Though Warner Bros. Superman reboot Man of Steel most definitely opened bit at the box office, the pic proved to be one of the more divisive releases of the year. Reactions were all over the map, and you’re just as likely to find someone that was down on director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer’s iteration of the character as you are someone that adored the new approach. Love it or hate it, though, you can’t deny that the film took some big risks with its departures from comic book lore, and now an early treatment of the script credited to Snyder, Goyer, and producer Christopher Nolan reveals that Man of Steel could have ended up being very, very different than the film that we saw in theaters.
Hit the jump for a rundown of how this early treatment differs from the final film. [UPDATE: Hitfix has updated their story to report that the treatment is fan-fiction. “I bought it because I wanted to buy it,” reporter Drew McWeeny said in his honest explanation of why they ran the story. It happens to the best of us, and McWeeny is one of the most trusted names in the film reporting business. If you still want to read some fairly convincing fan-fic (especially when compared to the finished film), you can read a summation after the jump].
Probably the biggest surprise in this early treatment—titled “Treatment 4.5B” and written by Goyer, Snyder, and Nolan—is just how different it is from the film that made it to the screen. Since Snyder is credited on the treatment, one presumes that this is more similar to the initial take that Goyer and Nolan pitched to Warner Bros., and is likely more in keeping with the story that Snyder initially signed on to direct. That being said, the completed Man of Steel represents months of development work and input from all three that resulted in a finished product that they all felt happy about.
Goyer has previously said that his initial “new take” on Superman that got Nolan so enthused was approaching the film as a first contact story, confronting head on the fact that if Kal-El revealed himself to the world as an alien, it would be the biggest event in human history. That is indeed still here, as are the principal characters of Jor-El, Zod, and Faora, but they all interact in pretty different ways, with Zod not fully coming into play until much later in the film.
The aforementioned treatment comes courtesy of HitFix’s Drew McWeeny, who has written a pretty extensive summary of how the story progresses. We’ve rounded up some of the key differences from that treatment to Man of Steel below:
- The treatment still opens on Krypton, but under very different circumstances. Zod’s army is seen on a battlefield trying to break defensive lines held by Jor-El. Zod is trying to destroy Krypton because he believes his people would be better served terraforming a new planet that has been discovered (Earth) and moving all Kryptonians there.
- Zod and Jor-El have a fight sequence at the power plant (where Zod is trying to enact his plan), and while Zod wins the battle, he is quickly arrested and sent to the Phantom Zone.
- Faora is now Zod’s wife, and while she is indeed punished, she is not sent to the Phantom Zone.
- Jor-El goes back to try and reverse Zod’s actions, but the planet is already doomed and he ends up being targeted by the Kryptonian government as a suspected loyal to Zod.
- Seeing that he cannot convince the Kryptonians otherwise, Jor-El sends his son to Earth.
- Faora ends up stealing a spaceship to escape Krypton’s destruction.
- After Krypton explodes and we see baby Kal-El heading to Earth, the film cuts to the adult Clark Kent working on the oil rig seen in the film. He saves people from disaster, just as in Man of Steel, but this time as an employee of the rig.
- Kent is working as a freelance journalist in the treatment, and goes home to see his parents, who are both alive at this point.
- While going through mail at his parents’ home, Clark receives a job offer for the Daily Planet.
- The treatment actually shows Kent shaving using his heat vision bounced off a mirror.
- There’s a tornado sequence in Smallville in which Clark flies around and saves everyone, using his superbreath to blow the tornado out. Jonathan Kent does not die here, and is instead proud of his son’s heroic display.
- Jonathan Kent tells adult Clark about the ship in the barn, which Clark has known about for a long time but has thus far been too scared to confront.
- The ship in the barn becomes the “Fortress of Solitude,” as it opens upon Clark approaching it to reveal Jor-El’s lab—though only Clark can see it. He is presented with a message from both of his parents and also sees the final moments of Krypton play out. At the end of the presentation, Clark is given the suit, at which point he has an emotional breakdown.
- Clark’s “turning on” of the ship again sends out a distress beacon, which was outfitted by Jor-El to be a beacon for any surviving Kryptonians to come and find Clark. Hearing this, Faora wakes from her hypersleep and sets out for Earth.
- The film’s Lois Lane is annoyed by the freelancer Clark Kent, because he scoops her on a big story. She is assigned to cover the grand opening of the Metropolis/Gotham rail link (Batman reference!), which leads to a major action sequence in which Clark and Lois are both on the train (branded with a LEXCORP logo) when it suddenly goes out of control. Clark rips his clothes off to reveal the Superman suit and proceeds to save everyone from the train before seeking out the people who sabotaged it in the first place.
- People take photos and video of Clark saving everyone on the train, which is how the alien storyline comes into play. Lois’ father, military official General Sam Lane, is instantly worried about this “super-powered threat.”
- Lois coins the term “Superman” in the Daily Planet when writing about the train crash.
- Faora crash-lands in Smallville and, after healing from the sun, rampages through the town until she finds Kal-El’s ship and activates the Phantom Zone generator that brings Zod to Earth via portal. He is badly wounded from the Phantom Zone, but the Earth’s sun heals him.
- Faora and Zod use the ship’s computer to download a full understanding of English.
- Jonathan Kent encourages Clark to go after the Kryptonians and save Earth. No apprehensiveness about his son’s abilities here.
- The fight on the Smallville street remains intact, but it’s different in that Faora recognizes Superman’s need to save random citizens from distress so she keeps distracting him by attacking bystanders. Superman is then seen going off to rescue strangers before continuing his fight with Faora.
- During the Smallville fight, Superman almost defeats a very weakened Zod, but has to leave in order to save the town from a giant fire Faora has created.
- Jonathan dies from the collateral damage that Faora has done in Smallville.
- While recuperating, Zod becomes furious that Faora is more powerful than him, and after blaming her for him being sent to the Phantom Zone, proceeds to kill her.
- Lois’ father General Lane continues to believe that Superman is a threat and thinks he is part of the invasion force. He’s essentially a more fully-formed version of Christopher Meloni’s character.
- While working on a story about the Smallville attack, Lois stays at the Kent’s farm and consoles Clark following his father’s death. She is never suspicious that he might be Superman.
- General Lane sets up a command post in Metropolis in the hopes of attracting Zod and Superman. Zod appears in the city ready to fight, and after a military attack Superman shows up to battle Zod. No World Engine mumbo jumbo.
- Zod and Superman proceed to fight, but when Zod starts attacking citizens, Superman takes off away from the city in order to minimize collateral damage (Interesting…).
- During the fight, Lois Lane recruits a young boy named Jimmy Olsen to snap pictures.
- Zod eventually brings the fight back to Smallville, where Superman opens a portal using his old ship in order to send Zod back to the Phantom Zone. Zod is not killed. Though Clark decides to destroy the ship, Martha convinces him it’s his last link to his people so he moves it to the Arctic.
- After the battle, General Lane picks up “alien metals and small shards of green rock” from the wreckage (Kryptonite). He is then seen talking on the phone to a visible Lex Luthor, who asks Lane to send the materials to his office for analysis.
- At the end of the film, Superman writes an open letter to Earth telling them the truth about himself and his home planet, and Clark returns to the Daily Planet. Lois does not find out that Clark is Superman.
Pretty different, huh? It’s especially interesting that this early treatment addresses some of the concerns that people had over the final film. Why Goyer, Snyder, and Nolan couldn’t have at least tried to acknowledge the collateral damage issue in Man of Steel is beyond me. Personally, though, I much prefer the finished film to this early treatment. Lois Lane is such a well-rounded and smart character in Man of Steel, but in this treatment she just feels like second-fiddle, and I miss the young Clark stuff. The Zod/Faora relationship is also strange in the treatment, with Faora actually feeling kind of like the primary villain instead of Zod. It’s also interesting to see that early plans had Lex Luthor actually showing up in this first film, so I’d be shocked if he didn’t appear in the sequel.
You can head over to HitFix to read Drew’s extensive rundown of the entire treatment, which is basically a scene-by-scene breakdown of that entire script and is well worth your time. But I’m curious to know what you think, dear reader. Were there aspects of this treatment that you wish had made it to the finished film? Which version of the story do you prefer? Sound off in the comments below.
Click here to catch up on all of our previous Man of Steel coverage, or peruse the recent links below:
- Editorial: 5 Things I Would Like to See in MAN OF STEEL 2
- THE COLLISION: Episode 49 – MAN OF STEEL
- Christopher Nolan Initially Disagreed with the MAN OF STEEL Ending; SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT Author Mark Waid Reacts Negatively to Film’s Finish
- MAN OF STEEL Easter Eggs and DC Comics References You May Have Missed
- Superman by the Numbers – From SUPERMAN to MAN OF STEEL
- Zack Snyder Talks MAN OF STEEL, Why It Was Important to Get Superman Off the Ground Before JUSTICE LEAGUE, the Sequel, Deleted Scenes, and More
- David S. Goyer Explains How MAN OF STEEL Sets Up JUSTICE LEAGUE and Other Future DC Films; WB Revs Up WONDER WOMAN and AQUAMAN