the poor fighter pilot who is reduced to a thick red mist by his attacker.
Crystal Spires and Togas: Though hardly the crystal-encrusted world shown in the previous films, Kyrpton is a "neo-medieval" society, with Jor-El, Zod and others wearing armor, capes and robes over their supersuit-esque bodysuits.
Jor-El dies as usual for Superman's origin, but he is killed by Zod instead of dying in Krypton's destruction.
Possibly Jor-El's digital avatar as well. Zod seems to delete it when Jor-El tries to convince him not to go through with his plan.
This is another adaptation where Jonathan Kent dies (not always in Superman media).
Emil Hamilton dies helping stop the Kryptonians.
Superman kills Zod in the heat of battle and out of desperation, and he regrets it deeply.
Kara Zor-El. In the prequel comic, we learn that she's Kal-El's distant ancestor rather than his first cousin in this continuity, and that she was one of the Kryptonian explorers who came to Earth and landed in the Arctic. It's possible that the corpse in the Kryptonian spacecraft is hers; though even if it isn't, she's definitely long-dead by the time Kal-El makes it to Earth. However, note that while one sleeper capsule had a corpse, another was open and empty...
Death Seeker: Zod admits straight up he has nothing more to live for and goads Superman several times during their fight that he will have to kill him or be killed. Even his final moments trying to fry innocents with Heat Vision while in a choke hold is basically pleading for him to end it.
Designer Babies: Kryptonians are genetically engineered to fill different roles in their society. Kal-El is unique among Kryptonians in that he was naturally conceived and born, which Zod considered "heresy". In Plato's "The Republic" he describes an ideal society where the population is divided into three classes - philosophers, soldiers and workers, and there's a kind of breeding program to perfect each class. Both soldiers and workers are supposed to let themselves be guided by the philosophers. The young Clark reading Plato in one scene is most likely a shout-out to "the Republic".
Destructive Savior: The film graphically shows what happens when super-powered entities fight in the middle of populated areas.
Very much Zod. Even after the entire destruction of his ship, crew, terraformer, and everything he was going to use to turn Earth into Krypton 2.0 was destroyed, he still tried to do "what is best" for Krypton. He also overcomes the debilitating effect of his new haywire Super Senses by concentrating really hard.
Detonation Moon: In one of the scenery shots of Krypton, you can see its moon partially blown up.
Understandable, given that Clark had just damaged her Cool Helmet, causing her to begin experiencing the same sensory overload that had crippled Zod moments before. A missile exploding in her face would no doubt be overwhelming, super-powered or not.
Diner Brawl: Clark and Faora briefly fight inside and through an IHOP diner during the Smallville battle. Note, poor Pete is the manager. The looks he and Clark flash each other during the fight break are hilarious.
Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: The tornado which kills Jonathan Kent had some kick outside of the funnel proper, but nowhere near what a twister is really capable of. For one thing, one person stands perfectly still and doesn't move an inch even as he's enveloped by the funnel cloud.
Essentially how we're introduced to Clark. He's forced to Walk the Earth because he's afraid what people will do when they discover his abilities, but he can't blend in for long because of his Samaritan Syndrome. Lois flat out tells him that the only way he'll stay completely hidden is to stop saving people.
He's slightly hampered in his fight with the Kryptonians by the fact that he's trying to protect human bystanders at the same time. Faora calls him out on it, saying that lacking morality makes the Kryptonians more fit to survive.
Drowning Pit: A teenaged Clark rescues a group of students when their school bus becomes one of these.
Dying Moment of Awesome: Discussed between Faora and Colonel Hardy with the line, "A good death is its own reward. Hardy makes good on the saying.
Earn Your Happy Ending: After undergoing emotional/psychological hardship for most of his life and extreme physical struggles in the last few days, Clark has found a measure of peace at the end of the movie since he's become Superman and has secured a stable job as a reporter.
Expy: In Superman's first clash with the Kryptonians, Faora double-teams him along with an enormously tall and silent partner (Tor-An) who seems styled after Non from Superman II.
Fantastic Caste System: Kryptonian children are artificially gestated and sorted into professional castes based on their "bloodline". Jor-El and Lara conceived Kal naturally so he would be outside of this system and free to choose his own path.
Fantastic Racism: Zod despises humans (and his fellow Kryptonians that belong to "inferior bloodlines").
Faux Shadowing: Zod's armor has a Blade Below the Shoulder he uses to kill Jor-El. In the final fight with Superman he makes an adjustment to his right gauntlet, as if to bust out the blade, but instead just removes his armor.
Female Gaze: When Superman is saving the people from the oil tanker, the camera goes down to show off Cavill's pecs.
During the final fight between Superman and General Zod one of the many things that gets destroyed in the process is an oil tanker with a company logo on it. The name of the company that the logo belongs to? "LEXCORP"
The Wayne Enterprises satellite.
Fighting for a Homeland: A rare evil version. Zod & Co. want to recreate their lost homeworld on Earth, even if it involves genocide on a massive scale.
Final Battle: Big time with Zod, ends with Superman twisting Zod's neck 180 degrees.
First Contact: This movie greatly deconstructs not only the concept of a superhero appearing for the first time, but humanity finding out that they're not alone and not even close to a match for their competition.
Five Rounds Rapid: The various soldiers try attacking the Kryptonians with small arms fire, and continue doing so even after they've realized the need to call in heavy artillery. Later on some of them use grenade launchers, to similarly useless effect. But it's not like they had any alternative.
Flashback Echo: After Kal-El's ship lands in Smallville, the film skips ahead to an adult Clark, so these are used several times to show his growing years.
Flight: While this is to be expected in a Superman story, it's very interestingly portrayed in this movie. Various incarnations of Superman have explained his ability to fly as coming from various sources, including his own telekinetic or electromagnetic field that works subconsciously. Here, it's shown that Kryptonians have to consciously try to fly. Further, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot during his final battle with Zod, after Zod discards his armor, chunks of it briefly float around him when he achieves flight. This echoes Superman's first flight, where moments before taking off, he collects some sort of energy that makes the dust and snow around him react. So, it seems that in this movie, there's some sort of telekinetic, electromagnetic or gravitational aura that's emitted by kryptonians in flight.
A freeze frame of Zod's threat video (at 0:29) will show the Superman shield.
You can spot a LexCorp building during the Zod / Superman fight.
Zod throws a LexCorp tanker truck at Superman during said fight.
After Zod smacks Superman into a construction site Superman crashes into a "Days without accident" sign. Blink and you'll miss it: the impact knocks off th enumbers and changes from 166 to 0 at the moment of impact.
If you are paying attention to the flashback scene where Clark is pushed, there's a sign for "Sullivan's auto parts"
During the scene when Zod activates his heat vision for the first time, you can see a poster on an office desk next to Superman which reads: "Keep Calm and Call Batman".
Gender Flip: In place of Jimmy Olsen at the Daily Planet is a young woman named Jenny (apparently from closeups of her name tag, Jurwich). However Jenny's last name is confirmed NOT to be Olsen, so there is room for a red headed male photographer in the sequel.
Go Out with a Smile: Jonathan Kent smiles reassuringly at Clark just before the tornado takes him.
Good Shepherd: In the church scene, Clark confides in a priest about his identity and his next move. The priest encourages him to 'take a leap of faith' in regards to trusting humans.
Green Aesop: According to Jor-El, the core of Krypton became unstable because the Kryptonians depleted their planet's natural resources, and were forced to draw energy from the planet's core to keep their society going.
Gunship Rescue: Surprisingly, this is achieved more often by the villains than the heroes, as a couple of Kryptonian fighters are part of their limited arsenal and it outclasses anything humans have. The military does help a little with their A-10 Warthogs being able to at least stun and/or disorient their targets, but can't deal any real damage.
Heavy Worlder: One reason why Kryptonians are so strong on Earth.
Heal It With Fire: Lois is injured by a Kryptonian security robot when she discovers the ship. Clark notes that she's hemorrhaging internally and proceeds to cauterize the injury with his heat vision.
Heart Broken Badass: General Zod is a non-romantic related example at the end - his anguish stems not from losing a specific loved one but from losing what was the last of his race of people as well as losing what may very well have been his last chance at giving the Kryptonian race a chance to start over, and by extension losing his sole reason for existing, as he was born and bread to be a warrior defending Krypton, no matter the cost. Though having been with those particular Kryptonians troops for so long it's entirely possible that on some level Zod also saw them as his family, thus making him a Heart Broken Papa Wolf..
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: When Jor-El armors up to defend his home from Zod and his followers, he stops short of donning a helmet. The ensuing duel with Zod has them both firmly in the grip of this trope, armored from throat to toes in heavy, very functional armor... but with heads completely exposed (which leads to each of them punching the other in the face—a lot.
This extends to Smallville too. Its downtown is almost leveled by the fight there and includes an explosion at a gas station.
Superman fights Zod and/or his warriors in Smallville and later Metropolis despite being outclassed, and so a lot of damage happens. His attempts at knocking or throwing them away are invariably countered, at one point reaching Earth's orbit. Most of the time he's smashed into buildings by their attacks but sometimes he does the same (granted, into apparently empty or unfinished ones). The damage is compounded by attempts by the US military to intervene. Superman later also willfully trashes a multi-million dollar spy drone that has been snooping on him to make a point to the military to get off his back.
Holding Out for a Hero: Averted in that the populace has never dealt with superpowered heroes or villains before, unlike their comics counterparts. Screaming and running is about all the populace can do.
Hostile Terraforming: Zod tries to turn Earth into a new Krypton using a World Engine. Not only is the process incredibly destructive, but Krypton's atmosphere is toxic to humans. When Jor-El tries to persuade Zod not to do this, appealing to the fact that Earth's environment gives Kryptonians super powers and they can live side-by-side with humanity, Zod says he doesn't care about the humans and he doesn't want to have to adjust to the enhanced senses.
How Do I Shot Web?: It takes Clark a few tries to figure out how to fly. Clark and the Kryptonians also have to master Super Senses. Clark has an advantage over the Kryptonians until they get a handle on their new powers.
Human Aliens: Kryptonians, as always, look perfectly human despite their alien biology.
Krypton's leaders for mining the planet's core hollow instead of seeking resources on other planets, as they had in the past. Krypton is way ahead of Earth technologically, but even we know that a planet needs a core to survive.
In a Single Bound: Superman and the other Kryptonians get around by great leaps before they learn to fly. This is perhaps a nod to the fact that Superman could only leap in early issues of the comic, which explains the classic "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" line.
Invincible Hero: Significantly downplayed. While Superman retains his almost-Nigh-Invulnerability, the scale of threat he faces in the movie is so great that it avoids the usual pitfall of making the character too powerful and therefore boring.
Ironic Echo: "A good death is its own reward." First said by Faora to Colonel Hardy when she's about to face him in a knife fight (which Superman interrupts). Later echoed by Hardy before he knocks Faora back into the Phantom Zone.
It Only Works Once: The first time Superman and Zod fight, Zod's helmet gets broken and subjects him to Sensory Overload. By the time they have their rematch, Zod has learned to focus his senses.
Karma Houdini: Glen Woodburn, the Jerkass who sold Lois out to the military and declared that Superman should surrender to Zod because it is his fault the Kryptonians came to Earth, disappears for the rest of the movie.
Kirk Summation: Zod begs Superman not to destroy his ship, saying without it, Krypton cannot be restored. Superman says, "Krypton had its chance!" and destroys it.
Kneel Before Zod: Notably averted, this Zod never forces anyone to kneel before him, despite being an updated version of the Trope Namer. At one point during the final battle, however, Superman is kneeling due to sheer fatigue on the platform of a building still under construction, as Zod hovers right in front of him. That's right, Superman is kneeling before Zod. Also reversed, as at another point Zod falls to his knees before Superman.
Knight Templar: Zod believes he's ultimately doing what's best for his people. In fact, due to Krypton using Designer Babies to fulfill roles in their society, he cannot help it.
Zod: No matter how violent, how cruel, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.
Zod: You believe your son is safe? I will find him. I will find him. I will find him! I WILL FIND HIM!
Laser-Guided Karma: A dumb, mean spirited trucker bullies Clark and the cute waitress co-worker who may or may not have been dating him. What does Clark do? Clark retaliates by smashing the trucker's ride, thus making it impossible to deliver his lumber. Take that, Jerkass!
Last Villain Stand: Zod does this when his entire army is sealed in the Phantom Zone with his ship and all of his weapons. He even masters a full set of Kryptonian powers for the fight.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Superman's "What do you think?" at the end of the second trailer seems aimed at the audience as well as Lois.
Lens Flare: The trailers and especially the posters exhibit this, in instances like Superman hovering in front of the sun.
Logo Joke: The Warner Brothers, Legendary Pictures, DC Comics and Syncopy Inc logos appear in swirls and bends of Kryptonian metal, similar to a Kryptonian computer display.
Ludicrous Gibs: The Kryptonian brute is shown ripping apart an A-10 and crushing the pilot before they could eject. Because it is seen from a distance it isn't too gruesome, but there is no mistaking the "pink mist" spraying into the wind.
Male Frontal Nudity: In the scene with Baby Clark, everything's hanging out. A baby, obviously, but the fact that they got male genitalia of any sort into a PG-13 film is fairly impressive.
Madness Mantra: Zod repeating "I will find him!" over and over is used to illustrate him slowly losing his mind after first being defeated.
Medieval Stasis: Kryptonian technology is stated to have stagnated. A 20,000 year old ship buried deep beneath the ice in Canada is able to recognize and upload Krypton's own version of a flash drive that was only created 33 years ago. Zod's crew also found a fully functional World Engine after thousands of years of being abandoned.
In the church as Clark debates whether or not to surrender to Zod and sacrifice himself to save humanity: the stained-glass window in the background depicts Christ at the garden of Gethsemane, debating the exact same thing.
Superman is also stated to be 33 years old, which is the traditional age of Jesus at the time of his sacrifice.
Superman looks at the Earth, tells his father that he's going to "save them all," then steps into space and assumes a gratuitous crucifix pose for a few seconds.
Metronomic Man Mashing: Played with. In a nod to the Avengers, Tor-An catches Superman's leg before take-off and looks to do to Clark what the Hulk did to Loki. Tor-An slams Clark into the ground and heaves him up again but instead of repeating the attack on the other side, Tor-An hoists Clark up and throws him into the ground full-force.
Mind Probe: Lois mentions that Zod and his followers used one on her off-screen. Superman says he was subjected to it as well. In his case this leads to a hallucination where Zod shows him his plans for Earth, and he sinks into a field of human skulls.
Minored in Asskicking: . During Zod's attempted coup, Jor-El manages to kick the crap out of Zod in a fistfight. Unfortunately, while Jor-El's distracted by the launch of Clark's ship, Zod pulls a knife and stabs him.
Mission Control: Jor-El's hologram becomes this to Lois and Superman on Zod's ship to help them escape.
Mood Lighting/Color Wash: The film has a dark bluish tint when Clark is out in the world, while Smallville scenes use yellowish lighting instead.
Mood Whiplash: From the death of Zod to Superman addressing the millitary on his need to keep a secret identity. After such an intense scene as the former, the latter seems almost downright lighthearted.
Motive Rant: Zod has two: one where he tells Jor-El how he's going to save Krypton. And the second has him tell Kal-El how he's going to kill every human he finds in revenge for Superman taking his purpose in life.
Movie Superheroes Wear Black: The red and blue in Superman's costume are darker and deeper than in the comics and previous movies. Notice how his "S" shield shines more and more brightly as the presumably yellow base of the suit appears after continual attacks. In contrast, the enemy Kryptonian suits and their crests remain black.
Zod wears Powered Armor, similar to two different versions of Zod in the comics. It also bears a resemblance to Superman/Superboy-Prime's Anti Monitor-based powered armor from Infinite Crisis on forward
Zod and crew have all-black outfits akin to their counterparts from Superman II instead of their comics versions. Faora looks more like her counterpart Ursa (who was based on Faora).
Zod's form-fitting bodysuit under the armor is almost identical to Superman's grey "space suit" in the beginning of Superman Returns, although in that case it is only clearly shown in a Deleted Scene.
Superman's first real fight with the other Kryptonians echoes a lot of Superman II. It takes place in a small town, (like the one the Kryptonian criminals land in) and is against Zod, his female dragon with short dark hair, and a hulking mute brute.
The World Engine that Zod was using is a similar concept used by Starro, a literal Starfish Alien who has conquered several galaxies and planets in the DC universe.
A half destroyed moon can be seen in Kryptonís sky, a possible nod to the fact that in the Silver Age comics one of Kryptonís moons was indeed blown up.
Clark's initial attempts at flying harkens back to the original concept of Superman ("... able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"). Flying wasn't a power until the animators from the 1940s cartoon insisted on flying for easier animation. His unsuccessful attempts are also reminiscent of Clark's failed flight in Smallville season ten episode "Supergirl".
Blaze Comics appears in Metropolis between the fight of Clark and Zod.
The holographic Jor-El explaining the significance of the House of El crest involves him pulling back an outer garment to reveal the crest on a suit beneath in a fashion very reminiscent of the common image of Clark Kent opening his shirt to reveal his Superman crest on his suit beneath.
A billboard for the "Utopia Casino" is seen at one point, which was a key location in the Superman Confidential arc, "Kryptonite".
The bully who beats up Clark in a flashback is revealed in the credits to be named Ken Braverman, who would later grow up to be the minor Superman villain known as Conduit.
The female captain who bluntly says that Superman "is kinda hot" is named Carrie Farris as an allusion to Caroline Ferris.
A random trucker assaulting Clark reminds a similar scene from Superman II. Clark destroying his truck in retaliation resembles the end of Smallville's first episode.
Lana Lang and Pete Ross (most likely) having figured out Superman's secret identity.
The moving sculpture that holographic Jor-El shows Clark, showing where he really comes from and how he got to Earth, shows Clark being sent from Krypton in a snowflake-shaped spacecraft (a sphere with star-like points sticking out), a reference to how said spacecraft looked in the 1978 film.
The way Krypton's past is shown in the moving sculpture resembles the Golden and Silver Age Krypton in the comics. The male and female Kryptonians resemble Jor-El and Lara from the original comics; though they could even be Kryp and Tonn.
The big, mute Kryptonian alongside Faora (Tor-An) is close to Non from Superman II.
Kelex and Kelor are taken from The Man of Steel #1
The metallic rod with the "S" logo is this movie's counterpart to the green crystal rod in the '78-'80 Superman movies, or the transparent "father crystal" from Superman Returns. Both serve as access keys to the Kryptonian technology. In this version, Zod has his own as well.
One of Clark's aliases is "Joe", calling out to Superman's co-creator, Joe Shuster. "Joe" was also Jor-El's alias when he once visited Earth in Smallville episode "Relic".
The scene in which Superman does an aerial rescue of Lois in the damaged escape pod is very reminiscent of him saving the plane in Superman Returns, especially the shot in which the pod shot past the camera and Superman tore after it a moment later next to its smoke trail.
Zod and Jor-El's conversation on Krypton at the beginning seems to imply they were once friends, similar to Smallville.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Zod's speeches about saving the world from decline by rooting out inferior bloodlines (and then genociding an inferior species, i.e. humans) are eerily reminiscent of a certain ideology.
Faora does this to a few soldiers who get in her way.
After a drawn-out aerial battle with Zod, this is how Superman finally kills him. The force required to do so creates a shockwave when he does it. The shock of having to kill someone with his bare hands leaves him traumatized.
Nature Versus Nurture: Zod is a destructive Knight Templar but he was bred and raised to be a soldier through bloodline and genetic manipulation and the workings of Kryptonian society. Clark is descended from Kryptonian scientists, but he had a natural conception and birth and was raised by Kansas farmers. Though the film hints at Clark being geeky as a child, he chooses a different career in life which would have been impossible on Krypton.
Never Found the Body: Sort of speculation here Although the C-17 delivers its payload, the idea was to send Zod's Mooks back to the Phantom Zone; which means they MAY not be dead, and all the people on the plane still kicking it may be trapped with everyone the Kryptonians ever threw into the Phantom Zone.
Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers adopted a very dark look and tone in order to attract the same viewers of The Dark Knight Saga. They also tended to play very somber music and philosophical voiceovers in order to make the film seem very intellectual and quiet. However, the quiet moments showcased in those trailers are perhaps the only ones in the movie, which is in fact actually full of massive city destroying action. Some of the louder scenes were even dubbed over with sad music rather than the actual heroic themes during then.
Nice Guy: As true to the character, Clark is a nice guy who just wants to help people, but he's still not about trashing someone's property in retaliation for being a jerk.
When Clark tells Zod how he managed to control his super-senses, Zod is able to make use of the information to become that much more dangerous.
When Clark begins exploring the Kryptonian spacecraft he finds in the Artic, he inadvertently sets off a beacon that alerts Zod and his followers to the presence of Earth.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Zod's decision to also take Lois hostage for additional leverage and information and to hold her in a room that has a console. The console has a slot for the spaceship key that Clark slipped her so they wouldn't find it on him, and inserting it allows Jor El's Virtual Ghost to upload to the ship, help Lois and Clark escape, and give them crucial information.
Clark's shirt catches on fire after saving workers from a failing oil rig. The fireproof Clark remains unfazed.
When a jerk throws a punch at Clark, his fist practically ricochets off Clark's chest to no effect.
Zod barely notices being hit by falling debris. Bullets simply bounce off all the Kryptonians without even making them flinch. However, the A-10's Gatling guns were able to temporarily stun all three caught in their path.
No Such Thing as Space Jesus: Played straight when young Clark asks his father if God is responsible for giving him power, Jonathan says no and shows him the space pod that brought him to Earth. This also counts as a subversion of If Jesus Then Aliens.
The non-verbal version is all over the priest's face in the first few seconds after Clark tells him who he is.
Also the fighter pilot as he sees Faora leap at his plane.
One-Winged Angel: Zod starts out like his fellow soldiers jumping around at high heights and having Super Strength and speed. But when he breaks out of his battle suit during the final battle, he becomes as equally powerful as Superman, with the ability to fly and use heat vision.
Orphan's Plot Trinket: A high-tech version in Kal-El's Kryptonian memory stick, which he finds in his transport pod and wears around his neck for 20-odd years before discovering what it's for. Unlike possibly any other OPT in history, it actually contains his father.
Papa Wolf: Zod could arguably be seen as this in a big scheme of things kind of way towards his fellow Kryptonians if you believe he may have seen them as a surrogate family (See Heartbroken Badass above>
Planetary Nation: Krypton is governed by a high council. This isn't explained in depth, though.
Play-Along Prisoner: Clark is naturally one of these when he willingly goes into military custody. Lois indicates that he agreed to be handcuffed, and he explains it as a way of allowing his captors to feel secure. Shortly afterward, he effortlessly breaks the handcuffs to show that he is complying out of good faith, not because the military could actually hold him.
Powered Armor: The enemy Kryptonians all wear it, with Zod removing his at the climax. It's bulletproof and has a self-contained atmosphere. Given the effect of Earth on Kryptonians, it seems doubtful that it enhances their strength to any meaningful degree. Underneath is a form-fitting mail-like body suit, which essentially is all that Clark needs to wear on Earth (and the cape, since this is a cool look).
Principles Zealot: Pa Kent took keeping young Clark's identity a secret very, very seriously, to the point of willingly letting himself die to protect it.
Product Placement: The film made $170 million in deals with promotional partners even before it was released.
During Superman and Zod's battle in Smallville, they rip through a 7-11
Pete is stated to work at an IHOP, which is where Lois finds him. Superman and Zod evetually crash through Pete's IHOP during their fight.
Martha works at Sears, as evidenced by the Sears uniform just visible beneath her coat when Lois comes knocking. Superman and Zod finish fighting in front of a Sears. When Superman takes off, the Sears storefront takes up most of the screen.
When Lois is following Clark onto the ancient ship, she places her Nikon camera atop a surface before lifting herself up. The logo is blatantly placed in front of the camera and with full view of the near-mint device.
Puny Earthlings: The movie does a good job of showcasing just how hopelessly outmatched humans are against Kryptonians. At this point, nothing on Earth is prepared to deal with threats of this scale and magnitude.
Putting on the Reich: Zod's crew includes an inexplicably German-accented and longcoat-clad Mengele Expy who tries to experiment on Superman.
Rage Quit: After Clark is confronted by the Jerkass truck driver at the bar, he took off his apron and walked away. That would have been the end of it, had the trucker let it go.
Ragnarok-Proofing: A Kryptonian scout ship crash-lands on Earth and spends 18,000 years buried underneath the ice in the Artic. But when Clark finds it all systems seem to be in working order. Implicitly justified because Superman would not have been sent to Earth if Jor-El hadn't been able to make contact with that ship.
Ramming Always Works: After Faora attacks the plane carrying Superman's pod, Colonel Hardy rams it into Zod's ship. Played with in that it's not the ramming that does the job, but Superman's ship detonating.
Though Clark still uses his powers for good, those powers isolate him from other people until he becomes Superman. His neighbors don't assuage this.
Jonathan Kent knows Clark's potential to change the world for the better, but believes the world isn't ready for Clark to reveal himself just yet. (Unlike, say, versions where he has no qualms with the young Clark being Superboy.)
The US government treats Superman as a potential threat, but trust him enough to stop shooting at him after he proves himself an ally against the other Kryptonians.
When Clark first develops super hearing and heat vision, it's painful.
When superhumans are about to fight, people don't cheer but duck for cover.
The amount of destruction caused by Kryptonians fighting each other. Superman tends to crater the ground just by taking off, so the collateral damage from them doing battle is spectacular. Compare how many buildings were destroyed here with Superman II.
Lois, being a good reporter, fairly easily manages to track Clark down, and is never ignorant of his secret identity.
Bullets still bounce off Kryptonians, but heavier weapons stun them if they connect.
A look away from the central action in the derrick dropping scene aboard the oil rig will show that although Supes can hold the tower from dropping, the I-beams beneath his feet are bending from the weight.
Superman enters into a no-win situation where he more-or-less has to break his no-killing code in order to save an innocent family.
Superman actually has to learn to leap before he can fly, and even then it's not the perfect flight present in most prior Superman adaptations.
Perry White is not immediately pleased when Lois Lane first brings him a story about Superman, saying that it could ruin her credibility as a Pulitzer-winning writer and could cause panic in the world. He is also less than pleased when Lois sells the story to a conspiracy theory blogger in order to get it out, and garnishes her wages in response.
It isn't elaborated too much upon, but Jonathan Kent expresses a few times that his existence will challenge religious beliefs. Clark at one point even asks if God was responsible for his powers.
Real Men Love Jesus: In one particularly important scene, Clark goes to a church and makes a confession to a priest. Clark's actual religious leanings are never made clear aside from vaguely asking if "God" is responsible for his powers when he didn't know about his alien heritage, so it's just ambiguous enough that the audience can assume what they want to assume. Writer David Goyer suggested that Clark was raised Lutheran.
The scene where Clark locks himself in a closet hangs a massive lampshade on why these are needed.
In another scene, it doesn't matter how strong he is...Clark can't hold up part of an oil rig if the platform he's standing on bends and collapses under his feet.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Superman and his plucky human pals thwart Zod's efforts to recreate Earth into a Krypton like landscape and quite possibly killing Zod's entire crew, or subjecting them to the Fate Worse Than Death experience of being stuck in the Phantom Zone, thus taking away his primary purpose for existing, Zod goes crazy and tries to destroy Metropolis - with the rest of the world presumably next - as a particularly brutal and violent assault against everything Superman has ever worked for.
Robot Buddy: Kelex and Kelor, floating droids serving the El family. The former is more prominent.
Sadistic Choice: Kill the rampaging Zod or allow him to kill innocents? Superman chooses the former.
Samaritan Syndrome: Clark can't stop helping people, due to his powers. It's bad enough that he had to watch his father die.
Scars Are Forever: Zod gets slashed down the side of his face during the Krypton prologue. The resulting scar is still very much visible when he shows up on Earth.
Scenery Gorn: The devastated Metropolis downtown, and, obviously, Krypton.
Shaky Cam: A common criticism of the cinematography.
Shooting Superman: All the Kryptonians gets shot at quite a bit, usually to minimal effect. There's a reason for it, though; the military doesn't know about the Kryptonians' invulnerability at the start of the battle in Smallville; and they actually manage to knock out Faora with an A-10 Thunderbolt missile. Colonel Hardy can be chalked up to determination. At the finale, their weapons' fire doesn't hurt Faora, but it does delay her long enough for their actual plan to work.
A scene in the trailers of a shirtless, bearded Clark dramatically screaming and posing evokes 300, one of Zack Snyder's previous movies.
In another nod to 300, the Smallville High football team is called the Smallville Spartans (instead of Crows like in the Smallville show).
And another nod to 300, with Jor-El uttering the phrase "This is madness!" during Zod's attempted military coup on Krypton. One of the tracks on the soundtrack album is also title "This is Madness".
Superman's baseball team of choice is the Kansas City Royals
All of the Kryptonians are named after various counterparts from the comics, some of whom are of little renown.
When the Jor-El program is explaining Krypton's history to Clark on the crashed Kryptonian ship, he shows a picture of Zod with troops marching behind him that's very reminiscent of a poster of Mao Zedong.
The explanation of the history of Krypton (having a centralized government with a few leaders, the government creating and controlling the caste system, and the method of exile from the planet) is remarkably similar to Brave New World.
The design of the World Engine that the Kryptonians use, and how it functions, is very much like the Creation Engine, used by the Kherubim, who are Kryptonian expies in the now defunct Wildstorm Universe, which is a DC property. Mr. Majestic, is one of the Superman expies in the Wildstorm Universe. In fact, the Creation Engine is used for the exact same reason: terraforming.
Clark reading Plato, when the society of Krypton is based on Plato's "the Republic".
Slasher Smile: Superman, of all people, in battle. So, probably for the best that he rarely smiles the entire film. He does smile normally "at ease".
Well, his smile when he learns to fly is one of genuine happiness. So it's not all that bad to see Supes smiling.
Spandex, Latex, or Leather: Gone are the traditional smooth "strongman" tights for a more synthetic-looking Super-suit, which has a more "alien", textured appearance to explicitly show its Kryptonian origin. The movie shows a logical origin of its use or purpose: virtual Jor-El uses the resources of the fallen scout ship to provide this chain mail-like garment for Kal-El (likely the only needed protection, given Kal-El's natural powers), and Zod and his army shows that they wear one of these mail-like suits underneath their Kryptonian battle armor, which also provides a compatible atmosphere.
Starfish Robots: Kryptonian robots generally consist of egg-like shapes with the occasional oddly-placed appendage and a section devoted to storing a morphing liquid metal that displays images. The world engine uses this liquid metal to form ultra-speedy amorphous tentacles to attack Superman.
Zod attacks Superman with an I-beam. Supes parries with an Eye Beam.
Since Krypton's codex (which contains the genetics for all to be created Kryptonians) is encoded in Kal-El's cells, he is literally an everyman.
When Superman confronts the World Engine in the Indian ocean, it attempts to crush him with the beam that is reordering Earth's gravity to Krypton's heavier one. Superman is not only not crushed, he flies straight up THROUGH the beam to destroy the machine. He literally had the ''weight of the/a world' on his shoulders, and he endured it.
Stock Scream: A Wilhelm scream can be heard, when the plane carrying Kal-El's rocket depressurizes itself.
Stuff Blowing Up: It's easier to list the things that aren't blown up, impaled by flying objects or crushed in this film than the things that are.
Suicide by Cop: Zod, having lost everything that gave his life meaning and currently at Superman's mercy, starts blasting his heat vision at some civilians to force Superman to finish him.
Flight: Clark can break the sound barrier and engage in aerial combat.
Super Strength: Adolescent Clark can push a school bus out of a river and adult Clark can lift an entire oil rig, and a more fully-realized Superman is able to still stand up underneath the force of the World Engine beam.
Together in Death: A non-romantic example: as the gravity field encroaches, Perry reaches out and holds Jenny's hand instead of leaving her to die alone.
Trickster: The Virtual Ghost of Jor-El. Judging by his amused grin, he's really enjoying himself screwing up the systems in Zod's ship, allowing Lois and Superman to escape capture.
Up, Up and Away!: This is the adaptation that really gives you the sense that Superman doesn't do this just because, but he does it because it helps him. He actively flies in this pose almost every time he needs to really pick up speed. It also seems to help him guide his flight path.
Ungrateful Bastard: A younger Clark saving a school bus full of children from drowning is met with much fear and hatred from the townspeople. Subverted by Pete, who rats Clark out to his mother, who in turn confronts the Kents; but he seems to do so out of a sense of awe and appreciation, and is visibly sheepish about it. He later is not only nicer to Clark but doesn't reveal his identity when Zod calls on Earth to do so.
The Unmasqued World: By the end of the movie, Earth is alerted to the existence of extraterrestrials and superheroes.
Unskilled, but Strong: In a sense. Superman does not have the years of combat experience of the other Kryptonians, but he has lived on Earth his entire life and had a far greater amount of time to develop and control his own powers. Hence, while they are better fighters than he is, they are objectively weaker. That said, he is also more creative about applying his powers and quicker on the draw with them.
Vestigial Empire: At the beginning of the movie, Kryptonian civilization is a shade of its former self, with its past glory of space exploration and colonization long gone.
Villain Ball: Zod's inability to compromise on his personal, genocidal vision for reviving Krypton ends up dooming his entire plan. Indeed, if he'd been willing to settle to terraform Mars instead of Earth, Supes would've probably helped him.
Villainous Breakdown: Zod isn't all that calm or collected at any point of the film, but the Insane-o-meter basically explodes after all his ships get destroyed, and he realizes he and Superman are the only two left of their kind.
Villain Respect: When Colonel Hardy draws his knife on Faora after witnessing her slaughter his men and absorb countless bullets without even flinching, she seems genuinely impressed by his courage.
Weak, but Skilled: The Kryptonians haven't adapted to Earth like Superman has, so they're vulnerable to the same Power Incontinence he got over and have had less time to gain strength from Earth's sun. However, having been bred to be soldiers, they are better fighters and learn the basics of their new abilities extremely fast. By the end, Zod has learned to control both his flight and his heat vision.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Zod. He states his sole purpose for existing is to protect Krypton. He, like Jor-El, believed Krypton was doomed, and when its leaders refused to do anything, he resorted to a military coup and wanted to purge what he considered "undesirable" bloodlines from Kryptonian society. He also attempts to terraform Earth into the new Krypton.
Worthy Opponent: After his bullets prove useless against Faora, Colonel Hardy pulls out a combat knife. Despite her belief that humans are beneath her, it's easy to see that she respects his attitude by drawing her own knife to fight him on even terms. Her "A glorious death is its own reward" line can be interpreted to mean that she is going to give him this reward. The feeling isn't mutual
X Days Since: In the final fight, Supes is flung against such a sign in the midst of a building already gutted by the fight. When he collides with it, some of the number placards fall off, leaving only a zero.