M A N of S T E E L
At the end of 2009, when the next Superman film was in limbo, I contacted an exec at Legendary Pictures (the producers of Superman/The Man of Steel these days) who had read, and enjoyed, a script of mine — one about superheroes.
My pitch: “a Superman film should be BIG and FUN…As big as possible but still for the whole family.” He agreed w/my estimation, told me to “write it up.”
Below is a “treatment” — Hollywood talk for a summary meant to give a sense of tone, approach, and the character arcs and basic story.
The Superman/Clark/Lois love triangle has been given a new twist. I gave Metropolis a modern feel with the characters fully grounded in today’s world…and with nods to 75+ years of Superman.
I chose two very unlikely villains (which would undoubtedly annoy fans). They work off each other surprisingly well and keep the focus on Superman nicely. It also helped give the story a breakneck pace with wit and action…plus allowed me to play up my subtle theme about growing up/taking responsibility, which several characters go through.
As it turns out, the tone of my treatment — and even a lot of the elements — is similar to The Avengers (see list in the Afterthoughts section). So while I’ve now heard the upcoming MAN OF STEEL movie will deal in “realism,” my script deals with the fantastic (in the old-fashioned sense of the word).
I had batted around ideas about “secret wars” and black ops and a lesson that “Truth, Justice & the American Way” ain’t what they used to be. Meh. It’d been done to death in film and comics. Luthor’d been done to death. Brainiac and Zod were Krypton-related, which I don’t like for a first film. For me, Superman’s first movie should deal — not with his Kryptonian heritage but — with Superman as Earth’s defender, with Clark as a person.
Also, at the time, there was no official word on if this was a soft or hard reboot. So I avoided an origin story completely.
Superman’s origin is covered, but the details are saved for a sequel (detailed below), thus, we enter this world with the Daily Planet, Lois, Clark, and Superman in their traditional roles. So, without further ado…
S U P E R M A N
A Film Treatment by K e i t h
Superman films begin by moving through space…
This time we end up inside a vast alien ship, in a room of glowing white globes. We hear an emotionless voice explain these are remnants of dead worlds, and it details the story of Krypton, her Last Son, and the place he calls home…bringing us to…
In the great, black void of space, an incredible phenomenon has pushed Mars out of orbit. Earth’s in danger. Only one man can save us — SUPERMAN!
With an ExoSuit from S.T.A.R. Labs attached at the back of his longjohns, Supes draws in more of the sun’s rays, amping his power to an extreme. That info and our hero’s instructions are received via his headset (over this headset we also hear another voice make bizarre comments — is it a hacker…or someone far more devious?).
Before long, a struggling Superman’s done something only he (with the exo-suit) could do — pulled Mars back into orbit, saving the universe!
Heading to Earth, Superman stops to offer a wave to the space station astronauts. In mid-salute, there’s a flash! Superman’s outfit has suddenly changed into something bizarre.
Supes flashes back to normal just as quickly and heads toward Earth — the astronauts are left dumbfounded. Superman seemed to not have noticed a thing.
There’s a beat. Then an outline of a skinny figure appears amidst the stars; we hear a raspy giggle.
The Daily Planet. We meet:
Argues with Perry about her blog and who’s on the city beat (she or Kent); promises a report about Superman’s Mars mission by end-of-day; mentions a prison interview with the “evil genius everyone wants to talk to.” She’s clearly an accomplished journalist, someone to be reckoned with.
A tough, micro-managing boss. He troubleshoots problems at the Planet (including Lois Lane spreading herself too thin); on his cell, he promises his wife he’ll be home for dinner.
Brash teenager, intern; tired of running errands — wants to do something!
CLARK, a stiff and clumsy sort, arrives amidst the chaos, banters with Lois, is told to “buddy up” with Lane on the prison interview…but Lois wants it all to herself – she sneaks out!
With the prison outside Metropolis, Lois gets in her car, but she and others around the city discover their cars are being radio controlled by a mystery man!….
Inside a metallic shack beneath an old WHIZ radio tower high atop Metropolis:
Bulbs blink, but there’s a steady deep-red blush of emergency lighting. An odd-looking creep of a man in spectacles is bathed in the glow of his laptop screen, on it a Grand Theft Auto-like game of cars. Several mini USB joysticks sit like ducks in a row in front of him. With a gentle finger on each, he controls the cars. The man laughs like a child….
Cars careen out of control; Superman’s on the scene, using his powers with smarts: With x-ray and telescopic vision, he times right down to the millisecond who needs saving next, using super-speed he gets to each person in time….
The Man of Steel catches cars flying out of city garages; his heat-vision turns things to mush to soften impacts; superbreath turns a fountain to ice, then darts of heat mash it to slush, slowing more cars safely.
The bespectacled man in the tower is upset — we learn of a lost childhood, parents not interested in him, and a life of loneliness in a Global Village. He’s every lonely YouTuber, Twitterer, and online troller. He’s everyone who’s ever felt alone sitting at their PC.
After the mêlée: Lois and Superman, steal a few moments together — they’re clearly an item. She wants to know “where this is going,” but reporters interrupt; their sensationalistic reporting blames Big S for the day’s destruction. Superman and Lois exeunt – he takes her out to the prison.
Once inside, Lois discovers Clark already there waiting for her. The giggling outline seen in space earlier has witnessed all of the above.
In the prison, Lois and Clark await their contact. He enters, and it’s a face we know: LEX LUTHOR. A grim genius, prison is just another base of operations. He uses the presence of the reporters to attempt an escape, but a “bumbling Kent” accidentally stops it.
Now Lex won’t give an interview with Kent around. Out of respect for Lois, Clark leaves.
The interview fills us in on how Lex got there, what he’s all about, and why he hates Superman. Lex also talks of the car chaos from before, having already discerned a connection to toys.
Exiting prison, e-mailing Mr. White some incomplete articles, Lois is kidnapped by a Toy-themed contraption. Later, Clark is worried about Lois’s whereabouts unaware she’s been kidnapped; Perry calms him and requests Clark finish-up “her piece on this ‘Toy Man.'”
Meanwhile, Mr. White’s wife and Jimmy both continue to hassle Perry.
Evening, at the Kent farm: Clark’s adopted parents, Ma and Pa Kent, admire the (online) article by Clark and Lois and chat w/Clark about the pair’s relationship… It isn’t long before Clark has to exit as Superman. He soon discovers the TOYMAN threatening Metropolis.
ToyMan is a mad loser. He claims a love for Lois, his heroine, and promises to do to Metropolis what’s been done to him all his life: take everything it holds dear. Nobody — not Perry, Lex, the captured Lois, or even Superman — takes him seriously. And, in mere seconds, Superman is at ToyMan’s metal shack, offering to get him help.
While confronting ToyMan, Superman’s hearing picks up someone else nearby. Bouncing heat vision off of a reflective surface, he hits the invisible creature we’ve “seen” — and the creature finally appears, cursing and angry.
Its name is MXYZPTLK (mix-yiz-plik). And he doesn’t think Superman “played fair”! Turns out, he travels the multiverse for fun and sport and thinks Superman is the “most incredible thing” he’s ever seen!
Mxy’s excited to “battle” the large, flying man but realizes he needs to plan. So, with a snap of his fingers, the ToyMan and Mxy are gone…with Lois!
Outside Metropolis, in an old toy factory, Mxyzptlk and ToyMan appear.
Mxyzptlk wants Toyman as his minion, to help goad the Man of Steel. Lois, still in captivity, hears this and rails at the crazy villains. When ToyMan tries to calm her down, she escapes!
Mxyzptlk, amused, lets her run off.
In the A.M.: Lois is safe and discovers Mxyzptlk has altered a piece she wrote for the Planet, inserting hints of destruction to come!….
The Metropolis Tram: A new attack takes shape: In a cart connected to the tram’s last car, Toyman’s got his laptop jerry-rigged to a power source inside the tram. A Sim game displays a tram; as it speeds up, so does the real one! Multiple trams appear on-screen — ToyMan smiles mischievously. Mxy eggs him on with a “Now we’re cookin’!”
Clark, a passenger on one tram, notices the danger…he runs through the cars, and, as he does, becomes Superman!
ToyMan controls the tram system like toy trains. Superman strategizes the use of his powers to save the day — but one tram escapes, taking a nosedive into Metropolis Sound! Our hero dives in, creates a funnel with super-speed, keeping the tram topside and saving everyone (frustrating Mxyzptlk)!
In the aftermath, Superman and Lois are together again, but before she can detail her doubts about the two of them, Mxyzptlk re-kidnaps her just to spite Superman!
In The Warehouse (Mid-Point):
ToyMan is thrilled that Lois is again his prisoner — Lois, not so much.
Superman soon bursts in and faces-down the magical Imp…
Mxyzptlk complains Superman isn’t playing the game right and forces Big Blue to make a deal. Superman will “play fair” if they can agree on some rules: Mxyzptlk can only attack Superman directly and, also, “no telling secrets” (i.e., his secret I.D.). Agreed. But if Superman wants to get rid of Mxyzptlk, he must trick the magical imp into saying his name backwards!
The games begin!…and Mxyzptlk immediately sends Metropolis’s guardian to the center of the Earth — just for fun. Our hero spins his way to the surface, finding himself in a village that truly needs the help of a Superman…It’s a life-changing experience.
Between giant Army Man toys and other dangers, Jimmy gets his first photo assignment.
TV reporters blast Superman for being MIA, and Mxyzptlk’s not happy, but (in prison) Luthor’s thrilled with the chaos.
Superman comes back a new man from several experiences across the globe. Later, as Clark, he and Lois spend some time together, discussing the things they’re going through (he masks Superman’s experiences as his own).
Soon after, frustrated by yet another defeat by Superman, Mxyzptlk endows ToyMan with enhanced intelligence!
The Daily Planet – The Next Day: Lois receives another hint from playful Mxyzptlk on the next attack.
At the Metropolis docks, Lois and Jimmy stumble into saving their fair city from ToyMan….
Superman appears as the chaos winds down; Lois berates him for an arrival that’s “not exactly just in time” and realizes the real issue is that she needs to resolve her feelings for him.
But ToyMan’s attack continues: Bizarre Android Duplicates of ToyMan appear — one kidnaps Lois again (“Alright, now…I think you’ve met the damsel/distress quota here!”). Then, at a nearby construction site, pipes, girders, and machinery pull and twist together to form an electromagnetic robot of iron and lead scraps! It draws more metal to it, growing in size. This giant ’bot is controlled by ToyMan! It and Superman go toe to toe – the fight is big, loud, fast, and fun!
Jimmy takes some great photos while Superman tackles the moon-sized menace! Meanwhile, elsewhere, Lois tries to get through to the ToyMan….
Superman soon pits the androids and robot against each other, but, upon its destruction, the androids release a chemically treated soot into the air which blackens Metropolis’s sky and blocks the sun!
Superman, fighting at full-power, begins to weaken…. Jimmy tries to help Superman but learns a valuable lesson as a photographer: Don’t get involved! He loses his camera and all of his photos.
ToyMan, growing more and more insane, rants at Lois — like a kid having a tantrum — as she secretly texts Perry. At the Planet, Perry hangs up the phone on his wife to decipher the incoming messages….
Superman defeats the robot, but Mxy pulls out one final trick which defeats the Man of Steel, it gives the magical creature a chance to wallop Superman clear across Metropolis!
…Superman lands hard. But he’s landed just outside of…STAR Labs.
Perry deciphers Lois’s texts and sends in the cavalry: Police cars (ToyMan’s favorite toys as a child) surround the villain’s HQ. The cops pull his plugs, but just before his computer shuts off, we witness an on-screen Sim-Android Duplicate escape down a chute in his sim city….
Elsewhere: Mxyzptlk is so thrilled, he’s beside himself. Literally. Until we hear O.S.: “Oh, that’s right…we still have a game to finish!”
It’s Superman! The Man of Steel’s been re-charged! He sports an Exosuit similar to the one seen at the film’s start, although this has a solar-panel “S” chestplate! Mxyzptlk attacks Solar-Superman, but the imp can’t match him punch-for-punch, so he gets creative again!…
- Dinosaurs appear! Superman sends them into the ice age with superbreath!
- The city itself attacks him — melted tar tugs at Superman; bridge cables snake around him. Our hero prevails by siccing the city on itself.
- His hands are turned to Kryptonite! Superman covers them in giant-robot scraps of lead!
- Then…Superman is sent to an alien world — “That should do it!” declares Mxyzptlk!
We follow Superman’s quick-escape from the apocalyptic world, and a giant portal drops him off back in Metropolis, right in front of a shocked Mxyzptlk, who throws another tantrum: “No one beats Mxyzptlk!”
Superman declares himself winner: “I beat your challenges, and you said your name! I win!” Mxyzptlk disagrees — “The rules were that I say my name backwards!”
Superman explains Mxy’s wrong, stating his “ability of Super Recall” doesn’t let him forget a single thing! But Mxy defiantly states he’ll prove Supes incorrect!…. Confirming an earlier assertion that he can view the past or determine the future, Mxyzptlk tells Superman he’ll take him back to the moment of their deal.
In a bizarre limbo world, Mxyzptlk rewinds the world, showing us all what’s happened. As we near the moment of their first meeting, Superman suggests he slow down the playback. In doing so, the pair watch the first moments of their deal play back…in reverse.
And it happens: Mxyzptlk witnesses himself say his own name backwards! Superman bids him a fond farewell, and the world around Superman goes back to normal…with Metropolis following suit!
In the aftermath of his victory, Superman finds Lois. She officially breaks up with him. They hug.
Superman later announces to a disappointed city he isn’t just her defender, his experience with STAR Labs, Mars and across the globe have proven he belongs to the world at large….
Clark arrives at the Planet, disheveled and sad (due to the break-up). Lois tells him she’d like to talk to him…and, to his surprise, asks him out: “I’ve had my head in the clouds too long…you keep me grounded…and that’s what I need in my life.”
Perry, on the other hand, is not having such a good day: His wife has left him.
Jimmy’s trying to figure out how to earn some cash for a new camera.
And just as things seem to calm down, there’s an emergency overseas. Clark sneaks away; Lois looks around, wondering “where he’s gone off to.”
Yes, it’s just another day in Metropolis as we…
Some time later: Luthor is in a dark corner of prison taking an object from someone — “It’s the least you could do for me after you let me down.” He walks off with a wind-up toy that helps him escape, leaving ToyMan behind. We pan up into the stars: Superman streaks by as we continue upwards and move into outer space where the movie started. We again hear the monotone voice from the film’s open…and we finally see its ship, Brainiac’s ship. It speedily moves toward Earth!
The Avengers comparison:
– General playful tone w/harmless-yet-big action set pieces
– Villain: a magical creature who loves causing trouble
– Most of the action takes place within the city
– Giant robot-like thing moves through the city in the climax
– The Avengers grow up, learn to take responsibility for who they are as heroes and as a team…this is the exact theme of the above.
BTW, I describe Toyman in some detail but not Mxy. I envisioned him to be creepier than the Myxzptlk we all know and love. Closer to LOTR’s Gollum…but in some sort of odd, creepy space outfit. But, hey, I’m no designer. Just thought I’d share.
The following are sequel notes not presented to Legendary Pictures:
Opens with Clark overseas as an undercover investigative reporter.
Origin of Clark/Superman & Brainiac
Origin of Lex Luthor
Lois and Clark’s one date has become an actual relationship.
Superman finds himself jealous of Clark Kent…for a change.
Superman is the world’s defender, not just Metropolis’s.
Perry tries to patch things up w/his wife, endangering his job. (Fired!)
Jimmy becomes a photog extraordinaire.
Lex Luthor and Brainiac attack.
The Daily Planet’s in trouble even with Perry back in control.
Jimmy goes to the dark side: he becomes a paparazzo
Bizarro and Darkseid attack
Clark tells Lois the truth about himself/Superman.
Lex and Superman team-up to save Earth
The Justice League?
Lois and Superman marry.
Superman and all related characters are C and TM Warner Bros.
While this project was solicited by Legendary Pictures, it was done on spec & thus all concepts, except those previously established in the pages of DC Comics, are mine and belong to ME, Keith P.