In Man of Steel (2013), it is shown that Superman is as weak as a human on the Kryptonian spaceship after adapting to the ship's preset Kryptonian environment, even though he wasn't shielded from the sun. Therefore we can conclude that in a Kryptonian environment Superman loses his "special abilities". This concern is also voiced by Lois Lane when Superman was going to destroy the World Engine.

Now, when the Kryptonians came to Earth they wore some sort of a biosuit, which kept the inside of their environment similar to that of their ship, that is similar to that of Krypton.

Therefore even when they landed, all of them should have been as weak as humans.

But we see that the Kryptonians have an immense amount of strength, agility and lots of abilities even while wearing the biosuit.

Also Zod and Faura-Ul experience the powers only when their respirators are destroyed by Superman and exposed to the Sun.

Therefore, in the biosuit technically they should be powerless, though they aren't . My question is why?

They didn't get that energy from the Sun because they were wearing the biosuit and plus they were affected harshly when exposed to the Sun (which wouldn't have happened if they were deriving their energy from it).

  • 7
    You ask “Man of Steel Storyline Problem?” I ask “just one??” Jul 11, 2014 at 15:59
  • 6
    I thought that said "powerless in their biscuits".
    – Valorum
    Oct 1, 2014 at 22:22
  • I found this on YouTube, it does a very good job of explaining how Kryptonian Powers work. <youtu.be/IbxoAEPs1mY>
    – user69815
    Aug 5, 2016 at 17:30

9 Answers 9


Not plot holes but drawing incorrect conclusions

Your assumptions regarding both the Kryptonian ship and the Kryptonian battlesuits are not quite correct. This would have been alleviated if the writers had been just a bit more effective in delivering key information. It is also possible this information was edited out in post-production in order to save time for the gratuitous destruction of Metropolis.

Regarding the Kryptonian ship environment:

  • The environment on the ship was not simulating Krypton completely. There was no gravitational component because Lois Lane walked around just fine, not doubled over from the strain of increased gravity.

  • If the ship was going to provide a Krypton-like environment, it is probable the ship emulated atmospheric conditions particularly atmospheric makeup and pressures (which if Krypton was a heavy-g world) would be quite impressive and likely quite surprising for someone unused to such a dense and thick atmosphere. It would definitely leave Kal-El without his powers, helpless while he adjusted.

  • The shielding on the ship either electromagnetic outside the hull or using specialized materials in the make up of the hull, could allow the light from the sun to enter but filter the energy required for the existence of superhuman ability while onboard the ship. Given the level of Kryptonian technological sophistication (over 100,000 years of space travel) it shouldn't be difficult to isolate the solar energy making sure it is no more empowering than a flashlight.

  • Since those superhuman powers are not considered the norm in the Kryptonian environment, it makes sense they would filter any energies which would give an advantage to Kal-El. This is simply good judgement on their part, knowing he has been living in the environment for some time.

  • Without those energies, Zod and crew would outnumber Kal-El and would have the upper hand due to numbers, training and whatever advantages their armored suits offered in a Kryptonian environment.

  • Once there was a hole in the hull of the spacecraft, Kal-El's powers returned indicating it was the ship inhibiting his absorption of energy required to utilize his superhuman abilities.

Regarding the Kryptonian armor:

  • It is never truly discussed what advantages the suits offered except for sensory protection against the manifestation of super-senses. The suit must be able to interact with the sensory capacities of the Kryptonians regulating input of information. This would indeed offer protection against the enhancement which would inevitably happen if they stayed in the Terran environment for any length of time.

  • The suits did not stop the Kryptonians from acquiring superhuman abilities which is seen when Faora Ul and her oversized companion face off against Kal-El in Smallville. We are forced to assume the powers exercised are the same ones gained by Kal-El being on Earth because they do not exercise such powers while they are on Krypton and still wearing the same battlesuits. If their suits gave them superhuman abilities, they would have used them during the coup. They did not.

  • His strength returned before punching a hole in the spacecraft's hull (adjusting to the atmospheric conditions), super-strength was alluded to (I think by Jor'El when Kal discovered the Colony ship) as the result of Earth's lower gravity, but there was no evidence of higher Kryptonian gravity on the ship.
    – SteB
    Jun 27, 2013 at 7:37
  • Both your and Donald's answers reference a difference in gravity. What's this based on? I don't recall any mention of gravitational differences between Earth and Krypton in the film.
    – user1027
    Jun 27, 2013 at 18:05
  • 3
    The standard lore says Krypton was a heavy-G planet. This is one of those things which varies from continuity to continuity. However, Jor-El does mention that Kal-El under their gravity and yellow sun would be like a god to them. Jun 27, 2013 at 18:36
  • "save time for the gratuitous destruction of Metropolis." so true! Can't fit that important piece of the movie in if you fill all your time trying to explain things, gosh!
    – Möoz
    Jun 13, 2014 at 3:09
  • You all keep talking about Kryptonian armor filtering UV and supplying them with Krypton's air, but I wonder why NOBODY tries to explain it's apparent indestructibility! I can understand that it is so advanced that it cannot be damaged by human weapons, but what about Superman punching Zod in the face with his supermight and he couldn't even make a scratch in that transparent part? That looked weird to me. And all that throwing around breaking buildings, being hit by a rocket, ploughing through asphalt and concrete also couldn't damage those armors? That's weird...
    – Vitas
    Dec 30, 2018 at 14:43

Jor-El has a short bit of narration on the subject. He highlights three sources of Clark's powers. The higher-energy sun, the gravity being milder on Earth, and the 'more nourishing' atmosphere:

Earth's sun is younger and brighter than Krypton's was. Your cells have drunk in its radiation, strengthening your muscles, your skin, your senses. Earth's gravity is weaker, yet its atmosphere is more nourishing. You've grown stronger here than I ever imagined.

  • Earth's sun and weak gravity grants Kryptonians superhuman strength, invulnerability, and speed. You see this by the Kryptonians fighting the human Army and Superman; while in their armor/space-suits, they display these powers.

  • Exposure to Earth's atmosphere grants Kryptonians x-ray vision, heat vision, super-hearing, and (possibly) flight.

You can see this by watching Zod. When his suit's shield is breached (exposing him to Earth's atmosphere), he suddenly has x-ray vision and super-hearing a la Clark's broom closet flashback.

Later, Zod removes his armor/space-suit. Then he shows his capability to fly. So, it's unclear if flight was due to the sun or the atmosphere. When Clark is exposed to Kryptonian atmosphere while destroying the World Engine, it's not clear if he flies through it or just jumps through it.

When Clark is exposed to the Kryptonian atmosphere on the ship, it's disorienting and sickens him. He loses some of his super powers while he adjusts to the Kryptonian atmosphere, but "Jor-El" manipulates the atmosphere on the ship to be similar to Earth, granting him his full powerset. During this sequence, blood is drawn from Clark, but it's unclear if Krytonian metals are simply strong enough to pierce his skin (like the drone that attacked him when he entered the buried scoutship) or if he was physically not invulnerable.


The reason Kryptonians have super strength, speed, and flight is because of earth's weaker gravity, not because of the sun. The sun affected their other abilities, like super-hearing, heat vision, and x-ray vision.

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    If that is true, why did Earth's atmosphere restore Superman's super strength? Unfortunately I think they made a continuity flaw when they wanted to temporarily disable Superman's powers. Jun 26, 2013 at 19:52

The biosuits merely filtered out a portion of the UV rays the Kryptonians where exposed too, as well as a large portion of the sensory input which caused both Zod and Faora pain once their helmets where destroyed (similar to how Clark hid in the broom closet at school once his sensory powers first activated). This still granted them super strength, and invulnerability but they weren't able to access the flight and other powers Clark had until they fully exposed themselves. The problem with the interior of the Kryptonian ship had less to do with blocking the UV radiaton and more with the breathable atmosphere. That was the reason why Lois had to wear a respirator once they reached the interior, Clark could adapt back to the atmosphere, but her human physiology couldn't. Similar to how humans can adapt to higher altitudes, but their strength would be diminished at first.


The film introduces "atmosphere" as a co-dependent power source which confuses things for so many, in order to give Zod and his platoon a weakness of sorts. Having said that, for this film series the weaknesses, the additions and exclusions of how Kryptonians derive their power makes Superman more vulnerable, without using Kryptonite or a genius Lex Luthor yet! It gives more scope for future movies.

I really like Keen's (June27) explanation which reconciles this new "atmospheric" source of power for the film. To expand on Keen's explanation would be to consider any reference to the 'ship's atmospherics' as one that encompasses both Krypton's atmosphere as well as radiation from their native red giant star plus the ship blocking our Sun's radiation... perhaps the biosuits and breathers are the same except without the red giant radiation part, with their basic abilities such as strength, speed and invulnerability derived from their natural Kryptonian physiology as well as the Sun.

However, in introducing atmosphere as an addition source, they wipe out entirely the comic book lore that Clark is a living battery and his augmented powers are a direct result of this energy store and manipulation by his natural physiology. To reinforce the film idea that he is no longer a battery is the fact that his powers can be switched on and off quite easily.

Comics generally show his basic powers of speed, strength, invulnerability and perhaps flight are due to his Kryptonian physiology from being from a more massive planet (high G giving dense structure: skin, bones, muscle therefore strength and speed and invulnerability and maybe anti grav organs, harsh environment and weak solar radiation to give efficient organs such as eyes, skin, lungs etc...). Kryptonians are also highly evolved minds and another explanation used in comics of Clark's ability to fly would be a form of self-telekinesis.

The radiation from a yellow star is of a wider spectrum and perhaps more energetic than a red giant. Clark's extra abilities stem from storing this energy for years, augmenting his natural strength/speed as well as augmenting things that are also natural to humans - such as the senses. His heat vision in comics is the ultimate expression of this power stored. Comics use the fact that Clark like any battery can deplete his store of energy when cut off from a yellow star but because he has stored it for years it take a long time to both store and be used up. The solar battery explanation has been explained as one more evolutionary step that Kryptonians living on a darker world circling a Red Giant would evolved the ability to absorb and use everything their star had to offer. Hardly in the same league but most land vertebrates on Earth absorb UV light to produce vitamin D in order to absorb calcium for the skeleton.


I've always assumed that superman's powers derived from three separate sources: earth' slower gravity, earth's more nourishing atmosphere, and the yellow star earth orbits. From everything I've gathered, it's superman's mass that makes him impenetrable. The yellow sun and atmosphere give him flight, etc.

It would make sense, that given his adjustment to earth's atmosphere, he would suffer away from it. Would it kill him? Probably not, but it would be similar to an average human asked to run a lap at 20,000 feet. He is no weaker than any of the kryptonians on the ship, he just isn't used to the atmosphere. However, his biology would allow him to adapt in time... Humans would not.

  • How does this answer the question "Therefore, in the biosuit technically they should be powerless, though they aren't . My question is why?"
    – Stan
    Nov 16, 2013 at 11:51

I think the last answer is the most correct one. In Man of steel Kal is still a battery who NEEDS for NOW that he's starting to use his powers at a certain level (like he never did before bc he didn'T have to) a non kryptonian atmostphere to be able to use them. In fact, it's more likely that the kryptonian atmosphere poisons him because he is not USED TO IT and cancel his powers. This is why on the ship once the atmosphere is switched to an earth-like one (a NON KRYPTONIAN atmosphere or no atomsphere at all when in space), he INSTANTLY gets back his super strenght and super powers. Kal powers still came from the sun since he was exposed for a long time period (33 years) he stored all this powers on the opposite of the kryptonians who have superhuman abilities once on earth due to the current sun. they can only use them when they re in earth. And the same thing can be said with the atmosphere since they re not used to earth atmosphere, it poisons them so they need their home atmosphere to enable their superpowers which source is the sun!! that's why they uses respiratory devices! Plus since they are trained soldiers their skills let them master their senses way faster than kal. I ASSUME that if Kal stayed long enough with a kyrptonian atmosphere he will still get his powers back (first step he learned to breath and with more time he ll get his powers back). The ONLY slight difference with the comics about the powers there is is that the rich atmosphere enchanced his senses. We can actually see that with Zod taking off his helmet. so xray, superhearing, telescopic vision, and heat vision are due to the atmosphere/sun.

  • You might consider editing this into paragraphs, and also for clarity; it's a rather large block of text. Checking out the Tour might also help you get a better idea of how to answer questions here. We're not a typical discussion forum. Jul 11, 2014 at 15:48

I'm no Superman expert. He's my favorite because of all he can do, but I've never read a comic about him; just know him from movies and online research. This movie was good but hated the concept of krypton's atmosphere making Superman powerless. It goes against all I know of Superman.

As for your question, I think the short answer is that their suits were just for armor and protection from their sensory powers going wild in the shock of going from no yellow sunlight absorption to being bathed in it.(I don't think their suits gave them air like on krypton, because they didn't need it; confirmed by Zod fighting Superman without it completely). They still absorbed all of the Sun's rays through the suit, so they still got the super strength, super speed, invulnerability, and either the sensory abilities like x-ray vision,super vision, and super hearing(maybe more) came only from the earth atmosphere (I don't think so) or the suit just protected them from their sensory abilities from going wild or activating at all (which is what I believe) especially since later after Zod's helmet broke, he got himself use to not having the protection of his suit and fought Superman without it.

I also want to point this out because I saw someone talk about it but when Zod had his suit on, at one point he was "climbing" up a skyscraper while Superman was flying towards him, which makes me believe he couldn't fly but as soon as he took his suit off he was levitating. So apparently the suit DOES hinder flying too.

  • Zod climb/jumping the building does not necessarily mean he couldn't fly with his armor. I think it is because he did not learn/realize he could fly. Clark also needed to learn it and it took some time.
    – Vitas
    Dec 30, 2018 at 14:38

Earth and krypton are 2 completely different planets the latter being harsher the proof being superman and lets say zod. To kryptons earth is nourishing to humans it's harsh if humans went to krypton the gravity would likely crush us 1st. How this helps explain the suit and ship confusion it helps a lot. The suits keeps the radiation of the Sun out and mimic the atmosphere of krypton which is a mistake wearing the since both actually make them stronger and give them more abilities like superman since no native krypton showed the same abilities like zod until he took off the suit. In regards to the ship it's the same on the account of the gravity field it creates zod and any other krypton on the ship probably changed the output so the reporter girl wouldn't get crushed by it.

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