Back in May of 2002, I quickly wrote this "redo*" of Superman III. Looking back at it now, I'd tweak this further, but I'll leave it alone and present it here as another Tale Never Told!
There were some interesting ideas in the third Superman movie, but the comedic spin on it and the lack of attention to the characters make it a movie that hurts even more than Superman IV because of what it could have been. What should have been an excellent third part of a Superman trilogy, turns out to be a flop.
What follows is how I would outline the third movie if I were writing it now. Some of it is derivative of some story ideas that have happened since Superman III came out. The beauty of it is, if this had happened, it would have been first. Or something.
Alexander Hartley, a farmer just outside of Smallville, stumbles across a red glowing substance while plowing his field. He takes it inside his home.
Lois subconsciously feels awkward around Clark after the events in Superman II. Clark is still trying to get over the choice he had to make and the destruction that was caused to Metropolis in his absence in the last movie. He's tried being Clark Kent and failed so has decided to find himself again in the place where he grew up. He has the opportunity to go back home for his high school reunion. Perry thinks it would make an interesting story and sends Jimmy with him to take pictures even though Clark doesn't want him to come along.
Cut to Ross Webster (I'd rather he not be Robert Vaughn, but he was acceptable enough) beginning work on his ultimate super-computer. He's hired (instead of Richard Pryor's Gus Gorman) a team of engineers and specialists led by Jerome Gorman (I don't know if I would have chosen him at the time, but today I'd choose Carl Lumbly). Their main goal is to create artificial intelligence with the computer. Gorman's main concern with the computer is power. The computer resembles the giant machine seen at the end of the original Superman III, but is located in Metropolis.
Cut back to Clark on the bus ride with Jimmy. Clark decides to cut Jimmy a break and share the by-line with him. He's going to let Jimmy interview him. Here we get some exposition about Clark's past. Jimmy mainly asks questions like "who did you like in high school" or "what kind of student were you." Here, Lana and Brad are brought up.
The bus is stopped by a roadblock with government teams, police, and a HASMAT team. Clark uses his press credentials to find out what is going on. He learns that Alexander Hartley and his family have suffered from radiation poisoning and the teams are trying to figure out what happened. Clark coordinates some confusion by telling Jimmy to grab some pictures while he gets back on the bus. The bus turns around and leaves while Clark is still on it. A minute later, Superman shows up to offer his assistance. Superman is shown this red substance and it causes Superman to get dizzy for a second but that passes quickly. Superman offers Jimmy a flight to Smallville and then takes off. Jimmy runs into Clark and the two head to stay at the old Kent farm.
Cut to Jerome Gorman who reads the write-up in the Daily Planet about the Hartley farm incident. Realizing that just this little piece could have enough energy to kick the computer into high gear, he arranges for the red rock to be stolen.
Clark begins acting a little weird. He's looser and not as nerdy. Jimmy doesn't think much of it, and just attributes it to the return home. They meet up with Lana the next day where the reunion is being set up. Clark, acting much less Clark-like begins pouring on the charm to Lana and the two hit it off. Jimmy continues writing furiously.
The next day, the plans are set to steal the rock. While the rock is being stolen, someone notices and calls for help. Superman shows up only to be exposed to the rock once more. He captures one of the thieves, but the others get away once Superman begins feeling a greater degree of apathy and lets them go.
The next night, at the actual reunion, Brad (Lana's ex-husband) shows up drunk and starts causing problems. He starts a fight with Clark, which Clark finishes and Lana is impressed. But Jimmy on the other hand, begins to suspect something is wrong. He tries to confront Clark with this and Clark brushes him off. "Go home Jimmy. You have the by-line all to yourself. I'm not going back to Metropolis. I'm staying right here." Jimmy begins the trek home, but halfway home, he realizes that there may be even a bigger story here and he's going to find it.
Further progress is made on the super computer. The computer can hack into any computer system and access any information. It begins doing so and starts downloading as much information as possible. Meanwhile, it starts disrupting systems across Metropolis.
Clark begins having hallucinations. He starts looking into the mirror and seeing the darker Superman. The darker Superman tells him that he is superior and the rest of the planet is inferior. The planet is his for the taking. If I could, I'd try and get the actors who played Ma and Pa Kent back and include them in the hallucinations somehow. Make them a part of the struggle that Clark feels.
Back to the super computer, it kills the entire team (including Webster) but excluding Gorman. It takes over Gorman and makes him a part of the computer (similar to what was done in the original version to Vera Ross). This computer, of course, dubs himself "Brainiac."
We get a series of shots similar to the ones already in Superman III where Superman goes nuts and causes problems. He returns to Smallville after every jaunt and as Clark Kent, is unaware of what's going on.
Eventually, in some scene that I would keep very similar to the original version, Clark and Superman fight it out and Clark Kent wins. He realizes that the red rock had something to do with his problem and he tracks it down and finds this Brainiac computer. Being powered by this red-kryptonite, it takes Superman a lot to fight it, but he eventually wins and in doing so, the red-K is rendered inert somehow.
Clark returns to Smallville and meets up with Brad. He gives Brad a speech about how he's sorry that he fought him and that he handled that wrong and hadn't been himself. He asks Brad to watch over the Kent farm while he's in Metropolis and makes some deal with him about staying out of the bottle.
From there, I'd keep the rest of the movie similar. Lana moves to Metropolis, Superman fixes the stuff he messed up, etc. I'd add some scene in there with Jimmy where Clark comes up with some reason for why he was acting strange and convinces Jimmy to run a toned down version of the story in exchange for future shared by-lines. End with Superman flying around the world and into space and run the credits.
Sure the details need work, but that to me makes a much cleaner movie and delves into the character of Superman a little better. Also, now looking back on this, I'd try and make the connection between Brainiac and Superman stronger. Anyway, that's how I'd redo Superman III.