For my “rewrite and polish” screenwriting class at the New School, this week’s assignment was to rewrite a scene from Kevin Smith‘s draft for the nixed Superman Lives. I’m rather proud of what I came up with in a few hours , especially since I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to superhero canon. And it’s got me thinking about writing a mature Superman story someday.
The scene, which is between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, is supposed to underscore some tension between the two about their relationship. They’re in love, he wants to settle down, she doesn’t. As the scene plays out you understand why Lois is resisting.
But Smith’s scene lacks dramatic tension, or even intimacy. And it’s supposed to be an exchange between characters who are deeply in love yet struggle to make their relationship work in the face of the greater good. The tone veers awkwardly between serious and jokey, rehashing the corniness that seems to infuse most Superman stories.
So I chose to make the scene darker, but not just with dialogue. I took the original setting and amped up the visual descriptions, turning it into something more ominous and serious. I like the idea that Superman chafes at his responsibilities, that he is angry at a world that he feels needs saving all the time, when he just wants to live his own life. And I like Lois struggling with her own selfish feelings for the Man of Steel. There’s an undercurrent of danger, maybe even loss, which can make for good drama.
It’s a quick rewrite, and looking at it makes me want to shift a few things. Not knowing the entire script I kept a couple of passages and a cut-to scene that I didn’t understand. But I think my take would make a helluva Superman film; I certainly welcome an opportunity to get paid for a gig like that.
View Kevin Smith’s original draft here. (Search for “Rushmore” in the text to find the original). Smith talks about the crazy Hollywood rabbit hole he went down while writing it: