Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kishōtenketsu part 3: Fixing the Man of Steel.



Fair warning, there be spoilers ahead. 

There is no other heroic character that more perfectly suits the four-act narrative structure of Kishōtenketsu than Superman. Kishōtenketsu is a sorry paradigm centred around revelation and surprise rather than conflict, and Superman — essentially invulnerable — is the perfect vehicle to explore something beyond the normal good v bad themes of our current cartoon craze.



After my last rewrite of Iron Man, you might say I am perhaps expecting too much of these genre spectacles, and in the case of Iron Man, you might be right. But Man of Steel was conceived from the minds of Nolan and Goyer, and both Blade 2 and The Dark Knight stand out as superhero films that transcended their medium. Even though Zack Snyder was directing this one, I was still hoping it would be more Watchmen than Sucker Punch and perhaps even be what Joseph Campbell would call a modern mono-myth. This is, after all, the reason we continue to write (and love) stories like about superheroes — They embody the qualities necessary to overcome seemingly impossible trials that are themselves embodiments of the issues of the culture that wrote them into being. When done right they do not merely entertain, they tell us something important about ourselves.


Sadly this was not the case with the Man of Steel. Perhaps there were too many rewrites, perhaps not enough. I have read that Nolan gave Snyder free reign to ‘Make the film he wanted’ — it seems now he should have held on tighter to the bridle.




I have to point out that the film was far from terrible — in fact there were moments I really enjoyed, and it was these that became the seed for this re-write, yet overall the little that worked in Man of Steel was drowned in the mess of overt Christian symbology and tacked together battles that existed more for the trailer than for any lasting narrative meaning.


So please indulge me while I apply the structure of Kishōtenketsu to the Man of Steel, and rewrite it into the film I wish I had seen. No TL;DR here I am afraid just one long rant… Remember to keep in mind that instead of the black and white question of how good triumphs over evil, I am aiming for the more subtle question of what it means to be all-powerful. Arguably this is the key philosophical question of our age. Whether it is how to fix our environment, or how to feed the millions of starving, us Westerners who flock to the darkened cinemas to scoff down our popcorn and high fructose corn syrup, really don’t need to be seduced yet again by a story that asks us to sympathise with the weak. Rather, we should be challenged to question the responsibilities of power, and the dangers.


Okay, enough grand-standing. No one wants a lecture. Have to open eyes before you open minds and all that. So here I go.


Did I mention yet that this was going to be a rant?


Act one. Kishō. (Intro)


This is the part of the film I liked the most. From the design of Krypton to the casting of Russell Crowe as Jor El, the first big sequence almost worked. Almost.


*Note I am assuming you are familiar with the plot of the film. From now on I will not recount what happened, rather what I wish had*


We open on the grand hall of the Krypton High Council, who are being addressed by Jor El. He is trying to convince them that their pig-headed commitment to tradition and draining energy from their core will be their death. By his calculations they might not have many weeks, let alone years left before the core explodes. The Council point out that they have survived for three thousand generations, that Jor El’s fear-mongering is treason.


This scene is intercut by the espionage exploits of a woman doing aerobatic type moves as she makes her way into a heavily guarded facility. We only see her from behind — she is lithe and controlled in her Indiana Jones infiltration. Once inside the central chamber she steals a crystal skull from within its containment field.


Meanwhile Jor El is imploring the council to listen, but they are interrupted as a robotic voice proclaims that the inner chamber of the Archives has been breached and the Great Codex stolen. Jor El smiles and the council, enraged, sentence him to death. General Zod steps forward from amongst the council to arrest him. With the help of his top commanders, (the big guy, Tor-An and the girl, Faora-Ul) they surround Jor-El, and Zod brings out a portable device that will open a dimensional gate to the Phantom Zone. Yet as Tor-An grabs for Jor-el, his hands pass right through, and everyone realises that it was only a projection. Jor-El’s hollogram blinks out of existence as Zod curses and starts issuing orders to capture the condemned traitor.


We cut to the interior of Jor-El’s laboratory. In the corner is a cot with a baby safely asleep under the care of a robotic nanny. Jor-El starts to work at the controls of a device as the door hisses open and the woman we saw steal the crystal skull enters with the codex in hand.


note on Kishōtenketsu — Remember that like all plot structures it is a fractal; that is it works on the macro and the micro. The previous mystery of who the strange woman was is now revealed and integrated into the plot. It is of course, Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mum. Whilst there is plenty of conflict in this scene, the real driver of the story comes from the realisation that two previously unrelated situations are in fact entwined.


Lara Lor-Van

Did you succeed?


Jor-El

No, but I see you did.


Lara Lor-Van

I told you the council would not listen to reason. This is the only way.


Jor-El

We do not have much time. They have sent general Zod.


Lara Lor-Van

(hissing the name and visibly terrified) Zod!


She runs to her baby, no more than twenty months old. Jor-El prepares a small three-man craft that rises from the floor. We realise that their plan is to escape with their child. Taking her son, Lara places him into a compartment, carefully closing him into the pod and then guiding this into the main craft. Lights begin to flash.


Zod

Jor-El!


Blasting his way through the door, we see Zod with his two commanders by his side and the Phantom Zone device in his hand. Lara goes to get in the craft, but Jor-El realises there is no time.


Jor-El

(to Lara) You go. I must finish setting the coordinates.


But before Lara can get into the craft, she is blasted by Faora. Jor-El uses his equipment as a weapon, zapping Tor-An, but by now Zod has his wife.


Zod.

You were meant to be our saviour, Jor-El. The greatest mind of our civilisation. Yet you betray us and run like the coward you truly are. Now you will spend eternity in the Phantom Zone.


Lara

No!


Zod

(seeing the crystal skull already inside the small ship’s cockpit) Do not fret, sweet Lara. The council has decided your fate also. You can join your husband in the Phantom Zone. Now your love will truly last die. Prepare the device!


Faora starts to turn on the dimensional machine, programming the device to open onto the dreaded Phantom Zone.


Zod

(turning back to Jor-El) What did you think you would achieve with the codex? Were you planning to run to one of the lost colonies? You know that experiment failed long ago.


Jor-El

This world is doomed, Zod. I thought only to keep safe all that we have learned.


Zod

I can see you are lying. But no matter. You can take your lies with you.


By now the dimensional device has opened a portal to another world — through the hole we see a ravaged landscape of dark rock and twisting mist.


Lara

Don’t do this Zod, if you ever loved me, don’t. You can come with us, you have your ship. Come with us and we can start again.


Then the ground begins to shake. It is the start of Krypton’s destruction. Without hesitating Jor-El lunges at the craft, sliding in his command key while within we hear the cries of a baby. Lara leaps to attack Zod, who calmly shoots her.


Zod

(Watching as Lara dies) I still love you


Jor-El cries out in rage, but it is already too late. Lara reaches up as the small ship blasts out of the building. Zod turns his weapon on the ship, managing to hit one of its engines before it zooms away into the sky.


Lara

Is he safe?


Jor-El

He is safe, our son is safe.


Zod lifts his communicator.

Capture that ship. Do not destroy it. There is a child on board.


From his communicator, one of his officers replies.

It is too late, it has already jumped to hyperspace (not sure if they call it hyperspace in Superman cannon, for that matter I neither know nor care too much about the lore of Superman for the purpose of this re-write. My apologies to the fans)


Zod

(looking down at the striken Jor-El, kneeling by his wife.) You were not issued breading rights Jor-El. I see you treat all our laws with equal disrespect.


Around them the room rocks and cracks appear.


Jor-El

Laws mean nothing now, Zod.


Faora

Sir, we should leave. Send him to the Zone. We must return to the ship.


Zod looks at his commander and then switches off the dimensional device.


Zod.

No. His punishment is complete. He stays. I want that ship, commander. I want that child. (turning back to Jor-El.) do you hear that? I will find your son, and I will make him my own. It seems you were right after all. A pity you must now die with the planet you failed to save.


Jor-El

My son is beyond your reach Zod.


Zod

Nothing is beyond my reach


An entire wall falls away from his laboratory, revealing the destruction of the world. The Tor-An pulls Zod away and they leave Jor-El alone with the body of his wife. On the ship Zod watches the planet implode. He asks his chief scientist.


Zod

Did you track it’s destination?


scientist

Roughly. It was headed somewhere in the Theta quadrant.


Zod

Set course.


Scientist

But sir, there are over three million habitable planets and…


Zod

(furious) Don’t tell me the numbers. I have lived for five centuries. If it takes fifty years I will not rest. The codex holds the locations of the colonies. Jor-El thought they were our only hope. (He looks back at the destroyed Krypton, now a ball of flame surrounded by a ring of debris.) Perhaps in that too, he was right.


Cut to earth.


Now this is the other bit I really liked in Man of Steel. Great idea to start with Superman already grown up. And likewise, we see him working on a fishing boat, saving people from oil rigs etc. But instead of traveling aimlessly, he periodically takes out a necklace, holding up the same command key we saw Jor-El use to set the escape pod flying. Cupped in his palm Clark closes his eyes then seems to decide he is closer to his destination. We follow Clark on his journey north. Now he is in a bar in Alaska. He hears a reporter, Lois Lane, talking on her phone about a cordoned-off area — that the military has already flown in their top scientist, Lex Luther to investigate. Clark again takes out the necklace and holds it up. Now we flash back to the day he got it.


Clark is young, and having just been beaten by some bullies, Jonathan takes him into the barn and shows him the small pod they found him in.


Jonathan

I saw it break up. A ball of flame, I thought we were dead, and then we found you. Instead of death, life. This is the way the world works, son. Its often in the moment of defeat that the greatest victory is achieved.


Jonathan opens the small pod and takes out the key of dark metal, explaining that it is not from earth. (some of the dialogue from Man of Steel is great — especially all of Kevin Costner’s)


Back to the bar, and Clarke is still holding his necklace in hand, and doesn’t realise that Lois is there, asking for a drink.


Clark

Oh, sure. Sorry. (he tucks away the metal pendant.)


Lois

From an old girlfriend, right? ( Clark smiles.)


Clark

(poring drinks)Something like that.


*I also liked the bit with the redneck taunting Clark, and we follow the next few scenes of the film with Lois going up into the snow.


Lois follows the stranger she sees through her camera into the hills and down the ice tunnel. There she finds Clark in front of a small three-man ship, buried in the ice. Earlier we hear the scientist say that it was revealed in the melting glacier, no more than thirty years old.


Lois

You again?


Clark

(with a finger to his lips) Shhhh


Winking at her, Clark pulls the small ship free and leaps away with it.. Lois freaks out, just as the army and their top scientist, Lex Luther arrive.


Now Clark returns home to Kansas with the ship. It is very broken, but he manages to get enough working that a flickering image of Jor-El speaks to him. But Clark does not know this stranger, and the hologram is on a broken loop, telling him nothing. Martha Kent appears behind him.


Martha

So you found what you were looking for?


Clark.

(frustrated) No.



Martha

Can’t you fix it?



Clark

No. I need a scientist. And not one from this planet.


Martha

Come inside, son. The news said there was a tornado coming.


Clark

I’ll be fine.


Martha

I know you will be. I was thinking about me.


Flashback to the Kent’s driving and Clark and Jonathan arguing. Then the tornado comes. But instead of young Clark watching his father die, this time Martha takes him by the shoulders.


Martha

I don’t care what he said, Just save him.


Clark nods, and rushing in he pulls his father from the tornado. People point, but he doesn’t care. He saved his father. But in the excitement, Jonathan has a heart attack. Now Clark can’t do anything but watch him die. He screams, and runs away.


Back to the present, Clark looks up at his old mother, and agrees to come inside.


Martha

So what are you going to do now then son?


On the tv there some news report of war. Clark watches it for a moment, then  smiles.


Clark

What Dad said I shouldn’t do.


Martha

Your father was stubborn as an ox with his head caught is fence. You do what you feel is right, Clark. That is all any of us can do. Think about it too much and you’ll always turn yourself in circles finding reasons to do nothing at all.


On the TV we see now an old-school Flash Gordon episode. Clark grins.


Clark

I think I have to help people.


Martha

And what about the government. What will they do when you start running around doing their job for them?


Clark

I think they might already know, mum. A reporter saw me. When I found the ship


Martha.

No, she just saw a man.


Clark

She saw more than that. If she learns who I am, you won’t ever be left alone. I can’t protect you and save the world. (he puts his head in his hands, obviously despairing at the thought of what might change.)


Martha

So you can be a farmer after all. (She grins, knowing how foolish it sounds)


Clark

But what will people do, mum? Forget the government. It was what dad was always scared of – how it will change things. People aren’t ready for it.


Martha,

(taking the remote control and flicking the channel back to the news) So you play god either way? You decide we are children, or trust us to grow up.


Clark

But I don’t know what will happen, I don’t know what everyone will do.


Martha watches the silent news show images of war and crime.


Martha,

People might start to hope again, son.


Then she flicks the channel back to Flash Gordon. Clarke smiles.


Clark.

I guess you’d better get out your sewing machine, mum. I’m going to need a costume.


Martha.

You’re going to need a job first. And a place to stay. Most suspicious thing in the world is an unemployed thirty three year old living with his mother.


They both laugh.


Act 2: ten. (Follow on.)


We are in metropolis, and we see a man looking at the classifieds, many job openings are circled in red. We see one that reads ‘New media reporter.’ He seems unable to deal well with the crowds, and bumps his way along the street. Then he stupidly steps into the path of a truck. Suddenly he is woodshed to safety by a stranger, who smiles as he helps him to his feet. The truck, meanwhile has careened into the pylon of an overhead rail line.


Clark

You okay?


Clark places the man he saved on the ground


Stranger

Th—thankyou


Clark smiles then sees the man’s paper and the circled jobs. He looks up at the building they are in front of. The daily planet. Then the pylon of the rail falls down in a crash of concrete.


Clark.

Perhaps we should leave the job hunting today?


The man nods, then Clark dashes away. He pulls open his shirt, revealing a homemade costume. In homage to the old cartoons it is the original shield design. Superman leaps up (note the leap he cannot fly yet. He is only just working out his powers and this is another homage to the old cartoons, silver age superman has strength and heat vision, but nothing else.) After this we see a quick montage of Superman saving people. Rescuing them from burning buildings. Etc. His suit is noticeably torn and patched. Intercut with these scenes are those of Martha re-sewing the s design and mending the cape.


We also see small scenes of Lois, still trying to comprehend what she saw in the snow. She is trying to link it to a bigger story. Perry warns her that she cannot write stories about caped crusaders – this isn’t Gotham.


Cut to space. Inside the ship we see Zod and his generals, none look to have aged a day. Behind them in the command room is a huge sparkling chunk of Kryptonite.


Faora

Sir, I just picked up a signal from a class five planet in sector eight. Warp signal. It is the ship.


Zod.

Do a full spectrum scan. I want everything.


Back on earth we follow Lois as she tries to understand this mystery man dressed in a suit. Ignoring Perry, she writes article after article, and reports are in the news of the new Superman.


Meanwhile Clark is still living at home, we see him running back to Kansas dressed in his suit.


Martha

Find a job yet?


Clark

I have a job.


Martha

You can’t keep going like this. You have to have a normal life too.


Clark laughs scathingly.


Clark.

Now you want me to settle down? Every day there are more people who need me. And it’s not just here, other countries, other people. They all need me.


Martha

I need you too, you know.


There is silence.


Martha.

Other countries? Really? Don’t tell me you can fly now, son?


Clark

(laughing). Water acts like concrete if you hit it fast enough. I’m pretty fast.


Martha

(frowning) So you’re walking on water then? Careful, you know what that reporter from the Planet will say about that. (Both laugh.) Seriously though, you have to limit yourself. Chose the battles to fight, the ones worth fighting.


Clark

You mean the ones I can win?


Martha

(concerned) No. The ones worth trying — worth dying for.


Clark

(laughing darkly). I don’t think I can die, mother.


Martha

(angry now, takes Clark’s face in her hands) Don’t ever say that. Of course you can. You might be different, might be from another world, but you’ve grown up just like a normal boy. You can die, Clark, and one day you will. It’s what you do with your time that matters. Leave the cats in the trees for the police, and the international relations for the UN. You stick to heavy lifting.


Clark looks at his mother, and then hold out his suit.


Martha

Another hole in the cape?


Clark.

Damn thing catches on everything.


Martha

Yes, but it makes you look so dashing.



Act 3 – Ket (the twist)


They are interrupted by a news report. There is a huge meteor heading for Metropolis.


News anchor


Our top scientists with the pentagon, Lex Luther, has confirmed that it is roughly half a kilometre in diameter, and weights more than three thousand tones. The TV shows an image of a huge rock spinning through space.


Lex Luther

This is what I have been warning about for years. We must put more funding into Norad. There are Dangers out there that we are blind to…


Clark turns off the tv.


Clark.

I have to go, he says.


Martha

Of course you do.


She hands back his suit. Like a bullet Superman rushes across America. The asteroid is already in the sky, and he picks up his speed, zooming across desert and water towards Metropolis where the meteor is headed. Superman leaps up to the top of a building, while we stay on a tv in the window of a shop in the deserted street.


News reporter

Scientists have calculated that by the time the meteor has broken up in the atmosphere it will weigh no more than 14 tones yet according to Doctor Luther, this will….


At the top of the building Superman sees the asteroid. With a giant leap that is almost flying he rockets up towards the flaming ball of rock, smashing it to pieces with his fist and blasting the debris to slag with his heat vision. A rain of ash and larva splashes down on the city, and Superman falls unconscious, into the street. (homage to the Donner films)


The few people left in the city stand around the hole, pointing, taking photos.


Military is already there, and they approach, forcing the people back. But before they can do anything, a huge form in armoured suit falls down into the hole.


It is the giant, Tor-An and he takes hold of Superman’s body and leaps back into the air, rocketing away on boosters set into his powered suit.


Inside Zod’s ship, Superman awakens, sees Zod and his generals and one other Kryptonian – a scientist. He strains at his bonds and the metal twists but does not break


Scientist

Bring me a shard! We are still too close to their sun. His strength lingers.


Faora brings a glowing chunk of kryptonite and places it on Superman’s chest. He tries to pull away as if it will burn him.


Zod.

Relax, that is part of your birth planet. It will not harm you – only slow you down to the rate you were meant to live. There will be no pain.


Behind zod there is a screen showing the tv broadcasts of earth and the meteor. With a wave of his hand, the screens go blank. Out the window Zod regards the sun.


Zod

Such strength. Such power. Such a waste.


With the chunk of kryptonite on his chest, Superman relaxes into his bonds.


Superman

Where am I?


Zod.

With friends, son of Jor-El. I am Zod, Genera Zod. And these are the last survivors of planet Krypton. The place where you were born.


Superman.

You knew my father?


Zod.

Yes. And your mother. We served together on the small council.


Superman

Are you taking me there?


Zod laughs, as do the other Kryptonians.


Zod

That rock on you chest and the other hanging behind me, are all that is left of Krypton.


Zod gestures to the huge hunk of crystal suspended behind him. He then explains how he tried to aid Jor-El to save the planet from destruction, but failed. He also explains how the shards of Kryptonite sap his strength.


Zod (cont.)

You see, we are not meant to be gods our here amongst the lesser stars. Our world was an ancint world. Our people shaped by eons of hardship. We grew strong. Immortal. And then we explored the galaxy, only to find we had become as gods. The light of stars like this speed us up, turning our longevity to supreme power. Those colonists who left the sacred heart of our home world grew arrogant in their power. They did not long survive, for such strength had its price. How old do you think I am, Son of Jor-El?


Superman.

I do not know. 40, maybe 50 years old.


Zod.

Years. (laughs) The turning of this planet around the star. In these terms I have lived for almost one thousand years, and as long as I stay within the influence of this fragment of our once mighty planet, I can hope to live for one thousand more. You however, were a babe the last time I saw you, and already you are a man entering the last stage of your life.


With a wave of his hand, zod makes the restrains release superman. He gets to his feet. Zod smiles, and tells the female commander to get him refreshments. She leaves, after smiling suggestively at superman.


Zod

Faora likes you. Of course, you are a child still, so the notion is disgusting, but evolution does make its demands, and we are helpless to resist.


Superman looks uncomfortable, then she returns and hands him a drink. Superman drinks deeply and seems surprised at how delicious it is.


Zod

See, you are one of us. What should I call you, son of Jor-El? Superman? This is what the earth people call you, is it not?


Superman.

Clark. My parents called me Clark.


Zod

An earth name. From earth parents. We must chose for you a proper Kryptonian name.


Superman.

You said you knew my parents, knew me as a child. Didn’t you know my name?


Zod

Alas, you were sent to the stars before you were named. It is an oversight that your Father would be happy for me to remedy.


Superman.

Tell me about him.


Zod.

In time. (he smiles and places his hand on Superman’s shoulder.) First we must find an artefact that your father sent with you to escape the destruction.


Zod explains how he needs the Crystal Skull, for it is a repository of all the knowledge of the doomed planet. Amongst the information are the coordinates of all the Lost Colonies. Zod intends to finish the work Jor-El had planed.


Zod

Your father wanted to travel to the colonies – he hoped, as I do now, to find the remnants of our people. Perhaps, somewhere out there, our people survived.



Superman

Crystal Skull?


Zod

Yes. It was in your ship. I had hoped you knew where it was?


Superman.

I found my ship – but it was damaged. There was no Skull. Nothing like that at all.


Zod, seeing that he is telling the truth, nods and looks down at the planet.


Zod.

I had hoped to save these people from the shock of our existence. This is the reason we located you the way we did.


Superman

The Meteor?


Zod (smiling)

 You have your father’s wits. Yes, we have been monitoring the communications of this planet as we approached. We needed a way to draw you out.


Superman

By sending a rock crashing towards Metropolis? You could have killed thousands!


Zod

I was counting on you having your mother’s strength.


Superman.

So you just want this skull – this codex, and then you will leave?


Zod

Of course I would ask you to come with us on our mission, but I understand how you must feel. Connected to this place. It is a consequence of your strength. Those that are beneath you give you an obligation of servitude.


*Note on Kishōtenketsu. What Zod is doing here is calling into question Superman’s very nature and purpose. This is not conflict, per say, more a philosophical argument, and as I have mentioned before, Kishōtenketsu lends itself perfectly to the notion of a debate. This is the single biggest mistake they made with Man of Steel, and led to the inevitable confrontation between Zod and Superman that lead to murder. Such a waste.


Zod, seeing he has awoken new purpose in Superman continues.


Zod.

Your father sewed the seeds of our re-birth in you.


Zod walks up and points at the worn S on Superman’s chest.


Zod


(Cont.) You must have seen this symbol on your ship? Do you know what it means?


Superman

The papers say it stands for Super.


Zod

No, it was your father’s emblem. The house of El. It means hope.


Superman still looks hesitant.


Zod

I apologise for the brutish nature of drawing you out. I am a General bred for war. My methods are often crude. We need men like you, men of peace. Tell me, where is your ship so that we may bring it here and see if we can find a clue to the location of the codex.


Superman.

Luther.


Zod

Where?


Superman

Not where, who. Lex Luther. He is a Scientist working with the military. He was the one who found my ship. Though now that I think about it, I found it. They must have found something else near by. The codex, perhaps.


Zod.

So this Human, Lex of the house of Luther has the Skull?


Superman.

Or knows where it is. Give me a craft so that I can return. I will find him. I will explain.


Zod considers this.


Zod

And the ship itself. Where is that?


Superman.

I told you it is half ruined…


Zod

You fear my intentions? You are still trying to protect your world from my influence. Fear not. It is for this very reason that I must recover all the technology of Krypton before we leave. It is not for these mortals to tinker with. Who knows what danger they will wield with our weapons – who knows what terrors they have already dreamed up. I can only hope they have not uncovered the secrets of the Codex. It might already be too late.


Zod gives orders to his generals to retrieve the codex from Luther. He then turns to Superman.


Superman.

I can help you. I can…


Zod.

You already have. I think you must take the time necessary to think on all I have said – on what you will do.


Superman

But I can help you talk to Luther – help you make the government see that you are no threat.


Zod.

You know little of the minds of men – even having lived as one. They will fear you, as they will me. They will see you as spy, not saviour. It is better you stay dead.


Superman

Dead?


Zod waves a hand over a screen where a news report appears. A reporter stands before the smouldering hole caused by superman’s fall. The headline reads. ‘Man of Steel no more.’


Zod

See, I have given an end to your short lived life as their god. Let them turn you into myth. It is safer for them, and for you.


Faora returns, looking concerned.


Zod

Have you located the human?


Faora

We have.


The screen flickers to life, showing an interview between Lois Lane and Lex Luther. They are in a science facility that looks military, and Lois is interviewing Lex about the recent meteor and what the death of Superman means.


Zod.

Come. Let us go at once.


Faora.

(looking to Superman) and him?


Zod.

Leave him. He has much to think about.


Both leave, and Superman, alone, turns to look down on the view of earth.

He notices a control panel and walks towards it, only to find it powered down, and unresponsive. He is holding the shard of Kryptonite, and he walks to the huge lump of it in the middle of the room, sliding it back amongst the many other crystalline shards. He returns to the controls, this time noticing that there is a small key-hole on the bench. He reaches up to his neck, drawing out the pendant attached to his necklace. He slides it into the control panel. At once the entire device comes alive. An image of a man flickers into life behind him.


Jor-El

Son.


Superman turns, and is startled by the image of his father.


He explains everything. How he died, how his mother died. He explains how he was born – a natural son to a world ruled by genetic laws that defined a man’s destiny from before he was even conceived. He tells him his true name.


Then Warning lights start to flash.


Jor-El

Quickly son, my presence in their system has been discovered. You must leave this place. Zod will not suffer these people to live if they have accessed the information in the codex. It was to keep it from men like him that I sent the skull with you in the first place.


Kal-El

Leave, how? Do you have a ship?


Jor-El

(Smiling.) You don’t need a ship, son. Not here. But you could do with a new suit.


A panel opens on one wall and within is a proper Kryptonian suit. Superman walks towards it, and as he touches it the emblem changes from that of Zod, to the ‘S’ of house El.


Jor-El

It knows who you are, son. Now go.


We cut to outside the huge command ship, and suddenly an entire wall of the craft erupts in flame. From it flies Superman, and he rockets towards earth. He cannot control his flight and he plummets through the atmosphere, faster and faster. He is heading for the ground, and at the past minute he pulls up and is flying.


Act 4: su (synthesis)


Superman flies to the military base, and breaks his way into the compound past security forces who are helpless to stop him though they set everything they can against him. He demands to see Lex Luther, head scientist of the secret tech division. He explains that he is in grave danger.


The commander of the military reluctantly agrees to take him, once superman points out that he cannot be stopped. Then the commander takes out a gun, and shoots superman. Superman tries to catch the bullet, but it cuts deep into his hand. Superman tries to get up, but the commander keeps shooting. More bullets hit, but Superman’s suit manages to deflect them.


Commander

(shouting as he quickly puts a new clip into his pistol) They told me you might come. Guess they weren’t lying about these new bullets.


Superman flees, and using his x-ray vision, tracks down the secret laboratory of Luther. On the way he manages to pull out the kryptonite bullet from his hand where it lodged in his palm. He flings it away, and the wound quickly heals.


He throws open the heavy steel door to Luther’s lab, only to find the esteemed scientist happily in talks with General Zod. Lois Lane sits between Faora and Tor-An, her crew terrified in one corner and Luther’s scientists in another.


Superman

Whatever they have promised you is a lie!


Lex Luther

(laughing) I liked you better in tights. And they have not promised anything. They have already given me more than I could have ever hoped.


Superman looks to Zod, who is calmly watching things progress, the crystal Skull safely in his hand.


Superman. (To Luther)

Then he will take it away as quickly as he gave it. I know who he is now. He will not let you keep whatever he gave you for the skull.



Luther.

(patting a small Kryptonian box) He has given me knowledge, the only gift that cannot be taken away, that makes both giver and receiver the richer in the transaction. But what would you know of such things? You have lived here for what? Thirty years? Not once coming forward and revealing the truth to the rest of us. Not once sharing the knowledge or technology of your world. Think of the lives you could have saved,Superman.


Luther waves at the room about him, all the pieces of technology, all the scientists under his control.


Luther cont.


And now imagine what I can achieve. Humanity is on the cusp of greatness, and you would have me throw it away.


Zod

Leave us, Clark. You have nothing else to offer.


Superman

Call me Kal-El. That is my true name.


Zod

Very well, Kal-El. Leave us. Your time on earth has come to an end. These men do not need us now, is this not so?


He turns to Lois Lane, who, realising she is being addressed quickly nods in agreement. Many more military men arrive, all pointing weapons at Superman. The commander keeps his pistol aimed squarely at Superman’s head.


Lois Lane

I’ve already written your obituary. You should go. Go now


Superman looks at the box Luther holds greedily. With his x-ray vision he spies within, to see that it is a a bomb. He looks back at Zod, and realises that the General does not yet guess the extent of Superman’s powers.


Superman.

What did he tell you was in there, Luther?


Luther

(Looking nervous at the question.) Information. Knowledge. Coded in a language our computers can comprehend. With it we can build star ships, travel the solar system – the galaxy.


Superman

And you believed him?



Zod

This is a man of science, Kal-El – much like your father. I did not expect him to hand over the skull on faith alone. I showed him a small trick with energy. That is all.


Luther points to a scientist who brings up a model of a molecule.


Luther

See? (turning to Lois Lane) This will be your next article Miss Lane. How Lex Luther brought unlimited energy to the nations of the world. It will be like the dark ages never happened; there will be a new renaissance on earth. And I shall lead all nations into an era of peace and prosperity.


Zod

See, you are not needed any more, Kal-El. Come back with me, and you shall be welcome at my side, a brother in arms as we restore our own people to greatness.



Superman

Like I said, Luther – you believe this madman?



Lex looks angry now. He stands, and goes to open the box. Zod and his officers get up, making for the door.



Superman

No, Luther, don’t – it’s a bomb!



Luther does not hesitate as the other Kryptonians flee, Faora dragging Lois Lane along with her.


Superman rushes at Lex, swiping the box from his hand just as it detonates. He embraces the explosion, smothering the blast with his body. The military men and the scientists are obliterated in the huge eruption of radiation. Luther cries out, but Superman shielded him from most of the energy – his hair, however, has been burned away.


Superman blasts his way outside. And now we can have a battle with Faora and Tor as Zod takes Lois Lane with him into the ship and flies away. Faora and Tor battle Kal-El across the desert – Superman draws them away from cities. Faora finally gets a communication from Zod, and with one last look at Superman, rockets away, Tor-An quickly following.


Superman has no choice but to do his huge leap after them, powered by his own flight, and not by rockets like the other two.



Back on Zod’s ship, Superman finds his way into the command room where Zod holds Lois Lane by the throat. At his side is the flickering image of Jor-El. The hologram looks to Superman and tries to call out to him as Zod presses a button and deletes the stored consciousness of Jor-El.


Zod

It seems your father left one final obstacle for me. Luckily I had the foresight to keep one of your precious humans.



Faora

I told you he looked favourably on her.


Zod keeps his eyes on Superman.



Superman.

Let her go and I will do whatever you want.


Zod holds out the crystal skull.


Zod

One drop of blood, Kal-El – that is all.


Superman looks confused, then allows the scientist to draw out a small vial of blood with a syringe. This close to the huge piece of Kryptonite the needle slides in easily. The scientist hands the vial of blood to Zod, who releases Lois. Faora steps forward, taking hold of the reporter.


Zod lets a drop of blood fall on the crystal skull. Nothing happens.


He grows furious. He turns on the scientist.


Zod

You told me it was locked to his genetic code.


Scientist

It is! You saw me retrieve that information from the copy of Jor-El yourself.


Zod

Bring him back for questioning!


Scientist

I cannot—you deleted him completely from our system


Zod

(to Tor-An) Take him.



Superman allows the giant Kryptonian to hold him as Zod approaches. He holds out the skull.



Zod

Touch it.


Superman reaches out a hand to the crystal skull, and it starts to pulse with light. Suddenly Superman is flung away by a blast of energy from the skull as it disintegrates – evaporating and streaming into him.


Zod

No!


Furiously he clutches at the vanishing tendrils of energy, but he is too late. They are gone. The skull is completely within Superman now.


Zod lifts Superman from the floor – he is half conscious, and cannot focus.


Zod

(screaming) Tell me! Where are the colonies – what are the coordinates?


Zod slaps Kal-El, waking him. Superman focuses on the General.


Zod

(turning to Faora) tear off fingers until he speaks.


Faora takes hold of Lois Lanes index finger.


Superman


Wait. I’ll tell you everything. Just promise you will go.


Zod.

(regaining composure)

In the end you have remembered your mother’s honour. I will go; you have my word.


Superman looks confused. He closes his eyes.



Superman

It is hard. I cannot tell you. I can see. I must show you.


Zod

(to his commanders) Ready the ship! Ready the engines. (turning back to Superman) Show me then, Kal-El. Show me the first colony world. Program my ship to go to each in order. Only then will I let your human go.



Superman stumbles to the control panel. He begins to rapidly type on the Kryptonian keyboard. Star Charts and maps appear on the screen. One planet is singled in. Zod stands before the view, smiling.


Scientist


We do not have enough energy to make a jump that far.


Zod

Frustrated.) How long will it take to drain this planet’s core?



Lois

No!


Zod

(Laughing) Silence. You will be allowed to live. Be thankful.



Scientist

If I start now, it will take perhaps five of their years to build up the capacity.


Zod swears in kryptonian, and strikes the feeble scientist. He flies against the wall, and does not get up.


Tor-An goes to investigate, leaving Superman standing alone. He prods the scientist’s limp body, then looks back at Zod


Tor-An

You killed him.


Zod

He was a fool. We do not need him now.


Faora

Sir, perhaps if we take a smaller craft.


Zod

Yes. Prepare one at once. (turning to Tor-An and gesturing to Superman and Lois) bring them..


All thee kryptonians along with Superman and Lois enter a smaller ship. Superman programs the coordinates into the computer.


Zod

Now we will see what remains of our people.


At his side Faora’s eyes sparkle in anticipation.


Faora

What will we find?


Zod

Our destiny. Ships, weapons. Survivors. We will liberate them, and then we will begin again, stronger than before. No weak minded scientist to muddy our stock, only warriors.


Faroa smiles whilst Superman finishes setting the coordinates. Ahead a swirl of space opens in a crackle of energy. Zod and his generals step forward, eagerly looking down on the planet they see a glimpse of through the small hole.


Zod

Quickly now, before it closes.


At the controls, Faora pushed forwards, and Superman is left for a moment alone with Lois.


Superman.

Hold your breath.


Lois

What?


Without waiting, Superman wraps his arms about Lois and uses his heat vision to blast the back of the ship away. Zod cries out in rage, but is too late. The small craft vanishes into the hole in space that closes seamlessly after it.


Superman, with Lois in his arms, speeds back to the command craft. She collapses from his arms, breathing deeply and coughing onto the floor.



Lois

(panicking) How soon can they return?



Superman looks calmly out into the darkness of space.


Superman


I don’t know. I think, perhaps never.


Lois

Never? How? Where did they go?


Superman

When I touched the skull, it was like I lived an entire life. My father was there, teaching me. My mother too. She was better at explaining. (he smiles with the memory)


Lois

We have to warn earth – we have to prepare. Zod will return, that is what his kind always do – return worse than before and twice as mad.


Superman turns to Lois.

Not this time. Father showed me the place to send them. It is a place called the Phantom Zone – it is not one of the Colonies – It is hard to explain. It is in another dimension, and from their side they cannot return. Ever.


Lois calms, and looks out on earth.

So where are these colonies then?

Superman.

You're looking at the only one that survived. Earth. It was why I was sent here. To help guide people, to try and make sure you do not make the same mistakes that destroyed my world.


Lois

So you saved the world?


Superman

Looks like you will have to bring me back from a premature death, Miss Lane.



Epilogue.


Montage


We see Zod’s ship land in Antarctica, and Superman using his heat vision to melt it into the snow. This will be his fortress. We see Luther recovering in hospital, one of the Commander’s kryptonite bullets in his hand, his face scared from the blast. We see Superman return to Martha, putting his old ruined suit in a box and into the old attic. Mother and son embrace.


Then we can end with Clark getting a job at the daily planet. This final scene from The Man of Steel was the only other thing I’d keep. The line ‘welcome to the planet’ was great.


Run credits.


And that’s it. This really did turn into an epic post. Almost 8,000 words all done. I can’t believe you read this far. Sorry for any spelling/grammar mistakes – didn’t have time to draft. I’d write a summary of the main Kishōtenketsu plot points, but I really am too tired now.


Until next time.


T.B.

2 comments:

  1. Magnificent. I would see this movie twice, and then buy DVD copies for my friends. Just amazing.

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    Replies
    1. I'm amazed anyone got to the end of the post.... That was my longest rant yet.

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