I have not posted for a couple of weeks, as I was too busy publishing my first non-fiction novel, My Right Leg Is Tastier Than My Left.
I asked for a few suggestions for retrospective rewrites, and someone kindly put forward Bryan Singer’s 2006 reboot of the Superman franchise, Superman Returns, which was a semi-sequel to Rihcard Donner’s first two Superman films. While not a failure, its lack of action and long drawn out storyline, penned by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, failed to light up the box-office with heat vision eyes, but still, I do not think it deserves a complete rewrite. Rather than continue with that series, Warner Bros opted to relaunch the franchise ala Batman Begins, with Chris Nolan producing in some capacity.
While I am very excited to see Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, I remember coming out of Superman Returns feeling… underwhelmed, but with hope. The script and story had put in place all the elements needed for a great, action packed sequel. So much so I scribbled one down that very night.
So while not a true retrospective rewrite, here is a treatment for Superman Returns‘s sequel that will never be, untouched since 2006.
SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL TREATMENT
The story opens with footage from SUPERMAN RETURNS, as SUPERMAN hurtles the Luthor-made Kryptonian mass of rock into space. The credits roll as we follow its path through space, looping around strange planets and trekking through universes man can only imagine.
The meteor passes by what appears to be a floating dead crystal, but it suddenly illuminates from the inside. It is a Kryptonian spaceship. It is awakened when its sensors detect the Kryptonite radiation of the meteor. The ship drills into the rock and takes some Kryptonite. The new Kryptonite source fuels the ships functions. The ship fully awakens, and plots the trajectory from where the meteor came, all the way back to Earth. It speeds off in that direction.
On Earth, Superman is struggling against a human super-villain with cybernetic enhancements, also fuelled by Kryptonite – METALLO, formerly a crooks named JOHN CORBEN. Metallo is giving Superman a beating, running his mouth off.
Out at sea, LEX LUTHOR is watching the fight via cameras in Metallo’s armour. In the water below, his henchmen are collecting Kryptonite from the ocean floor. Metallo is a diversion to make sure Superman does not discover what they are doing.
Superman turns the tables, and starts questioning Metallo while giving him a beating. From Superman’s questions we learn that this is not the first Metallo, and Superman is trying to find out who is behind the cybernetic implants. Metallo manages to cause a distraction, leaving Superman to save someone’s life while he makes a getaway. Superman realises the time, and flies off.
Superman arrives at a secluded location, where LOIS LANE and their son JASON WHITE are waiting for him. This is a private meeting between father and son. Lois insists she is allowing it because Jason needs to learn how to control his inherited powers, commenting that Jason already has a father – RICHARD WHITE. Lois and Superman have an argument over the actual conception of Jason. Jason can hear with his super hearing, which Superman realises. They do a test to see what other powers he possesses.
Lex Luthor returns to his new underground lair. Metallo is present, having his injuries fixed by PROFESSOR EMMET VALE, an elderly ex-army professor who was incarcerated for cybernetic experimentation on humans, and whom Lex help escape. They argue over the applications of Metallo. Lex insists that Metallo’s only purpose is to provide a distraction while they go after the real prize – Jason.
Clark flies back to Smallville to see his mother MARTHA KENT. Clark interrupts a dinner between Martha and her friend BEN HUBBARD. Ben excuses himself. Martha is on the defensive, as if she has been caught cheating. Clark says she deserves to be with someone, that his father passed away a long time ago. Martha asks about Jason, and the possibility of him visiting her. Clark is unsure if it can happen. He asks if he can stay in his old room. Martha reveals she has kept it clean for him.
In space, the Kryptonian ship enters a high orbit, and begins scanning the planet. It picks up the only Kryptonian – Superman – as he flies back to Metropolis in the morning. The ship begins to descend toward Metropolis.
Clark arrives at the Daily Planet a little late. Lois arrives with Jason after the babysitter bailed. Lois and Richard have an argument; with Richard suspecting there is something his fiancé is keeping from him. PERRY WHITE calls them into his office, and tells them this is a business, not a family soap opera. Clark overhears this meeting. Later, while Richard takes Jason for ice cream, Lois turns to Clark as her confidante, revealing to him that all is not well between her and Richard.
As Jason and Richard return a piercing sound hits Clark, but it also affects Jason, who screams wildly, throwing his arms around, causing more damage than should be possible. Jason calms down when he sees that that Clark is also in pain. Jason realises that Clark is secretly Superman. Clark manages to escape the building without anyone seeing he is in pain. He changes into Superman and flies toward the source, but the closer he gets to the source the worse the pain becomes.
The source is a top secret military complex. Superman crashes into the complex. He sees the source of the sound, but is too weak to stop it. GENERAL SAMUEL LANE, Lois Lane’s father, is using the sound device to contact Superman. He turns it off. Superman smashes the device. General Lane says they must have had it turned up too high. General Lane informs Superman that an unidentified ship has just entered Earth’s atmosphere. They need to know if General Zod has returned. An officer informs them the ship has descended on Metropolis. Superman flies off. General Lane orders another sound device to be constructed.
Superman arrives back in Metropolis just as the ship has landed. Most people are running, though some are curious and form a crowd around the ship. A door opens, and out steps BRAINIAC, pale green in appearance, with silver metallic eyes and lips and Kryptonian markings on his body, as well as a network of diodes on the top of his smooth head. Brainiac scans Superman and computes that he is Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van. Brainiac announces that he is the BRAIN InterActiveConstruct, an Artificial Intelligence created by the Kryptonians to run their cities. Brainiac has all the power and knowledge of the Kryptonians he served. Superman hails Brainiac as a friend, with the handshake captured in picture form by JIMMY OLSEN.
Lex Luthor, watching the news reports, believes Brainiac’s arrival to be a bad sign, and orders his men to find out more about him. Metallo says he is 100%, and wants to take them on. Professor Vale arms Metallo with a hand cannon that fires a Kryptonite laser beam.
At the same time, Perry White is telling his reporters what to do. Perry orders Lois to use her friendship with Superman to get an exclusive interview. Richard tries to get the role, jealous of Lois spending time with Superman. Perry asks where Clark is.
Superman and Brainiac stare out at the city from the top of the Daily Planet. Brainiac observes that it is so small and heading for destruction. Brainiac quizzes Superman about his role on Earth, and seems shocked to learn that he works for these lesser beings, believing Superman should be their leader and ruler.
Lois interrupts, and asks if she can do an interview. Brainiac tells them his story: that when Krypton was about to explode, he gathered all the record he could and took the ship.
They fly down to the ship, and Brainiac gives them a tour. He shows Superman the city of Kandor, the last city of Krypton, shrunk down so that it fits in a glass container, its inhabitants frozen in time. Brainiac now reveals his plans, to resize Kandor and turn Earth into New Krypton. Lois grows hostile in her questioning, asking where the human race fit into this plan. Brainiac gives a very vague answer.
They emerge out of the ship. There is a media fanfare, but amongst the crowd is Metallo. He hits Superman with the Kryptonite laser, blasting him away. Metallo tries shooting Brainiac, but the laser has no effect on him. Brainiac snaps Metallo’s neck in front of a watching world.
Brainiac announces to the world that they will be slaves to a new race, a Kryptonian race, that Earth will be turned into New Krypton, before human beings destroy it. Superman says that will not happen. Brainiac says it is his primary directive now that Krypton is dead. His first priority is to shrink Metropolis down so as to preserve the finest human city. Superman commands him that it will not happen. Brainiac says that Superman’s compliance with the plan is not required from its success.
Superman and Brainiac fight, destroying part of Metropolis. Superman wins, but a piece of Brainiac drops off, a sheet of liquid metal. Superman, having damaged Brainiac’s core matrix, grabs him and flies him toward the Sun. Brainiac whispers to Superman that if he dies, so does any hope of Superman meeting his own people, being part of a community. Superman throws Brainiac into the Sun, and sheds a tear, all alone in the vastness of space.
Professor Vale and Lex Luthor retrieve the Kryptonite hand cannon from Metallo’s body. Nearby Luthor finds the liquid metal that Brainiac left behind. Brainiac’s face appears out of the metal, and begs for help. Lex Luthor picks it up, and they retreat back to the lair.
Superman returns to Metropolis to find that people are hostile to his return, blaming him for Brainiac. Superman spies the army blocking off Brainiac’s spaceship. General Lane and Lois are having an argument; it is obvious that this father and his daughter have not spoken in a very long time. General Lane asks about his grandson whom he has never met. Lois’ responds chillingly, saying he never will. Superman interrupts and asks the General what his men are doing. General Lane informs him they are taking the ship to be studied. Superman says he cannot allow that, and warns them not to touch it.
One of the soldiers does, and the ship’s defence systems activate, shooting at people. Superman battles the ship, and manages to damage it enough to force it to land, but not before it strikes Superman with a powerful Kryptonite concussion blast. Superman crashes into a lake, and swims ashore. He is bleeding – he has lost his powers!
Lex returns to the lair and talks to Brainiac. This is a back up data copy of the Brainiac model. Luthor wants Brainiac’s help in first ruining Superman’s reputation, and then killing him. “With your knowledge and my superior good looks, we can rule this planet!” Brainiac agrees to the proposal, and Lex insists their first line of business is to kidnap Superman’s son.
Clark is at home, shivering. He has not only lost his powers, but he is very weak. Lois visits him to see what is wrong, and then has to leave to meet Superman with Jason. Unknown to Lois, she is tailed by Richard. Clark does not want to disappoint Jason, and so puts on the Superman suit to go meet his son.
Richard watches as Superman plays with Jason, and Jason uses his powers – strength and now flight. Superman asks Lois for her permission to take Jason for a flight. Lois agrees. As they leave, Richard comes out from spying and confronts his fiancé.
Superman has Jason fly them both to Martha’s farm. Jason now reveals he knows that Clark is Superman. Clark confides in him that he has lost his powers. Jason asks if they will return. Clark is unsure. Martha is ecstatic to meet her grandson, and treats him to lots of sweets.
Superman and Jason return to Lois, only to find that Richard is there, arguing with her. Richard starts picking a fight with Superman. Luthor and Brainiac now execute the first part of their plan, which is to kidnap Jason. Superman is still powerless, and cannot stop them, almost dying while trying. Brainiac scans Superman, and learns that he has lost his powers.
Lois blames Superman for the kidnapping, and now that Richard knows the truth about Jason they are not talking either. Richard informs his father Perry that Jason is actually Superman’s child, while Lois finds solace in Clark. Clark is clearly uncomfortable with his deception of Lois, but before he can reveal the truth to her, Lex Luthor kidnaps him.
Luthor insists that Clark pass along a message to Superman: either work for Luthor or his son dies. Luthor points Clark’s attention to a video monitor showing Jason, unconscious in a prison made of Kryptonite. Clark explains that Superman no longer has his powers. Luthor reveals he already knows. In the monitor we see that Brainiac is still alive. Luthor offers Clark a vial of liquid to give to Superman, the contents of which will counter the effects of the concussion blast. He is given one hour.
Clark goes to see Lois, and tells her about Luthor and the vial. She tells him that if he sees Superman, to tell him to do whatever is necessary to get their son back. Clark takes the potion, and it does indeed return his powers.
Superman meets with Lex Luthor. Superman is aggressive to him, but Lex shows him a screen with Jason sedated and a henchman holding a gun to him. Lex orders Superman to steal the Kryptonian ship from the top secret Army base.
At the army base, we see the ship being studied under the watchful eyes of General Lane. In the ship, one wall has a blue flashing light next to it, unnoticed by the scientists.
Superman flies to Lois. She starts hitting him, but then breaks down in tears in his arms. Richard sees this scene, interrupts it, blaming Superman for everything. Superman asks for Richard’s help – he needs Richard to find Jason while he is carrying out Luthor’s demands.
Superman flies to the army base, but General Lane orders his men to defend the ship. They use the sound device, and Superman is rendered immobile by the pain. The device is behind a protected barrier that cannot be penetrated by Superman’s heat vision, and is being controlled by a remote held by General Lane. Superman informs General Lane that his grandson has been kidnapped, because he is the son of Superman. General Lane turns the device off, but tells Superman to put on a show for his superiors. Superman disables the guards and flies off with the ship.
Richard seeks out Luthor and Brainiac, and finds their lair through investigation. He finds Vale watching over Jason, studying him. Richard knocks Vale unconscious, but Luthor returns. Richard asks to leave with his son. Luthor says they both know he isn’t the father. Luthor orders Richard to be killed, but Richard offers to kill Superman for them. Luthor asks what makes him think they will not. Richard says they will try, like they have in the past, but they will fail. Superman will never see Richard coming. Brainiac agrees it is a good plan, and provides Vale with specifications for a Kryptonite dagger mixed with lead so Superman will be unable to detect it.
Superman visits Lois again to see if there was any word from Richard. She asks if he got the ship, and he confirms it. He gives her the city of Kandor, and asks her to keep it safe. Lois asks where the trade will take place. Superman says he will not put her life in danger. Lois demands to go, that Jason is her son. Superman says it is a trap, and that he needs her to know something. He now reveals that he is Clark Kent, and also how Jason was conceived, and how he erased her memory, with a kiss. She tells him to bring back her son, and that after that she never wants to see him again.
Superman arrives at the rendezvous point. Luthor has both Richard and Jason, still unconscious, hostage. He also reveals Brainiac to be still alive. Superman gives them the ship. Richard and Jason walk towards Superman. Superman now takes on Luthor and Brainiac. Jason now awakens and tries to help Superman. Jason’s involvement distracts Superman’s attentions. Richard sneaks up behind him and is about to stab him with the Kryptonite dagger. Jason sees this and rushes in between them. Richard stabs Jason, sacrificing himself to save his father. The blade goes through Jason, wit the tip penetrating Superman’s skin. As Lex and Brainiac take off in the ship, they turn to see Superman apparently killed. They fly off victorious.
Richard, having realised how big a mistake he has made, runs away, leaving Superman with the body of his dead son. He manages to pluck the dagger from his chest, and throws it away. He hugs Jason’s lifeless body, overwhelmed by grief.
In Luthor’s lair, Luthor follows Brainiac’s instructions, attaching him to the wall of the ship. The liquid metal disappears, and a new version of Brainiac slides out of the ship, with a sleek green body as when he first arrived. Vale, with secret orders from Luthor, tries to kill Brainiac, but the assassination attempt proves futile. Brainiac kills Vale, and turns on Luthor. Luthor insists that Brainiac needs him. Brainiac responds that he does not need a mere human when he has another Kryptonian at his disposal. Brainiac enters the ship, and destroys the lair, leaving Luthor to die.
Superman flies Jason’s body to the Daily Planet. Lois is distraught. Superman seeks out Richard, and almost kills him, but Perry White reminds him of who he is, Superman, a hero to the people, and they need him more now that ever with Brainiac in possession of the spaceship. Superman realises Perry is right, that he has to distance himself from his emotions in order to save the world. He flies off to find Brainiac. Perry tells his son that he doubts Richard will ever be able to make up for this.
Inside the ship, Brainiac unfreezes Supergirl! She is a cute blonde, dressed all in black. Brainiac places a small part of him under her skin at the skull. She wakes up, evil, under his control.
Brainiac has landed the ship somewhere outside of Metropolis. He and Supergirl work super fast, constructing a device of some kind. It is now completed, a large floating platform like a satellite dish the size of a city block, with eight outstretched legs, giving the impression of a looming arachnid. Brainiac now orders Supergirl to kill Superman.
Superman flies around, looking for Brainiac or the ship. He sees Brainiac flying to Metropolis atop of the large array. Superman flies to the platform. Brainiac reveals that it is a shrinking device that can also be used to restore Kandor and its people. Superman, faced with the ultimate choice, chooses humanity. But before Superman can destroy the device, Supergirl intervenes. She proves to be a worthy opponent, keeping Superman occupied while Brainiac manoeuvres the shrinking array into place above Metropolis.
Richard, full of guilt and needing to redeem himself, rescues Luthor to find out how to kill Brainiac. Luthor tells him. The ship. Vale groans from under a pile of rubble. He reveals he placed a tracker on it. He dies giving Richard the tracking device.
The military attack the platform with fighter jets but Brainiac swats them like flies. Below, in the city, General Lane has some surface to air missiles.
Superman takes a beating from Supergirl, but is saved by Lois intervening with a rocket launcher.
Brainiac activates the shrinking device. A massive beam of light falls over the entire city, scanning everything for the shrinking process.
Richard flies his plane to the ship, outside the beam’s radius. He steals the spaceship and manages to pilot it out of Earth’s atmosphere toward the Sun. Brainiac spots the ship leaving Earth and takes off after it. Superman also sees them leave and soars up in pursuit.
The army continue to fire at the platform but it is of no use. Supergirl now returns, and begins to fight Lois. General Lane defends his daughter. Supergirl strikes him down with a near fatal blow.
Brainiac chases Richard in the ship. Brainiac is able to enter the ship. Superman arrives and stops Brainiac from killing Richard. Brainiac insists that if he is killed, so is any chance of restoring Kandor and Krypton. Superman tells Richard to leave, but Richard refuses, and pilots the ship into the Sun, killing himself and Brainiac. Superman flies out, on fire, turbo-charged, and speeds back to Earth.
Supergirl throws Lois through a wall. She is playing with her, but now, towering over Lois broken body, she is about to deliver the final, fatal blow.
The shrinking device has finished its scan and starts the shrinking process. Superman flies through the device, destroying it just as it fires up. He keeps flying and saves Lois from Supergirl. Superman keeps flying, wrestling to maintain his hold of Supergirl until they crash into the side of a mountain. Superman is dazed, but Supergirl is knocked out cold.
In hospital they find the implants Supergirl’s brain, and use the Krypton laser Luthor created for Metallo to cut into her impenetrable skin and take them out.
Perry blames Superman for Richard’s death, and asks Lois if she knows who he really is. Lois lies and says she does not. Perry asks Clark to write an obituary. Clark writes of Richard’s heroic and courageous act in saving the world.
Superman watches over Supergirl in hospital, who is now in a coma. Lois joins him, returning Kandor to him. He asks Lois if this is what it felt like when he was in a coma. She tells him Jason’s funeral is the next day.
The funeral. General Lane is there, and he and Lois reconcile. Clark is also there. He and Lois hold hands, and talk of reconciliation, but he has to dash off and save someone’s life. He leaves Lois, standing alone, wiping back the tears as he flies away.
POST CREDIT SEQUENCE: Kara Zor-El waking up.