THE TOYMAN, who controls it from a remote hideout. Naturally, Superman deactivates the robot (which he suggests would look great in his friend BATMAN’s cave headquarters), saves the children, and captures the Toyman.
OUTER SPACE: As the main titles roll (yes, there are main titles, it’s a Superman movie, dammit), we travel into outer space where we see a demonic looking spaceship moving towards an inhabited planet in another galaxy. The ship hovers over the planet, and a large, red beam shoots down, blanketing a city. In a matter of moments, the city is lifted into the sky, simultaneously shrinking down in size until it is a veritable dollhouse. Transported into the spaceship, it is placed in a large bottle-shaped housing with dozens of life-supporting tubes and gyroscopic leveling devices attached, and placed in a repository amongst hundreds of other similar shrunken cities. A skeletal, biomechanical hand caresses the outside of the bottle, and the camera pulls back to reveal BRAINIAC: the living computer whose mission is to collect and study species (sometimes via vivisection) from around the universe.
METROPOLIS: FINANCIAL DISTRICT. Superman flies downtown and from above witnesses a madhouse of police action, with police in pursuit of the van, exchanging gunfire with the terrorists inside. After a spectacular chase, Superman captures the terrorists, whose attempt to set off the bomb is foiled when Superman wraps it in his cape, muffling the huge explosion into a tiny billow.
In the aftermath of the event, Superman is talking with Lois Lane, when suddenly the city is blanketed in a red ray of light. As Superman flies to investigate the source of the ray, he begins to weaken, and passes out, crashing to the sidewalk. While Superman lies unconscious, the city of Metropolis is captured by Brainiac and brought to his ship, encased in its own bottle prison.
BRAINIAC’S SHIP, OUTER SPACE: When Superman awakens, he discovers that the red light (now serving as an artificial sun for the bottled city), emitting the same radiation as the star that his home planet, Krypton once orbited, has taken away his powers.
Suddenly, all televisions and computer screens are taken over by a message from Brainiac, explaining his mission, and that the tubes and cables attached to the bottle can enable the city to continue to function normally for an eternity, and that if the denizens of Metropolis will remain docile and accept their new situation, there’s no reason they can’t continue as a civilization (albeit one under a constant microscope).
Brainiac then explains that he knows Superman is somewhere among the millions of people in the bottle (which is why the artificial sun is a power-sapping red instead of Earth’s yellow), and that he chose Metropolis in part because he finds Kryptonians fascinating, saying that he collected one of their cities—KANDOR—shortly before the planet met its demise. Clark is stunned to discover that he is not the last survivor of Krypton.
Predictably, chaos begins to erupt in the Metropolis, and Superman enlists the help of WGBS-TV to broadcast a plea for citizens to stay calm and not riot, that, powerless or not, he’ll figure out a way to save them.
BO “BIBBO” BIBBOWSKI) don Superman \S/ shirts and patrol the city, battling small time crooks and looters as Superman, LOIS LANE, and JIMMY OLSEN work with a small group of technicians and scientists from S.T.A.R. LABS to figure out a way to communicate with Kandor and escape from the bottle.
Superman manages to open communications with VAN-ZEE, a Kandorian scientist in his early 60s who for years has been trying to attempt the same goals. We see what life has been like for the Kandorians, who’ve been trapped in the bottle for over thirty years. Working together, Kal and Van manage to (somehow, we’ll figure this part out later) simultaneously escape from their bottles (with Van-Zee’s dog, KRYPTO jumping in and coming along for the ride at the last second).
Krypto stays with the animals to make sure they don’t escape while Superman returns to the bridge to confront Brainiac, and a fierce battle erupts. A few times during the fight, various bottle cities are endangered (with POV switching between the fight and the terrified people in the bottles), and Brainiac notes that Superman puts the lives of others over his own. He removes Metropolis from its housing and warns that while the bottle itself is indestructible, all he has to do is pull the life-support to destroy everyone inside. Cuts to the citizens of Metropolis show their horror as they witness the gargantuan threat to their lives. But calm remains as they trust their fate to the hero.
“You’ve spent millennia collecting, dissecting, and cataloguing the minutiae of what it’s like to be a living organism on thousands of planets in the universe. But you’ll never understand what it is to be alive. You don’t get what it is that makes those of us who rely on a beating heart different from something whose existence is predicated on mechanical parts and intellectual programming. I come from a planet that died in part because it let science trump emotion. But as much as I’m a product of Krypton, I’m an Earthling because I was raised to believe that what you feel is as important as what you think. You can study us for a million years, and you’ll never get it because you lack dreams. Faith. Hope. Have you ever laughed, Brainiac? Do you even know what that is?”
Brainiac buzzes. “I am aware of all manifestations of sentient emotions, Kryptonian. Were I capable of amusement, I may say your prattle would accomplish said feeling, Superman.”
Superman continues. “Well, let’s put you to the test. Here’s a riddle: What’s faster than an angry Kryptonian?” Brainiac attempts to answer, “Without allowing for fluctuations in ability due to elevated levels of emotion, there are 27 organic beings in the known universe that can achieve velocity surpassing…” and Superman cuts him off.
“Nope. The answer is TWO angry Kryptonians.” And slow-motion shows Superman and the recovered and fully-powered Van-Zee attacking the villain from two directions at super-speed, Van grabbing the bottle while Superman lands a punch so hard that it shatters the robot into pieces. As his biomechanical parts attempt to reassemble, Superman traps Brainiac’s head inside of one of the empty domes, rendering Brainiac’s detached limbs inert.
With Brainiac defeated, Superman and Van-Zee discuss what to do with the stolen cities. Van-Zee volunteers to use the ship to return them to their planets, but what about Kandor? Superman suggests coming with him to Earth, but Van-Zee refuses, saying that not only is Earth not ready for thousands of Supermen, but that he doesn’t trust everyone in Kandor to be as selfless with unlimited power as Kal-El. Van-Zee will find a new planet for the Kryptonians somewhere in the universe. Superman grudgingly agrees.
FORTRESS… solitude can be overrated.”
METROPOLIS: Everything is getting back to normal, as evidenced by a short sequence of Superman stopping a mugger, saving a pedestrian from a car running a red light, and putting out a fire at a sidewalk hot dog stand. He returns to The Daily Planet and talks with Lois about the adventure the entire city just shared, saying that he knew the people could handle anything. Lois says that she can’t imagine what it must be like to discover you’re not the last of your kind in the universe, only to lose them again.
Obviously, there are some details that would need to be worked out (like how Superman and Van-Zee escape their bottles), but that kinda stuff comes after the outline, right? While there have been various versions of Brainiac, this one is based mostly on the 1980s reboot of the character by Marv Wolfman and Ed Hannigan). Also, if this were to take place in the world of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (and it could), then the script would reflect Lois knowing that Clark and Superman are the same. But either way, the point is that this story would hit all the Superman buttons (and even give him Krypto, fer cryin’ out loud!).
And he doesn’t have to kill anyone, either.