If I was making...SUPERMAN!
A "What If" plot for a Superman movie.
My very first article. What If I was making Superman? What follows is a breakdown of the entire plot of my Superman movie. I originally conceived of this story a few years ago, before Snyder's film was announced, thus any similarities are coincidental. Some of it is very fleshed out, some of it...not so much. It's a long read so congratulations if you manage to get through it all. When I say long...imagine a wall of text stretching from here to the moon...then double it. Most "What If" articles won't be anywhere near this long but I wanted to start with a bang. Without further ado:
The story begins with an opening sequence showing the last moments of the planet Krypton, intercut with scenes featuring a young Lex Luthor in Metropolis and the Kents in Smallville. There is no plea to the council by Jor-El. Instead, the Krypton sequence shows the devestation as the world falls apart, entire cities are destroyed and in all the chaos, a man and his wife try desperately to save their son. The scene on Krypton with the El's has some dialogue as Jor-El makes desperate calculations and Lara wraps the baby Kal-El in a set of protective blankets and places him in the ship. I should note that all dialogue in this part is spoken in Kryptonese. The scene in Smallville has Martha and Jonathan basically on their way to church, starting with Jonathan getting annoyed that Martha is spending so much time fixing her hair. The scene with young Lex (around 10 years old) has him in an abandoned rail yard, reading a book. I'm torn between The Origin of Species and the Writings of Nietzsche. Either way it works.
As the small ship takes off, Jor-El and Lara huddle together and watch as everything crumbles around them. We follow the ship through the atmosphere, catching a glimpse of the carnage below until the ship leaves the planet behind. We then witness a terrible explosion as the planet Krypton is ripped apart. The small ship then disappears to a self-generated wormhole. Meanwhile, the Kents finally begin their journey into town in a pick up truck. The ship exits through a wormhole in our solar system. What happens next is something I haven't decided yet but the ship either comes back to normal space and collides with an asteroid or pieces of debris from the dead planet that has come through the wormhole with the ship crash against the hull. Either way the ship takes massive damage and begins to spin out of control.
Of course we know what happens next. The ship approaches Earth and ultimately crash lands in a cornfield on the outer edge of the Kent farm. The impact causes the Kent's truck to overturn. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor looks up in the sky to see several pieces of debris crashing nearby. He hurries towards the crash site. The intercutting then goes back and forth between these two scenes. In one, Lex approaches the debris, finding several small meteorites and most interestingly, a piece of the ship itself. As Lex studies what he has acquired he begins to notice that his hair is falling out. In Smallville, Martha approaches the ship and finds Kal-El wrapped in the blankets, not a scratch on him. While Jonathan is hesitant, Martha picks up Kal-El and takes him back towards the overturned truck. Jonathan isn't sure what to make of it all but when a small explosion occurs in the ship, a piece of debris flies straight at him. It's amazingly stopped by Kal-El. Again, not a scratch on him. Completely bewildered, the Kents stare at the child, then at the ship, which leads us into our opening title as the camera pushes towards the ships, to one of the remaining working monitors inside. We see a flash of symbols appear, ending with the Superman shield. No credits, just the shield symbol. The whole opening sequence is about 10 minutes in length.
We then cut to the Kent Farm, 25 years later. Lana Lang pays a visit, letting herself in through the kitchen door. There's nobody around and she occupies her time looking at postcards on the fridge. Each postcard is from a different part of the world. Lana takes a closer look at one of them and sees it's from Clark. She smiles before putting it back. She also notices some unopened mail on the kitchen table. One of envelopes bears the Daily Planet logo. Martha enters, carrying a lot of groceries. Lana goes to help her. Jonathan isn't with her and Martha comments that he's been in the barn with Clark "trying to fix that damn truck" ever since he got back from Africa. Excited at the prospect of seeing Clark again, Lana drops the groceries, leaving Martha to pick them up herself, and rushes out towards the barn.
It's here that we catch our first glimpse of our hero. He's dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans and he is wearing glasses (we later find out that they were to help his eyes when the powers began to manifest and even when he had full control he still wore them because they made him feel normal). Oh and I should probably mention, he's holding the old pick up truck over his head as Jonathan works underneath. When Jonathan notices Lana, he's at a loss to explain how his son is able to lift the truck but Clark explains that Lana has known about him for a long time. Jonathan leaves them to it and we go to a scene with Lana and Clark on the roof of the barn as the night sky rolls in. They have a conversation and it's here that we learn that Clark has indeed been traveling the world since he finished journalism school. He's been writing about his experiences, something that has caught the attention of the editor of the Daily Planet in Metropolis who has offered him a job. But Clark reveals that what he saw on his travels has troubled him. He's seen people dying of starvation and disease, meaningless wars fought over tiny pieces of land. He feels a strong desire to help people, to make things better but for all his powers he's helpless to do anything meaningful.
He wants to help people but he doesn't know how. Lana tells him that he should just go out and do it. If he wants to help people he should. "Don't try to save the world Clark. Just start with one person and see where it takes you." But Clark is hesitant. He doesn't know where he's from, what the people who sent him to Earth had planned for him. When Lana suggests that he should try to find out he mentions that his space ship is buried under the barn but he's been afraid of what could happen if he dug it up, looking for answers. The idea here is that Lana essentially gets him to face his fears and embrace who he is. Whatever he finds out about himself it doesn't change how he feels, it doesn't undermine who the Kents raised him to be. So Clark picks Lana up and they descend gently from the roof of the barn to the ground which establishes his ability to fly and shows that his powers have fully matured. I decided against having a teenage Clark mostly because there's a lot of story to tell already. In any case Smallville covers a lot of that ground already.
So Clark and Jonathan dig up the ship. Clark doesn't use his powers for this because I want to show the work ethic Jonathan has instilled in him and it's also Clark's way of assuring himself that whatever he finds out, he is a human being. Perhaps not physically but in every other way that matters. Clark reaches out to touch the ship and the whole thing lights up. This is all taking place inside the barn and the it's filled with light. We see what is essentially a transparent hologram. You can still see the walls of the barn clearly but there's also a strange room being projected as two transparent figures appear. It is of course Jor-El and Lara. It's clear that all is not right. There's a lot of violent shaking and Jor-El and Lara are speaking to each other in panicked voices. Again, this is in Kryptonese but as Clark hears the Kryptonese, we start to hear it translated in English. At first the Kryptonese parts are clear and the English translations are echoes but that gradually changes to where English becomes clearly heard above the Kryptonese.
Jor-El and Lara stand together, addressing "Kal-El." The holographic Lara is even holding a small child in her arms, wrapped in the blankets. They tell Clark of their dying world, of how nobody could accept what was happening until it was too late and in their last desperate act, Jor-El and Lara hoped to give their son a fighting chance to survive. There's no great mission, no wisdom from beyond the grave. Their message is simple. Survive. Live. And live well. Clark's destiny is his own. He will choose the life he wants to lead. The hologram ends with the room starting to crumble around them and Jor-El telling Lara to put Kal-El in the ship. Two thing to note, the clothes Jor-El and Lara wear in the message (and indeed the opening sequence) help to inspire Clark's costume. The second thing is that I'm going back and forth about there being some sort of download from the ship to Clark's mind, a brief history of Krypton or something.
Once the message has ended, Clark notices the blankets folded up in the ship. They are red and blue. The interior of the ship, or what's left with is, is lined with a gold-coloured metal. These will of course form the basis of the suit and belt. The Superman shield is already on the blankets. The standard shield is on the blue blanket and, while I'm not a fan of it myself, I'll put it in - the red blanket has a yellow shield on it. As Clark holds the blankets in his hands, he decides what he's going to do with his life. He will help people. Maybe he can't change the world but he'll do the best he can to help people. Martha asks about the job offer from the Daily Planet. Clark responds that Metropolis is as good a place as any to start. Clark is very passionate about journalism in this version and the Daily Planet essentially gives him his big break...big being a relative term since it's a failing news paper. In any case Clark now has a direction, a goal in life and it didn't take an hour to get there. He'll go to Metropolis, to the Daily Planet. He'll try to help people, do what he can.
It's time to go to Metropolis. Rather than starting with Clark's first day, we establish that he's been there for a few weeks already and is already making a name for himself to a point where Lois Lane is beginning to see him as a rival. This for me is very important. This film wouldn't have a romance aspect to it. Lois and Clark would start out as rivals, competing over stories. We also hint that Clark has been active in his mission, though not to the extent where he's known by the public. The Daily Planet has been reporting on a series of apparent miracles in recent weeks, something that Lois is skeptical about and even encourages Clark to pursue it because she thinks it's a non story and might keep him out of her way. The Daily Planet is a failing newspaper. It's severely understaffed, hiring young photographers as interns to save money (Jimmy of course) and has no real presence outside Metropolis. Lois is single-minded. She views the Daily Planet as a bit of a lame duck and is hoping to write her way to a better job. The bulk of Clark's own reporting has followed on from his writings when he traveled the world, this time focusing on the vulnerable in society, especially in Suicide Slums. When Lois questions Perry's decision to hire Clark for human interest stories, Perry responds that human interest stories sell newspapers and that the hard hitting reporting that Lois favours simply isn't catching the public's attention and the Planet isn't in a position to have any real influence whatsoever.
Then we have Lex Luthor who is the darling of Metropolis. He has almost single-handedly transformed Metropolis into a thriving centre of finance and enterprise. His own company, Lexcorp has multiple interests through various subsidiaries, ranging from technology initiatives to arms supplier to the US military. Lexcorp also owns a controlling interest in Star Labs, which is located outside the city and plays a central role in the story. I should note that Mercy Graves does appear as Lex's assistant/bodyguard in the story. When we first meet Lex, he is in his office at Lexcorp, reading an article about Suicide Slums, written by Clark. There is a reason for this which I will come back to. Inside Lex's office we also find the piece of alien technology (a piece of Kal-El's ship) that Lex found as a child.
We do spend some time with Clark at the Daily Planet, witnessing his growing friendship with Jimmy and the extent of his rivalry with Lois. We learn that Perry has managed to secure a seat as part of the press on Air Force One, which is flying from D.C. to Metropolis, for one reporter from the Daily Planet, having to pull a lot of strings to do so. Lois basically forces her way to the front of the queue and convinced Perry to send her, leaving Clark to investigate the "miracles" of recent weeks that Lois flat out refuses to believe actually happened. The cause of what happens next is something I'm going back and forth on. Originally Clark's first public rescue was going to be catching a plane, an event that's caused by Lex Luthor but that's essentially what happens in Superman Returns. At the moment I'm keeping the plane rescue as the first big rescue though that could change. I'm taking Luthor out of the equation though. It will be a natural cause. A thunderstorm which is straight out of Superman The Movie and that's exactly why I'm using it but I'll explain that later. We cut back and forth between Clark and his apartment and Lois on Air Force One. Lightning strikes against the plane cause it to start losing power with engines exploding. Clark meanwhile is sitting at home. He picks up the faintest of sounds. Distorted voices but very quiet. Clark goes outside and hurries up the fire escape onto the roof. He starts to listen, looking for the source of the sound.
I have this shot in mind that could be pretty cool if pulled off. It starts with the camera circling Clark as he listens, trying to filter out the sound of the distant storm. We push in on his left ear and we hear the sound a little more clearly then the camera pulls back and flies across the city, again all one shot (at least the audience will think it is) and we find ourself in the control tower of Metropolis Airport, listening to the mayday call coming from Air Force One. It's coming in more clearly now and we fly back to Clark on the roof as he listens. He turns and looks out beyond the city, trying to find the plane. Again this is still the same shot. We push close into Clark's eyes, past the glasses and see a reflection of the city in his eyes. We go through his eye, into the reflection and suddenly across the city, beyond and into the heart of the storm. We see what Clark sees. The plane is in serious trouble. We then pull back quickly and back through Clark's eyes. And that's the shot. I think it could be an interesting way to show his super vision and super hearing.
Clark hesitates for a moment, knowing that if he attempts a rescue he won't be a rumor anymore. The world will know he exists. He takes a deep breath and pulls off his glasses as he starts moving towards the edge of the roof. We have the obligatory shirt rip just before he leaps out of his clothes and takes off. We don't get a good look at the suit because when he takes off we see him from behind as a blur. We cut back to the plane as the pilots fight for control while the press, including Lois, brace themselves for the worst. Clark appears in front of the plane and we have our first look at him in his suit. He takes an enormous breath and then exhales, blowing the storm clouds away, leaving clear evening skies. The plane flies past him and he chases after it. Metropolis is approaching rapidly in the distance. Clark knows he has little time. The first thing he does is match speed with the plane, which at this point is gliding as it descends rapidly. He flies underneath each wing, using his super breath to put out the fires. People inside the plane are stunned to see him flying around. Once the fires are put out, Clark flies over the right wing which is threatening to tear itself apart. Clark uses his heat vision to weld the wing and keep it in place, using his freeze breath to rapidly cool the weld points.
He then flies along side the plane, x-raying it to make sure everyone is all right. He picks up the sound of the pilots conversing with the control tower, telling them that they won't make the airport and that they're only option is to attempt an emergency landing on the freeway but they're moving too fast and descending too rapidly. The co-pilot asks why he didn't say anything about Clark (notice I haven't called him you know what yet) and the pilot says he doesn't know how he'd explain it or even if he believes it himself. Clark flies under the plane and manually brings down the landing gear and then rests his back against the underside of the plane, trying to slow it down and help guide the plane towards the freeway. On the free way itself, the police arrive and start clearing it as much as they can. Onlookers have their phones out, recording everything as the plane flies through the city with Clark trying to ensure it doesn't hit buildings as it touches down on the freeway. Clark immediately flies out to the front of the plane is it rolls down the freeway, bringing it gently to a stop. It's then that Clark notices all the camera phones and a certain Jimmy Olsen snapping photographs. He continues on and pulls the doors from the plane, allowing people to evacuate. He has a moment with Lois who looks at him for a moment as if he's familiar to her but she dismisses the notion as he helps her down from the plane. She asks him who he is and he replies that he's there to help before taking off into the air. Seeing that they exchanged words, the President approaches Lois and asks what he said and if she thinks he's a threat. Lois responds by pointing out that he just saved their lives. As the sun sets, Clark disappears beyond the horizon. Lois watches him go and pulls out her phone, calling Perry who is watching the breaking story on the news. They briefly discuss what just happened and Perry comments that he's like something out of Nietsche, to which Lois responds, "a superman."
What follows is a sequence showing Clark (ok I'll call him Superman from now on) saving people and preventing disasters around the world. Part of it is news coverage from different news outlets world wide. We see Lex Luthor in his office with Mercy, watching the broadcasts. He glances over to the display case that contains the piece of Kal-El's ship. He tells Mercy that he wants the contents of the display case moved to Star Labs. We cut to the next morning and witness the front page headline on the Daily Planet (either "It's Superman" or "The Superman") as Clark looks through it in the elevator. There are clear pictures of Superman in the article. As the elevator door opens and he walks towards his desk, he looks around nervously but nobody is paying any attention to him. Clark is relieved that nobody recognises him as the mysterious hero. Clark is a little unsure about the name but can't come up with a better suggestion. He does point out that the actual translation for Nietzsche's Ubermensch is actually Overman but he's quickly shot down as Lois points out that he does have a big red S on his chest. Perry orders Clark to find out what he can about Superman, suggesting that there's a connection with the apparent miracles in recent weeks but Lois cuts in saying that since she's already made contact once she's the best person for the job, something that annoys Clark slightly since she's stealing his story. But Lois Lane always gets her way. Perry assigns Clark to cover Lex Luthor's scheduled press conference on the steps of Lexcorp and says to take Jimmy with him for photos while Lois elects to stay and read all the "miracle" stories that she had once dismissed.
At the press conference, Lex Luthor begins to announce a plan to redevelop and completely revamp the area known as Suicide Slums, hoping to tackle the crime ridden area and create an inexpensive and safe community for the people of Metropolis. Halfway through his speech, there is an enormous blast 30 floors up. The building catches fire as debris falls down around the press conference below. Seeing what's happening, Lex immediately rushes inside the building. Mercy is unable to hold him back. As the press run for cover, Jimmy stays where he is, snapping photos of the disaster. At the Daily Planet, Lois sees it happening live on the TV. She immediately gets up and runs to the elevator. Clark scans the building, spotting people inside, desperately trying to escape the fire. With Jimmy distracted, Clark backs away through the crowd. Jimmy turns around to say something but Clark is gone, running down an alley way. Inside the building, Lex rushes up the stairs, braving the flames to help evacuate people. Yes, Lex is a bit of a hero in this sequence, helping to guide people out. But as the fire spreads, he finds himself and a few others trapped inside with no way out. It's then that Superman appears, saving Jimmy from a piece of falling debris and quickly putting out the fire with his super breath. He flies to where Lex and the other trapped people are and flies them through the window to safety two at a time. Lex is last to be evacuated and Lois arrives just as they touch down. Lex thanks Superman (in front of the press of course) and tells him that he should stop by Star Labs, that there's something there that might be familiar to him. Superman agrees to stop by and exchanges a brief look with Lois before taking off. Lois approaches Lex, asking for a quote. She asks what he thought was behind the blast and he comments that it may have been some of the criminal elements operating in the Slums who disagreed with his renovation plan. Clark returns to find that Lois has once again scooped him. When Lois, Clark and Jimmy leave, Lex speaks quietly to Mercy, telling her "clean up the mess" which we find out later on referred to the fact that Lex was behind the explosion.
Back at the Daily Planet, Lois writes up her account of the incident and hands it to Perry only to find out that Clark has already submitted his own article about it. The difference between the two articles is clear, with Clark choosing to focus on Lexcorp's redevelopment plan and the apparent attempt to stop it while Lois writes almost entirely about Superman. With Lois getting nowhere closer to discovering who Superman is or what his motives are, Perry tells her that if she doesn't have something new soon, he'll have to team her up with Clark to cover the Lexcorp bombing. The age of 24 hour news means that it's not enough to just report the story as it happens. Everyone is doing that. People want answers. They want to know who this guy is. Lois wanted the assignment and if she can't deliver it won't be good for her career or the future of the Daily Planet. As Clark leaves to cover his assignment, Lois is left pondering a way to get Superman's attention. Jimmy comments that he only shows up when people are in danger and jokes that she should tie herself to a railway track. Lois of course calls him a genius and rushes out, leaving Jimmy slightly bemused.
At Star Labs, Lex waits in an office, holding a glass of brandy. Mercy enters to tell him that everything has been dealt with and nothing can be traced back to him. Lex walks out onto the balcony and spots something approaching rapidly. He grins and tells Mercy to leave. Superman flies down and lands on the balcony. Lex invites him inside, offering him a drink but Superman refuses. Lex thanks him again for saving his life and then turns to the subject at hand. He tells Superman that he believes that he isn't human, that he's from another world, a suspicion that Superman confirms, naming Krypton. Lex points him in the direction of the piece of ship debris that has been transported from Lexcorp to Star Labs. He reveals that it came to him 25 years ago when he was a child. It inspired him to rise above his humble beginnings and drove him to discover the secret of the alien technology, but for all his innovations, his wealth and power, the answer to the riddle has eluded him. When Superman saved the plane from certain disaster, Lex began to suspect that there was a connection. Superman confirms that he is the only survivor of his home worlds demise as far as he knows and Lex tells him that perhaps they can uncover the mysteries of his heritage together. He invites Superman to take a closer look at the alien technology. Superman approaches it and reaches out with his hand. Like with the ship in the barn, the tech begins to light up and activate to his touch. Superman touches it for a few moments and then staggers back suddenly, obviously weakened. The tech becomes inactive again once Superman's hand is removed from it. Lex suggests that Superman should allow him to keep it at Star Labs to be studied in greater detail and that they can work together to discover what it means. Superman walks back out onto the balcony, gaining strength from the evening sun. He shakes Luthor's hand and flies off. Lex watches him go and then looks back at the device. He takes a closer look at the pieces of meteorite accompanying it and then goes to another room where the Director of Star Labs, Professor Hamilton has been monitoring. He informs Lex that they were able to get good readings from the device and that they should be able to replicate what just happened.
As night falls, Lois finds herself on the roof of the Daily Planet. She's pacing back and forth, telling herself she's crazy and of all her stupid ideas, this one takes the cake. She approaches the ledge and looks over. She then starts calling for help, quietly at first, then louder. Nothing happens. She tries again, this time calling out to Superman. Again, nothing. Gingerly she climbs up onto the ledge, calling herself stupid again as she does so. She tries calling out for help again but once more they're no response. Shaking her head, she turns to climb down but her heel snaps and she falls off. She doesn't fall very far though as she finds herself hovering in the air in the arms of Superman. He flies her back on to the roof and tells her she shouldn't be taking risks like that to get his attention and Lois responds with a smile that it worked. She pulls a tape recorder from her pocket and starts to ask questions. She calls him Superman and it's clear he isn't too pleased. She wonders why he doesn't like the name, especially since he's never given one or taken the time to tell people who he is and it's still a lot better than what some of the other news outlets are calling him. Superman responds that he isn't looking to be put on a pedestal, he just wants to help people. He doesn't want to be seen as being above everyone else. As he turns to leave, Lois tells him that people need to know who he is, know that they can trust him. Superman agrees to think about it and flies off.
The next morning at the Daily Planet, Perry is reading Lois' submission from the night before. It's running on the front page of the Daily Planet but Perry complains that Lois needs to be building a connection with Superman, not arguing with him. Lois returns to her desk. Clark's desk is right across from hers but there's no sign of him. She slumps down in her chair. Jimmy asks her what's wrong and she responds that she may have pushed Superman too hard, been too aggressive and impatient. She may never get another chance to speak with him. As if on cue, a brisk breeze blows through the Daily Planet accompanying a red and blue blur. Lois looks down at her desk to find an envelope addressed to her. She opens the envelope to find a handwritten letter inside. Skipping to the end she sees that instead of a signature, it has the S-Shield burned into the paper. Lois starts reading the letter aloud, at first noticing that it's directed at the people of Metropolis and the world. She rushes off towards Perry's office as Clark appears, asking Jimmy what's going on. As Perry reads the letter he tells Lois she needs to get it typed up fast for the evening edition. The whole idea behind this is that rather than a 10 minute scene where Lois interviews Superman, he writes a letter that is printed through the Daily Planet, telling the world who he is.
At Star Labs, Lex, Hamilton and Mercy prepare to try to activate the alien device. The experiment begins as energy is transferred through nodes into the device. At first nothing happens, but soon a reaction can be seen as the device lights up just like before. Everything suddenly overloads and Star Labs is hit by power cut but the device continues to glow and in an brilliant flash of light, a vortex opens up. Hamilton says they need to evacuate but Lex is mesmorized by what is happening and stays, along with Mercy. Suddenly a body falls through from within the vortex. It's a man. His clothing is sparse, burned from body. The vortex then snaps shut, disappearing. There are scars and burn marks all over him. He looks up at Luthor, struggling to get to his feet. Lex asks who he is, the man doesn't answer. He asks if the man can understand him. Again, no answer. Lex watches curiously as the man staggers towards him. He starts to speak in Kryptonese. We don't understand what he's saying. He glances down at the alien device and reaches out to touch it. He closes his eyes and we see flashes of images, symbols from the kryptonese language, we hear words in Kryptonese, then gradually in English, like with the hologram from before. He falls backwards and the device becomes inactive again. Lex prevents him from falling over. The man speaks again in Kryptonese. Lex glances at Mercy. She doesn't know what he's saying either. The man looks at them both and repeats: Water. In english, slowly as if unsure of the word himself. Lex nods to Mercy who pours water from a jug on Lex's desk into a glass. She gives it to the man and he drinks it in one go. Lex asks if he can understand them, the man nods. He asks again who the man is. He replies: Dru-Zod.
This is where it all gets a bit vague. Some things have to happen and I know what they are but I'm still not set on the order or the basic structure and there are some elements that I just haven't figured out yet. So the first couple of paragraphs aren't going to be as detailed and will be a very basic rundown of what happens in this section of the film.
With that in mind, we've learned that the mysterious man that came through the vortex is named Dru-Zod (yes...it is who you assume it is). The alien device, which is actually a piece of Kal-El's ship that contains the wormhole generator and a back up of Jor-El's library has allowed Dru-Zod to download the English language into his mind...I thought about having him scroll through the internet or something but Fifth Element already did that He's revealed his name and I believe that's where we last left it. Dru-Zod is severely weak and collapses into unconsciousness. Mercy suggests taking him to a hospital since Star Labs isn't a medical facility but Luthor doesn't believe doctors can help. Something I forgot to mention in the last post - before they activate the alien device, Luthor had been reading through the latest issue of the Daily Planet, this is important because the letter Superman writes to the people of the world does contain the information that his powers come from the sun. This gives Lex the idea of bringing Dru-Zod outside and so they take him to the roof. At this stage, the sun is going down but Dru-Zod manages to get enough sun light to restore some of his strength. He hasn't absorbed nearly enough to trigger his powers but he can now stand and walk. Lex gives him a coat to cover himself up and promises to get him some clothes since his own were burned away.
This is where the vagueness comes in. At this point in the film I'm not really sure what Lois and Clark are doing. I'm thinking that Clark is investigating the Lexcorp bombing, running through a report by the Fire Marshall that suggests that the blast was localized to a small area and that the danger came from the resulting fire rather than the blast itself which later on leads Clark down the road to the truth that Lex organised it and begins the mistrust between the two, but I'll get back to that. Right now I'm focusing on what happens with Lex and Dru-Zod. The next morning, Dru-Zod is on the roof of the Daily Planet, soaking in the morning sun. His scars and burns have started to heal at a very quick rate. Lex approaches him on the roof and they converse. Dru-Zod's english is still a bit shaky and he does speak in an accent, what this accent sounds like would depend on how Kryptonese sounds. He tells Lex to call him Zod, explaining that he dropped the "Dru" when he joined the military as was the custom. He was a General. From now on I'll call him Zod too. When Lex asks about his scars, about what happened to him and why he ended up in the vortex, Zod hesitates. His response is accompanied by flash backs but what he explains doesn't entirely match up to what we see in the flashbacks. Zod tells Lex that there was a war, a brutal war fought for the freedom of his home. In the end the enemy won and Zod had no choice but to "escape" into what he calls the Phantom Zone. What we see in the flashbacks though are glimpses of Zod's trial, which includes shots of Jor-El who disagrees with the Science Council over the sentence, stating that the Phantom Zone was meant to save Krypton, not become a prison. As the vortex is opened and Zod is pulled in, we see clothes start to burn away then cut back to the rooftop. Lex tells him that his home is gone and Zod comments that Jor-El was right after all. He then questions how Lex could know so much and how the vortex generator got to Earth in the first place. Lex then decides it's better to show him.
This whole sequence has a lot of exposition, which is always difficult but it needs to be done. Zod learns of Superman's existence. The Superman S confirms to him that the hero must be from the House of El, perhaps Jor-El's infant son, all grown up. It's here that we also learn that Krypton had once been a much harsher world under a yellow sun, long before the existence of Kryptonian Man. The creatures of Krypton had evolved abilties to combat the harsh conditions. The planet was on the outer edge of the habitable zone until the sun became a red giant and the planet became much closer and life, having almost been completely wiped out by the change, began to flourish in new ways and while Kryptonian Man as it evolved still had the ability to absorb solar energy, something about the energy coming from the red giant caused the abilities to become dormant. Again, this needs to be explained for later on (yes you know what's coming). Zod says he wants to learn about Earth and try to understand humanity. Lex of course is playing the game. Zod is getting stronger by the minute and we do see his abilities begin to develop and watch him master them. This is part of the reason why I skipped that section of Clark's young life because we'd see the development of the powers through Zod's experience later on. Zod spends his days training and studying. He watches news broadcasts about Superman, becoming more frustrated and agitated. There is a scene somewhere in all of this where Zod does collapse again, this time when he's near the meteorites that young Lex had collected with the alien device, and again that plays a role later on.
Lex can see the benefit of having a super-powered ally but as Zod gets stronger and more aggressive in his attitude, he confesses to Mercy that it may be too much to handle and they may have to "take measures." Zod hears this of course and with his powers almost mastered, speeds to Luthor and lifts him up by the throat, telling him that for a soldier, loyalty is paramount. Lex says he can help Zod, mostly out of fear, trying to save his own skin. Zod skeptical but agrees to let him prove his loyalty.
It's time for Superman and Zod to meet. Lex has already explained his belief that Superman has been on Earth for a long time, that he may have had a life time to master his abilities but Zod is confident in his own military training and in any case is confident that they can come to an understanding. So how does the meeting happen? Zod appears over Metropolis. He is silent, hovering in the air. People on the ground look up in amazement and the press soon arrive. Images of Zod are soon broadcast live around the world with commentators wondering if it's another Superman or if the Man of Steel was the first wave of some sort of invasion, an infiltrator sent to gain the trust of the public, to get them to let their guard down. As the crowd grows larger on the ground, Lois and Clark find themselves together, looking up at the stranger. Clark isn't sure what to make of it. There's too many people around and he can't get away to change into his costume. In the air, Zod notices the media presence and uses them to send a message. He whispers so low that nobody can hear him. Well, almost nobody. Clark hears it pretty clearly. "Come to me son of Jor-El." Clark makes some excuse to get away from Lois (a really bad one ) and sneaks off. Seconds later, Superman flies over the city, straight to Zod. At this point, Zod is friendly, greeting him like a lost brother. He says he knew his father. That they were friends once. He goes on to say that he's seen how Kal-El has tried to help people, that his father would be proud. Superman asks how Zod survived Krypton's demise, wanting to know if there are others and Zod suggests continuing their conversation away from the public and the glare of the media. Again, Zod is friendly and unthreatening and Superman agrees to follow him. They fly out of the city, leaving the crowd and media behind. Jimmy comments about two supermen and how great that is but Lois isn't so sure.
Superman and Zod arrive at Star Labs where Lex is waiting. Superman is a little surprised that Lex is involved. Zod says they need somewhere private to talk and Lex shows them to a room in the facility. The room is empty apart from a screen on the wall with a small camera on top of it. There aren't any windows either. Lex leaves them alone inside and they talk. Zod tells him that he survived Krypton's demise by escaping to the Phantom Zone, something Superman's father had discovered and likely used to send Superman halfway across the galaxy to Earth. Superman wants to know more about Krypton and Zod begins to fill in some blanks, though he tells a tale of a corrupt government, blinded by their own power. He tells Superman that Jor-El knew something was wrong in the planet, but they refused to believe it. He then suggests that the same weakness exists in human beings, that while Superman should be commended for trying to help us, we are doomed to destroy ourselves, just like Krypton. Superman states his belief in humanity but Zod isn't so sure. Essentially what we have here is a clash of ideals. Superman believes that humanity has to be trusted to save ourselves while Zod believes we need to be saved from ourselves. Their whole conflict is based on this idea, rather than Zod just trying to grab power. There is an element of that, sure but I think the clash of ideals makes Zod a more compelling villain. As their debate threatens to boil over, Zod tries to calm the situation. He apologises and explains that he if Earth is to be his new home he doesn't want it to meet the same fate as Krypton. He suggests that together they can help humanity overcome its frailties but for now, maybe Superman could show him the world he has come to call home. Superman agrees and Zod walks to the door to exit. Superman follows behind him. Zod quickly turns though and punches him hard in the stomach and knocks him to the floor. He exits quickly and as soon as the door is shut, the lights in the room turn red, bathing Superman and the entire room in red light.
Superman gets up and immediately tries to break through the door, but it's to no avail. He turns towards one of the wall and punches it hard. Not a dent and his hand is broken. Zod appears on the screen and apologises. He explains that the red light is the same as that of Krypton's sun and that it has neutralized his powers. He says that Superman is naive, that humanity must be saved if it is to have any future and hopes that with time, Superman will come to realise the truth and join him. The screen switches off and Superman proceeds to try breaking through the door but it's not budging. Zod is in Lex's office at Star Labs, watching Superman trying to break the door on the monitor. Lex tells him that it's reinforced and if Superman's powers are really gone, there's no way he's getting out. Zod commends Lex for his loyalty and explains that what they're doing is for the greater good. He tells Lex and Mercy to kneel (he doesn't say "before Zod") and they do so, though not without hesitating. Zod tells them that the world will change for the better and that Lex will be a strong leader and help guide humanity to its future. Lex asks what Zod is going to do and Zod says he will give them strength. He leaves the office, out over the balcony and takes off towards Metropolis. Mercy asks what now, and Lex responds that he doesn't know.
In Metropolis, the press are still hanging around where Superman and Zod met. Some of them are reporting live, speculating over what happened. Zod appears again, touching down in front of the cameras. What follows is...well I'm not quite sure yet...it's essentially his "I am General Zod" speech but rather than it being about tributes to him and power and all that, it's a speech he gives trying to reassure the world of a new dawn, a better future. Again this is all a bit vague. I know what happens but how to get there is something I'm still working on. Essentially it's one of the big action set pieces in the film. At some point between Zod first appearing over Metropolis and his "I am General Zod" speech, the military is mobilized, fearing a threat. I had thought about bringing in General Sam Lane as the voice of the military so to speak, with him being unsure about the arrival of Superman but then Smallville went and did it so I decided to leave it out. But the general idea of the military wary of an alien threat is something that would play throughout the film but how pronounced it would be is something I'm a little sketchy on. In any case, something happens. Maybe a reporter asks the wrong question or someone throws a bottle at him or something, but Zod retaliates with extreme prejudice.
What follows is an amazing action sequence, essentially a battle between Zod and the military (National Guard at first, with the Air Force joining the fight later on) on the streets of Metropolis. I thought about having Zod fly to the UN to seize power but I need to keep him in Metropolis. In any case the action sequence is massive and while we've had super rescues, it's the first time we really see how powerful these Kryptonians really are. Bullets bounce off him, tanks are torn to shreds, fighter jets are shot down with heat vision. Downtown Metropolis becomes a war zone as the city is evacuated. This is a 10-15 minute sequence where we see the might of the military being utterly decimated by Zod. This is actually one of the primary reasons I wanted to use Zod because you just can't do this kind of scene with Superman because he's the good guy. While this is going on, people are pouring out of the city, trying desperately to get away. Eventually the military forces retreat and Zod is left standing on the roof of the Daily Planet, surveying the damage. His face is grim but determined. News helicopters fly overhead, broadcasting the images of a ruined Metropolis across the globe. Zod notices them but takes no action.
Lex Luthor is one of the people watching the broadcast from his office at Star Labs. He sees the city he built in ruins. He looks up at one of the monitors to see Superman still trying to break his way out. Superman shouts at Luthor, begging him to let him out. Luthor glances at Mercy. She absolves them both, stating they had no choice and Lex then turns his attention back to the monitor to communicate with Superman. Inside the red sun room, the screen flickers and turns on and Superman sees Lex who tells him that Zod would have killed him, that he didn't see a way out. The tone in Lex's voice signals to Superman that something is seriously wrong and he asks what's happening. Lex talks about the destruction and sees genuinely shocked. He turns off the red light and unlocks the door. Superman is in pain, his body bruised, his hand broken from trying to get free, never giving up. He's weak though and almost falls over. He sees the live images coming from Metropolis and is shocked and saddened. Lex helps him to the roof where Superman lets the sun wash over him. He's getting stronger but Lex suggests that he isn't strong enough. Superman responds that he'll stop Zod but Lex isn't so sure. He says that even at full strength, the only way to stop him is to kill him, and Superman outright refuses to do so. Lex responds that he thought as much but there may be another way.
In Metropolis, there are still people left in the city. The evacuation is slow. Zod is awaiting a response to his "new dawn" declaration...which I haven't written...so um...basically...leaders of the world, join me and together let's change this world for the better...or something. He's still on the roof of the Daily Planet. Lois Lane is still in the city and when Jimmy tells her that Zod is on the roof, she immediately heads up there. She approaches Zod cautiously, but Zod tells her not to be afraid. He asks her what her name is and when she tells him, he tells her he's read her Superman articles. Lois asks if they're working together and Zod laughs, calling "Kal-El" naive. Lois being very brave, stubborn and stupidly so, declares that Superman will find a way to stop him. This angers Zod who grabs her by the neck and holds her out over the edge.
In space we see Superman rising up from the planet below, shooting up out of the atmosphere. He stops and hovers, taking in sunlight and then speeds back towards the planet. I'd love to do this all in one shot where we follow him from space, down through the Earth's atmosphere before landing hard on the roof of the Daily Planet. He tells Zod to let Lois go. Zod squeezes Lois' neck a little more, ready to break it. He comments on how fragile she is, like the rest of humanity. Again, Superman says to let her go, more forceful this time. Zod complies and releases her. She falls, plummeting towards the ground below. Superman is after her in a flash, matching her speed as she falls, catching her and slowing down before they hit the ground, landing safely (take that Sheldon ). Jimmy and Perry come through the doors of the Daily Planet and Superman tells them to get away as Zod descends from the roof top. Zod and Superman converse briefly, typical pre-fight banter before charging at each other head on. Oh and yes, it's here that Zod says his famous (or infamous line), "Kneel Before Zod!"
The fight itself is...well imagine the fight in Matrix Revolutions...now throw that in the trash and burn it because it's obsolete This fight is essentially Superman vs Superman in terms of powers. They fly at fight at speed, crashing through buildings, exchanging blasts of heat vision, attacking and countering, not just punches but powers as well. Their heat vision blasts connect together at one point in a deadly tug of war which is ended when Superman uses his freeze breath to nullify Zod's heat vision, resulting in a brief shower of rain. Gravity has no meaning as they fight upside down, twisting through the air, using fists and feet to hurt each other. Zod is the better fighter and tactician but Superman is more experienced with his powers. He knows what his body can do. But it's not just them. The helicopters flying around, catching the action live for the world become pawns for Zod to use. Superman has to save them even as Zod pursues him relentlessly. I am also thinking about a situation where the military decide to launch missiles that will devastate downtown Metropolis, which still has people there, many of them injured, and Superman finds himself having to stop the missiles, taking the full force of the explosions himself, again as Zod attacks him. Most of Superman's flying enemies are versions of him. Either some form of clone or another Kryptonian. The so-called "Big Three" of Luthor, Brainiac and Darkseid don't have that particular ability. There are ways around it of course with a potential power suit for Lex and a redesign of Brainiac ala Smallville to make him fly, but ultimately, a flying fight is something you're only going to see once, maybe twice in a Superman film series. So this fight needs to be epic. As they're trading punches, they continue to converse, arguing over their ideals and how best to help humanity.
Eventually, Superman leads Zod back towards Star Labs. Zod laughs when he sees where Superman has led him, asking if Superman really thought he was stupid enough to fall for his own trap ie the red sun room. They crash through the roof, to the research lab where Zod was freed from the Phantom Zone and Zod proceeds to blow a hole through half the building, destroying the red sun room with his heat vision. Zod soon spots Lex and determines that he wasn't so loyal after all. He's about to kill Lex but Superman gets in the way and they start to struggle with each other. But Superman isn't countering Zod's blows, he's merely blocking and trying to grab a hold of Zod. While he does, Lex activates the experiment, feeding power to the alien device. But nothing happens. Zod's heat vision blast that destroyed the red sun room has fried the power grid. Seeing what Lex was trying to do, Zod commends Lex for his plan, if not the execution. Superman gathers his strength and punches Zod hard, knocking him down, then speeds to the device, placing his hand against it. It starts to glow with energy as images flash through Superman's mind. Images of Krypton, his parents, of Zod's trial as the information is downloaded into his mind. The device grows brighter and in a brilliant flash of light, the vortex opens behind Zod. Zod stands up and sees what's happening. There is a moment where he stands with fear in his eyes. It turns to rage as he vows not to go back and rushes towards Superman but he stops dead in his tracks. He falls to his knees. He looks up in shock to see Lex standing over him, holding a piece of meteorite in one hand and a small lead box in the other. Lex explains that he found it with the device. A little piece of home, deadly to Kryptonians. He calls it kryptonite. Zod backs away in pain, back towards the vortex. Zod tries to buy his freedom, promising Lex everything. Lex is having none of it though. If he wants everything he'll get it himself. Superman is also feeling the effects of the kryptonite. He falls to his knees, using the last of his fading strength to maintain his hold on the device. Zod steps back into the vortex and Lex watches as Zods clothes are burned away, his skin being scarred as the energy of the vortex consumes him. He screams in agony as he is pulled back into the Phantom Zone. Superman finally collapses to the ground, unconscious, his hand slipping away from the device which is deactivated.
Lex stands over him with the kryptonite. He looks down at the Man of Steel, pondering what he should do. He takes a moment to decide and then puts the kryptonite back in the lead box, closing it. Mercy sees this and asks if he had thought about killing Superman. Lex doesn't answer. He just waits for Superman to regain consciousness. Superman stands gingerly and looks around. He asks about Zod and Lex replies that he's gone. Superman then looks at the device and tells Lex that he's taking it. Lex asks what he'll do with it and Superman responds that he'll put it somewhere safe, where no one can find it. Lex tells Superman to fly by anytime and as Superman leaves with the device, Lex looks on and tells Mercy to arrange a press conference.
We then find ourselves in the Arctic. Superman flies over the ice with the device in his hands towards what could best be described as a mountain of ice and snow. He swoops down and plunges into the water, emerging in a big empty cavern. His ship is already there, resting on the ground. Clark puts the device next to it and they reconnect, forming a complete ship once again. He then takes a deep breath and reaches out, placing his hand against the ship. He closes his eyes and is once more greeted with images of Krypton, of his heritage. One symbol keeps popping up though, three circles, joined together as an upside down triangle...yeah...guess who... This sequence is actually left over from an earlier concept where Clark found the Fortress of Solitude, having been led there by the ship. At the time there was going to be a third piece of the ship that fell in the Arctic, the main piece, with the piece that crashed in Smallville essentially being an escape pod. I haven't quite figured out how to get Clark there in this version yet.
The next morning, Lois sits at her desk watching a live news feed of a press conference outside Lexcorp where Lex Luthor is talking about how he helped Superman save Metropolis and how he promises to spearhead the rebuilding of Metropolis' destroyed areas free of charge. Clark arrives, a little late again. Lois points towards the screen and as Luthor takes the credit for saving the world. Clark asks why she isn't down at the press conference since it involves Superman and she points to a file on her desk. Clark glances at it and Lois explains that there's no way the Lexcorp bombing could have been orchestrated by criminal gangs. It had to be an inside job and the location of the explosion indicates that it was specifically designed to cause the least amount of damage possible. Clark asks if she thinks Lex is behind it and she looks at the screen where Lex is now posing for the press and says she can't prove it and even if she could, Lex Luthor is the darling of Metropolis, the man of tomorrow. She then gets annoyed and complains that it was supposed to be Clark's assignment, not hers. She stands up, shoves the file into Clark's hands and tells him to deal with it. Clark is surprised that she'd willingly give up a story but Lois brushes it off, telling Clark that he can't get by on human interest stories. I don't deal with it much in this summary but this is essentially where Lois stops viewing Clark as just a rival and more as a friend, something that builds when they investigate the Lexcorp bombing together but as I've said before, I'm still figuring all that out.
Lois goes up to the roof of the Daily Planet and looks out over the city. Down on the street below, people are working tirelessly to clean debris from the streets and have started reconstruction. A breeze blows past Lois and she spots an envelope on the ground next to her. She picks it up and then rips it up, saying that a letter isn't good enough. If Superman wants to say something, he needs to speak to her. Superman appears and descends onto the roof. He jokes that she's always looking for the exclusive and Lois responds that the Daily Planet's readership has skyrocketed thanks to him. She asks what was in the letter and Superman tells her that Zod is gone and that they won't see Superman anymore either. Lois gets annoyed (she does this a lot ) and basically scolds Superman for apparently giving up. He responds that he set out to help people, not become some sort of icon to be put on a pedestal like a god. He's just a man, not a Superman as she calls him. Superman tells Lois that he believes the world has had enough of strangers from the planet Krypton. Again, this is something I haven't dealt with much here but in the story Clark is a bit uncomfortable with the "Superman" label and the hero worship surrounding him. Lois responds that whatever he set out to do, he's become much more than some secret miracle worker. He's a symbol of hope for humanity, hope that they can become better people as a whole. His powers and daring rescues may have captured people's attention, but it's his example that inspires them. They look at Superman and they see themselves, they see what they could be. Basically Lois gives Superman a proverbial kick up the back side. In the grand scheme of things this is also where Clark basically falls in love with her but that's something to be explored in a later film. He embraces the name and the responsibility that goes with it fully in this scene. Yes, he's already been active and been through a hell of a battle but it left him questioning whether becoming Superman, becoming someone the public could see and put their faith in was the right thing to do. Lois helps him to understand what he already knows deeps down. He is Superman. Earth's protector, it's greatest hero. An inspiration, not for his powers but for his example. That's what his whole battle with Zod was about. But thinking you're right and knowing you're right are two different things and Lois helps Superman to know for sure that he made the right choices to get where he is. Anyways, before Superman takes off, Lois asks if Lex really helped defeat Zod. Superman confirms it and Lois suggests that he should keep a closer eye on Lex Luthor. Superman nods, then smiles as he takes off, Lois watching him go.
At Lexcorp, the press conference wraps up and Lex returns to his office with Mercy who comments that his popularity will go through the roof. He could make a run for the White House and would probably win. Lex responds that if he did he'd have to give up too much power (yes that is straight out of Justice League ). Superman appears, hovering outside the window. Lex tells Mercy to leave and then opens the window, allowing Superman to fly in. Lex asks what he did with the device and Superman responds that its safe. Lex then suggests that that they make a good team and that together they can change the world for the better. Superman responds that Zod said something similar. Sensing hostility in Superman's tone, he asks if he's done something wrong. Superman tells him that its interesting that the explosion at Lexcorp was confined to such a small and unimportant area. Lex says it was lucky, Superman obviously isn't buying it. Lex then asks if Superman is implying that he had something to do with it, then answers his own question, stating that it's possible someone was trying to get his attention. After all appointments with Superman are hard to come by. Unfortunately, he says, there's no real evidence as to who was behind it. Lex says this with a slight smirk. Superman turns to leave and Lex continues, stating that Superman shouldn't worry, that the kryptonite is safe in his possession, out of harms way, stating it as a veiled threat. Superman takes off and hovers outside the window. He glares down at Lex and tells him "I'll be watching you" (straight out of S:TAS) before taking off over Metropolis. Lex turns back inside and walks to his desk. He opens a drawer and pulls out the lead box. He opens it, showing the kryptonite. He grins slightly.
Superman flies through the city as people down below watch in awe. He weaves in and out between buildings, the wind catching his cape. Then a voice. Faint at first. Superman slows down and stops to listen. We hear it louder, clearer. A cry for help. He listens, figuring out the source of the sound and then turns quickly, blasting off across Metropolis. End Credits.
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