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:
- We banish you to the horrible Phantom Zone! Which by the way is completely safe from the impending destruction of our whole planet.
- None of us will follow you there, choosing instead to conveniently get out of your zealot way by dying with the planet.
- 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!
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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”.