Why “Superman Lives” Died

Why “Superman Lives” Died

Why “Superman Lives” Died

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What do Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, Jon Peters, and Nicolas Cage all have in common? They were all a part of the Superman Lives film, which never actually became a film. A documentary recently written and directed by Jon Schnepp, chronicles the beginnings and the ultimate ending and demise of a film that quite conceivably could have been one of the biggest cult classics in cinematic history. 

Picture it: 1998. Months and years of production have been lain into the production, artwork, story boarding, costume design – a lot of costume design – technical design, graphics, screenplay writing and casting of the movie Superman Lives which was set to be directed by Tim Burton and star Nicolas Cage as its leading man.  Jon Peters, the producer of said picture set into motion a graphic, darker and seedier version of the iconic “man of steel”’s story. Nick Cage is even quoted in an interview saying, he would have “turned that character on its head” – meaning he would have searched his acting chops to deliver a much deeper look into the inner-most thoughts and being of the superhero, a.k.a. Clark Kent.

First thing was first though before they could cast the movie: They needed a script. They solicited the talent of Chasing Amy and Clerks’ writer and director Kevin Smith. I know, we were really excited and shocked to learn that little nugget of info, too.  They wanted him to come up with a snazzy script, which he was prepped by Jon Peters in a particular vain to write. Once Tim Burton (Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands) was brought on to direct, he threw Kevin Smith’s script out the door, and kicked him out of the film’s production as well. It was now time to bring in a new writer, and find the talent for the film.

Interestingly enough two of their top candidates to play Lois Lane were Courtney Cox and Sandra Bullock. Between the two, seems like Sandra would have been a better fit Miss Lane’s character – but let’s not digress.

The film took some dips and dives, twists and turns in the area of costume design, encountering some glitches, problems, suit malfunctions and just poor ideas in general for a long period of time – until they finally struck gold. At long last after years of hard work, their suit was right, their leading man was right, their script was right (three screenwriters later), and their director was right.

They brought in teams to work on set designs, character development and character design. All pretty elaborate stuff, and some might even venture to guess that Oscar nominations may have been had for some of the team members involved in the pre-production phase.

With so much hype around the film – even back before the internet craze – it was expected to be a huge blockbuster, especially when just three weeks before they were ready to start filming they had already invested an estimated $12 million into the picture.  But it was never made!

The documentary explores aspects of the film in its pre-production period, with rare footage of Nicolas Cage in costume fittings, interviews with all the people involved in the making of the film, and of course speculation and blame as to why or because of whom the film didn’t make it to the big screen.

It’s an interesting look at the film that could have completely re-vamped and changed the idea of Superman as not as much a squeaky clean hero, but rather an emotionally distraught, introspective alien being. More of an outsider like so many of us feel most of the time. That was the true message the makers of the film wanted to convey.

For comic fans, the film would have been a great fix for their lust of fantasy storylines, and for movie-goers, if nothing else it would’ve just been a great excuse to see Nicolas Cage in a tight suit flying to infinity and beyond. While the film was never released the documentary is at least half as good as the movie might have been, and though it frustrates us in wanting to actually see the movie now, it’s still fun to come up with our own ideas of what the motion picture may have looked like.

Anyway, the documentary makes us want to go watch the Christopher Reeves series – or oddly enough the 1950s TV show. Don’t forget that the new Batman Vs. Superman movie is set to come out March 25, 2016. So if you have an itch to watch good vs. … darker good, then that’ll be your chance. Just for fun though, who do you think will be the victorious champion of the superhero smack-down?

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