When Tim Burton was fresh off his two amazing Batman movies, Warner Bros. was looking for him to scoop up a new project they had. They thought Tim would be the perfect fit for the new Superman movie they were working on, Superman Lives. The way they figured it, Burton had such a unique take on Batman, if he brought that same creativity and passion to Superman, he could make the character cool and interesting again. I know you are all thinking Tim Burton (at his peak) would’ve made an awesome Superman movie, he also would’ve made an utterly insane Superman movie, and one I am sad I will never get to see. What you can see, though, is the new movie about making the movie that was never made. This is why you need to watch The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened.
Yes, This Was A Real Thing
First off, who were they going to for the script writing duties? Kevin Smith, right off his Dogma and Chasing Amy fame. A well-known nerd who knew the culture and appreciated it, Kevin Smith writing a Superman movie around the Death of Superman comic story line sounds like one of the best ideas ever. Dude loves comics, has actually written some really good runs on a few (his Daredevil arc was awesome) and his brand of humor and wit seemed like it would do great things for Superman Lives. But then the producer (an utterly insane man you will see quite often in this doc) started hitting Kevin up with the nonsensical notes about the script. Some things they wanted in the movie that just didn’t work in Smith’s opinion. Kevin Smith began to question some of these ideas (the whole third act revolved around Superman fighting a giant, mechanized spider that had no place in the DC universe and later ended up as the third act creature in the movie Wild, Wild West. Yup, same producer, same spider.) I think you can start to see where Superman Lives was destined to be a shit show from the start.
It Gets Better
Why I am telling you you need to watch The Death of Superman Lives is, this movie sounds like it may have easily been the most insane comic book movie ever made up to this point. Do you understand who was cast as Superman? It was Nicolas Cage. Now keep in mind, Cage is a HUGE Superman fan and actually owned Action Comics #1 at one point (Supes first appearance) so he would do the character justice based on his love of the source material. But this was Nic Cage. I mean, do I need to remind anyone of the man’s work:
THAT as Superman. You gotta admit, this would have been a movie that would have blown some minds. But when you watch this documentary, Cage clearly had an excitement and passion about the character, and the more you see the screen test for his suit and the more you see his stance and how excited him and Tim Burton are talking about, you begin to get a very different feeling for Superman Lives. Yes, we have all seen the suit photo and we shuddered, but you know, they might have actually made a pretty cool (albeit insane) movie here.
The Cage Effect
And you can say what you want about the above test footage for the suit, but I think it looks superb. Ripped and ready for action (that long hair is awful, though, and would make Clark Kent very easy to I.D when not in costume). Still, watching this documentary shows you that they had some incredibly interesting ideas at work here (the Brainiac reveal where Tim was gonna have him drop his cloth and reveal his spider body sounded like it would have been a REALLY cool scene) and just getting to see some of Tim Burton’s private sketches for the film is fantastic for anyone intrigued by this concept.
Now All We Can Do Is Wonder
Sad part is, as the documentary goes on and on, you will slowly realize how badly you would have wanted to see this movie. It would have been a very different take on Superman, but if the world forgave Batman for having nipples on his suit, they could have forgiven this film, no matter how insane it turned out. I, for one, would have loved to see the end result and know it would have hit “cult movie” status almost immediately. The photo below showing Burton Face-palming might best sum up the whole situation, though.