A Closer Look at the Dead 'Superman Lives' Movie

By DAVID WEINER

January 25, 2013

Director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan are putting the finishing touches on their big-budget Superman reboot, Man of Steel, which flies into theaters this June. As buzz around the return of the Son of Krypton continues to grow with Henry Cavill in the title role, many non-film geeks may be unaware that in the late '90s there was a major Superman film in the works that never got off the ground – with a first draft script written by Kevin Smith, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Nicolas Cage as the man in the red cape. Yep, you heard that right.

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Metalocalypse director and Grimm Fairy Tales producer Jon Schnepp is a man obsessed with this film that never got made -- just before Superman Lives was set to start filming in 1997, production was shut down on – and now he's attempting the second-best thing to seeing the final film: He's putting together a documentary chronicling the movie that never was with the help of Kickstarter called The Death of Superman Lives; What Happened?

"For whatever reasons, it all fell apart right before they started shooting," says Schnepp. "It's a bummer, I mean, especially looking at it like almost 15 years later, we could've had the weirdest Superman movie ever made. The weirdness level of this Superman movie beats any superhero film that's ever been made."

After the huge, successful re-launch of the Batman franchise in the early '90s with Michael Keaton in the title role, Warner Bros. was keen to get Burton on board to resurrect their Superman franchise, which had lost steam after four Christopher Reeve movies (WB was only loosely associated with 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) a decade before. Much like how they recently got The Dark Knight trilogy producer Christopher Nolan on board to produce Snyder's Man of Steel, WB execs believed Burton had the magic touch.

But Burton's vision was perhaps a little too eccentric for the very "Boy Scout" Superman franchise, envisioning bizarre black, rainbow-colored and electrical circuitry suits; drooling, scaly monsters; skull-shaped spaceships; and a Superman who didn't even fly. Brainiac was intended to be the main villain, with a disembodied head connected to a spidery robotic apparatus, no doubt the influence of former Batman and Batman Returns producer Jon Peters, who was obsessed with spiders.

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Of course, we all know that Warner Bros. eventually entrusted the Superman franchise to X-Men director Bryan Singer, whose Superman Returns fell short of box-office expectations in 2006 and failed to yield a new series. Meanwhile, Nic Cage named his own son after Superman, with little Kal-El born in 2005, and Burton went on to make a string of remakes and franchise adaptations to varying degrees of success -- but never took on another major comic book superhero.

The enthusiastic Schnepp is hoping to interview the key artists involved with the Superman Lives movie that never happened, and if his Kickstarter campaign exceeds his budget goal, he plans to use the money to film a few actual scenes from the film that never saw a frame of exposed celluloid. Pretty cool idea, eh?



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