Superman’s First Flight: Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel Launched the DCEU 7 Years Ago Today

Man of Steel launched the DC Extended Universe when director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot took [...]

Man of Steel launched the DC Extended Universe when director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot took flight on June 14, 2013. Snyder, who previously adapted comic book tales 300 and Watchmen for Warner Bros., was hired as director after then-president Jeff Robinov admitted 2006's Superman Returns — a continuation of the Christopher Reeve-starring Superman and Superman II, with Brandon Routh portraying the Kryptonian superhero — "didn't quite work" as a franchise restart. Produced by Christopher Nolan and scripted by David S. Goyer, who successfully relaunched another DC Comics superhero in Batman Begins, Snyder's Man of Steel was envisioned as a "first step" into a shared DC universe.

In Man of Steel, Kal-El (Henry Cavill) becomes the last son of Krypton when he's shuttled away from the doomed planet by parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer). Landing on Earth, where he's raised by Smallville farmers Martha (Diane Lane) and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), the alien child is christened Clark Kent and grows into an outcast upon discovering his superhuman powers.

When he's tracked down by Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) at the same time Krypton native General Zod (Michael Shannon) escapes the galactic Phantom Zone alongside his followers — who seek to acquire the genetic codex hosted by Kal-El, the key to creating a new civilization — the alien invaders attempt to use powerful terraforming devices to transform Earth into a new Krypton, compelling Kal-El to take action as his world's greatest hero: Superman.

Man of Steel went on to gross $668 million worldwide to become the highest-grossing Superman film and the ninth biggest earner of 2013, a year dominated by Disney's animated Frozen ($1.28 billion) and Marvel Studios' Iron Man 3 ($1.21 billion).

Snyder returned to direct its sequel, 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which fulfilled the studio's long-held plans for a crossover between its two biggest superheroes when Cavill's Superman clashed with Ben Affleck's Batman in his debut appearance. Also introduced was Amazon warrior Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who joined the two superheroes in their battle to halt the rampaging creature unleashed by the maniacal Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

Cavill would play the role a third time in Justice League, where Superman joined the team established by Batman, Wonder Woman, and new allies Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller). That film, originally directed by Snyder but completed by Joss Whedon, will be re-released to HBO Max as Zack Snyder's Justice League sometime in 2021 as an all-new director's cut fulfilling Snyder's original vision for the superhero ensemble.