DC Cinematic Universe Reboot Pitch: Superman

So, I assumed that Warners wasn’t going to throw out the baby with the bath water… which turned out to be foolish on my part- but I also think it’s the right call. And since the DC Cinematic Universe is getting a reboot, I’m going to pitch my own reboot slate.

And… I’m this late in updating because I haven’t been able to stop writing these since I started. It looks like I’m writing full pitches for these things. Apparently I pitch for a living now.

Superman

It all starts with Superman- as it should.

I’d start him at a crossroads, in college at Kansas State. His parents always wanted him to be able to have a quiet, private life. That’s why they’ve always asked him to help in quiet ways. They know their boy too well to think he wouldn’t help at all- but he needs to be careful, so he can have a normal life. To that end they’ve wanted him taking agricultural studies, along with mechanical engineering courses that would help him maintain the equipment on the family’s farm- it’s easier for him to remain anonymous living in Smallville.

But he’s always been drawn to the world. This gets supersized as he moves from Kansas State’s distance learning program to their Manhattan, KS main campus, in a suburb of Metropolis. He’s dating Lana Lang, but she’s still living in Smallville, attending a fashion school online, and their relationship is stretched paper thin.

He rooms with Pete Ross, who he hasn’t seen since High School, but they’re friends. Pete’s something of a big man on campus, and shows Clark the ropes. Clark needs electives even if he stays with his parents’ plans for him, and selects a journalism class; he talks it over with Pete, and justifies it as a lark. Pete sees through him, but also knows that expanding his horizons will be good for him.

He’s also got another friend from Smallville, Lex Luthor. Lex is actually hurt that Clark decided to room with Pete; he’s always been jealous of their easy friendship. Lex struggles to be kind, really, to be human; he’s typically the smartest man in the room, and was raised to believe that the smartest man should be the one everyone else is listening to. He’s wealthy, and flashy, and whip-smart, he’s liked, and respected, but not loved.

On his first day in his journalism class, students pair off to interview each other. Clark gets paired with Lois Lane. She feels she’s slumming it at Kansas State, but when her father transferred to the nearby military base, it seemed the only way to stay close to her family. She starts calling Clark “Smallville” almost immediately. Clark is smitten, and his hopes crash as she’s greeted by Lex, who introduces her as his girlfriend. “Whoa,” she slows him. “I’m still feeling that out.”

Pete chastises him for forgetting about Lana. He checks his watch, and has to run, literally jogging off campus, and once he’s out of sight, running at superspeed back to Smallville, where Lana’s waiting at a diner. He arrives just as their food arrives- she ordered for him, his favorites, and he’s distracted enough not to recognize that she’s upset. Finally she blurts out that the distance isn’t working, and he’s her best friend and she doesn’t want to lose that, but-

He stops her, and takes her hand. “You couldn’t.” This is really the first moment we really see Superman in Clark. He’s gentle with her, kind, hopeful. Then he cocks his ear, and she asks if he has to go. “For a second.” He’s a blur, but back basically before we can blink. She tells him it’s a shame he never goes slow enough for anyone to see that suit- it’s some of her best work. She asks him what it was this time. “Semi’s breaks went out on the highway.” She asks if he could hear that. “I can hear radio waves.”

“You never stop amazing me.” She kisses him. “What is wrong with me, letting a guy like you go?”

“Nothing at all. I’m just not what you need right now. And I’ll always be here for you.” He’s a blur again.

“Except when you’re not?” she asked. It’s mostly flirty, but there’s an edge of sadness to it.

“Hey,” he says, and puts an arm around her, and she curls into his shoulder. “I’ll always come running if you need me.”

“You better. I’ll kick your ass if you stop being my friend.”

We cut back to the campus. Lex is excited to be spending time with Clark, and also excited to be able to show off both what he knows and what his family’s money has bought for the school. He’s leading him through a new advanced robotics lab. “Then why is it part of the health sciences wing?” Clark asks.

“Showing those second-day ace reporting bonafides?” Lex teases him. He pulls back a curtain, to reveal a man, Corben, in a hospital bed. Clark’s empathy goes into overdrive, and he’s not sure he should be seeing this. Lex ignores him, tells him they’ve paid the man for this privilege, and then some. He’s terminal, cancer is killing his body. But using an exotic mineral as a power source, they’ve built him a robot body. The metal skeleton is suddenly behind him, and pinches Clark’s shoulder as the lead container in the chest rotates, exposing the kryptonite at its core. Clark passes out. He comes to a moment later. Lex was concerned, but plays it off teasing Clark for having swooned at the surprise, saying that kryptonite is only very lightly radioactive.

Lex tells him the skeleton they’ve nicknamed “Metallo,” because it’s made of metal, and they… may have been doing 2am Jello shots while brain-storming. But the robot, aside from its power source, isn’t all that impressive; it’s stronger than most of the competitor bots, but it’s iterative. The revolutionary science is the interface with Corben’s brain. The machines he’s hooked to are currently downloading his brain… but it’s a lengthy process. There’s concern Corben won’t survive long enough for them to complete the transfer.

To that end, the university has agreed to an earlier-than-planned test-flight of Lex’s new experimental passenger jet. It made it all the way to Stockholm to pick up the world’s foremost ontological surgeon, and is bringing him back as they speak. And in a bid to impress his ‘girlfriend,’ Lois took a seat aboard the maiden flight, in the hopes she might actually let them be official. Lex gestures to a board full of complicated aeronautic formulas. Clark frowns. “Shouldn’t this be inverted?” Clark asks. Lex stares a moment, dumbfounded. Clark’s right, and a roomful of graduate students either missed that, or were too timid to correct Lex’s mistake. “It, uh, reminded me of a question from my trig, class. I got a C- in that one.”

The horror of it dawns on Lex; that mistake means the jet is about to have a catastrophic failure, and if it left on time, it will happen any moment. He excuses himself to make a call.

Inside the cockpit, we hear the pilot’s mayday as Lex tries to break through to warn them about the error- but the damage has already occurred. Clark, wearing his Superman suit, manages to right the plane. Since both its wings are damaged, he has to fly it in, allowing Lois to take a picture of him- a picture she crops to remove his face- but she sees him clearly.

The next day, Lex is furious. Rather than talk about the experimental jet he successfully flew, or the cutting-edge surgical and scientific breakthroughs he made possible, the campus is abuzz about a Superman who saved Lois- and her story on the school’s blog is the reason why.

Clark has breakfast with Lex and Lois. She’s increasingly cold to Lex, in part because he’s throwing something of a tantrum. He worked for nearly a year, and in an instant was upstaged by some fluke of nature. Lois, meanwhile, is asking genuine questions of Clark this time, wanting to know about ‘ma and pa’ and even Smallville. Clark keeps trying to deflect to Lex, who knows his parents, and came from Smallville, but Lex is obsessed, and Lois isn’t interested in either his obsession or his perspective.

Eventually, Lois breaks things completely off with Lex, and starts pursuing Clark aggressively. It comes to a head when she confronts him. “I will sleep with you, right now, if you admit you’re the Superman.” Clark’s eyebrows go up.

“That must prove it, right? Because what kind of man could resist that offer? We must not be the same person.”

“Flattery, Mr. Kent? Or are you just trying to get to me another way?”

He stops for a moment, before becoming more serious. “I don’t want to play games with this,” he admits. “You’re beautiful, intelligent, and… kind in a way you usually hide from most people. I would love to have a relationship with you, Lois, but not one based on the factors of my birth. If that’s the only reason you’re intrigued-”

Of course it’s not, Smallville,” she taunts. “But I can understand the pattern, so let me address that. I… spent time with Lex because of his potential; he could be a great man. Not because of his wealth, or his family’s connections, but because he has such capacity for compassion and kindness and good. But he was what my mom described my father as when she met him, a lowly private in the Army- he was a project. You’re the kind of man Lex could be, if he’s lucky, if he’s works at it. Lex was someone I could make into my equal. You’re… already pretty close.” She hangs off him, playful, but alluring.

“That you’ve got a secret does make you extra intriguing,” she adds. “That you’re humble about your potential to the point of absurdity… I want to know everything about you.”

“But can I trust you?”

“Ouch.”

“How can I know I’m not just another story to you, or that you won’t get bored and decide to write the story later on. Put another way, would you trust you?”

“Point. And no… but I think you know better than me. I think you trust better than me.”

He bites his lip, a cat with a mouth full of canary. “I can also hear your heartbeat.”

“I’m trying to decide whether that’s romantic or creepy.”

“It’s just a tell. Not the only one, but the most simple, obvious one. But I can pretty much known when someone’s being deceitful. And you’re not.”

“Then say it, and you can have me; Lane’s don’t Welch.”

He leans in close, and whispers, sensually, “No.” Her shoulders slump. She’s disappointed, and not just because she wants to hear him say it. “If you and I are going to have a relationship, it will be based on trust, and affection. Not bargains.”

She kisses him, passionately, halfway expecting that to change his mind, and a tiny bit hurt when it doesn’t, but she plays it off. “I’m holding you to that.”

We cut to later, Clark eating with Pete. “You’re a stronger man than me,” Pete says.

“Only barely. The way she smells.”

“Oh, I know. It fills the room after she leaves.”

“I don’t just mean her perfume. Her shampoo, deoderant, and the way they mix with the scent of her skin oils and sweat…”

“Okay, you are dangerously pent-up. Like, I’m worried you’re going to kill me in my sleep with a ballistic wet dream.”

“It’s… taken care of.” Pete… wants details, but Clark waves him off because he has a call. It’s Lex, asking to meet him later. He does. Lex has been drinking a little. “Should I be trying to catch up?” Lex shrugs.

“I hate you, a little, for how effortlessly better than me you are. You caught my mistake with the plane- and you’ve been too polite to mention it, even to me. It took me three months to convince Lois to get lunch with me- as friends- and in three weeks… she’s never looked at me the way she looks at you. No one has ever looked at me the way they do at you.”

“Lex… people aren’t an equation you can solve. You can’t input time, or even the right gestures, and output success. People feel, and they need. Be there for their needs, and their feelings, and people will see you the way I do- they’ll look at you the way I do.”

He hugs Lex, and Lex wants to hate it… but he doesn’t. “I hate you a little more for this, and because you know how much I needed it. How do you always know?”

Clark pats him on the back, and releases him. “It’s not so hard. People tell you what they need. You just have to listen enough to hear it.”

“You’re my best friend. You… don’t have to reciprocate it. I know I’m not yours.”

Clark shrugs. “I remember coming home crying the first month of school. Lana told me Chloe was her best friend. And you know what my dad said?”

“No idea. My father would have backhanded me and told me to toughen up. I don’t know what human fathers do or say.”

“That sucks, Lex. But my dad, he hugged me, and said, ‘Don’t worry about who your best friend is, or if you’re someone else’s best friend. Just concentrate on being the best friend you can be, and all your friends will be lucky to have you.’”

“That’s corny as hell, even for a Kansas farm boy.”

“Some of the truest things in life are, Lex. We all make our own families. You’ll find yours. I’m sure of it. And they’ll be lucky to have you.”

We cut forward. There’s a tornado. It knocks out power to the school. Lex is there, because they anticipated this, and even assembled some local press to try and make a meal of it. “It’s okay,” he says calmingly. “We knew this was a possibility. That’s why we’ve got the generators online.” Their backups come on, and the lights come back on. “Fingers crossed there isn’t a surge-” The power goes out, and Lex and the other students work to try and keep Corben stable. One of them is on the line with the power company. A student tells him they’ve got about an hour of juice on the batteries. The pour company say it’ll take at least 90 minutes. Lex knows that five minutes after life support fails Corben will be braindead. “Start the transfer into Metallo. We’ll increase the read speed.” A student argues that they won’t get reliable data. Lex grabs them. “In an hour John Corben is going to die. I can’t prevent that. But I can try to save as much of his mind as we can.”

Lex looks over his shoulder, at an empty chair with a handwritten card on it for Clark. Lois is sitting next to it, and notices, goes to comfort Lex. “I’m sure he’ll make it.” Lex acts like he doesn’t care. “I’m sure he’s safe.” Lex makes a joke about Clark getting made President of the tornado if he got caught up in it.

We cut to the tornado. Superman is pulling things out of it, cars, fence slats, cows, a drunk out of a port-a-potty, “I think I had more to drink than I thought… really need a shower.”

We cut back to Lex in his lab. One student is talking about the progression of the transfer, into the high 90s, while another complains that the data they’re getting is corrupted. Around 98%, the power dies a final time. They light flashlights. Lex spurs them to keep moving- they planned for this, and they know just how traumatic it will be if Corben wakes up in a metal skeleton. They’ve got synthetic skin, molded to look like Corben pre-cancer. They finish after about an hour, and one of the guests ask if they’ll wake him up. Lex says that he is awake, but that his operating system is defragmenting his mind, a process Corben will likely experience as dreaming, since that’s the human equivalent.

Corben’s eyes open, vaguely glowing green. “It doesn’t hurt,” he says. “In fact… I don’t feel anything.”

“No,” Lex says. “We’re looking into touch-sensitivity, but that advancement’s several generations away. We talked about that.” Corben is confused. His mind doesn’t work the way he thinks it should. He feels hungry… but is told he can’t eat. His ex-wife attended the procedure, but he’s distressed he can’t smell, can’t feel the warmth of her hand. She’s also stand-offish; they’re friendly, but he doesn’t seem to remember she’s his ex. Everything feels alienating. He claims to need air, and accidentally tears a door off its hinges on his way outside. “He actually doesn’t,” Lex says to the reporters, “but it is quite an adjustment. If you’ll excuse me.”

Corben is having a full-fledged freakout when Lex gets outside. He doesn’t understand, doesn’t remember what he agreed to, and how much Lex might have been coloring outside the lines. Lex is trying to play to the crowd, how much this advancement could mean to all sorts of people, but Corben is becoming increasingly unstable and violent, eventually smashing a car so it folds like a hard-shell taco and flinging it into the air, where it’s caught by Superman.

They engage, fighting, as Lex tries to get to the failsafe and shut Metallo down. Lex accidentally manages to open the kryptonite compartment, and Superman falls to his knees. Lex realizes that it’s having an outsized impact on him, and grabs a fire extinguisher and smashes it into Metallo’s chest, sending flecks of the rock scattering- but the extinguisher blocks the rock enough for Superman to rally, holding Metallo while Lex shuts him down. The pair collapse into the mud. “This doesn’t mean I hate you any less,” Lex says, but helps Superman up off the ground.

“You’ll come around,” Superman says, but the way he says it, it’s full of warmth and cheer- he’s not full of himself, he’s just full of hope, for both of them, and their friendship.

Clark and Lois sit down to talk. She reveals that she sticky-fingered all the phones and cameras during the chaos, but that he’s at a crossroads. He can’t be Superman and fly under the radar- if he’s going to keep saving people, someone is going to get pictures to the press. She doesn’t think he can stop- he wouldn’t be who she thinks he is if he could. But she tells him, he also can’t do the most good if he goes back to Smallville- and for what it’s worth, she read the article he wrote about Corben for their class- he’s a talented writer. She’d publish it on the school blog in a heartbeat.

“How do I disappoint my parents?” Clark asks.

“If you want to do it like me? Do it with gusto. And some light shoplifting. But Clark… no parent who could have raised you into the man you are could be disappointed you turned out this way. You have to know that.”

“You’re probably right. I’m selling my folks short.”

“Folks, Smallville?”

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you’ll never get all of the country out of the man.”

“How? How can you say things like that without making me want to hit you?”

“I think it’s the way I look without a shirt on.”

“That helps. But… it’s here,” she touches his chest, and unbuttons his shirt, revealing the “S” shield of his suit.

We fade, but we’ll fade back in, a month later, on a similar shot of the “S” shield, but this time it’s on the front page of the Daily Planet, under the heading, “Man of Steel Sits Down for First Interview” with Lois Lane’s byline. Clark sets the paper down.

“I’m really proud of you,” he says.

“Of me? It’s your story. You could have told it, probably better than me.” She ponders a moment. “Well, you couldn’t; it’s not who you are. It’s not about the prestige for you, or the career. But this could could have been your byline. Maybe it should have.”

“No. Because I wouldn’t have known the right questions to ask. I know who I am, but that doesn’t mean I know what other need to know. That was all you. You deserve this.”

“I used to dream about seeing my name on the cover of the Planet; they offered to hire me, even without graduating.”

“Oh,” Clark’s surprised by that. “What’d you say?” He’s bracing, because he thinks he knows where this conversation goes.

“It’s my dream job.” There’s a sadness in her voice, enough we start to worry Clark’s right. “That’s why I need to be able to do it right. If they want me because I’m right for the job, they’ll want me in a year, when I’ve got my degree. Besides. I couldn’t leave you alone here. They’d eat you alive, Smallville.”

“My hero,” he says, and kisses her, and this time we really do fade to black.