Superman Ascends is a 2012 American superhero film featuring the DC Comics character Superman, produced by Legendary Pictures, DC Entertainment, and Kennedy Miller Mitchell, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and is the first film in the DC Cinematic Universe. Directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by David S. Goyer, Ashley Edward Miller, and Zack Stentz, the film stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Kurt Russell, Julianne Moore, Mel Gibson, Chris Marquette, Lena Headey, Jim Caviezel, Lynn Collins, and Laurence Fishburne. Superman Ascends is a reboot of the Superman film series that retells the character's origin. In the film, Clark Kent learns he is a superpowered alien from the planet Krypton and assumes the role of Superman, but then must prevent General Zod from destroying humanity.
The planet Krypton is facing imminent destruction due to its increasingly unstable core. Scientist Jor-El attempts to warn the Kryptonian high council of the danger Krypton faces. Before any action can be taken, soldiers led by General Dru-Zod, an old friend of Jor-El’s, launch an uprising and overthrow the council. Knowing that artificial population control and isolationism have ruined their civilization, Jor-El and his wife Lara launch their infant son, Kal-El, the first naturally born Kryptonian child in centuries, on a spacecraft to Earth. Zod orders the rocket destroyed, but forces loyal to the council arrive to put down the rebellion. Based on Jor-El's testimony, Zod and his followers are convicted of treason and imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. However, they are indirectly freed when Krypton explodes.
Kal-El’s ship crash lands near Smallville, Kansas. He is found by a childless couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, who adopt him and raise him as their own, naming him Clark. Clark’s Kryptonian physiology grants him superhuman powers on Earth, much to his confusion. He then learns he is an extraterrestrial from Jonathan, who cautions him to use his powers carefully and gives him a key from the spacecraft that brought him to Earth. Several years later, Jonathan dies in a tornado when Clark fails to save him in time. After Jonathan's death, an adult Clark hears a strange noise emanating from the key and decides to travel, hoping to find a purpose to his life. Over the next several years, Clark works various jobs, anonymously performs good deeds, and begins to develop a connection to people.
In Metropolis, Clark takes a job as a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper, run by editor Perry White. Clark works alongside investigative journalist Lois Lane, to whom he develops an attraction, and photographer Jimmy Olsen. The trio is tasked with traveling to the Arctic, where an ancient Kryptonian scout ship has been discovered. The noise from the key leads Clark inside the ship and allows him to activate its central computer. The preserved consciousness of Jor-El appears in the form of a hologram, and explains Clark’s origins and the destruction of his home world. Jor-El tells Clark that he was sent to Earth to help mankind towards a better future, and presents him with a Kryptonian uniform bearing his family’s symbol. Lois sneaks inside the ship following Clark and is injured by the ship’s security system. Clark uses his powers to save Lois and returns her to safety before disappearing. Lois secretly begins to investigate Clark and eventually tracks him back to Smallville. After having dinner with him and Martha, she promises to keep his secret safe.
Clark dons the Kryptonian uniform and rescues a commercial airliner from crashing into an airport terminal, revealing himself to the world. Meanwhile, Zod and his crew pick up on a Kryptonian distress signal sent from the ship Clark discovered on Earth. Zod arrives and demands that humanity surrender Kal-El to him or risk war. After receiving advice from Jor-El, Clark meets with the U.S. military and agrees to comply, with Lois joing him as a hostage. Zod reveals that he possesses terraforming equipment salvaged from Kryptonian outposts, which he intends to use to transform Earth into a new Krypton and repopulate the planet with genetically-engineered Kryptonians. Zod asks Clark to join him, but Clark refuses and escapes Zod's ship along with Lois. Clark defeats Faora and another Kryptonian sent to eliminate him, just as Zod and his crew launch their invasion.
Having convinced the military that he is an ally, Clark destroys the terraforming device while his human allies launch an aerial strike on Zod’s ship, sending Zod’s troops back into the Phantom Zone. Zod survives and vows to kill as many humans as possible to avenge the destruction of his race. Zod engages Clark in a destructive battle across Metropolis, endangering and killing many civilians as Clark tries to protect them. When Zod attempts to drop a building on top of a crowd of innocent bystanders, Clark is forced to stop him by breaking his neck.
Clark obtains Zod’s body from the U.S. government and releases it into space, accepting his position as the last free surviving Kryptonian. Lois writes an article on the alien hero, in which she dubs him, "Superman." Clark returns to the scout ship found in the Arctic and transforms it into the Fortress of Solitude, storing the consciousness of his father in the fortress’s computer programs. In order to access dangerous situations without attracting attention, Clark returns to the Daily Planet and continues his career as Superman.
In a mid-credits scene, government agent John Jones types out the name "Clark Kent" and saves it a top secret file.
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Viggo Mortensen as General Dru-Zod
Kurt Russell as Jonathan Kent
Julianne Moore as Martha Kent
Mel Gibson as Perry White
Chris Marquette as Jimmy Olsen
Lena Headey as Lara Lor-Van
Jim Caviezel as Jor-El
Lynn Collins as Faora Hu-Ul
Laurence Fishburne as John Jones