Please indulge me in some fanfiction. Believe it or not, I once had a full Superman script typed out before the Man of Steel trailer even landed. Having now lost it twice and too tired to try and recreate it a third time, I’m just going to put up an overview of my dream cape project.
It was sometime after Nolan’s Batman saga had finished I started thinking, “what if Superman had a movie trilogy where he was taken seriously like that?”
Of course some might say, “isn’t that Man of Steel?” but I object to the categorization that “serious” must always equal “dour.” A comedic movie can still be serious. Just contrast Galaxy Quest with say… Spaceballs. Both are hilarious movies (and some of my favorites) but Galaxy Quest is fundamentally a movie where the ideas and characters and story are taken seriously. Spaceballs on the other hand is very silly and treats the subject manner as silly.
The Dark Knight trilogy takes Batman seriously because even though there’s a little something ridiculous in the concept, it looks at what kind of world would require Batman and what kind of man would have to be him. Thematically the Dark Knight is the perfection of this concept and examination. I won’t say the movie as a movie is perfect, but as a Batman movie it is currently the most perfect one we have (well it and Mask of the Phantasm).
Likewise I do think the original 70s Superman movies (the first two at least) take the idea very serious – even though there are moments of levity and camp – because Superman as an idea is very bright and hopeful. The original movie tagline was “You will believe a man can fly” and that’s what a good Superman movie is all about. While the comics may invent various pseudo-science reasons for Superman’s flight, the essence of it is that he is a man of hope – he flies because he believes.
So for the sake of my own peace of mind, here is the Superman trilogy I always wanted.
Rather than an origin story, this would examine the origin of his heroic spirit and capabilities. Starting off with just Clark Kent being a regular joe working at the Daily Planet (probably updated to a TV station).
Then one day, he and another young new employee named “Lois Lane” would happen to get to report on an airplane hijacking. Watching it unfold as he sets up the cameras and news feed, Clark is moved to do something, and so strips off his suit and tie and goes flying up to save the passengers. Little action sequence on the plane, he ferries them out 2 by 2 and saves the day, making “front page headlines.” Clark goes back home to talk with his parents who encourage him to be the hero he can be. Ma even made him a uniform. (Pa also gives a talk about the day he was found – in this version Pa was not able to get the spaceship Clark came in – and he has no idea who did.) Then a montage showing Clark becoming the world-renowned hero and we see him studying other languages, brushing up on physics, trying to figure out how to do things the best he can.
Then for the second half, Lex Luthor enters the picture working on developing weapons for the military (and less savory people on the side). The government wonders what’s the point of weapons if a being like Superman exists so Lex resolves to demonstrate that one can be built.
Build towards the climax where he faces essentially a robot version of Metallo built by Lex (and strangely tougher than any man made machine should be). Superman eventually works out a solution and defeats the robot, stashing its remains in the arctic. Closing credits reveal that Lex is the one with Superman’s rocket and it’s material was used to build Metallo, and an AI seems to be on board…
This one I still just have the broad strokes for as I knew it to be the most important one, but this would be the movie Lex and Superman really conflict on. Except of course it’s not much a physical battle but much more of a philosophical one with Lex challenging Superman on nontraditional levels (like in this version he would know of Clark’s true name).
Well actually I’ll admit this movie would be easy to do on paper, but trying to make a philosophical debate and metaphorical chess game engaging is not as easy as it sounds. I’d want this movie to do for Lex Luthor what the Dark Knight did for the Joker. Maybe someday I’ll finally piece this together.
But in the end Clark would get his ship back.
As you may notice, I wasn’t focusing too much on action in these movies. In many scenes the set pieces I had in mind would be reasonably small. Part of that would also be intending to save up so the bank could be broken on this movie.
He would be the revelation that Jor-El had put on board Superman’s spaceship a rudimentary AI to help navigate the ship safely to earth. And over the years that took, it ended up evolving past his initial designs. Now freed from Luthor, it would begin an effort to terraform earth into a new krypton (yep, here is this version in a mix of Eradicator and some versions of Brainiac). To distract Clark from its efforts, the AI recreates a primitive Kryptonian he “adjusted” – giving us this version of Doomsday (but know that I am aware of the Kryptonian Caveman). From there the movie will be straight up action as Superman has to work with the rest of the world (even Luthor) to defeat the monster, and ultimately stop the AI.
And of course the working together would give Clark the final philosophical victory over Luthor.
At least, that’s the Superman trilogy I would love to make.
Thank you for your indulgence.