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Review: The Death of Superman Lives - What Happened?

The Death of Superman Lives - What Happened?
07.12.2015
100%
8 10
 

PLOT: Filmmaker/Superman fan Jon Schnepp tries to get to the bottom of what exactly happened with Tim Burton’s aborted SUPERMAN LIVES, which would have starred Nicolas Cage in the title role.

REVIEW: Film history is full of those great “what if?” projects which – for one reason or another – never got off the ground. Movies like Stanley Kubrick's NAPOLEON, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s DUNE, and of course – Tim Burton’s SUPERMAN LIVES. But, what’s remarkable about the latter is just how close it was to going into production. With an A-list leading man/director combo (both of whom were at the height of their popularity) and a potential billion dollar franchise at stake, what went wrong?

 

Lots of things it turns out. While we’ve all no doubt seen still images from the 1998 costume tests that suggested Burton was making a Joel Schumacher-style comic-book nightmare, Jon Schnepp, having access to the full footage as well as Burton himself, paints a different picture. One thing that’s immediately addressed by Schnepp’s film is that the images were taken out of context and that the suits that upset people so much would have never ended up in the film and were simple pre-production mock-ups. No actual super-suit was built.

Basically, Schnepp’s made a kind of Holy Grail for fanboys, in that he’s able to set the record straight on a number of fronts. Interviewing everyone from Kevin Smith – who wrote the treatment that got the project started – to producer Jon Peters, to Burton himself, Schnepp gets the whole story. With the exception of Nicolas Cage, he’s able to talk to everyone who had a hand in the project, taking us on a guided tour of the movie’s aborted production and the decision-making that led to Warner Bros finally pulling the plug. Even studio exec Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who was one of the two studio execs to definitively call the project off, weighs in, citing several huge flops in the WB ledger (with $46 million spent on MAJOR LEAGUE: BACK TO THE MINORS it seems some really poor decisions were being made).

What’s especially interesting about Schnepp’s doc is the picture it paints of the potential film. While geekdom has more or less come to the consensus that the movie would have been awful, Schnepp doesn’t seem so sure and everyone involved, including Burton himself, seem positive it would have worked. Even though it’s been more than fifteen years, the cancelled production seems to be a sore spot for everyone, with Burton himself especially depressed over the thwarted project.

Probably the most we know about the project comes from Kevin Smith’s infamous story about producer Jon Peters from his first EVENING WITH…special. Smith re-tells the story here, but Peters himself (filmed separately) is able to provide a rebuttal. While he admits that he had Smith read him the script and that he wanted a big-ass spider in there somewhere (which he later got into WILD WILD WEST) he denies that he had problems with Superman wearing the suit and that he didn’t want him to fly. Certainly, he would have worn the suit in Burton’s film and the ILM test footage Schnepp’s gotten shows that Superman would have flew (or rather jumped – kinda) and that the VFX would have been great (for their time).

These are only a few of the revelations in Schnepp’s insightful and entertaining doc, which is clearly a must-see both for Superman fans and anyone who likes a good true Hollywood yarn. While the production values are lo-fi due to the fan-backed budget (ranging from the beautifully shot interviews with Smith and Peters, to the more rushed Burton-ones that were likely shot in a small window of time) in the end it doesn’t matter much as there’s so much good information here. While no one can definitively say whether this project would have worked or not, I can’t help but wish Burton and Cage had been able to make their film as it could have been really interesting and might have reignited the franchise years before Bryan Singer and Zack Snyder eventually made their versions. It’s nice that Schnepp was able to set the record straight here and this is pretty fascinating investigation into a film that came within three weeks of shooting.

Extra Tidbit: Buy THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN LIVES online right here!
Source: JoBlo.com

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9:21AM on 07/13/2015

Disappointed the big glaring problem with the movie wasn't mentioned.

Jon Schnepp tries to be Morgan Spurlock or even Michael Moore as a host of the documentary, but then does nothing outside of the really awkward opening (which looks like he ripped off the interstitial segments for like when FX shows a movie). All he does in the interviews is laugh and nod. Why even bother using the two-shot? Nothing is added by his presence, he's completele devoid of charisma or really anything, except that he looks like a homeless person.
Also his 'recreations' of scenes in
Jon Schnepp tries to be Morgan Spurlock or even Michael Moore as a host of the documentary, but then does nothing outside of the really awkward opening (which looks like he ripped off the interstitial segments for like when FX shows a movie). All he does in the interviews is laugh and nod. Why even bother using the two-shot? Nothing is added by his presence, he's completele devoid of charisma or really anything, except that he looks like a homeless person.
Also his 'recreations' of scenes in the Superman Lives script, which he sold as part of his Kickstarter pitch are juuuuuust embarassing. Completely unnecessary.

I greatly appreciate the film outside of that, especially the archival footage from the costume tests. It actually makes me kinda sad the movie didn't happen. Also Jon Peters saying he's been in 500 street fights is the most laughable thing I've ever seen. He's like a real-life version of Mac from It's Always Sunny.
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8:00AM on 07/13/2015
Looking forward to checking this one out. I remember hearing about Superman Lives as a kid in magazines like Entertainment Weekly. It always seemed like it was just in those little small tidbit squares that were placed in the middle of other stories, I've always felt Superman Lives had a sort mythic quality to it. It was that thing we heard about, got small appearances of and then all of a sudden it was gone.
Looking forward to checking this one out. I remember hearing about Superman Lives as a kid in magazines like Entertainment Weekly. It always seemed like it was just in those little small tidbit squares that were placed in the middle of other stories, I've always felt Superman Lives had a sort mythic quality to it. It was that thing we heard about, got small appearances of and then all of a sudden it was gone.
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12:26AM on 07/13/2015
I'm a huge fan of Schnepp's from his work with AMC movie talk (which is now Collider Movie Talk). Looking forward to seeing his doc. Sounds very cool.
I'm a huge fan of Schnepp's from his work with AMC movie talk (which is now Collider Movie Talk). Looking forward to seeing his doc. Sounds very cool.
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10:39PM on 07/12/2015
I'm really looking forward to watching this documentary. Too bad they couldn't interview Nicolas Cage. I'd really love to hear his opinion on this subject.
I'm really looking forward to watching this documentary. Too bad they couldn't interview Nicolas Cage. I'd really love to hear his opinion on this subject.
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11:32AM on 07/13/2015
You know if they had offered Cage $50 he would have done the interview. He will do anything right now.
You know if they had offered Cage $50 he would have done the interview. He will do anything right now.
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