“Superman Returns” - The Cutting Room Floor

By Steve Younis

This article, while highlighting the scenes cut out of the final film, is in no way intended as a black mark or criticism against "Superman Returns". Having now seen the movie, this article simply highlights some of the things we'd heard of or seen during the making of the movie that did not end up in the final cut. This article references official photos released by Warner Bros., stills and audio from trailers and TV spots, images and information from the official Movie Cards, and details learned from the novelization and comic book adaptations.

Comic Book Opening

In "Superman: The Movie", the film opened up to a young boy narrating as he flipped pages of an issue of "Action Comics". During the making of "Superman Returns" it was revealed that a similar opening would be seen at the beginning of the new movie.

The comic pages were drawn and re-drawn during the process. I actually got to see many of these pages during an interview with the artist Chew Chan. They basically represented, in Golden Age style art, the scenes of baby Kal-El being placed in the rocket by Jor-El and Lara, coming to Earth, growing up with the Kents, learning that he possessed amazing powers.

This opening was cut from the final edit of the movie, but will hopefully end up on a DVD release.

Return to Krypton

Concept Art of Return to Krypton An early sequence in which Kal-El flies into space in a crystal ship to see what remains of Krypton after Earth scientists believed the planet may have survived.

Bryan Singer admitted to cutting this whole segement out of the film, "I shot a whole [scene] with the [return-to-Krypton] sequence," Singer said in an interview on June 9 in Los Angeles. But Singer said he cut the sequence, which was to take place at the beginning of the movie, because he felt it didn't really fit the movie, which in its rough form was already clocking in at two hours and 45 minutes. "It's very elegant, but, ... in the context of this movie - where this movie needed to be and what it needed to be about - I didn't feel it."

Concept Art of Return to Krypton Singer said that he hopes the return-to-Krypton sequence will eventually see the light of day in some form, though whether or not it appears on the first issued DVD is still uncertain. "At some point you'll see it, I'm sure sometime," he said. But cutting the sequence was "just one of those things that you bravely do" to improve the movie, Singer said. "Because no one told me to do it, to make these cuts. I had no restrictions. I had no time restrictions. There was no pressure whatsoever. I just felt, ... the movie doesn't need this. And I did something else instead. It could exist later, in this form."

The Marv Wolfman novelization of the movie indicates that Lex Luthor was responsible for fooling Superman into leaving Earth, with scientific reports claiming Krypton had survived. In the novel Lex states:

    "Oh, yeah. All those photos? Those stories about Krypton still existing." He pointed to himself with glee. "It was me. And, oh yes, him," he said, gesturing to Stanford. "Thankfully, the press doesn't check facts like they used to."

The official movie cards, released by Topps, also makes mention of this...

Exclusive Story Card #1 of 6 - No Going Home
A determined Kal-El travels to the stars in his personal spacecraft, searching for the reported remains of Planet Krypton. His journey soon proves deadly, as the perils of outer space and a deadly asteroid field test his ability to uncover the truth behind his legacy. Only after managing a safe return to Earth does he discover that it was Lex Luthor's criminal handiwork that sent him on a risky, wild goose chase to Planet Krypton.

Note: This is another reference to the plot point, never used in the film, claiming that Lex Luthor was responsible for the fake reports on Krypton's survival.

Movie Card #20 Card #20 - Voyage to Krypton
Just where is the world's most important missing person? Where has Superman gone? Far out in space, a small, crystal-hewn spaceship arrives at its destination: the remains of the Planet Krypton. Inside is Kal-El, the sole survivor of an advanced alien civilization... now seeking a return to his point of origin.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Journey to the stars". Yes, the card text does have a typo. The first word "Just" is incorrectly spelled as "Jut".

Movie Card #21 Card #21 - Kal-El's Quest
The small spaceship glides over the surface of a now-dead Krypton. Horrified, Kal-El watches as remnants of his home world come into view: what was once a thriving, incredibly advanced civilization is now a silent, distant echo of the past. Is this what Kal-El traveled so far to discover?

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "The one man spaceship".

Movie Card #22 Card #22 - Emegency Escape!
Kal-El's visit to the Planet Krypton suddenly turns deadly: within seconds his little spaceship is trapped in an unexpected asteroid field, each rock threatening to demolish his craft. "Home" is the command Kal-El managed to punch into his console as he crawls back to his sleeping pod. Soon, the one-man craft is zooming back to planet Earth.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "His super powers drained".

Card #88 - A Starship for Superman
Director Bryan Singer checks some final details on the space pod, inhabited by Kal-El in the opening set-piece of Superman Returns. Richard Donner's 1979 movie wowed viewers by beginning with majestic views of Superman's home-world in its prime. Now, the dark remains of Planet Krypton are explored, proving Kal-El with his first great challenge in the movie. Singer, who advanced the cause of smartly-adapted comic books with his X-Men films, intends to expand upon the Man of Steel's cinematic legacy.

Superman in pod

Ben Hubbard

Ben Hubbard While getting a credit in the beginning of the film, one would be hard pressed to see any sign of James Karen as Ben Hubbard, a farmer neighbor with whom the widowed Martha had been spending some time.

Again, Bryan Singer said he'll likely put these deleted scenes on the DVD release. "There'll be some deleted scenes, some really charming scenes, some wonderful things that existed beautifully on their own, moments that were wonderful," he said. "I had a tough thing [to cut]. ... James Karen was in the picture, and he plays this gentleman, Ben Hubbard, that Martha Kent has been involved with. And ... it's wonderful. They're wonderful beats, and, ... hopefully, those'll be there."

Ben Hubbard Part of Ben's face can be see when we see Martha Kent standing outside the Metropolis General Hospital, and we presume that he's the man driving away from the Kent Farm, having played a game of Scrabble with Martha before Clark's spaceship crashes back to Earth early on in the movie.

Gone is the scene shown during some TV spots where Ben says to Clark, "So you flew in last night eh?" to which a bemused Clark, looking questioningly at his mother says, "Yeah".

It's interesting to note that according to the official movie cards, Martha and Ben actually reveal to Clark that they're planning on getting married and moving away from Smallville, to live in Montana...

Movie Card #11 Card #11 - Ben Hubbard
It's been years since Jonathan Kent passed on. Tired of living alone on a farm in serious disrepair, Martha has decided to marry her friend and neighbor, Ben Hubbard. A pleasant fellow, Ben has been visiting Martha for a long time, and the two are now planning to move away from Smallville. Although no one can replace Jonathan in Clark's heart, Mr. Hubbard is a good, caring man, and Clark is grateful that his foster mom won't be lonely.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Played by James Karen".

Card #23 - Landing in Smallville
Smallville's sky glows red as a celestial object streaks across the horizon. Then, with a thunderous boom and a blinding flash of light, it crashes into a distant field. "It's just a meteorite," Martha Kent tells her guest Ben Hubbard. "Sometimes they burn up in the atmosphere and sometimes they make it all the way down. No need to trouble the sherrif about it."

Movie Card #38 Card #38 - Meeting Ben Hubbard
Clark is surprised to learn that his foster mother has moved on romantically. Ben Hubbard is certainly a good man, and lonely, deserving Martha should have a companion, Clark agrees. But these rapid changes are a bit startling. On top of everything else, the Kent farm is being sold and the happy couple will be moving to Montana. "Clark, you've been gone a long time," Martha reminds him. "And even you can't stop the world from spinning."

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Everything changes".

Young Clark Kent

Young Clark holding crystal Various photographs were released of Stephan Bender as young Clark Kent. Some (also shown during the Teaser Trailer) showed young Clark Kent standing in front of the remains of his baby spaceship, Kryptonian crystal in hand. These were never seen in the movie.

Bryan Singer's Video Diaries also showed Stephan practicing wire work for flying sequences, but we only ever saw him leaping and floating in the movie.

The official movie cards also reveal details about these missing scenes...

Card #32 - Young Clark's Discovery
In the barn, young Clark notices that his glasses have fallen off. He squints and looks at the ground and as he focuses, he notices that his vision has changed. Clark suddenly realizes that he's not looking at the ground, but right through it! His x-ray vision reveals a small cellar beneath the soil-caked floorboards, with a curious, tarp-covered object stored away for safe-keeping.

Movie Card #33 Card #33 - Legacy of the Cosmos
Light pours into the Kent cellar as young Clark opens the doors. He walks downstairs, a feeling of profound destiny guiding every move. At the heart of this dank little room is a strange, tarp-covered object of some kind. Clark pulls back the covering and beholds a charred crystal pod - the ship he arrived in as a baby.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "The original spaceship".

Movie Card #34 Card #34 - The Kryptonian Crystal
A strange glow emanates from the space pod in the cellar. Drawn to it, young Clark reaches inside, and removes an alien object: a white crystal, the same one Jor-El placed in the little ship years ago. It reacts to the boy's touch, growing brighter and brighter until the light fills his face. And with that, Clark's memories of childhood and the discovery of his special heritage come to an end.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Clark's dark descent".

Clark and Martha on the Kent Farm

Clark with shovel It appears as though a rather large part of the film, involving scenes with Clark and Martha in Smallville, were cut out of the final product.

Early in the movie, the morning after Clark has returned from space, we hear him tell Martha that he buried the spacecraft. One of the wallpapers released by Warner Bros. actually shows Clark standing at the crash site, shovel in hand.

The official movie cards actually detail this scene...

Movie Card #35 Card #35 - Burying the Spaceship
In the cornfield, prodigal son Clark plays catch with his dog, wondering what he should do next. After milling about, he eventually finds his way back to the crash site, shovel in hand. In front of him are massive chunks of his demolished spacecraft, still smoldering. In no time, he completely buries the alien ship, removing all evidence of the crash.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Blast from the past".

Further evidence of cut scenes in Smallville are quotes heard in the TV spots and Trailers spoken by Eva Marie Saint as Martha and Brandon as Clark. Quotes such as "Your father used to say that you were put here for a reason" and "The world can always use more good reporters" from Martha, and "It's not easy for me to live my life, being who I am, keeping secrets" from Clark. These all appear to be parts of a conversation Martha was supposed to have with Clark, helping him to find his place in the world after being away for so long.

The movie cards also bare this out...

Card #37 - Mother Knows Best
"I just don't know if I'm that guy anymore," Clark tells his mother as they discuss the possible return of Superman. "I don't even know if I'd be welcomed back." But Martha knows better. "Your father used to say that you were put here for a reason," she reminds him, refusing to sell short her son's unique potential. "And we all know, it wasn't to work on a farm!"

Reading old newspapers Other missing scenes from Smallville include the part where Clark reads through old Daily Planet newspapers Martha saved for him, catching up on what has been happening in the world during his long absense, including his first glimpse of the "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman" article written by Lois Lane.

Reading old newspapers

The official movie cards also expand on these missing Smallville scenes...

Movie Card #36 Card #36 - Descending into the Past
Later, in the barn, Clark descends the cellar stairs just as he did as a young man, pulls back that same tarp. His childhood ship is still there, although the crystal's no longer inside. Also stored away are old newspapers containing, among other things, a litany of Lois Lane articles, now anxiously read by Clark via super-speed. One particular story catches his eye: "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Crashed and buried".

Metropolis

The official movie cards reveal that there was a scene cut out showing Clark arriving at the Daily Planet via a taxi...

Movie Card #42 Card #42 - A Return to Metropolis
A cab navigates its way through the bustling city of Metropolis, finally arriving at the Daily Planet building. Emerging is a bespectacled fellow returning to his old professional haunts. "Whaddaya got in these things, bricks?" asks the peeved driver as he tries to help Clark Kent with his luggage. Effortlessly, Clark pulls them both out and pays his fare, which is a good deal more expensive than it used to be.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "A still super newspaper".

The movie cards also detail the storage of Clark's luggage in the Daily Planet janitor's closet...

Movie Card #45 Card #45 - The More Things Change
Nostalgia hits Clark Kent as he greets familiar faces at the Daily Planet, including his perennially agitated Editor-in-Chief, Perry White. A short while later, Clark steps inside a nearby janitor's closet and locks the door. Inside one of his suitcases is a certain iconic costume, neatly pressed and folded. Unsure of Superman's future, Clark cleverly hides his alter-ego belongings in a storage cabinet.

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Don't call me chief".

Phonebooth Living in Sydney, I was lucky enough to witness most of the public location shoots for the movie. One such day involved the scene where Clark runs out of the Ace O'Clubs, runs passed people crowding around the corner electronics store as the Space Shuttle Genesis drama unfolds, runs across the street, up a desserted alley, ripping open his shirt to reveal the Superman costume underneath.

Firstly, as the attached photo shows, during the filming, Clark actually ran passed a phonebooth before crossing the street, slowing momentarily to consider it as an option, but realizing it was occupied, and running on up the alley.

It was also revealed to me that he wasn't actually supposed to have the Superman suit on underneath his Clark Kent clothes at this point in time, having not yet decided whether the world wanted Superman back or not. I believe at this point Clark is supposed to dash back to the storeroom in the Daily Planet to retrieve his Superman costume from his suitcases. The time taken to do this before getting to the plane may have been the deciding factor in why it was made the way it is in the movie.

No costume beneath The official movie cards also bare this out...

Card #53 - Looks Like A Job For...
"Lois is in that plane," gasps a highly concerned Jimmy, still at the Ace O'Clubs. But when he turns to his buddy Clark Kent, he finds only a wad of money on the bar. In the classic tradition, Clark runs out of public sight, on his way to becoming Superman. But can even the newly-returned Man of Steel successfully deal with this sudden deep-space emergency?

Note: Interestingly, the Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Unsuited for the rescue", hinting at the fact that originally Clark wasn't supposed to have the Superman costume underneath his clothes, as discussed.

Family Photo Images which were almost certainly part of this sequence of events include stills and trailer footage of Clark looking at a Kent Family photo, with his Superman costume beneath his Clark Kent clothes in his suitcase. There's also an image of him standing looking at his reflection as he tries on the Superman costume for the first time in a long time.

Trying on the suit

The following movie card explains further...

Movie Card #54 Card #54 - Out of the Broom Closet
Back at the Planet bullpen, the staff is so engrossed with the shuttle crisis on TV that no one notices Clark entering the room behind them. He steps into the janitor's closet, pulls his Superman costume out of the hidden suitcase. Hesitating, he finally makes up his mind. Emerging out of the closet is a familiar figure... red boots, blue suit, flowing cape. The Man of Steel is back!

Note: The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Our guardian returns".

Sneaking out of the storeroom

Here are a few other scenes not in the final cut of the film, as explained by the official movie cards...

Movie Card #60 Card #60 - The Caped Wonder is Back!
All over the city the people of Metropolis see Superman soaring overhead: a hot dog vender, a traffic cop, people at a bus stop. A mother points him out to her young daughter. Superman looks down at the citizens and smiles, pleased to be of service once again. Then he makes a sharp right and heads out of Metropolis, flying along the river.

Note: While there are scenes of Superman flying over the streets of Metropolis with people looking up as he flies by, the picture depicted on the card (both front and back) are taken from the deli robbery Superman intervenes in, which is shown as a TV report as one of the many rescues made by the Man of Steel on his first day back on the job. We don't actually see Superman shake hands with the butcher, but we do see him stop the robbery. The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Welcome home Superman".

Movie Card #83 Card #83 - His City Imperiled
Perry emerges from the rubble, wondering what just happened. He also reminds Superman that Lois is still missing, trapped aboard Luthor's yacht. Now abandoned by the criminal and his clan, this immense, crippled ship won't stay afloat much longer. Fortunately, Richard White makes a timely arrival in his sea plan and, working with Superman, they attempt to rescue Lois and Jason.

Note: We don't actually see Perry talk to Superman after he's saved him from the falling Daily Planet globe (as pictured on the front of this card). The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "To save their Metropolis".

Movie Card #85 Card #85 - Praying For His Life
The threat to Earth is hardly over. Using his incredible super-strength, Superman has one last task to accomplish to stop Luthor's plans and save the day. It requires all of his energy to accomplish this, and the Man of Steel eventually plummets back to Earth, his life now hanging by a thread.

Note: Martha's vigil outside the hospital where her adopted son's life hangs in the balance is only briefly touched on in the movie. Ben Hubbard's presence in this scene is only visible to those with keen eyes. The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Visitors from Smallville". Movie Card #86 Card #86 - Superman's Loved Ones
With Lex Luthor's nefarious scheme foiled, the world takes a deep breath. But what about Superman? He used all his strength to deal with Luthor's apocalyptic assault, and now his life is in jeapardy. Concerned citizens everywhere pray for the Man of Steel's recovery.

Note: We never actually see Lois stop to talk to Martha in the movie. The Kryptonian text on this card translates to "Praying for his recovery".

Closing Comments

For all I know these moments cataloged in this article may only be the tip of the iceberg. There could well be many other scenes cut from the final film. These are simply the ones I know of from watching and reporting on the making of this movie.

Personally, I have my own opinions on whether or not the movie is better or worse off for cutting out these scenes. While I could probably sit through a six hour Superman movie, I understand that the wider audience needs to be considered when making these decisions.

However, I do look forward to seeing them all on the DVD release, preferably as an extended cut of the movie, but I'd happily settle for seeing them included in a Deleted Scenes segment on the DVD, with commentary from Bryan Singer on why he decided to leave them out of the theatrical version.

Steve Younis