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I recently re-watched Man of Steel after seeing the new Batman v Superman movie. It occurred to me that I couldn't explain the reasoning behind the failure of the Kryptonian colonies in Man of Steel.

If Zod and his followers recovered a World Engine and the scout ship found on Earth had a Genesis Chamber, surely there were more of each out there (these were not made out to be unique items). With such high technology and likely other planets with yellow (or red suns) available, what reason could there be for the colonies to fail?

While it is certainly left open-ended that other colonies could have survived, Zod's dialogue in the film suggests a spectacular number of the colonies died off/failed.

Why?

  • Possibly relevant: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Chris B. Behrens Apr 12 '16 at 15:49
  • Possibly. When the Roman Empire fell, it left behind numerous other nations, states and groups. All the humans didn't simply die. – Suspended User Apr 12 '16 at 15:54
  • Definitely - but it could be that we simply didn't see the nearby civilizations. It could have been that they were merely visiting the equivalent of local ruins. – Chris B. Behrens Apr 12 '16 at 15:55
  • The impression I got was that this was setting something up for future films (probably brainiac). It's been ages since I saw the film though, so I don't know if there's anything on-screen to support this. – evilsoup Apr 12 '16 at 16:36
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    Because they kept insisting on colonizing low quality worlds around red suns. Dependent on Krypton, these colonies died when their home planet did. – Thaddeus Howze Apr 12 '16 at 19:14
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The film's official novelisation offers some insight into why the Kryptonian colonies failed. The major problem seems to be that no matter how fabulously wealthy they were, these colonies lacked self-sufficiency and seem to have relied on Krypton to continuously provide them with supplies. Over time, the Kryptonian civilisation waned and their colonies were cut off, drifting into disrepair and finally abandoned entirely:

“What happened?” he asked.
“Space exploration was abandoned,” Jor-El explained. “We exhausted our natural resources. As a result, our planet’s core became unstable. Eventually, our military leader — General Zod — attempted a coup. But by then, it was too late.”

Worse still, when the colonies were cut off by Krypton's decision to withdraw from space travel many colonists were evidently left to die, lacking the ability to return

All they found was death. The skeletons of long-dead colonists littered the crumbling structures, which were being eaten away by the relentless winds. Cut off from Krypton after space exploration became a discarded luxury, the abandoned outpost had withered and died, perhaps even before Krypton had. Zod and his followers found no long-lost brothers and sisters.

As to why the tech is still lying around, it seems that it was left unused by the failing colonies in the faint hope that that they could use it when times improved.

Yet the expedition still yielded some benefits. Work crews from the Black Zero salvaged everything they could from the dead outpost—armor, weapons, even a massive World Engine only somewhat smaller than the Black Zero. The towering mechanism had apparently been left idle after the colonists lost hope,

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    I like this answer. It seems opposed to the facts of a working World Engine and Scout Ship (with Genesis Chamber) just laying around. But, perhaps the answer is that Krypton had "magical" kryptonite that Kryptonian technology relied on and they were unable to find elsewhere. – Suspended User Apr 12 '16 at 17:25
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    @SuspendedUser - Ah, that's also covered. "Yet the expedition still yielded some benefits. Work crews from the Black Zero salvaged everything they could from the dead outpost—armor, weapons, even a massive World Engine only somewhat smaller than the Black Zero. The towering mechanism had apparently been left idle after the colonists lost hope" – Valorum Apr 12 '16 at 18:00
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    There's a certain symmetry present if one considers Jor-El's belief that Krypton's selected engineering and breeding program has "lost" them something. Something that he was attempting to restore. Something that his house symbol stood for.... – Suspended User Apr 12 '16 at 19:26
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As I recall Zod states that the colonies failed because the central home planet met its end.

Implied is that the colonies relied on the home planet in some way and could not exist when it suddenly was no longer there to depend on.

Rather horrific visions suggest the colonists met their end suddenly and gruesomely and that there was no one left to care for the dead, either.

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