Superman Forever would be the fourth film in my “what I would do” series. The ending of Superman Triumphant would have led into a Justice League of America movie. Therefore, this movie would not pick up on the threads that were established in that one, but they would have already been dealt with in the JLA movie. This movie would be the first cinematic solo Superman adventure since Superman Triumphant. I may go back later and detail my thoughts on that JLA movie, but for now am sticking with Superman only.
During the events of JLA, Superman came into contact with professor Ray Palmer. Palmer believes he can help Superman solve the dilemma of restoring the bottle city of Kandor, that he has been struggling with since the first movie, Superman Unleashed. Using his experimental white dwarf star device, Palmer shrinks Superman and himself and they travel to Kandor.
This is Superman’s first real contact with the Kryptonian survivors. At the time of Brainiac’s attack there had been a conference to determine the validity of Jor-El’s claims about Krypton’s impending doom. Several heads of state, scientists, and military leaders were gathered and have since survived inside Kandor. Superman learns that his uncle, Zor-El and his family, wife Allura and daughter Kara, were at this conference and survived as a result. Ecstatic to meet members of his family for the first time, Kal-El is shown and introduced around Kandor. Kal-El is told that the great minds assembled in Kandor have been working on how to end their imprisonment in Braniac’s bottle. Working together, Palmer is confident that they can find the solution. Superman is then introduced to Krypton’s greatest military mind, General Dru Zod.
Palmer, deciding to stay behind to work, sends Superman back to Earth and enlarges him. Kara goes back with him when her parents decide that she has now spent more of her life inside the bottle than not. Returning to the Fortress of Solitude, some of the Kryptonian technology in Kara’s suit activates the Eradicator device, unbeknownst to them.
Superman takes Kara back to civilization and introduces her to Lois and his friends in Metropolis. They then travel to Smallville to meet Jonathan and Martha Kent. Over the course of their travels, Clark starts to become short with people and increasingly cold. A few days later, when Superman takes Kara back to Kandor, he is frustrated that Palmer hasn’t come up with a solution yet and snaps at him. Confused, Ray explains to Kal-El that they are confident that they will come up with a solution. Allura, reassures him that they have waited a long time to be free and can wait a little longer. Superman rejects this and returns to the Fortress.
Over the next few weeks Superman slowly retreats from Clark Kent’s life. Eventually, he stop’s taking Lois’ calls and is more and more isolated. As Superman, he deals with petty criminals more aggressively than necessary. He encounters supervillain, Livewire during this time and dipatches her violently. Finally, walking away from his life on Earth entirely, Kal-El goes back to the Fortress of Solitude to work on the solution for Kandor around the clock. Almost unconsciously, he starts wearing Kryptonian clothes, and is devising equations beyond his capability.
Realizing that Palmer’s current technology is insufficient to restore Kandor, he travels to STAR Labs in Metropolis. There he is greeted by Emil Hamilton who inquires about Superman’s new outfit. Kal-El dismisses him and proceeds to the vault where the white dwarf material is held. Ignoring the other scientists and security, he demolishes the vault and takes the white dwarf matter.
Back at the Fortress, Kal-El starts to work on a way to enlarge Kandor, and is greeted by General Zod. Kal notices that Zod is now wearing Palmer’s white dwarf device. Zod blasts Kal-El with a Kryptonian weapon. General Zod explains to Kal-El that he knew that Brainiac would have obtained the Eradicator and slipped a device on Kara’s suit that would activate it. He then tells Kal that the Eradicator was built to preserve Krypton’s way of life. The Eradicator has been affecting Kal by pushing him away from his human entanglements to focus him on Kandor’s restoration. Zod is determined to be seen as the savior of Kandor for his own personal glory, but also to stage a coup to rule over Kandor when it is enlarged.
Aware of what has happened to him, Superman starts to fend off the Eradicator’s influence. As he does this, Zod flies at him as they crash through the Fortress, into the antarctic cold. Remarking on how after so little time Earth’s yellow sun has already started to augment him, Zod proceeds to pummel Superman. Superman realizes that the general’s powers haven’t fully developed yet, but that he has to shake off the fog that the Eradicator has left him with quickly. As they fight, Zod ridicules Superman for the garb he is wearing, as he is not a true Kryptonian. This only pushes Superman to fight harder.
Finally, Zod, his strength growing, rips up a chunk of the icy ground as smashes Superman into the ground beneath them. Turning to leave him, Zod is waylaid by an unseen force. Perplexed, General Zod looks up to see Kara Zor-El in a Superman styled outfit, with Palmer behind her with a Kryptonian style white dwarf device. Kara proclaims that she is Supergirl and is here to stop Zod. After Supergirl and Zod trade blows for a while, an enormous crack can be heard echoing throughout the sky. Like a thunderbolt from the ground, Superman bursts through and sends Zod flying.
Realizing he is defeated, General Zod sends a signal to his men in Kandor. The rebels activate the white dwarf machine in Kandor prematurely. Sounds of far off explosions can be heard from the Fortress of Solitude. Superman and the other look to see the Fortress collapsing in on itself, while the city of Kandor rises from it.
When the ice has settled, Allura contacts Kara to tell her that Zod’s forces are rebelling across the city. They realize that they need to be stopped before they gain enhanced abilities from Earth’s yellow sun. Palmer also notes that he is not sure if Kandor is stable due to Brainiac’s process and that his machine wasn’t finished properly. While Superman and Supergirl fight their way across the city, Allura decides that more drastic solutions are needed. Needing to ensure Kandor’s survival, Allura orders the Phantom Zone cannon to be deployed. A field surrounds the entire city to send it into the Kryptonian prison of the Phantom Zone. Allura tells Kara to go with Kal-El to Earth to live and that she has spent to much of her life imprisoned already. Kara, refusing to leave her family behind, is whisked away by Superman at the last second, having heard their argument via his super-hearing.
As Superman, Supergirl, and Ray Palmer stand at a safe distance, Kandor blinks out of our dimension. Only a crater is left behind, even the remains of the Fortress of Solitude are now gone. The three then leave the antarctic to try to set their lives in order. Palmer returns to STAR Labs to explain Superman’s behavior and return the remaining white dwarf star matter. Kara starts her new life in Smallville with Pa and Ma Kent. Clark returns to Lois to apologize and start to get his life back. Clark laments to Lois about how he found his family only to have them taken from him again, with the exception of Kara. Lois comforts Clark with the news that their family will be increasing by one, soon enough.