One of the very best Superman comics, Superman: Red Son, explores what might have happened if Superman had landed in Soviet Ukraine instead of the American Bible Belt. Man of Steel follows a similar line of thought: what would happen if Superman had landed on a planet where all the inhabitants had bones growing through their brains?
The film begins on Superman’s home planet of Caucasia just as he is being born. His mother is lying on a table while Javert circles her like a semi-concussed vulture. Caucasian medicine is so extremely advanced that floating robots can create 3D representations of the unborn child in the womb, but not so advanced that they’ve made childbirth a painless experience. But Javert doesn’t have time for all this birthing crap, he has to go to the High Council of Caucasians to deliver some exposition. It turns out that the Caucasians were running out of natural resources to power their lifestyles. Instead of turning off some lights — or any of the thirty billion gizmos that they seem to have inexplicably left on — they decided to mine the core of Caucasia.
Fools! The Grand High Wizards on the Caucasian Chalk Circle didn’t listen to Javert when he explained that this would cause the planet to explode, and now the planet is exploding. Javert has decided that it is impossible to evacuate even a single person from the planet before the planet explodes, but has come to ask for the Codex — a McGuffin over which everybody will fight for the rest of the film. The Codex — claims Javert, Caucasia’s Chief Expositor — is needed in order to let the Caucasian race rise again. Or something.
No time for explanations, General Zod has started attacking the High Council of Caucasians… though nobody is sure why. Something about Zod wanting to enact some kind of eugenics programme? Javert and Zod do not like each other, but they clearly have some kind of shared history together (because they say as much).
After a bunch of bright lights, Javert escapes on the back of one of those flying dragon things from Avatar (h/t James for that reference). Stupid Caucasian flying spaceships (probably powered by the same resources mined from the core of the planet…?) are unable to catch up with Javert, who has sufficient time to steal the Codex from some sort of Matrix-inspired birthing room and make it back to his brightly lit, energy-inefficient citadel of a home. Javert knew all along that Caucasia was dying, so he began making a spaceship that would be large enough to transport his newborn son to a faraway planet but would not be large enough to carry anybody else. The film spends a lot of time trying to convince us that this was somehow for a noble cause.