Sponsor

Documentary Review - THE DEATH OF "SUPERMAN LIVES"; WHAT HAPPENED?

A look at the ill-fated '90s Tim Burton superman project.


Review by Andy Comer

Directed by: Jon Schnepp


"This thing never got in front of a camera and here we are almost 20 years later, still interested in it to the point that this documentary even exists. That alone should express how unique this event in cinema would have been."


The Death of “Superman Lives”; What Happened? is a documentary about the Superman film that never was. The film was to be directed by Tim Burton, at a time when the Batman franchise that he started and moved on from was hitting rock bottom; written by comic super fan boy, Kevin Smith; and starring action super star Nicolas Cage, coming off his Academy Award winning Leaving Las Vegas performance, as Superman. Can you imagine that? I know when I first heard about it, and saw the failed production's most infamous photo of Cage during a fitting, I couldn’t help but be so relieved such an abomination never made it in front of rolling cameras. Thankfully, director Jon Schnepp decided to make this documentary to clear the air and give us a great in-depth look into why Superman Lives never happened.
The documentary follows the doomed production from the start of its inception with Jon Peters explaining how he purchased the rights to produce the film, all the way to the devastation everyone endured when the studio finally pulled the plug. All credit goes to Schnepp here as he was able to get a great many people who helped try to make Peters’ vision a reality to explain their experiences, not only on the production but with Peters himself. And through their stories, it becomes clear that even though the film was to be Peters’ brainchild, he was also possibly the major reason for things turning out the way they did.
At some points it is almost like he is the antagonist of sorts, and I think that this is a great asset because it adds a sort of theatricality to this documentary. It seems at one point or another he has altercations with everyone, be it writer Kevin Smith, director Tim Burton or everyone in-between. At first some of the stuff seems a little out there - Peters’ putting a man in a headlock, or kissing Burton on the lips for example - but when other people bring up the stories it really builds the entertainment factor to the film. Therefore, even if you couldn’t care less about why the movie wasn’t made, I think you could still walk away even slightly entertained.
As for the actual information about the movie that was given, I believe they were making something truly special, and I legitimately don’t like Superman, so that should say something about the work that was being done here. This thing would have been different from every other comic book movie ever made, and after seeing all the production art, suits, and hard work that went into this, it probably would have been worth it regardless of the end product. I mean, the thing never got in front of a camera and here we are almost 20 years later, still interested in it to the point that this documentary even exists. That alone should express how unique this event in cinema would have been.



discussion by