As awesome as that idea sounds in principal, Abrams’ direction for the character would have most likely been disastrous (though, maybe not as lackluster as Superman Returns turned out). The film took several major departures from Superman’s traditional origin story, and included a handful of shockingly bizarre changes to other characters as well. Here’s a quick breakdown of what Abrams’ script entailed:
- Krypton still exists
- Lex Luthor is a government agent obsessed with UFO phenomena
- Superman is defeated and killed by Ty-Zor, the son of Jor-El’s corrupt brother Kata-Zor
- Jor-El is imprisoned on Krypton and commits suicide
- Superman visits Jor-El in Kryptonian heaven before being resurrected
- Lex Luthor is a Kryptonian sleeper agent with all of Superman’s powers
- Clark Kent’s glasses are lead-specked to help him control his vision powers
- Jonathan Kent has a heart attack when he hears that Clark has become Superman
- Superman is the heir to the throne of Krytpon and must fulfill a prophecy
- Superman engages in a “frenzied MID-AIR MARTIAL ARTS BATTLE”
If that wasn’t bad enough, the studio originally hired Brett Ratner to direct and had an incredibly hard time in casting the part of Superman. Several actors were offered roles, rumored for the part, and even given screen tests, including Josh Hartnett, Jude Law, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Welling, Paul Walker, Brendan Fraser, Matthew Bomer, Jerry O’Connell, David Boreanaz, and James Marsden.
Ratner dropped out of the project in 2003, citing casting difficulties, and was replaced by McG (the director infamously responsible for the Charlie’s Angels films and Terminator Salvation). The supporting cast included such names as Christopher Walken as Perry White, Selma Blair and Scarlett Johansson as Lois Lane, Shia LaBeouf as Jimmy Olsen, Anthony Hopkins as Jor-El, and Johnny Depp and Ralph Fiennes as Lex Luthor.
The film underwent several rewrites, and McG dropped out of the project in favor of directing Charlies Angels: Full Throttle. Abrams lobbied for the chance to direct the film, but Warner Bros. chose Bryan Singer as McG’s replacement in 2004, and eventually the film was entirely revamped and became Superman Returns.
Phew! Off all of the Superman films that were in the works over the years, this one is quite a doozy, and frankly would have been a disaster no matter who took the helm. After undergoing several script changes, director changes, casting problems, and production delays, the film was doomed to fail from the start. It’s a shame that all of the work was for nothing, and that the resulting film, Superman Returns, wasn’t the revamp that Superman so desperately needed. Luckily, Warner Bros. was able to successfully reboot Superman this year with Man of Steel, finally bringing DC’s flagship character to a new generation
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