Re-Film It!

Throw out that crap and do it again!

Tron Legacy

Tron Legacy

Let us get something out of the way up front. I love Tron. It is one of the movies that most influenced me into my life long love of computers and of filmmaking both, and to me is just as watchable today as it was when I first saw it as a kid. To realize years later the influence it had on filmmaking when it comes to special effects just brought a smile to the face of an already adoring fan. So, it won’t surprise you, few people in the world were more excited for Tron Legacy than me.

So it is a sad day to be (not really) asked to come in and fix what clearly went wrong with Tron Legacy. But we are professionals here at Re-Film It, and the best news is there isn’t nearly as much to fix here as some other sequels and reboots!

What’s Wrong

The first film, way back in 1982, made $33 million at the box office, $4 million of that in its opening weekend. Disney considered it a failure, a story well tread by now and echoed by many other cult movies.

Tron Legacy made $43.6 million in its opening weekend alone, and ultimately made $400 million between US and world wide box offices. So, what do you need re-film it for? This was a big success, right?

Maybe. But in the face of huge series and franchises making into the billions (many of those already owned by Disney, coincidently – can anyone say Marvel?), it didn’t really feel like the launch of a new franchise, did it? Tron toys didn’t dominate your local Disney store, and we are not all anxiously awaiting Tr3n (alright, that last one is not entirely true, I am).

Is it that in today’s multi-film, multi-billion blockbluster world, a $400 million movie is not a success? Or is it that the world and story of Tron has way more potential – for both good science fiction and for a big marketing franchise – then Legacy delivered on? The answer is yes. Basically, we all know deep down inside, something was wrong here. It needs to be better.

What’s Right

Despite that feeling, deep down in our Tron hearts, there is a lot to love here. This is not the disaster that Star Trek or Man of Steel was. The Daft Punk soundtrack, the Idoru ending, the Buddhism elements, the homages to the original, Jeff Bridge’s performance, even the cinematography in the real-world sequences – this is no massacre of a reboot. This film has a lot going for it and for the most part treats it subject matter and audience with respect (JJ, please take note).

Which probably means the trouble with it is subtle, and therefore harder to fix. A warning sign for us. Indeed, the majority of critical reviews focus on a lack of humanity in at least one (if not two) of the main characters. That is a hard thing to fix with just a few cuts, re-shot scenes or changed effects.

Maybe we can’t fix something as hard to quantify as the humanity of the story. But we can certainly pump up a few moments in the film that fail to reach their goal, and perhaps by doing so, just perhaps, we will regain enough interest that some flatness in other moments will be more easily overlooked.

With all that out of the way, I think we are finally ready to look at what to actually fix!

Fix 1: The Battle at End of Line

Olivia Wilde Fake Fighting

Sam makes a classic, head-strong blunder into danger. Quorra tries to undo her mistake by rescuing him. Both are in way over their heads, and it shows quickly. A pack of elite troopers blast in, slaughtering innocent programs. Pulse-pounding EDM plays throughout the scene. Who or what can possibly save our heroes as things so quickly go wrong? When in walks god. God in the form of Kevin Flynn, who has been in hiding for years, decades. Who has resisted fighting back because he felt it was doing no good, but now is left with no choice but to show his power. A god who can touch the ground and literally change the way the world around him works and behaves.

This sounds great right? Spectacular? And that is the point, it should be the best action sequence of the year. It should be the kind of fight scene you remember for years to come, that when the movie is on endless repeat years later on cable, you have to leave on just to see that one scene again, even if you are already late for High Tea. It should be Neo on the roof top, learning to dodge bullets. And here lies one of the core problems of the movie: it’s not.

The reasons why not are a few, but fairly easily fixed:

  • The fight choreography is weak. Particularly for Olivia Wilde as Quorra, whose moves are unconvincing and amount to only posing.
  • The exact role of Kevin Flynn is left vague and unclear, and it should not be.
  • That the disk that contains the exact equation to all of creation is so easily stolen is ridiculous.

Fixed

Let us take these one at a time. Each one is not such a bad fix, in terms of depth of changes.

Fight Choreography

Other scenes in the same movie show plenty of fancy fight choreography, so its clear the crew knew how to do it. So how did this fight end up so wrong? In particular after Quorra’s initial surprise jump into the fight, her pose when blocking the two red fighters is such a weak posture that even an untrained eye can look at it and figure out that you could never block full-strength swings that way. Its silly.

Did Olivia not want to do extra fight training? Did you run out of time in production to do the more careful choreography you used before? Whatever the reason, get over it. This scene, as outlined above, needs to be the centerpiece of your movie from an action standpoint. This is it, so get it right. Reshoot these scenes of fighting (its basically less than a minute of screen time) until the most disciplined of martial artists is convinced Olivia Wilde is a total bad ass. This is particularly important because it then makes her and Sam’s failure to fight their way out of this situation all the more compelling, and Kevin’s intervention all the more exciting.

God Saves the Day

Kevin Flynn Walks In

In the midst of their failure, god walks into the room. It is a wonderful moment, it should be the most intense moment in the whole film, save perhaps the very end when Kevin merges with Clu. But what is it Kevin Flynn does exactly? He touches the floor, clearly exerting his programming power over the digital world around him, and changes… what? Turns the lights out? Rallies the blue programs in the room with… more morale? More energy? On the one hand, leaving some room for interpretation on what exact role a god standing in the middle of a kung fu fight would have on the winning side is a good thing – it shows a respect for the viewer we haven’t seen in other Re-Film It movies.

But on the other hand, we need a more tangible sense of just what Kevin Flynn being out of Buddhist retirement means. We need to more viscerally see how mighty someone who can change the world around them can be. We need to be sitting in our seats saying “oh @#!%#@#$ you !#%@#@ with Kevin Flynn, you are going to regret that”. Such a feeling would both sell this scene as an action scene, but would also lend such a stronger feeling to the character of Kevin Flynn – just what he means to the world he helped create, then destroy, then abandoned in an effort to stop harming it.

Stealing God’s Code

We all know of course the precious disk will fall into the wrong hands. That is the price of Sam’s blunder, of him failing to see what Kevin was trying to communicate about not being part of the equation. And yes, it has to happen in this scene. This has to be the price of Kevin stepping in and using his power to rescue his son (note, all the more reason him stepping in has to be more tangible). None of these ideas are wrong.

What is wrong is the little yoink it takes to steal the most powerful piece of information in the entire world off of Kevin’s back. Seriously? Kevin wouldn’t be holding his disk, in anticipation of just such a problem? He would turn his back on the entire room, still full of enemies, knowing on the same back is the exact thing the enemy wants?

We need to re-tune this a bit. The taking of the disk needs to feel inevitable. Flynn knows this is a trap, we have to buy that either they out-smarted him, or that he was willing to give up that ultimate price to save his son. I vote for the latter, since I think it feels more true to the character. So instead of the little yoink to take the disk, there should be more of a sense that Kevin has purposefully sprung this trap, uses his power to save his son (see above), but when the moment comes, he knows what price he must pay. Perhaps the forces in the club are too great even for him, overwhelming him and at the last moment the only way to create a distraction big enough to get them onto the elevator is to throw his disk.

Even better, maybe he begins to suspect that Rinzler is Tron, and can’t bring himself to de-res him. This would lead into our fix for our next problem and probably works the best. But as with many fixes, identifying the problem is the bigger effort – exactly how to write the fix could go in several satisfying directions.

Fix 2: Better Develop the Tron/Rinzler Story

Rinzler

We are looking for more humanity, as well as perhaps a reason that even god could be bested in a physical contest, and certainly the hinted at (but really underdeveloped) story of Tron could provide those things.

Despite that potential, Rinzler/Tron spends 99.26% of the movie with a helmet on – about as de-humanizing a decision as you can make. At first, this might build up some surprise that Rinzler is actually Tron, but I don’t think that deception is well done nor do I think the film makers intended it to be. We all know, from the start, Rinzler is really Tron, and by the time Kevin confirms it, its not done as a big reveal or shocking moment. At best you could argue for the inclusion of the helmet during the initial disk battle with Sam, the only moment that its really not clear where this uber warrior has come from.

So why then do we not get a face for Tron? Budget? Clearly the effects of Clu were some of the most complex in the movie and I am sure account for a big part of the effects budget. Doing two characters was just out of the question?

Strangely, in era of directors going the other direction, and making decisions like putting moving lips on Optimus Prime (or non-moving lips on Stormshadow), here we have a completely reflective helmet. It instantly makes the entire storyline of Tron’s re-programming seem flat.

Beyond that, one or two more scenes describing exactly what happened would have helped. Can we have a flashback of Tron’s reprogramming? A scene or two better establishing how having Rinzler on his side really lead to Clu’s martial dominance of the grid? This is strikingly interesting storytelling that deserves ten more minutes of film time. The movie is a touch long already but ten more minutes wouldn’t break it, and in fact could make it by including this compelling, and notably human story.

Fixed

So solution one, give Tron a face. The most ideal scenario of course would be the same special effects magic used on Jeff Bridges for Clu. But assuming for a moment the budget just doesn’t allow that, we would have settled for a young actor with a resemblance to the younger Boxleitner. Let’s face it, the original was 28 years prior to this movie – no one was fixated on what Bruce Boxleitner looked like in that movie, or would have felt a continuity interruption to see another actor portraying Tron – even with Boxleitner in the movie as the character of Alan.

And solution two, add in two scenes that round out the story of Tron’s capture, reprogramming and eventual recovery. Take your pick of two, no more than 3 minutes each. That small amount of storytelling is all it would take.

Conclusion

These changes are our smallest, and therefore easiest yet proposed for a film on Re-Film It. By settling for another actor portraying Tron, we could basically avoid any massive new effect shots altogether (maybe we would need Clu in one of the new scenes with Tron, which would certainly come with a price tag, but even so the total delta here is still small). For these small changes, we not only center the movie better on its pivotal central scene, but we add back a huge piece of humanity by filling out one of the more compelling subplots of the film.

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009)

I know what you are thinking. “This one is too hard! No reasonable amount of fixes could save that disaster of a movie, you would have to re-shoot the whole thing!”

Wait, that is not what you were thinking? You liked the 2009 reboot of Star Trek? You got suckered by the flashy action and all the lens flare? Yes, it out-sold its predecessors. But let’s face it, the movie is a sad, shallow reflection of the vision that is Star Trek. In other words, that vision might have been imperfectly applied in the past (I’m looking at you, Star Trek V), but JJ Abrams didn’t even try to apply it – instead reducing Star Trek to an action-only franchise. Don’t believe me? JJ has actually been pretty upfront about this – its not a theory, it is words from his mouth.

And that does make a difference to the business here – there are other reasons to fix this then just the desire to make a good movie (since JJ doesn’t seem that interested in that goal). The Star Trek series launched in 1966, 48 years ago. In the intervening years, it has launched 10 motion pictures (not counting the two reboot insults), 5 series for television (not counting the animated series), books, comics, conventions, collectibles, games and more. Does JJ think that would be possible if the original was just an action movie? Think about that for one moment – the Star Trek brand has been worth many billions of dollars in the 48 years since its launch. If that launch, 48 years ago, had just been a slapped-together action franchise, does anyone really think it would have developed into the brand it is today? Given what JJ has been allowed to do to the brand through these two dumbed-down, nonsensical reboots, do the controllers of the brand really think it will make it another 48 years?

If money doesn’t motivate you, Star Trek is credited with breaking ground on many fronts: the first interracial kiss on a network show, one of the first lesbian kisses on a network show, being an influence on the creation of the PDA and portable phone, and winning copious awards including 31 Emmy Awards and many awards from the science-fiction community. And all of that is before talking about perhaps its biggest contribution to society – the popularization of both space travel and science-fiction in general to generation after generation. So much so that NASA has used the brand to interest people in the space program. Again, can you envision all of that wonderfulness coming from the original concept if it had just been an action movie?

In fact, JJ’s only lasting contribution to this beautiful canon is the misogynistic inclusion of extremely flimsy reasons to get co-stars into skimpy underwear.

But enough about what damage this movie caused. Our job is to fix it – so let’s re-film it!

Fix 1: Explain The Destruction of Romulus Better

The Supernova

Again, I know, you are thinking the only real way to fix this disaster is to throw out the script and film entirely, but that is not what we do here at Re-Film It. We have to tweak the minimum we think we can, at the lowest budget we can manage, to save this monster.

To do that, we do have to fix the biggest plot-hole in the pic (though, that is like saying Jupiter is the biggest planet – they are all pretty big). Romulus is destroyed by a supernova – with a complete failure to evacuate the planet and the failure by Spock to deliver red matter in time to make a difference (we will get to the ridiculousness that is red matter soon – don’t you worry). As has been well covered by others, this is completely insane and poor science-fiction at its worst. It is also the same sort of insult to the audience that we had to step in and fix in Man of Steel – its the kind of blatant impossibility that says “I assume my audience is a bunch of unthinking imbeciles there only to see explosions.” Of all the reasons this plot device is so insulting, the one that I think is the most burning is Spock’s failure to deliver the deus ex machina – because his travel time to where he needs to be to block the supposed energy wave is completely calculable. Did he run into traffic? Run out of gas and had to stop on the turnpike? You already insulted the audience, but now you insult the most loved character in the franchise by claiming he fumbled the simple calculation of it takes N minutes to travel to destination X traveling at warp Y.

The supernova was a terrible idea (and indeed, there are any number of other pseudo-scientific phenomenon that would have fit the needed parameters so much better – like proximity to Romulus) but one we are stuck with unless we are going to burn a lot of capital re-shooting some of the movie’s big special effects shots. We will keep the supernova, because we are going to need the budget later on to clean up all the other mess. But to have it not be a cold slap in the face of every person in the audience, we are going to have to re-shoot a bit of dialog to have it make more sense.

Fixed

Let’s try to just slightly tweak this hackneyed plot device into making a little more sense. During the mind-meld scene where all this background is revealed, include a few rewrites.

  1. Make the exploding star closer to Romulus.
  2. Quickly explain the failure to evacuate Romulus (the most likely reason being that the Romulans put all their eggs in the basket of stopping the energy wave, but there are a million other reasons that could be included).
  3. For the love of Scotty, explain how Spock would fail to arrive on-time – and make it something meaningful, not a mistake.

A few candidates for number 3: the matter he is carrying has an unexpected effect on warp travel, one that is not discernible to the person inside the warp field. Or, perhaps more fun, fall back on a time paradox – Nero’s trip to the past diverts Spock, its always fun to struggle with the chicken-and-egg problems of time travel. Again though, there are a million ways to sure this up.

The point here is one I think we will run into quite a bit on Re-Film It – it only takes a sentence or two of dialog to close some plot holes. Maybe not close them perfectly, but close them. Not going through the effort to include just one sentence for your audience is an insult to your audience – and that type of treatment of your customer-base is always bad business.

Fix 2: Explain Red Matter

Red Matter

Its clear that Star Trek’s previous efforts to stay as close to real science as they could manage and still tell their story was not an effort JJ intended to carry on. The supernova is not the only flawed science in the movie, in fact its pretty clear the creators didn’t care at all about the science of the story. But to have such a flimsy piece of science as a magic bubble of matter that can make black holes again undermines a big part of what Star Trek stands for. In including such a clear refusal to care about the science of the plot, you erode the values of the franchise and what those values have built. What is worse, just as above, it could have been improved through the most minor of efforts.

Fixed

Again, we cannot completely undo the silliness here, as red matter becomes a fairly pivotal plot device, notably destroying Vulcan and altering the Star Trek timeline. As mentioned above, fixing this really just amounts to a bit of dialog (though given the money, I would spring to improve some of the special effects to have the presentation of “red matter” more closely match the ideas below).

  1. What you really mean by “red matter” is “exotic matter” – something with properties that say, let you store it at one density then quickly change its density through some sort of reaction. The idea of exotic matter is not new to Star Trek, to science-fiction, or even to science. Fitting in a small bit of dialog to just say that gives you at least some ground on which to build from, and once again not treat your audience like unthinking $10 bills. Splurge even, include a sentence on where it came from, why Starfleet has it or is investigating it, and so on. Give it a little depth – a few lines of dialog, and you will be surprised how much it adds to the story, whereas offering no explanation hurts the story.
  2. Now that you are calling it what it is, the fact that trying to transport exotic matter, experimental exotic matter at that, could well have effected Spock’s ship, giving us a good explanation for why Spock failed to get to his needed location in time.
  3. If you go that route, be sure to include some explanation as to why someone as cautious as Spock would try to transport experimental matter as the solution to the supernova problem. We are painting ourselves into a bit of a corner here because we are sticking with the ideas of the supernova and trying to stop it via a black hole – an already flawed plot setup. Our fixes above improve the situation but we still have some holes here. Saying Starfleet made some bad decisions on how to help might work, but we have all seen Spock ignore Starfleet orders before. Maybe the stubborn Romulans refused all other forms of aid? That probably works a little better…

Special note: others have complained of the flimsiness of the explanation that the drill disrupted communications, beaming, and every other technology that had to be conventiently disabled for the space jump and sword fight scenes. So we could also fix some of that with the same fixes above – perhaps our experimental exotic matter is destabilizing as time goes, and the more it destabilizes, the worse the effects on nearby spacetime. We are still disabling all the technologies just to fit in some fairly lackluster action scenes, but again, we can only fix so much without throwing out the whole mess, which is not our charter!

Fix 3: Treat Science and Technology With Reverence

Building the Enterprise

Both fixes above are essentially fixing moments where I envision JJ Abrams and the writers said to each other “I don’t really get all this science stuff, and its not important to making an action movie, so lets just call it ‘red matter’” or “lets just say Spock didn’t make it time, no one will care how”. This attitude is the exact opposite of how the original Star Trek dealt with science and technology. And making this change removes the 2009 Star Trek from strata that contains 2001 and the Foundation series and instead lumps it in with Skyline. We have fixed two of the most glaring occurances of this above, but unfortunately the picture is riddled with other, smaller examples.

These smaller examples are death by a thousand cuts – they add up to a film that can’t possibly hold up the canon that came before it. While we don’t have the budget to go back and actually include some of the respect for science and technology that Gene Roddenberry had, we can at least edit out some of the crap to reduce the feeling of “blatant disregard” the film has.

Examples:

  • Saying the time-travel phenomenom looks like a “lighting storm in space” – no scientist, astronaut or professional in any form would use such terminology.
  • Showing the Enterprise being built on-planet, when the whole origin of beaming was because the design for the Enterprise was as a space-only vehicle.

Take your pick of the many similar problems that have been cited by others: portraying the engine room as some sort of water recycling plant, trans-warp beaming, the list can go on.

Fixed

These fixes require mostly the (now virtual) scissors. Just remove the snippets of dialog and the tail end of a few scenes. They are offering no value to moving the plot forward anyway. So just cut them!

Conclusion

In this case, we have only taken the movie from “insulting” to “tolerable”. But we cut out many of the insults to both the audience and the Star Trek canon. We tried to restore a sense of respect for both science and technology and in doing so, maybe, just maybe, this will feel a bit less like an action movie. We couldn’t go in and make this an actual science-fiction film – to do so would have been too deep a rewrite to bother to call this the same movie. But through our usual minimum of changes, we have at least tried to let some story come to the forefront, instead of just special-effect sequences and phaser fights.

Unlike our normal contract end though, I find it important to offer some advice to the decision makers controlling the Star Trek brand. Above we outline what potential damage this dumbed-down view of Star Trek potentially did to the brand and Star Trek’s legacy. How did you and JJ Abrams follow up that damage? With the even worse Into Darkness. By “even worse” here I mean that movie again refuses to be a science-fiction film and once again reduces the brand to a flashy action movie. There are even bigger plot holes, even more unexplained “magic” plot devices, and perhaps most insulting, we once again don’t actually go boldy where no one has gone before, we go only to places we have been in the previous movie. Rather than trying to re-film the second insult, might we suggest you instead replace the director and writers with a team that actually understands the importance of your brand and canon?

Let this serve as a warning to Disney as well, though clearly its already too late. If JJ delivered this type of damage to the valueable brand that is Star Trek, what do you think is going to happen to Star Wars, a brand already in jeapoardy!?

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

I am not going to be the first one to pick on Man of Steel, by any means.

But let’s give Warner Bros some constructive advice – here is how to re-film it!

Fix #1: Have the Krypton Scenes Make More Sense

The destruction of Krypton is creation myth I am not sure we needed to re-tread for the fourth or fifth time, but the justification for it here is it also sets up the villains and the primary conflict in the film – since we see how Zod survived the destruction and later learn how that survival is driving him to his destructive acts in the film.

But how exactly did he survive? Banished to the Phantom Zone, conveniently before the planet blows up. So you know your planet is about to go, and you take the person that tried to overthrow your global government because of that very same pending disaster, and you send him somewhere that will be unaffected by the disaster?

Wait you say – the ruling council refused to believe the planet was in that level of trouble. “To them, the Phantom Zone was still punishment – it was banishment from the planet they thought was going to be fine” I can hear you insist. Without even talking about how well transfered that idea was in the film itself, lets assume its true. When the planet did start to go south, and Mommy Superman declares there is not enough time to evacuate or escape, this idea falls apart. We just saw Zod banished to the phantom zone in a ceremony that took all of 4 minutes. No one on the planet thought “hell, strap me in, I am going to the Phantom Zone!” It would seem to be a completely plausible emergency planetary evacuation scheme.

And before you try to counter that, there might well be a million and one reasons this plan wouldn’t work – well explained in the comic or other source material. But on film this is what the audience is left with: we have nowhere left to run! What’s that, the Phantom Zone where we just sent that mutineer? Nah lets not go there, maybe these pillars of jetting lava from the planet’s core are not that bad a sign…

As if all of this wasn’t confusing enough for the innocent viewer sitting through this exposition, the last little gem is that the destruction of Krypton also suddenly frees the exiled from the PZ. Perhaps that makes some sense (I guess the PZ is much like the storage grid in Ghostbusters – without power, Slimer can get out). But because of all this is so flimsy anyway, it just completes the circle of ridiculousness. The punishment for Zod and his crew is now:

  1. We banish you to the horrible Phantom Zone! Which by the way is completely safe from the impending destruction of our whole planet.
  2. None of us will follow you there, choosing instead to conveniently get out of your zealot way by dying with the planet.
  3. Once all of us are conveniently out of your way, you will be freed from the PZ – it wouldn’t be fair to leave you there FOREVER after all!

Fixed

Alright crew, get the green screens out again, here is what we need to re-shoot:

Don’t Make Zod’s Banishment Occur So Close to the End of Krypton

So, this basically returns the plot layout to that of Superman II, but after two failed reboots, is that such a bad thing? You probably need to let go of a few other scenes to do this: it can’t be Zod that kills Jor-El, and Jor-El can’t explain to Zod that he has had a biological son. But, you can motivate Zod just as clearly: shoot a scene or two of the total incompetence of this planet-wide government and how fed up both Jor-El and Zod are with it, its just that Zod takes things a little too far and attempts an overthrow. This actually sets a better ground for Zod also taking things a little too far when he gets to Earth – trying to wipe out the human race instead of just working with us to re-create the Kryptonian race for instance.

Now, banishment to the PZ as punishment makes total sense: actually losing the whole planet hasn’t even come up yet the council.

Offer the Audience A Reason Why The Phantom Zone Isn’t An Escape Route

I bet some good reason already exists: inability to send very many people (making it an escape route for only those in the highest echelon of power or wealth), or that opening the portal to the PZ takes too much energy and the destruction has already knocked out too much of the power grid, or you know, sunspots or tachyon emissions or something. Its probably been explained in the comics one hundred times. Work in a single line of dialog to pass this to an audience that might not have read that source material. It only takes one line.

That is it – the last problem, that the destruction of Krypton conveniently frees them from the PZ, doesn’t need to be fixed because while its still a little on the silly side, its not longer a flat-out insult to the audience the way it was when Zod’s banishment to the PZ occurred all of an hour and half prior to the destruction of Krypton. We can live with it, and we are going to need the budget for other fixes!

Fix #2: For the Love of Superwoman, Have the Jonathan Kent Scenes Not Treat the Audience Like Imbeciles

Jonathan Kent Being Ridiculous

We had a lot of trouble with the scenes trying to re-introduce us to Superman’s real father – but even that mish-mash is not as bad as the scenes introducing us (again for the 5th time, but again not complaining about that) to his adopted father. So we want to make Jonathan’s biggest motivation in this little pic that he is afraid of Clark revealing himself to the world – ok. That does set up some conflict around Clark coming forward when Zod demands Earth give him up (before you even say it, we absolutely can still have this scene even with the changes above – establishing that Zod can discover Jor-El had a son and sent him to earth could be the matter of one short scene of Jor-El finding that data on one of these Kryptonian outposts or other knowledge dump).

But taking this to extent that he allows himself to be killed, over saving a dog no less, when Superman is 50 yards away? Other critics have picked on this scene as well clearly but its not just a poor scene, its ridiculous. As if it wasn’t ridiculous enough, he dies in a tornado – an event that creates an environment nearly perfect for Clark to rush in at near the speed of sound, grab pops, and get back out with no one noticing. People would notice that in the middle of tornado? Moreso than Clark lifting an entire school bus out of the water – with the kids still inside? Its the kind of scene that is so insane and inane that its insulting to the audience.

And while we are here in Smallville flashback territory, the scene of Clark running around with a blanket on as a cape doesn’t make enough sense as it stands. The explanation of it being genetic memory from how they dressed in Krypton (where capes had apparently just come back into style, after capris finally moved off the fashion scene) is way too esoteric for this movie. Insider references or obscure ideas can work in some comic book movies or even in a Superman movie but not to explain away a scene that otherwise stands out glaringly as lacking explanation.

Fixed

Kill Jonathan Via a Heart Attack

You could pick another, similar end for Jonathan, and again, by choosing heart attack we are treading some ground well covered by other adaptations of Superman. But it does have a nice consequence: Clark must learn that while he can stop bullets, he can’t save everyone and can’t save people from the frailties of being human. Honestly though, I care less about the heart attack as just cutting the tornado scene – have Jonathan Kent die of a sudden onset of Ebola for all I care, so long as you cut that scene!

Establish Clark Wearing a Cape Via a Shot of Comic Books

Making not the most original idea, but lend a bit more credibility to the scene by implying he got the idea from other comics. At least then we are giving the audience a concrete source of the scene, and heck, since you want to make a Justice League movie anyway you can work in a nice little reference to some other part of the DC Universe and get the more hardcore fan base talking about the scene in a positive way (did you see that reference to SomeOtherSuperGuy!!!) instead of complaining about it.

Fix #3: Make the Destruction of Metropolis a Meaningful Scene, Not a Comedy Scene

Hulk Smash!

Again, I am not at all the first to say that the fist fight between Zod and Superman that basically levels Metropolis comes across as “odd” (by odd, we really mean completely absurd). But again, lets call it what it really is: blatantly nonsensical in the interest of some more special effects. So we want to put Superman through some hard times – establish our new Superman as a little darker, a little more troubled than the sunny, happy past installments. And of course we need some major city destruction (no one wants to repeat the mistakes of Thor – oh no that thing is wrecking our tiny, tiny town! Someone help!). Fine.

But a scene completely contrary to your hero’s core ethics, as well as a scene that doesn’t make much logical sense, is not the answer. Superman makes no effort, not even a single time, to move the fight elsewhere? Kansas? Space? Gotham? One scene of Superman trying to lure Zod away and Zod not falling for it? Or of Superman pushing Zod out of the metro area only for Zod to fly back? No, we aren’t even gifted that. Just shot after shot after shot of one or the other punching the other through another building. I for one heard even dyed-in-the-wool comic book movie fans laugh out loud during the scene.

Fixed

Destroy Metropolis Another Way

You want some big special effects, including city-leveling effects. No complaints there – they are some of my favorite ones. Just shift the source of the destruction – Zod wants Earth as the new Krypton and feels he needs to completely remove these pesky humans from the planet first – fine, let him start with Metropolis. He has a ship, let’s just theorize that baby was equipped with some orbital weapons. Or if not weapons, Zod is smart enough to rig ejecting something massively heavy from orbit and letting it impact at re-entry speeds (ok, maybe a little too close to Retaliation but after all that was a pretty good scene). Maybe Superman stops one orbital missile only to have 4 more land elsewhere in Metropolis. Certainly, from a SF point of view, you could have created some very high value shots this way – the kind that you throw part of in the trailer and in the clip played during the superbowl.

Plus, you get to keep your hero in-character, and its a lot more logical than just fisticuffs gone wrong. You still get a dark, brooding superman that couldn’t save all of Metropolis, and heck if you want you can even keep the 9/11 imagery, though I would advise some more modifications there too, if we just had the budget!

Conclusion

Three re-shoots, some consisting of multiple scenes, and a pretty big bucketload of new special effects. Its going to delay the movie at least a year and probably cost another 15 million. But the reward? Better buzz (comic fans can’t wait to talk about the secret message hidden in the comic book that inspires Clark’s cape), more repeat viewing (an audience not treated like a moron is more likely to see your movie again – this is called the “we are not morons” principle of the box office), and all around more respect as you try to work up towards Justice League.

In other words: we all would have been fine with a darker, broodier Superman. We just aren’t willing to watch a movie that assumes “screw it, they are just hear for the effects anyway, no one cares if this makes sense”.