As far as is known, the early history of Kal-El in Superman Returns is similar to that of his counterpart in the Richard Donner universe of Superman movies up until Superman II. Born as the last son of Krypton, he was sent to Earth as an infant and raised by the Kents as Clark Kent. After his foster father's death, Clark was summoned by the memory crystal from the ship that carried him to Earth to construct a Fortress of Solitude in the Artic Circle, where he discovered his true origin as a Kryptonian, his true name, and the nature of his abilities. In his early thirties, Clark became a reporter for the Daily Planet and became Superman, meeting fellow reporter Lois Lane whom he fell in love with at one time. He also encountered Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind on Earth, who became his main adversary.
Superman has been missing for several years, having traveled to where astronomers believed they had discovered the remains of Krypton. One night, Martha Kent sees her son return to Earth, having failed in his hopes to find surviving Kryptonians. Clark Kent returns to Metropolis to his old job at the Daily Planet, to find out that Lois Lane has become a mother and is now romantically involved with Richard White, the nephew of the newspaper editor Perry White.
Lex Luthor, having escaped from prison and married an elderly widow to swindle millions from her, now has stolen crystals from the Fortress of Solitude and uses a cutting from one to grow a physical structure. This causes a power outage on the East Coast. The power loss interferes with the flight test of a space shuttle attached to a Boeing 777, occupied by Lois Lane who is covering the story. Clark flies into action as Superman and stops the plane from crashing onto a baseball stadium, which is full of spectators. They cheer as Superman brings it down safely to land. Lois faints as she sees him take off.
Superman Is Back
The Daily Planet staff room is abuzz with the news that Superman is back. Perry White wants full coverage of his return on all angles from his reporters. Lois Lane, however, feels that the news item that should be covered is the mysterious power outage. Perry tells her one of the things that sells papers is Superman, which is one of the things she's best at writing.
Lois' Little Boy
While Clark overhears the conversation between Perry and Lois, a young boy greets him while carrying a asthma medicine inhaler. The boy turns out to be Lois' son Jason, who, though Lois says is rather fragile due to his need for various medications, is certain he will grow up big and strong "just like his dad". Clark assumes at this point that Richard White, Lois' fiance, must be the father as he greets him.
As Clark and Lois wait outside the Daily Planet building for a taxi to come, Lois asks Clark if he ever had that feeling about someone he had strong connections to that just suddenly took off without even saying goodbye. Clark had a feeling Lois was talking about him as Superman leaving her years ago, and answered that maybe that person had trouble saying goodbye. Lois just asks what's so hard about saying goodbye, but she doesn't answer Clark's question of who it is she's talking about. Suddenly a taxi pulls up just for Lois to get into, and Lois says goodnight to Clark as she goes off to her home.
Was Lois In Love?
Clark changes into Superman and flies over to Richard White's house, watching through his X-ray vision Richard and Lois talking with each other about the first article she wrote about Superman. Richard asks the question to Lois of whether she was ever in love with Superman. Lois says the whole world was in love with Superman, but as for her personally...she simply shakes her head and says no. Superman flies off into space to clear his mind of thinking about that response, just listening to all the sounds that are coming from Earth, until he hears the sound of an alarm. He zooms back down to Earth, following the sound to its source.
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
At the Newhart Federal Bank, some bank robbers have set up a machine gun to take out a squad of police cars gathered around the parking area in the hopes of covering their escape. The gunner mows the police cars down, then turns the gun on some officers that have sneaked their way up the stairs. No sooner does he pull the trigger, though, than Superman with lightning speed blocks the bullets with his body. The gunner tries to shoot a handgun bullet into Superman's eye, but it's instantly crushed upon impact and falls to the ground.
Out Of Control
As Lex Luthor and his gang enter into the Metropolis Museum near closing hours to steal a valuable rock, a woman screams as her car tears through the city streets, apparently out of control. Soon the car ends up flying, as Superman now flies the car to where he causes it stop before he puts it down safely. The woman gets out of her car, saying she needs to get to the hospital because of heart palpitations. Superman flies her to the hospital entrance, where she says they have stopped. Superman is glad that the woman is feeling better and tries to get her to let go of him as he departs. Afterward, the woman (revealed to be Luthor's henchlady Kitty) looks at her watch, seeing whether Luthor has pulled off the heist.
Still Making News
Clark Kent sees that Superman is still making news everywhere as he enters the Daily Planet offices and sees reports of his heroic acts throughout the whole world reported on television networks. He is called into Perry White's office, where Lois is debating Perry's decision for her to cover Superman instead of what she thinks are the bigger stories: the mysterious blackout and the museum robbery. Clark also discovers that Luthor was released from prison following a court appeal in which Superman failed to show up as a witness. Lois is less than pleased when Perry assigns the blackout story to Clark while she gets stuck with Superman coverage. She vents her frustrations out on Richard, who suggests that she could find a way to interview Superman without him coming back into her life.
Lois heads for the roof of the Daily Planet, where she meets with Superman as she tries to light up a cigarette. During the interview, Superman asks why she wrote the article Why The World Doesn't Need Superman, and Lois answers that the world has moved on without him during his absence, saying "the world doesn't need a savior, and neither do I." He takes Lois on a flight high above Metropolis and asks her what she hears. Lois answers she hears nothing. Superman says he hears millions of people crying for a savior.
Superman returns to his Fortress of Solitude and discovers that the memory crystals have been stolen. He suspects that Luthor must be behind this and flies off to find him. He returns to the Daily Planet as Clark Kent and helps Richard White track down Lois Lane, who turns up missing. He gives Richard help in accessing Lois' files on her computer by giving him the possible password, "Superman".
As Luthor creates his Kryptonite-laden land mass with one of the stolen crystals wrapped in a Kryptonite casing, another power blackout occurs in Metropolis. Superman at first follows a faxed message sent by Lois Lane revealing her whereabouts, but is soon diverted back to the city when he sees a rip forming in the ground that's heading toward Metropolis, causing a massive earthquake and a possible underground gas explosion. Superman rushes to the rescue of the imperiled city and its citizens, stopping the ignited gas explosion and catching the Daily Planet globe before it crash-lands on top of hundreds of people.
The Ship Is Sinking
Richard White follows the faxed coordinates to the boat that Lois Lane and Jason are trapped on and frees them from the pantry, only to be trapped himself when one of the emerging crystals from Luthor's grown land mass rips through the ship, shearing it in half. As Lois, Richard, and Jason climb to safety to avoid drowning, the door to the pantry closes in on them, and with it their hope of ever escaping. Fortunately, Superman comes and lifts that half of the ship up from the water, pulling the three of them out of the pantry and bringing them back to Richard's seaplane. He examines Lois with his X-ray vision and tells Richard she'll be fine.
Welcome To Lexland
While Richard takes off to bring Lois and Jason to safety, Superman arrives in the heart of Luthor's new land mass and confronts Luthor, unaware that the land mass is laden with Kryptonite, and demands for Luthor to give him back what was taken from his Fortress. Luthor, seeing sweat dripping from Superman's temples, responds by hitting the Man of Steel, causing him to fall to the ground and seeing the Kryptonite through its cracks. Luthor takes pleasure in repaying Superman for five years of his life lost in prison by using the weakened superhero as his punching bag, and then letting his thugs have a go at hurting the Man of Steel, humiliating him until Luthor finally shoves a jagged piece of Kryptonite into his back and watches him plummet into the depths of the sea.
Superman Is Rescued
As Richard continues to fly around the new land mass, Jason spots Superman struggling to reach the surface and tells his mother that. Richard also sees him and brings the seaplane down so he and Lois can bring him to safety. On board the seaplane, Richard tries to bring the seaplane to speed in order to take off as they head for a sudden dropoff, which it goes off until Richard manages to get it flying skyward. With a pair of tweezers, Lois succeeds in removing the jagged piece of Kryptonite out of Superman's body and flings it into the sea.
With Superman's powers now restored, he leaves the seaplane, saying goodbye to Lois, and then dives straight into the ground, using his heat vision to separate the grown land mass from the continental shelf and to fly it far into space. Luthor and his assistant Kitty manage to escape the island before Superman flies it away from Earth. As he does, the Kryptonite embedded in the land mass weakens Superman to the point of near death. Then, with the island lifted far away to reach escape velocity, Superman plummets back to the Earth, landing in the middle of Metropolis Park.
Back To Life
Superman is soon rushed to the hospital, where physicians try to revive him to no avail, though they succeed in removing the rest of the Kryptonite stuck in his back. The Daily Planet headlines SUPERMAN IS DEAD, and Lois is sitting at her desk waiting for Richard to take her and Jason to the hospital where they would see him one last time. During their visit, Lois tries to tells the comatose Superman something, but words fail her at that moment, and instead she kisses him. Jason gives Superman a goodbye kiss before he and his mother leave. Sometime later, the hospital finds that Superman is gone.
Father To The Son
While Lois is at her desk at Richard White's house beginning to compose Why The World Needs Superman, he is in Jason's bedroom, amazed at the revelation that he may be the father of Lois' child. He tells the sleeping child the words his father Jor-El told him before he was launched from Krypton: "You will make my strength your own; you will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son." As Lois goes outside to light up a cigarette, again the lighter's flame is suddenly blown out. He looks and sees that Superman is alive again. She asks him if they'll ever see him around. He says that he'll always be around as he flies off into the night.
- Kryptonian Physiology: Under the effects of a "yellow" sun, Superman possesses the same potential powers as an average Kryptonian. These include:
- Solar Energy Absorption: Under optimal conditions, this is the main source of Superman's super powers as they are contingent upon exposure to solar radiation from a yellow sun star system. His biological make up includes a number of organs which lack analogues in humans and whose functions are unknown. It is believed that between one or more of these and his bio-cellular matrix, "yellow" solar energy is stored for later use. This allows for the use of these powers to fade when yellow solar radiation is not available instead of immediate failure.
- Heat Vision: Superman can, as a conscious act, fire beams of intense heat at a target by looking at it. He can vary the heat and area affected.
- Super-Hearing: Superman's hearing is sensitive enough to hear any sound at any volume or pitch. With skill and concentration, he can block out ambient sounds to focus on a specific source or frequency.
- Enhanced Vision: Superman's vision processes the entire electromagnetic spectrum as well as allowing vast control over selective perception and focus.
This umbrella ability includes the following:
- Electromagnetic Spectrum Vision: Superman can see well into most of the electromagnetic spectrum. He can see and identify radio and television signals as well as all other broadcast or transmitted frequencies. Using this ability, he can avoid detection by radar or satellite monitoring methods. This also allows him to see the aura generated by living thing.
- Telescopic Vision: This is the ability to see something at a great distance, without violating the laws of physics. Though limited, the exact extent of the ability is undetermined. In function, it is similar to the zoom lens on a camera.
- X-Ray Vision: This is the ability to see through any volume of matter except lead. Supermans can see things behind a solid, opaque object as if it were not there. He can focus this ability to "peel back" layers of an object, allowing hidden image or inner workings to be observed. The exact type of energy perceived—such as x-rays, cosmic rays, or some other energy invisible to normal humans—is unclear. This ability perceives an ambient energy source though, it does not involve the eye projecting a concentrated, possibly toxic, beam to be reflected back from objects.
- Microscopic Vision: This is the ability to see extremely small objects and images down to the atomic level.
- Infrared Vision: Superman can see with better acuity in darkness, and to a degree in total darkness.
- Flight: Superman is able to manipulate graviton particles to defy the forces of gravity and achieve flight. This ranges from hovering to moving in any posture, in any direction.
- Invulnerability: Due to the interaction of his dense molecular structure and supercharged bio-electric aura, Superman is nigh-invulnerable to extreme energy forces. In addition, his extends this protection against toxins and diseases.
- Superhuman Stamina: Superman is able to maintain continuous strenuous physical action for an indefinite period of time. This based on his body converting yellow solar radiation directly to energy, but is limited by physiological and psychological needs to eat, drink, and sleep.
- Superhuman Strength: Superman's strength is augmented by yellow solar radiation interacting with the greater than human density, resilience and biological efficiency of his musculature. His strength is more an act of conscious will on energy fields than actual physical strength. It is this act of conscious will that enables him to perform physical feats that are beyond the mere application force, such as moving a mountain top without said rock crumbling under its own mass.
- Superhuman Speed: Superman is able to move at incredible speed by sheer force of will. This extends to his perceptions and allows for feats such as catching bullets in mid flight as well as covering vast distances in little or no time.
This also confers:
- Super-Breath: Superman is able to create hurricane force winds by exhaling air from his lungs. He can chill the air as it leaves his lungs to freeze targets. He can also reverse the process to pull large volumes of air or vapor into his lungs.
- Kryptonian Physiology: Under the effects of a "yellow" sun, Superman possesses the same potential weaknesses as an average Kryptonian. These include:
- A Fortress of Solitude, located in the Arctic Circle.
- This version of the character is exclusive to the continuity of the film Superman Returns and is an adaptation of Clark Kent/Superman. The original character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and first appeared in Action Comics #1.
- This version of Superman was portrayed by Brandon Routh.
- Superman Returns: Prequel #1
- Superman Returns: Prequel #2
- Superman Returns: Prequel #3
- Superman Returns: Prequel #4
- Superman Returns
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- 5 Images featuring Kal-El (Superman Returns)
- Quotations by or about Kal-El (Superman Returns)
- Character Gallery: Kal-El (Superman Returns)
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