Just about everyone knows Superman's origin story. Even if you've only absorbed it through some kind of cultural osmosis, there's a good chance you have the basic idea. In his seminal miniseries All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison even went through the trouble of breaking the story down into just eight words: "Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple."
It's a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea. Superman's origin story is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of pop culture knowledge in the world, and while the Man of Steel has gone through many different incarnations in his 80-plus years of existence, that origin has more or less remained, particularly when it comes to film and TV versions of the character. That may be one of the reasons why writer/director Matthew Vaughn didn't get to make a Superman trilogy that would have substantially rewritten it.
Vaughn, best known to comics fans as the director who brought us X-Men: First Class and the Kingsman franchise, is making the rounds right now to promote the Elton John biopic Rocketman, which he produced. Superheroes come up a lot when you talk to Vaughn, though, and that was the case when Polygon chatted with him about his rumored attempts at making a Superman film for Warner Bros. In 2017 Vaughn was reportedly the studio's choice to make a sequel to Man of Steel, which the director confirmed is "officially" a dead project with Henry Cavill apparently done with the DCEU.
That's not the beginning of Vaughn's history with the character, though. In 2008, Vaughn and Kingsman writer Mark Millar (who's been a key player in both DC and Marvel Comics at various points in his career) actually pitched an entirely new Superman trilogy to the studio, one that would have apparently drawn heavily on the tone of Richard Donner's beloved Superman films. While we've known about that pitch for a while, we did not know what the story would be. Now, Vaughn is shedding a little light on how he would have kicked things off.
According to Polygon, Vaughn's take on Superman would have kept most of the first film on Krypton, as Jor-El and his fellow scientists fought to save Kryptonian civilization while their planet crept closer to its doom. Here's where things get interesting: Rather than having Jor-El put his infant son in a rocket as Krypton fell apart, Vaughn and Millar would have allowed young Kal-El to actually spend some time growing up on the planet. Krypton would still be destroyed, but by the time Superman had learned what he needed to know about Earth and taken his place as a hero with two homeworlds, he would have been an adult.
That's certainly an interesting take, one that removes any internal mystery for Clark Kent about who he is and where he came from. Superman origin stories on film have historically featured a lot of self-discovery for young Clark, as the Kents finally reveal how they found him and he begins to use Kyrptonian technology to connect to the memory of his parents. This take would remove that entirely, but would add in the problem of Kal-El making Earth his home after having understood what a home on Krypton actually looked and felt like. It would have also given us a Kal-El who perhaps had a better understanding of exactly why Jor-El sent him to Earth in the first place.
Alas, it's a take we'll apparently never get to see, unless Warner Bros. changes their tune and warms to the pitch a little more the second time around. Who knows, though? Maybe Vaughn and Millar can get together and adapt their pitch into an Elseworlds comic one day.
What do you think? Would you watch a Superman film that alters the origin story this much?