Long before Zack Snyder’s Superman movie Man of Steel began gearing up for release -and even before Bryan Singer’s 2006 filmSuperman Returns - Star Trek Into Darkness director J.J. Abrams had an idea – and even a script – for a movie about the origins of Clark Kent, which was tentatively titled Superman: Flyby.
The film was scrapped whilst still in production, but in the midst of trailers and promo pictures being unveiled ahead of the summer release of Snyder’s film, Flyby has also come to light once more as the Superman movie that might have been but never was.
We’ve already seen similarities between the costume concept art for Flyby and the final designs for Man of Steel (they both ditched the red-briefs-worn-on-the-outside look), but what other similarities are there between Abrams’ idea of Clark Kent and the version that we’ve seen so far in Man of Steel‘s marketing materials?
Speaking in an interview with Empire, Abrams described the way that he had envisioned Clark Kent and his transition from alien superchild, to small-town farmboy, and finally into a hero:
“The thing that I tried to emphasise in the story was that if the Kents found this boy, Kal-El, who had the power that he did, he would have most likely killed them both in short order. And the idea that these parents would see – if they were lucky to survive long enough – that they had to immediately begin teaching this kid to limit himself and to not be so fast, not be so strong, not be so powerful.
The result of that, psychologically, would be fear of oneself, self-doubt and being ashamed of what you were capable of. Extrapolating that to adulthood became a fascinating psychological profile of someone who was not pretending to be Clark Kent, but who was Clark Kent. Who had become that kind of a character who is not able or willing to accept who he was and what his destiny was.
The idea in the movie was that he became Superman because he realised he had to finally own his strength and what he’d always been. I don’t know if that’s what Zack and Chris [Nolan] are doing, but it looks like that’s part of the idea and I could not be more thrilled to see that movie. That to me was always the way to go.”
Directed from a script by The Dark Knight trilogy writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, but translated through Snyder’s heavily stylized vision, the existing Man of Steel movie is rumored to adhere to a certain level of grounding, gritty realism which seems roughly on par with what Abrams had in mind. Both stories endeavor to make the character of Superman – who can be difficult to write due to being virtually indestructible – more empathetic by showing his weaknesses. Early teaser material for Man of Steel showed Superman under arrest and in chains, in a more literal version of Abrams’ psychologically-handcuffed superhero.
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The idea of Clark running away from his powers has also been hinted at in the Man of Steel trailer, which showed the character living on the outskirts of society as a fisherman and wandering traveller, before finally accepting his destiny and taking up the red cape in order to protect the planet that has become his home.
If you like the sound of Superman: Flyby, you can actually read the full script online, as it was leaked in January and there have been no efforts to take it down. With origin story Man of Steel planned as the beginning of a franchise, however, it’s likely that the film version of Flyby will only ever exist in the imagination of J.J. Abrams.
Man of Steel is out in theaters on June 14, 2013.