Thursday, November 16, 2017

Superman Movie Outline - Written in 30 minutes

"He's boring."

"He's invincible."

"There are no good Superman stories."

I tire of people slagging this character. Superman is
a dated concept, and yet one that's quite appealing with how preposterously cynical our culture has gotten. I'm exhausted with all the claims that there's nothing left to do with him except kill him. If hope is boring, then you're telling the story wrong.

his led to me joke around on Twitter last night about a Superman movie that wasn't so gloomy. Something truer to the vision of Superman a lot of us hold. Things got out of hand.

Back in 2013 I played a little game: I was given thirty minutes to write as much of a Wonder Woman movie as I could. People liked it. Allan Heinberg and Patty Jenkins certainly nailed their vision this year, and if there is a good Wonder Woman movie in existence now, then why not move onto the world's most famous and least popular hero?

Here comes a Superman movie written in thirty minutes. Because these stories are *so impossible* to write.

Up, up, and away.

 - - -

We open referencing the best part of Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, with a young woman on the ledge of a building, preparing to jump.

This is Superman.
Superman appears, standing next to her, not blocking her way. He is in her field of view. He explains that her doctor didn’t flake on her and really is stuck in traffic. She hesitates, looking up instead of down. Her name is Kimiyo Hoshi, and she opens up that her meds are failing, and everything is overwhelming, and nothing she does is good enough. Superman looks sympathetic, and says nothing he does is good enough either. He’s never been able to stop everything, but anything is better than nothing. 

Slowly, Kimiyo takes his hand. She can’t face the crowd of police and onlookers below. People filming her suicide attempt on phones for clicks.

Superman: Some of them are well-meaning. Some will help you if they can. But when you’re overwhelmed, it doesn’t feel like it matters, right? I know someone who's much more discrete, who'll see you right now if you want.
Kimiyo: Will you come with me?
Superman: I wouldn’t miss it.

*That* Kimiyo Hoshi. One day, she'll be Dr. Light.
We blur off to a scientific compound in the middle of nowhere, and are introduced to my favorite super-scientist: Mr. Terrific. There are some barbs about why he isn't "Doctor Terrific." Still, he greets Kimiyo; he recognized her name, having read her research papers about lunar light anomalies.
Mr. Terrific. You should really read Geoff Johns's JSA.
As soon as Terrific and Kimiyo walk inside, Supergirl is instantly is next to Superman. She looks incredibly frustrated; she is fiery where he is tempered. TV has already given us a great goody-goody Supergirl. There’s no competing with her. Our story’s Supergirl is more restless.

Supergirl: That took FOREVER.
Superman: I figured you'd be busy with the bank robbery.
Supergirl: I stomped those guys ten minutes ago! Do you know how long ten minutes is?
Superman: [watching Kimiyo pause by a window to wave to him. He returns the wave.] It could be a lifetime.

Supergirl almost dies. Superman is unapologetically earnest.

Skip over to a golden penthouse to meet our Lex Luthor. You hated Eisenberg in Batman Vs. Superman? I actually liked him, but okay, let’s go with a more Gene Hackman “used car salesman” vibe. No more of the lionized genius who built an empire. This Luthor failed upwards. Failed casinos, failed land deals, a college that never taught anyone anything – and he’s just gotten richer and more full of himself.

Metallo, the classic Terminator With A Kryptonite Core, is one of Luthor’s pet projects. As Luthor watches the news, he’s also rummaging around inside Metallo’s chest cavity. A man needs a hobby.
Metallo, who is in no way an infringement of the Terminator's copyrights.
Luthor is, obviously, the kind of guy with an impractical Minority Report Wall of TVs. Most of them are tuned to info about Superman.

Luthor: There's two of them now. What's next? A Super Dog?
Metallo: Please don’t drop the screwdriver in me again.
Luthor: It can't be allowed. The next one has to be one of ours.
Metallo: Ours?
Luthor: Mine.

The viewing screens follow Luthor’s people at various places Superman has visited. On the ledge where Kimiyo was going to jump, they find an eyelash. A hair. Skin cells. Sweat from a fingerprint might have DNA.

The coup de grace is down in a subway, where a man shoves a stranger onto the tracks. You better believe Superman arrives in time – only for the pusher to attack. He turns out to be a Terminator-esque Metallo, and after trading a couple blows, he reveals his Kryptonite heart. He manages to make Superman bleed before Supergirl jumps in and pummels him with a lead plate.

That blood? The person who was pushed to the tracks gets up and collects it for Luthor’s project.

Superman drops by Mr. Terrific’s to get checked out. Terrific warns that repeated exposure to Kryptonite could lead to build-up and shortening his lifespan. Supergirl has no time for any of this. She is certain Luthor was behind the Metallo attack, and wants to take his head off.

While they’re in the compound, Kimiyo stops by, chiding him to take care of himself. She gets the chance to show off the lunar module she’s building, which simulates a lack of atmosphere. She’s testing how light behaves. The concentrated dose of solar radiation tastes “like nachos” to Superman.

Meanwhile Luthor builds something very different. The DNA his experts sequence seems to come from both Superman and Supergirl, but Luthor doesn’t care. He fires anyone who won’t do what he wants. Accelerate that aging process. Dump anything that isn’t growing right. You can reuse incubation chambers, right?

Supergirl is patrolling Lex’s labs, searching for where he’s hiding, using her X-ray vision and incredible hearing. This is the day the engineers finally crack the Superman code. Or, sort of.

The clone looks like Michelangelo's David until they expose him to solar radiation. Horrible scarring immediately covers his entire body, and he instantly hears everything in the entire city. He can’t stop his heat vision, destroying the entire facility, nor can he stop his X-ray vision, turning him effectively blind. This is our Bizarro.
Supergirl tries to stop him, mistaking him someone like Metallo. Bizarro doesn’t even know she’s there, and with a sonic boom, he bowls right over her, and through Metropolis. Superman arrives for what we think is the big fight – but Bizarro goes right through him, too, and then straight up into the sky. Superman is bewildered at how witless the clone is.

As soon as Bizarro is off the property, Luthor is calling every Senator he’s bought to complain about a Kryptonian invasion. With every news channel carrying the destruction of city streets, the military moves. Superman needs to get to him before they do.

Superman: He's out there, alone and completely overwhelmed. He doesn't know how to touch anything without breaking it. He needs someone.
Supergirl: How do you know that?
Superman: Because that's what I was, in the beginning.

So Bizarro tears through drones, angry at the piercing signals they send out. Superman manages to hold onto him for a minute, and might possibly be getting through to him – when the military starts shelling them both. Bizarro is so confused that he thinks Superman is part of it, and while Supes doesn’t want to hurt him, Bizarro has no such restraint.

Watching the melee, Luthor figures, hey, one of them might kill the other. He sends Metallo to meddle the next time Bizarro is calming down, trying to stir the pot. It backfires, and Metallo, fearing he’s about to be recycled, rats out Luthor. Bizarro can barely comprehend anything, but he remembers the man who was there when his pain began. He starts focusing his senses to track Luthor. It’s Frankenstein Time.

Luthor pulls out everything in his arsenal. Well, besides all the mercenaries who quit the second the sonic boom erupts over his building. Luthor tries a Green Kryptonite ray, which should kill Superman. Bizarro just gets more irritable. He tries a Red Kryptonite ray, which successfully “turns off” Bizarro’s powers for a few seconds. Superman arrives, refusing to let Luthor kill Bizarro, before Bizarro powers back up. Supes has to rescue his old rival. Yes, Superman won’t even give up Luthor.

Luthor: The definition of insanity is--
Superman: Misattributing quotes to Einstein?

Luthor: Would any sane person do what you're doing?
Superman: I like to think so.
Luthor: Would Batman?
Superman: Well, no. He can’t fly.
Luthor: People like you will never make the world great. You hold everyone else back. You need to be replaced.
Superman: I look forward to being replaced. People like you will never do it.

Luthor is irate that the only shelter is Mr. Terrific’s compound. Supergirl’s been waiting here forever. Lesser heroes show up, like Cyclone and Guardian. People who believe in Superman. People who he’s helped on their worst days. They’ve come because Superman has to stand back – Bizarro will rampage if he sees him. He hovers above, afraid of what might go wrong that will require him intervening.
by Alex Ross
Not that Bizarro is in a good mood. His senses are bombarded by broadcasts about what a monster he is, and the only thing he can focus on is the sound of Luthor’s breathing. He could hear him across the continent. He’s the loudest thing in the world. Mr. Terrific has some, well, terrific devices, and Supergirl has the muscle, but all they do is slow him down.

Kimiyo pulls Luthor inside her simulator. Bizarro follows them in, and instantly, all light is gone. So is all sound. Bizarro can’t see or sense where Luthor is. At first he’s a wild animal. Then, he calms. The overstimulation is gone. Kimiyo appears, the only figure visible in this moon-like environment. The floor lights up under her feet. Bizarro focuses solely on her. She doesn’t know what he can understand, but she gets being overwhelmed.

She lightens the room enough for him to hear his own breathing, and hers.

Kimiyo: Sometimes you have to be alone. Sometimes you can’t be.

It winds up being a speech not unlike the one Superman gave her at the beginning of the movie. Bizarro experiences relief for the first time. They just need to find a place like this for him.

Around the end of the scene, we realize Luthor has snuck out of the bunker.
Superman testifies to the U.N. to leave Bizarro alone for right now.

Luthor waits in an undisclosed location, intending to flee the country. Supergirl punches through the ceiling.

Luthor: I wanted a skylight put in anyway.

He tries to surprise her with a Red Kryptonite ray to sap her powers. She tears it free and holds it as Luthor backs away. 

Supergirl: I am so sick of you getting away with everything just because you're so fragile. Just because he can't touch you without you exploding.

She uses the ray on herself. Luthor is stunned. With no powers, she one-punches him right in the jaw. Luthor goes down, KO'd. She stands over him victorious for a moment, before clutching her hand.

Supergirl: ...Ow!
Authorities radio in: We'll be there in a minute.
Supergirl: Great. Supergirl out. [turns off mic; fans her hand] ...Ow!

Bizarro sits on a gray hill, enjoying the view of the night sky. We pan out to see Earth in the night sky. He’s got his own hometown now: the Moon. It’s not so noisy up here. In the dust, he keeps drawing the ‘S’ symbol, although it’s backwards.

Superman visits, pleased by this entire scene. He wishes he’d come out here as a kid.

The two of them can’t speak, and they don’t need to. Bizarro takes Superman on a brief tour of his new home – have you seen this Sea of Tranquility over here? At the end, Bizarro glances hopefully at the Earth. Superman nods to him. In time, he’ll be ready to come down.

It would be serene if a spaceship of purely Independence Day Sequel size didn’t show up and cast a shadow over the moon. A gruff giant named Kalibak claims to come for conquest and to show Earth its place in the universe.

Instantly, Supergirl is in space next to Superman. She could not be more excited. Bizarro also looks excited.

Superman has to concede. Yeah, this is an appropriate family activity. It’s off to save their homes.

- - -

You can probably tell that I was running out of time at the end there. Like last time, it's intense to try to sprint through an entire story this quickly. I don't think I've gotten any quicker at typing, and up until the last three minutes, there were a few chunks that were all [STUFF IN BRACKETS].

This remains fun as heck to do, though. Plot comes at you fast. The product feels like a decent framework to introduce Bizarro to a mainstream audience. In the World of Sequels, he'd be so much fun to develop in future stories.

So friends, foes, fans, and skeptics: what do you think?


  1. Amazing, John. You should do this for a living, you know?

  2. Definitely a wild romp of a ride. Thank you.

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  4. This was fun! It would make a rollicking good movie, too. "Yeah, this is an appropriate family activity." LOL

  5. DUDE, YES! There's so much HEART to this! You have really dug into what makes these characters interesting. The plot is strong too. I loved it.

    - Robert

  6. So...when are you selling your script to DC? I *really* want to see this one! :D

  7. My mind was running this in animation format but Holy badass plot, Batman! I'd Kickstarter, Indiegogo and DC blackmail for a story including these characters in this scenario in any video format.

    It would be really cool to see more of these from you, but I secretly hope we don't get as many bad movies out of that universe in the future.

  8. So, full disclosure, I'm not a Superman fan. Monster and I have this fight constantly. I'm team Batman (I don't want to hear it about his "powers"). She's team Superman. I'm all for hope, but no one can be that predicatable all the time; that's why Captain America is a bit boring too. But I still watch all the DC (and Marvel) movies anyway (except Spiderman...don't get me started).

    I did enjoy this plot however. I loved the brother-sister back-and-forth of Superman and Supergirl (I have 2 big brothers) and Bizarro. He's not been seen onscreen (ever on the big screen right?). Also, I'm with you, I really liked psycho-Lex played by Eisenberg, but this Trumpish version is nice too.

    PS - Keaton is my Batman and I'll always have a soft spot for Christopher Reeves.

  9. I *adore* Superman stories that have proper heart to them, and this is absolutely one of them. Superman stories are inherently about faith, and hope, and trust, and that really shines through here, what a delightful read!


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