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The ‘Man of Steel’ is a Bearded Fisherman – It Could Be Worse

Warner Bros

With the release of the first trailer for “The Man of Steel”, there have been a lot of complaints about the upcoming Superman film.  Specifically, fans are concerned about a bulk of the short trailer showing Clark Kent with a beard and working on a fishing boat.  There has been a lot of concern and criticism surrounding this project, including the choice of Zack Snyder as director.  Snyder’s previous film “Sucker Punch” is widely considered to be his worst film, and “Watchmen” and “300” were accused of staying too close to the source material, being almost a carbon copy of the original comics.  If you’re one of those complaining about Zack Snyder or the new trailer, just remember this… It could be worse.  In fact, it almost was.  The first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve are by far the best cinematic representations of the Man of Steel ever, with every film since just getting worse and worse.  But those were just the ideas that actually made it the screen.  Getting Superman to the big screen has been met with some of the worst decisions ever made in Hollywood.

Check out these Superman ‘what-could-have-beens’

  • Superman III was originally intended to feature Supergirl, who would have a love affair with Superman, even though they are cousins in the comics.
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  • The first draft of Superman Reborn in the 1990s was going to start with Superman dying after his battle with Doomsday (like in the comics), but in his dying breath he professes his love for Lois.  In doing so, his “life force” goes into her and impregnates Lois.  She gives birth and the child grows to 21-years-old in three weeks and becomes the resurrected Superman.
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  • A second idea for Superman Reborn was going to feature romance problems between Superman and Lois, resulting in Superman going to a therapist.  Superman would still die in his battle with Doomsday, who was created by Brainiac and infused with Kryptonian DNA, but Superman’s corpse would be stolen by an alien named Cadmus and brought back to life.  Teaming up with Cadmus, Superman would wear a robotic suit that mimics his old powers until he can relearn them using a mental discipline called “Phin-yar”.
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  • Kevin Smith was brought in to rewrite the Superman Reborn script into a new story later called Superman Lives.  Though Smith was brought in by Warner Bros. because of his knowledge of the Superman comic (as well as his very critical opinion of the previous script), the bulk of the story was to be determined by producer Jon Peters, who had little-to-no knowledge of the history of Superman.  Peters would allow Smith to continue as writer under the main conditions that Superman not be seen in his iconic suit, he wouldn’t fly, and he would fight a giant spider in the climax.  As Brainiac was already the agreed upon villain for the movie, Peters also wanted Brainiac to fight polar bears that were defending Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, and have a robotic sidekick described as a “gay R2-D2 with attitude”, to be voiced by Dwight Ewell, who played the gay black militant comic book writer in Kevin Smith’s film Chasing Amy.  Peters was also insistent on Lex Luthor having a cuddly space dog that the film makers could market as a toy for children.  Kevin Smith had intended for Ben Affleck to play Clark Kent/Superman, Linda Fiorentino to play Lois Lane, Jack Nicholson as Lex Luthor, Jason Lee as Brainiac, and Jason Mewes as Jimmy Olsen.  Robert Rodfiguez was approached to direct but had to drop out due to prior commitments, though he reportedly loved the script.  Tim Burton was brought in to direct with a $5 million “pay or play” contract, guaranteeing his pay whether the movie was made or not.  Nicolas Cage was signed to play Superman with a $20 million “pay or play” contract, and Courtney Cox, Tim Allen, and Chris Rock all rumored for the roles of Lois Lane, Brainiac, and Jimmy Olsen respectively.  Michael Keaton was even rumored to reprise his role as Batman in a cameo.  Smith’s experience on the project was made famous by his recounting of the events during “An Evening With Kevin Smith”.
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  • After securing his “pay or play” contract, Tim Burton then told Warner Bros. that he would be making his version of Superman and hired screenwriter Wesley Strick to completely rewrite Kevin Smith’s script.  Reportedly, Burton and Strick complained that Smith’s script contained elements to Superman’s story they didn’t like or understand, many of which were cleared up after Strick finally read the graphic novel, “The Death and Return of Superman”.  In Strick’s script, Superman would still fight Lex Luthor and Brainiac, but they would meld together to form “Lexiac”.  After budget debates with the studios, the film was put on hold and Tim Burton left the project (with his $5 million) to direct “Sleepy Hollow”, calling his experience working on Superman one of the worst in his career and a waste of a year.
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  • In 2002, Batman vs Superman was being thrown around with JJ Abrams contracted to write the script, and McG set to direct.  When McG dropped out to film the “Charlie’s Angels” sequel, Wolfgang Petersen was brought in to direct, with a new rewrite on the script to be done by Akiva Goldsman.  In Goldsman’s script, Bruce Wayne has been retired for five years, with his friends Dick Grayson (Robin), Commissioner Gordon, and Alfred Pennyworth all dead.  Bruce is set to be married to a new woman named Elizabeth, with Superman acting as his best man.  Bruce and Elizabeth are married, only for Elizabeth to be killed on their honeymoon by The Joker.  Superman, freshly divorced from Lois Lane, has moved back to Smallville and started a relationship with Lana Lang.  Lex Luthor then manipulates the situation to make Batman blame Superman for Elizabeth’s death, leading to a fight between the two.  Matt Damon, Josh Hartnet, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, and Paul Walker were all rumored as contenders one of the two lead roles.  Christian Bale was also rumored to be in consideration for this movie as well as the new “Batman: Year One” adaptation, which later became Batman Begins.  Warner Bros. canned the project to focus on the individual stories for each character.
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  • After the failure of Superman vs. Batman, JJ Abrams continued with his script for Superman: Flyby, rewriting the origin of Superman.  In Abram’s story, Superman’s father Jor-El would be in a civil war with his corrupt brother Kata-Zor (ignoring the fact that “El” is the family name), resulting in Jor-El sending young Kal-El to Earth before being imprisoned.  While on Earth, Superman would confront his cousin Ty-Zor, and three of Ty-Zor’s followers.  Superman would be killed in the battle and meet Jor-El (who committed suicide in prison) in “Kryptonian Heaven”.  Superman would then be resurrected and defeat his four enemies, then fly off to return to Krypton, leaving the story open for a sequel.  McG was set to direct, but dropped out after disputes with the studio over filming locations.  It was later revealed that McG has a fear of flying and the studio insisted on filming in Sydney, Australia.  Brett Ratner was then considered to direct, with Josh Hartnett, Jude Law, Jared Padalecki, Tom Welling, David Boreanaz, Jerry O’Connel, Ashton Kutcher, and Henry Cavill (the current Superman) all confirmed as having auditioned or screen tested for the role or Superman.  Shia LaBeouf was approached for the role of Jimmy Olsen, Scarlett Johansson as Lois Lane, and Johnny Depp as Lex Luthor, described as a government agent obsessed with aliens.  After more budget concerns, the project was cancelled in favor of Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns”.
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So, when you watch the trailer for “The Man of Steel” or worry that Zack Snyder is a bad choice to direct the movie, just think of what Superman could have been.  Compared to these failures, this movie already has the chance to look like “Gone with the Wind”.

Watch the ‘Man of Steel’ Official Trailer:

Watch Kevin Smith’s Story about writing Superman:

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