Development began in 2008, when Warner Bros. took pitches from comic book writers, screenwriters and directors, opting to reboot the franchise. In 2009, a court ruling resulted in Jerry Siegel's family recapturing the rights to Superman's origins and Siegel's copyright. The decision stated that Warner Bros. did not owe the families additional royalties from previous films, but if they did not begin production on a Superman film by 2011, then the Shuster and Siegel estates would be able to sue for lost revenue on an unproduced film. Producer Christopher Nolan pitched Goyer's idea after story discussion on The Dark Knight Rises, and Snyder was hired as the film's director in October 2010. Principal photography began in August 2011 in West Chicago, Illinois, before moving to Vancouver and Plano, Illinois.
The planet Krypton, unstable from years of industrial mining, faces impending destruction. Jor-El, chief advisor to Krypton's supreme council, recommends the council give him control of the genetics codex. Before any action can be taken, soldiers led by General Zod, an old friend of Jor-El's, launch an uprising and arrest the councilors. Realizing that Krypton is doomed, Jor-El steals genetic codes sought by Zod and infuses them into the DNA of his infant son, Kal-El – the first naturally born Kryptonian child in centuries. Donning his old armor, Jor-El sacrifices his life to allow his son to escape on a preprogrammed spacecraft. Zod orders the rocket's destruction, only to learn that forces loyal to the council have suppressed the rebellion. In a brief trial, Zod and several of the surviving rebels are convicted of treason and sentenced to the Phantom Zone moments before Krypton explodes.
Following Jor-El's coordinates, the ship crash lands on Earth in Smallville, Kansas. A childless couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, find Kal-El and raise him as their own, naming him Clark. Clark eventually becomes an isolated young man as a result of developing superhuman powers. He then learns his true origins from Jonathan, who urges him to keep his powers hidden. Several years later, Jonathan dies in a tornado while refusing to let Clark rescue him. Burdened with guilt and looking for a new purpose in his life, Clark leaves to travel the world for an extended period of time under several disguises.
Several months later, Metropolis, Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane receives an assignment to investigate the discovery of a Kryptonian scout ship in the Canadian Arctic. Disguised as a worker, Clark enters the ship and activates its central computer using a key left by Jor-El, which allows him to communicate with an artificial intelligence modeled after his father. The AI explains that Clark was sent to Earth to guide its people, and presents him with a Kryptonian uniform bearing his family's symbol. While following Clark, Lois inadvertently triggers the ship's security system. Clark uses his powers to rescue Lois before wearing the uniform and testing his flying abilities. Unable to convince supervisor Perry White to publish an article on the incident, Lois tracks down Clark and agrees to keep his secret safe.
Escaping the Phantom Zone, Zod and his crew intercept a transmission from the scout vessel and travel to Earth. Deducing that Kal-El is nearby, they broadcast a global address demanding that he surrender or risk war. Clark meets with the United States Army and agrees to comply, with Lois joining him as a hostage. Zod reveals that he possesses advanced terraforming equipment salvaged from Kryptonian outposts, which he intends to use to transform Earth into a new Krypton. His science officer, Jax-Ur, extracts Clark's genes to create Kryptonian colonists who will annihilate humanity and build a society based on Zod's ideals of genetic purity. With help from Jor-El, Clark and Lois flee and warn the U.S. military, just as Zod orders an invasion.
Given the codename "Superman", Clark destroys the terraforming platform, while his human allies launch a suicide attack, killing Zod's troops. With the ship destroyed and Krypton's only hope of revival gone, Zod vows to destroy the Earth and its inhabitants. Zod fights Superman and in the process they both destroy downtown Metropolis. They then crash into a train station, where Zod attempts to kill some passengers, forcing Superman to snap his neck, killing him.
Superman persuades the government to let him act independently, so long as he does not turn against humanity. To allow access to dangerous situations without attracting attention, Clark takes a job as a freelance reporter for the Daily Planet.Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman:
A Kryptonian sent by his parents to Earth as an infant to escape the destruction of his homeworld, Krypton, and raised in Smallville, Kansas, under mental guidance of farmers Martha and Jonathan Kent until he is inspired by the holographic message from his late father to become Earth's greatest protector (Superman is depicted as being 33 years old, at least from the moment he is found, in the present timeline of the film). Cavill is the first British and non-American actor to play the character. He was previously cast in Superman: Flyby
, which was ultimately shelved, and was considered for the role in the 2006 film Superman Returns
, but lost out to Brandon Routh. Cavill stated, "There's a very real story behind the Superman character." He explained that everyone's goal has been to explore the difficulties his character faces as a result of having multiple identities – including his birth name, Kal-El, and his alter ego, Clark Kent. Cavill also stated that, "He's alone and there's no one like him," referring to Superman's vulnerabilities. "That must be incredibly scary and lonely, not to know who you are or what you are, and trying to find out what makes sense. Where's your baseline? What do you draw from? Where do you draw a limit with the power you have? In itself, that's an incredible weakness." In an interview with Total Film
magazine, Cavill stated he had been consuming nearly 5,000 calories a day, training for over two hours daily and plowing protein to pack on the muscle mass. Joe Manganiello was considered for the role but could not work out an audition date for the casting director due to scheduling obligations with True Blood
. Cooper Timberline was cast as the 9-year-old Clark Kent, and Dylan Sprayberry was cast as the 13-year-old Clark Kent.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane:
A reporter for the Daily Planet
newspaper and the love interest of Clark Kent. Adams was selected from a list of actresses that included Olivia Wilde and Mila Kunis. "There was a big, giant search for Lois," Snyder said. "For us, it was a big thing and obviously a really important role. We did a lot of auditioning, but we had this meeting with Amy Adams and after that I just felt she was perfect for it." Adams auditioned for the role three times: once for the unproduced Superman: Flyby
, and the second time for Superman Returns
before landing the current role. Adams was confirmed to play Lois Lane in March 2011. While announcing the role, Snyder said in a statement, "We are excited to announce the casting of Amy Adams, one of the most versatile and respected actresses in films today. Amy has the talent to capture all of the qualities we love about Lois: smart, tough, funny, warm, ambitious and, of course, beautiful." On portraying Lois Lane, Adams stated that the film would feature a Lois Lane who is an "independent, feisty woman ... but set in a more identifiable world." Adams said that "She has become more of a free-ranging journalist, someone who likes to be hands-on. The nature of the newspaper business has changed so much. There is so much more pressure."
Michael Shannon as General Zod:
A Kryptonian general and megalomaniac with the same superpowers as Superman, bent on transforming Earth into a new Krypton under his reign. Viggo Mortensen was considered for the role. Snyder stated, "Zod is not only one of Superman's most formidable enemies, but one of the most significant because he has insights into Superman that others don't. Michael is a powerful actor who can project both the intelligence and the malice of the character, making him perfect for the role." When Goyer was asked about why Zod was chosen as the villain, he stated, "The way (Christopher) Nolan and I have always approached movies as well is you never say, 'Hey, which villain would be cool for this movie?' You start with the story first. What kind of story? What kind of theme do you want to tell? So we worked that out. Then, usually the villain becomes obvious in terms of who's going to be the appropriate antagonist for that. When you guys see the movie, the only villain we could've used was Zod and the Kryptonians. I mean, when you see what the whole story is, nothing else would have even made sense." Shannon also commented on his portrayal in comparison to Terence Stamp's original take on Zod, "To follow Terence Stamp's iconic performance in the original, it is daunting, but I just focused on one day at a time. It's interesting that when we started with this, we did a lot of training together and I think that kind of helped loosen things up a little bit. It is a very physical movie at the end of the day. That's a good way to find your way 'into it' [as an actor]."
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent:
Clark's adoptive father. Snyder explained his reason for his casting the on-screen couple is solely for the realism: "I think the thing you realize when you look at Diane and Kevin, in our decision to cast them so far, you sort of get a sense of how tonally we're looking at the movie, and what you realize is that those guys are serious actors, and we're taking this movie very seriously in terms of the tone of having those guys. You're talking about having a situation where whatever the action is or whatever the drama of the movie is, our first priority is to make sure it's rendered in the most realistic way we can get at."
Diane Lane as Martha Kent:
Clark's adoptive mother. Lane was the first cast member to join the film after Cavill. "This was a very important piece of casting for me because Martha Kent is the woman whose values helped shape the man we know as Superman," Snyder said in the release. "We are thrilled to have Diane in the role because she can convey the wisdom and the wonder of a woman whose son has powers beyond her imagination."
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White:
Editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet
and the boss of Lois Lane. Fishburne is the first African-American to play Perry White in a live-action film. Fishburne stated that he modeled his character after Ed Bradley, stating that "my inspiration really is the late Ed Bradley, who was a CBS correspondent on 60 Minutes
for many years ... [The] legendary Ed Bradley... was a friend, a mentor, and a role model for me, particularly because he worked in journalism, and he was the kind of guy who walked with kings, but he had the common touch. And so he was my inspiration for Perry."
Antje Traue as Faora Hu-Ul:
General Zod's sub-commander and a commander of the Kryptonian military, who is completely devoted and loyal to Zod. Gal Gadot was offered the role but declined because she was pregnant at that time; this allowed her to be later cast as Wonder Woman in the film's sequel.
Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy, USAF:
A United States Air Force officer, call sign "Guardian", assigned to the United States Northern Command.
Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van:
The biological mother of Superman and loyal wife to Jor-El. Julia Ormond had previously been announced as cast, but dropped out. Connie Nielsen was in negotiations for the role before Zurer was cast. Nielsen was subsequently cast as Queen Hippolyta in Wonder Woman
Russell Crowe as Jor-El:
The biological father of Superman. Sean Penn and Clive Owen were also considered for the role. Crowe incorporates how his own fatherhood informed his reading of the script to portray Jor-El, stating that "...it was one of those things where that's how it was connecting me. That's the question that Jor-El faces, that's the situation that he's in." Crowe also comments on his preparation for the film stating that: "When I signed on... well, one, I didn't realize that I would be wearing Spandex—'cause you know that's Superman's costume—I didn't realize that I'd have to fit into it as well," Crowe said. "But, I also didn't realize the type of organizer that Zack Snyder is, 'cause this was really old school prep. This is sort of David Lean-level preparation, and I really appreciated him. And I was on the movie for three-and-a-half or four months before I even got in front of the camera."
Additionally, Harry Lennix plays Lieutenant General Calvin Swanwick, a United States Army general officer and the deputy commander of United States Northern Command. Christina Wren plays Captain Carrie Ferris, a United States Air Force officer and the assistant to General Swanwick. Richard Schiff plays Dr. Emil Hamilton, a scientist who works with the United States Armed Forces for DARPA. Carla Gugino portrays the voice of Kelor, the Kryptonian A.I. service-robot. Mackenzie Gray plays Jax-Ur, a Kryptonian scientist who is one of General Zod's followers. Michael Kelly plays Steve Lombard, an employee of the Daily Planet, and Rebecca Buller plays Jenny Jurwich, an intern of the Daily Planet. Jack Foley, Jadin Gould and Rowen Kahn respectively play Pete Ross, Lana Lang and Kenny Braverman, classmates of Clark Kent in high school, with Joseph Cranford portraying Pete Ross as an adult. Richard Cetrone, Samantha Jo, Revard Dufresne and Apollonia Vanova respectively play Tor-An, Car-Vex, Dev-Em II and Nadira, Kryptonian soldiers that follow General Zod.
Many reviewers have stated that Man of Steel is a religious allegory, especially since Warner Bros. set up a website www.manofsteelresources.com that contains "a nine-page pamphlet entitled Jesus – The Original Superhero". Justin Craig compares Kal-El's struggle to the passion of Christ, stating that "Kal-El is more than willing to sacrifice himself to save the people of Earth. Originally reluctant to reveal his identity and powers to the world, Supes decides to turn himself over to Zod to save humanity from annihilation." Craig also states that there is an allegory to the Trinity within Man of Steel: "Jor-El returns to Kal-El on Earth as a ghost, guiding his budding superhero son on his journey to salvation. Before Jor-El sends his son off to Earth baby Moses-style, he tells his wife that, like Jesus, 'He’ll be a god to them.'" Paul Asay of The Washington Post writes that "Superman floats in space with his arms splayed out as if nailed to an invisible cross," a fact that Craig also mentioned in his assessment of the film. The protagonist of the film is also 33 years old and seeks "counsel at a church." Writing for The Huffington Post, Colin Liotta compared Zod to Adolf Hitler, citing, "He feels his vision for a pure Krypton (i.e. a society like the one Hitler envisioned with his eugenics program) is the only answer for survival."
In June 2008, Warner Bros. took pitches from comic book writers, screenwriters and directors on how to successfully restart the Superman film series. Comic book writers Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer were among those who pitched their ideas for a reboot. "I told them, it’s not that bad. Just treat Superman Returns as the Ang Lee Hulk," Morrison said. "The Incredible Hulk has proven the audience will forgive you and let you redo the franchise," said Waid. Morrison's idea was similar to his work on All-Star Superman, while Waid's was akin to Superman: Birthright. Mark Millar, teaming with director Matthew Vaughn, also planned an epic eight-hour Superman trilogy, each installment released a year apart, similar to The Lord of the Rings. Millar compared it to the Godfather trilogy, in which it would chronicle the entire life of Superman, from the early days of Krypton to the finale where Superman loses his powers as the Sun starts to go supernova.
In August 2008, Warner Bros. suggested a reboot of the film series. Studio executive Jeff Robinov planned to have the film released either by 2010 or 2011, explaining "Superman Returns didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to. It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned. Had Superman worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009. Now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all." Paul Levitz stated in an interview that Batman holds the key to the Superman reboot. He elaborated, "Everyone is waiting for Nolan to sign on for another Batman, once that happens, the release date for Superman and all other future projects will follow." In February 2009, McG, who previously planned to direct Superman: Flyby, expressed interest in returning to the Superman franchise. August 2009 saw a court ruling in which Jerry Siegel's family recaptured 50% of the rights to Superman's origins and Siegel's share of the copyright in Action Comics#1. In addition, a judge ruled that Warner Bros. did not owe the families additional royalties from previous films. However, if they did not begin production on a Superman film by 2011, then the Siegel estate would have been able to sue for lost revenue on an unproduced film.
The plot of Man of Steel employs a nonlinear narrative, and tells parts of the story in flashback. During story discussions for The Dark Knight Rises in 2008, David S. Goyer told Christopher Nolan his idea regarding how to present Superman in a modern context. Impressed with Goyer's concept, Nolan pitched the idea to the studio, who hired Nolan to produce and Goyer to write based on the financial and critical success of The Dark Knight. Nolan admired Bryan Singer's work on Superman Returns for its connection to Richard Donner's version, stating that "A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that's what I know how to do," emphasizing the idea that Batman exists in a world where he is the only superhero and a similar approach to the Man of Steel would assure the integrity needed for the film. "Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other." Nolan, however, clarified that the new film would not have any relationship with the previous film series.
Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, spoke to Entertainment Weekly, and allowed a peek over the wall of secrecy surrounding their DC Comics plans: "It's setting the tone for what the movies are going to be like going forward. In that, it's definitely a first step." Plans included for the film to contain references to the existence of other superheroes, alluding to the possibility of a further DC Universe, and setting the tone for a shared fictional universe of DC Comics characters on film. Guillermo del Toro, with whom Goyer worked on Blade II, turned down the director's position on the reboot because of his commitment on a film adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, while Robert Zemeckis was also approached. Ben Affleck, Darren Aronofsky, Duncan Jones, Jonathan Liebesman, Matt Reeves, and Tony Scott were considered as potential directors, before Zack Snyder was hired in October 2010. Casting began the following November. Zack Snyder confirmed both Booster Gold and Batman references in the film, indicating their presence in the DC shared film universe. When Zod destroys a satellite, the words "Wayne Enterprises" are scrolled on the satellite.
Principal photography began on August 1, 2011, at an industrial park near DuPage Airport under the codename "Autumn Frost". Zack Snyder expressed reluctance to shooting the film in 3-D, due to the technical limitations of the format, and instead chose to shoot the film two-dimensionally and convert the film into 3-D in post production, for a 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX 3-D release. Snyder also chose to shoot the film on film instead of digitally, because he felt it would make the film, "a big movie experience". Filming was expected to last for two to three months. Production took place in Plano, Illinois on August 22 to 29. According to an interview with Michael Shannon, filming would continue until February 2012.
Man of Steel filmed in the Chicago area, California and Burnaby's Mammoth Studios was transformed into Superman's home planet of Krypton and myriad extraterrestrial aircraft. Metro lands on Vancouver's North Shore waterfront hosted the shoot for the dramatic oil rig rescue that introduces audiences to Superman. Ucluelet and Nanaimo, British Columbia, feature prominently in the film’s first hour—the trademark winter mist and rough seas are passed off as Alaska in the film. Filming took place in the Chicago Loop from September 7 to 17. Vancouver production took place from September 21, 2011, to January 20, 2012 to celebrate the 60th birthday anniversary of the late Christopher Reeve who was the first actor who played Superman in films. The Chicago shoot was a unit project, meaning that filming could partake numerous establishing shots as well as cutaways and may not necessarily include principal cast members.
Man of Steel features a redesigned Superman costume by James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson. The costume preserves the color scheme and "S" logo, but adopts darker tones, and notably does not feature the red trunks usually worn by Superman. Zack Snyder said the costume is "a modern aesthetic". He and the producers attempted to devise a suit featuring the red trunks, but could not design one that fit into the tone of the film, leading to their removal from the suit. Because of Wilkinson's unavailability, Snyder chose Acheson to design the suit; however he only started developing it, and Wilkinson finished the development when he returned, and designed the other character's costumes as well. Due to the substantial weight a practical suit would yield, the Kryptonian armor for General Zod was constructed through CGI to allow Shannon "freedom of movement". In a March 2014 interview with Esquire, Wilkinson explained the reason for the look of Superman's redesigned suit:
John "DJ" Desjardin served as the visual supervisor for Man of Steel, with Weta Digital, MPC, and Double Negative providing the visual effects for the film. Zack Snyder wanted the film to "appear very natural because there’s some very fantastical things in there and he wanted people to suspend their disbelief, and we the visual effects team had to make it as easy as possible for them to do so." Desjardin noted that the intent in shooting the film was to utilize handheld devices to make the film feel like a "documentary-style" film. "We had to think about what that would mean, since we also had to photograph some crazy action," said Desjardin. "So for a lot of the previs we did, we’d start to think where our cameras were and where our cameraman was. A lot of the rules are the Battlestar Galactica rules for the space cams that Gary Hurtzel [sic] developed for that miniseries, where we want to make sure if we're translating the camera at all it makes sense. Unless the action is so over the top, like in the end where Superman is beating up Zod—we had to break it a bit."
For the first act of the film taking place on the planet Krypton, Weta Digital placed alien-like planet environments, creatures and the principal means of display—a technology the filmmakers called "liquid geometry". Weta Digital visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon explained that, "It’s a bunch of silver beads that are suspended through a magnetic field, and the machine is able to control that magnetic field so that the collection of beads behave almost like three-dimensional pixels, and they can create a surface that floats in the air and describes whatever the thing is you’re supposed to be seeing." The beads of the display, which up close would appear to be pyramids with a slight bevel, were designed to create a surface of the object to depict inside a "console-like" figure.
In the modeling and animation aspect of the liquid geometry, Goodwin explained, "We had to develop a pipeline to bring in assets, so instead of going through the route of reducing the polygon count to something usable what we would then do—you would take the model in whatever way it was made and just scatter discrete points onto it, and extract the matrix onto the animation and copy these points onto the matrix and have these sparse points behaving in a way that the model would." After the animation, artists duplicated the beads onto the animated geometry for a pre-simulated lighting version to get approval on how the object would read. Sims were then run "on all the targets which would be discrete beads floating around on top of the surface which would have its own set of parameters," said Goodwin. "The bead size or the turbulence that would crawl along the surface constantly updating the orientation was based on the normal provided by the surface. That was then saved to disk and we would use that sim as the final target for the simulation." After the simulation process, Weta Digital ran every bead through a temporal filter to remove jitter to control the noise. Lighting solutions directly worked on the set. Weta utilized RenderMan to take advantage of improved ray tracing and instancing objects.
The sequences where Superman utilizes close-combat fight scenes with the other Kryptonians proved to be a major challenge for the filmmakers and the visual effects crew. Desjardin explained, "When we do these fights and these hyper-real things, we don’t want to do the traditional, 'OK I’m a cameraman, I'm shooting a clean plate, I'm going to pan over here to follow the action that’s not really there yet but we'll put the action in later. Because that's us animating the characters to the camera. So we would do that animation with the characters—grappling, punching or flying away—and we would take the real guys up until the point until they were supposed to do that and we'd cut. Then we'd put an environment camera there and take the environment. And then a camera for reference of the actors and get each moment. So then we had a set of high-res stills for the environment and the characters. Then, in post, we take the digi-doubles and animate them according to the speeds we want them to move in our digital environment."
MPC handled the visual effects for the "Smallville encounter" sequence. Before providing the visual effects, the shots were previsualized for the fight choreography. After the previsualizations, live action portions of the scene would be filmed in small pieces. "If say Superman was being punched and would land 50 meters away, we would shoot our start position and end position, and then bridge that gap with the CG takeovers," says Guillaume Rocheron, the MPC visual effects supervisor. A camera rig would then obtain key frames of the choreographed actor. "It's a six-still camera rig that's built on a pipe rig so that you can run it in at the end of a setup and get stills of key frames of a performance or an expression," said Desjardin, "and then we could use those hi-res stills to project onto the CG double and get really accurate transition lighting and color—right from the set."
On set, a camera rig was used to capture the environment of the sequence. Dubbed "enviro-cam", the visual effects crew would mount a Canon EOS 5D and a motorized nodal head, allowing the crew to capture the environment at a 360-degree angle with 55k resolution for every shot, the process would take approximately two to four minutes. The set capture resulted in lighting and textures that could be reprojected onto geometry. Full-screen digital doubles were a major component for the fighting sequences. Digital armor was also added, along with the energy-based Kryptonian helmets. Cyberscan and FACS were conducted with the actors, and polarized and non-polarized reference photos were taken. Superman's cape and costume were scanned in high detail—the cape in particular became a direct extensions of Superman's actions.
For the sequences involving the terraforming of the city Metropolis, Double Negative handled the visual effects for the sequence. In order to construct a Metropolis that seemed convincing and realistic, Double Negative utilized Esri's CityEngine to help procedurally deliver the city. "That was a much more sci-fi based role," said Double Negative visual effects supervisor Ged Wright, “so we took what they had done and extended it a great deal. The work we were doing was based around the Downtowns for New York, L.A. and Chicago and that gave us the building volumes for heights. We’d skin those volumes with kit parts, but most of it then had to fall down! So we had to rig it for destruction and use it for other aspects of the work as well."
For the destruction of the buildings, the studio rewrote its own asset system to focus towards its dynamic events. The Bullet physics software was a heavily impacted component for the utilization of the destruction. "We wanted to be able to run an RBD event and trigger all these secondary events, whether it was glass or dust simulations—all of those things needed to be chained up and handled in a procedural way," said Wright. "One of the advantages of this was that, because it was all based around a limited number of input components, you can make sure they're modeled in a way they’re usable in effects—you can model something but they'll be another stage to rig it for destruction." Fire, smoke, and water stimulation tools were developed at the Double Negative studio. The studio transitioned between the existing proprietary volume rendering software to rendering in Mantra for elements such as fireball sims. Double Negative also used the in-house fluids tool "Squirt" to handle larger scale sims and interaction for more tightly coupled volumes and particles. Regarding the battle between Superman and Zod, Double Negative implemented real photography onto its digital doubles.
Hans Zimmer initially denied popular rumors that he would be composing the film's score. However, in June 2012, it was confirmed that Zimmer would, in fact, be writing the film's musical score. To completely distinguish Man of Steel from the previous films, the iconic "Superman March" by John Williams was not used. Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Man of Steel was released publicly on June 11, 2013. An unofficial rip of the musical score from the third trailer, entitled "An Ideal of Hope", confirmed to be a cut-down version of the track "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?", was released on April 19, 2013. In late April 2013, the official track listing of the two-disc deluxe edition was revealed.
Man of Steel held a red carpet premiere at the Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City on June 10, 2013, which featured the attendance of the principal cast members. The film received a wide release on June 14, 2013, in conventional, 3D, and IMAX theaters.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics won the rights to the domain name manofsteel.com, in use by a member of the public, for use for the film's official website. On November 20, 2012, for the release of The Dark Knight Rises DVD and Blu-ray, Warner Bros. launched a countdown on the film's website where fans could share the countdown on websites like Facebook or Twitter to unlock an "exclusive reward". On December 3, 2012, the "exclusive reward" was revealed to be an official Man of Steel teaser poster. The poster, which depicts Superman being arrested, generated a positive response and much speculation about the film's story. On December 10, 2012, a website appeared at dsrwproject.com that provided audio signals to be decoded by viewers. It was discovered to be related to the film due to the copyright on the website. By December 11, 2012, the decoded message led readers to another website with a countdown that led to the public release of the trailer. In anticipation of the film, Mattel unveiled a toy line which includes Movie Masters action figures. In addition, Lego will release three Man of Steel sets, inspired by scenes from the film; Rubie’s Costume Co. also released a new line of Man of Steel-inspired costumes and accessories for both kids and adults. The film has reportedly earned over $160 million from promotional tie-ins.
Viral marketing campaigns for the film began when the official website was replaced by "deep space radio waves". The message was decoded to reveal a voice that said "You Are Not Alone". The official site continued to be updated with new static files that slowly revealed the symbol for the film's villain, General Zod. Shortly after, the website was replaced with a "message" from Zod, who requested that Earth must return Kal-El to his custody and told Kal-El to surrender within 24 hours or the world would suffer the consequences. A viral site called "IWillFindHim.com" was released that showed a countdown to the third trailer for the film.
Warner Bros. enlisted a Christian-based marketing firm Grace Hill Media to help spread the Christian themes of the film to the religious demographics. Special trailers were created outlining the religious tones. Hollywood studios frequently market movies to specific religious and cultural groups. Warner Bros. previously marketed films such as The Blind Side, The Notebook, The Book of Eli and the Harry Potter series to faith-based groups. Warner Bros. asked Professor Craig Detweiler of Pepperdine University to "create a Superman-centric sermon outline for pastors titled 'Jesus: The Original Superhero.'" Paul Asay of The Washington Post writes that the "religious themes keep coming: Free will. Sacrifice. God-given purpose. Man of Steel isn't just a movie. It's a Bible study in a cape. The messages are so strong that its marketers been [sic] explicitly pushing the film to Christian audiences."
Man of Steel was released as a single disc DVD (feature film only), on two-disc DVD with bonus features, and respective Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D combo packs on November 12, 2013, and in the United Kingdom on December 2, 2013. As of January 2015, Man of Steel has sold 2,279,088 DVDs along with 3,153,563 Blu-ray Discs totalling $41,500,264 and $63,820,325, respectively for a total of $105,320,589. The film was later released in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format on July 19, 2016.
Man of Steel grossed $291 million in the United States and Canada, and $377 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $668 million, making it the highest-grossing solo Superman film ever, and the second-highest-grossing reboot of all time behind The Amazing Spider-Man (although it did beat The Amazing Spider-Man in North America). Calculating in all expenses, Deadline.com estimated that the film made a profit of $42.7 million, for Warner Bros. The film earned $116.6 million on its opening weekend, including $17.5 million from IMAX theaters.
Man of Steel made $12 million from a Thursday night Walmart screening program, and an additional $9 million from midnight shows. This marked Warner Bros.' third-highest advance night/midnight opening, and the biggest advance night/midnight debut for a non-sequel. The film eventually earned $44 million during its opening Friday (including midnight grosses) and $56.1 million when the Thursday night showings are included. The opening-day gross was the second highest for a non-sequel, and the 20th largest overall. Its opening weekend gross of $116.6 million was the third-highest of 2013, behind Iron Man 3 ($174.1 million) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158.1 million), and the third-highest among non-sequels, behind Marvel's The Avengers ($207.4 million) and The Hunger Games ($152.5 million). It also broke Toy Story 3's record ($110.3 million) for the highest weekend debut in June (the record was again broken two years later by Jurassic World's opening gross of $208.8 million). However, on its second weekend, Man of Steel's box office fell almost 65%–68% if the Thursday night gross is included—putting it in third place, behind Monsters University and World War Z. Box Office Mojo called it an "abnormally large drop," close to the second weekend decline for Green Lantern.
Man of Steel earned $73.3 million on its opening weekend from 24 countries, which includes $4.2 million from 79 IMAX theaters, setting a June opening-weekend record for IMAX. The film set an opening-day record in the Philippines with $1.66 million. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta, the film earned $5.6 million on its opening day and £11.2 million ($17.47 million) on its opening weekend. Its biggest opener outside the United States was in China, with $25.9 million in four days (Thursday to Sunday). In total earnings, its three largest countries after North America are China ($63.4 million), the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta ($46.2 million) and Australia ($22.3 million).
Man of Steel received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 55%, based on 300 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's consensus reads, "Man of Steel's exhilarating action and spectacle can't fully overcome its detours into generic blockbuster territory." On Metacritic, the film received a weighted score of 55 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audience polls in North America from CinemaScore for the film tallied an average grade of an "A–" on an A+ to F scale, with those under the age of 18 and older than 50 giving it an "A". Cavill's performance as Superman earned mixed reviews, with some critics commenting on perceived stiffness and a lack of charisma.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said that Man of Steel covered no new ground with regard to Superman films, and instead, "we're plunged back into a mostly-underwhelming film, with underdeveloped characters and supercharged-fight scenes that drag on and offer nothing new in the way of special-effects creativity". The Boston Globe's Ty Burr wrote, "What’s missing from this Superman saga is a sense of lightness, of pop joy". The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday stated that with "Hans Zimmer’s turgid, over-produced score", the film "is an exceptionally-unpleasant viewing experience". For The Denver Post's Lisa Kennedy, the chief problem with Man of Steel is the "rhythm and balance in the storytelling and directing" which resulted in a film that swings "between destructive overstatement and flat-footed homilies."
Kofi Outlaw, Editor-in-Chief at Screenrant.com, gave Man of Steel a 4 out of 5 star review, stating that "Man of Steel has more than earned its keep, and deserves to be THE iconic Superman movie for a whole new generation". He would go on to name Man of Steel the best Superhero movie of 2013. Jim Vejvoda of IGN gave Man of Steel a 9 out of 10 while praising the action sequences and the performances of Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it a 3 stars out of 4, saying, "Caught in the slipstream between action and angst, Man of Steel is a bumpy ride for sure. But there's no way to stay blind to its wonders." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said rebooting the franchise was unnecessary, but that the film was confident enough and Snyder's attention to detail careful enough that audiences could overlook another reboot. PopMatters journalist J.C. Maçek III, wrote, "The path of this flawed savior isn’t quite the one that we have been led to expect and many fans will love that and many fans will decry its comic book-divergent choices. On the other hand, barring Lois Lane’s own knowledge of the dual nature of Clark and Superman (thus depriving one of fiction’s greatest reveals), the hero we see in the final moments of Man of Steel is nothing if not the character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created… with just a bit more in the 'imperfections' column." Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay Times stated that, "Man of Steel is more than just Avengers-sized escapism; it's an artistic introduction to a movie superhero we only thought we knew." Time magazine's Richard Corliss said, "The movie finds its true, lofty footing not when it displays Kal-El’s extraordinary powers, but when it dramatizes Clark Kent’s roiling humanity. The super part of Man of Steel is just okay, but the man part is super." In a review on Roger Ebert's website, Matt Zoller Seitz awarded the film three out of four stars, calling it an "astonishing movie" and praising the conflict between Clark and Zod. But he criticized the film for not having more personal and intimate moments between Clark and Lois. In 2014, Empire ranked Man of Steel the 286th greatest film ever made on their list of "The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time" as voted by the magazine's readers.
Speaking to Fox Business Channel, Grae Drake, senior editor of Rotten Tomatoes, expressed dismay over the critical reception, stating, "As much as I love and respect our critics at Rotten Tomatoes, I've got to say I am shocked. Listen, the movie’s not perfect but ... I just cannot fathom it. It was a good movie, you guys."
Reaction to the film among comics creators was mixed. Those who enjoyed it include Jeff Parker, Heidi MacDonald, Ethan Van Sciver, Christos Gage and former Superman writer Dan Jurgens. Among its detractors were Joe Keatinge, Sean McKeever, Gabriel Hardman and Mark Waid. MacDonald praised the film's action, drama and leads Henry Cavill and Amy Adams. Van Sciver singled out Cavill in particular for praise. Gage called it the best Superman film since 1980's Superman II. Hardman said that he liked a lot of the mechanics but did not connect with the characters, which robbed the story of tension. Waid, who wrote the origin miniseries Superman: Birthright, criticized the film for its overall "joyless" tone, and for Superman's decision to kill Zod, a criticism echoed by other creators. Writer Grant Morrison, who wrote the critically acclaimed miniseries All-Star Superman, expressed mixed reaction to the film, saying that while he "kinda liked it and kinda didn’t", it did not present anything new, as he would have preferred a "second act" type story with Lex Luthor instead of re-establishing the character by presenting information Morrison is already familiar with. Morrison also questioned the need for a superhero to kill, as did artist Neal Adams, who suggested that other avenues were open to Superman when Zod threatened innocents with his heat vision, such as covering his eyes. Adams further took issue with Superman's failure to move the final battle with Zod away from the heavily populated Metropolis, as the character did at the end of Superman II.
The success of Man of Steel started Warner Bros. plans of an extended universe featuring other DC Comics characters. In June 2013, Goyer was hired to write the sequel to Man of Steel, as well as a new Justice League script, with the previous draft being scrapped. In July 2013, Snyder announced at San Diego Comic-Con International that the sequel to Man of Steel would have Superman and Batman meeting for the first time in a cinematic format. Cavill, Adams, Lane and Fishburne signed on to reprise their roles. Snyder stated that the film would take inspiration from the comic The Dark Knight Returns. In August 2013, Ben Affleck was announced to be playing Batman, while Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman in December 2013. Later in December, Chris Terrio was hired to rewrite the script, due to Goyer's commitments in other projects. In January 2014, it was announced that the film had been delayed from its original July 17, 2015 release date to May 6, 2016. In April 2014, it was announced that Zack Snyder would also be directing Goyer's Justice League script. In May 2014, the film's title was revealed to be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner Bros. was reportedly courting Chris Terrio to rewrite Justice League the following July, after having been impressed with his rewrite of Batman v Superman. While Superman star Henry Cavill doesn't consider it a Superman sequel, director Zack Snyder stated that he "think[s] in a way Batman v Superman is Man of Steel 2", but added that a future standalone Superman film was not in development.
In August 2016, The Wrap reported that WB put the film in active development as a top priority. The news of a standalone Superman film were later confirmed by Dany Garcia, Cavill's manager. While promoting Arrival, Amy Adams confirmed that work had begun on the screenplay. In March 2017, it was announced that Matthew Vaughn was being eyed by Warner Bros. to direct.