The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015) Movie Review The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015) Movie Review
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"It's not the presentation that keeps us watching. It's the content we are being served that really matters. In that regard, this could be... The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015) Movie Review

Have you ever wondered what happened to the intended 1999 Superman reboot? You know, the one starring Nicolas Cage as the Kryptonian hero, fighting off giant spiders and floating space skulls in a neon-lit suit? Chances are, you most likely haven’t even heard of this project. But if you so happen to be one of the fanboys who have been begging for and explanation to this almost mythological motion picture, then here you have your holy grail. A 104 minute documentary from independent filmmaker Jon Schnepp (“Metalocalypse”, “The ABCs of Death”), digging deep into the process of the never-produced “Superman Lives”. A film set to have been directed by Tim Burton, and written and revised by notable screenwriters such as Kevin Smith, Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy, before eventually being cancelled just few days prior to principal photography.

It goes without saying that the value of this film depends heavily on your interest in the subject that is being examined. This is a movie made for sweaty movie nerds, as the narrator points out in the first few minutes. It’s for the 1 % of the population that wholeheartedly cares about comic books, and more importantly Superman. If you find yourself to be outside of this target group, put those bucks back in your pocket, because this is not the documentary for you. However, if you are one of the before-mentioned sweaty nerds, the experience will be similar to that of a child gaining free access to clear the candy store. It is absolutely incredible how much stuff they’ve managed to cram into this beast, unveiling everything from the tiniest of details regarding artistic inspiration and conceptual design, to old pre-production footage of Nicolas Cage and Tim Burton conversing about the man of steel. You just ask the questions, and it gives you the answer.

It really is fascinating to see how much effort and love actually went into this lost production, but it also kind of saddens me to hear all the stories told so passionately by the people who worked for years and years, only to have their contributions flushed down the toilet of corporate business decisions. It is also quite funny how director Jon Schnepp never directly participates in the discussion of whether or not the idea of this ridiculous Superman adaptation was a smart move to begin with. Instead, he edits his interviews in such way that we can clearly tell who represents the business, and who represents the artists. Specifically, I’m thinking of Kevin Smith here, whose experience with the studio-system differs considerably from that of producer Jon Peters. We can only wonder which side of the story is true, but there does seem to be an undercurrent criticism of Hollywood that tries to add an extra layer of intrigue to the documentary.

There really isn’t much about this film that you can criticise it for, maybe except for the fact that it is slightly messy and disjointed in its structure. But then again, I don’t think anyone is going into this with a hunger for groundbreaking documentary storytelling. The appeal here is information. We crave a ton of it, and that is exactly what we get. In other words, it’s not the presentation that keeps us watching. It’s the content we are being served that really matters. In that regard, this could be compared to really good junk food. Fast, easily digestible, but a delight nonetheless.

8 of 10

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Mathias Folsted Film/Music/TV critic, columnist, and news-writer

An aspiring filmmaker, film critic and YouTuber. Previous experience include extensive work for the largest danish film site, www.filmz.dk, where I served as junior editor, film critic, columnist, and news writer. Also a graduate from the European Film College, I've been a lover of motion pictures for as long as I can remember. My criticism is always honest, but above all emotional.

  • southafricanguy

    I will have to check this out….I find “what if” films that almost happened to be fascinating……not to mention how the hell would Nic Cage have ever worked as Superman??

    Also, I enjoy Scnepp on AMC/Collider movie talk so I will give his doc a look.

  • I gotta seek this one out. That movie they were gonna make looked krrrrraaaaaaaazyyyyyy.

  • Stalkeye

    I’ll watch this over the weekend. Glad Kevin Smith didn’t get to make this Movie especially since I can stand him.

  • gorgarwilleatyou1

    I love movie documentaries looking forward to this and for those interested that recent one on the Marlon Brando Island of Dr Moreau version, “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau” just popped on netflix US. Not seen it yet but that movie was a train wreck and there are some interesting stories about it..should be a good watch.

  • gorgarwilleatyou1

    oh come on he slimmed down surely that means he will make better movies…

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Saw him on some show with Eli Roth, both douche’ bags!

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    I’d wager this movie, much like the oddball Batman Returns, would’ve ended up being a good Tim Burton movie but a terrible Superman (or, in the other case, Batman) movie.

    I would’ve been fine with that result : I love Batman Returns, even though many “purists” hate it for being “weird” and violating so many tenets of the central character (such as the “no kill” rule). And Superman Lives was from the era when Burton was still making interesting films, too, unlike the shit he comes out with nowadays.

  • Stalkeye

    Thank you!!!!

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I definitely want to watch this, but am soooooooooooo glad this film wasn’t made. This would have set Superman back for years, maybe forever! Smith is such a prick, and Cage is not Superman; with that long hair and stupid suit. Burton did well with Batman, just not sure with that crappy script, bad choice of lead actor, if he would have made anything worth a crap out of this mess.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Would have been a hit……..BITCHES!

  • Stalkeye

    For the record, I like Bat man Returns as well and in many ways more than the first Burton film. But I highly doubt if he could strike lighting in a bottle with this ridiculous premise. Nick Cage as Superman??? Fuck, he barely was convincing as Johnny Blaze.

    On second thought, he need to stay the hell away from all Comicbook properties. Loved him in Face/Off but WTF is this Shit?!!?

  • Stalkeye

    1000x This!!

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    One of the things I find interesting about Cage’s intended performance is his claim that this would’ve been the first time you’d see a legitimate reason why people would never believe Clark and Superman were the same person.

    What did he mean by that? Was he planning to re-configure Kent as an eccentric weirdo, channeling his inner-Crispin Glover or maybe his own Wild at Heart “Sailor” character? From the glimpse of his Superman, he was clearly going to play that persona as Gene Simmons, eighties hair metal look and all! LOL.

  • Stalkeye

    Why I oughta….! (0:<
    BTW Props for hooking up the SN Site!
    Love what you've done to the place.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    You may be right, but Superman Lives looks so fucking nuts that I would’ve loved to have seen it anyway. If nothing else, it would have been good for a laugh. Cage, complete with a mullet and wearing a suit of flashing lights, fighting radioactive spiders while vibrating through the air instead of flying? It could have been a comedy classic for the ages!

  • Was mostly Abe, but I’m doing some touch ups as we go. =)

  • Batman Returns is in my Top 3 Burton films

  • Tarmac492.1

    Greatest Picture. Ever.

  • Tarmac492.1

    DeVito as the Penguin is max creepster gold.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Both have very punchable faces.

  • southafricanguy

    great observation Turd….yeah….I have no idea if this film would have been any good, but it would have been fascinating for sure…

  • Zed

    Yeah, just like Peter Jackson…

  • Stalkeye

    OK, Both of you deserve equal credit.
    I would award you both with an $50 Amazon Gift card but unfortunately, I never got to win any of those Caption contests so you suckas are beat! 😛

  • Zed

    Which would have been worse: this, or that J.J. Abrams script with Super Lex?

  • Stalkeye

    Come to think of it, you’re absolutely right!
    This would have been the chance to ruin Smith’s career once and for all….oh, I think Tusk already have done that.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Toss up

  • Zed

    I’ve only read the Abrams one in its entirety. I started on one of Smith’s drafts, but got bored.

  • gorgarwilleatyou1

    Yeah big thumbs up to you both looking good!

  • gorgarwilleatyou1

    yeah poor guy went the way of Del Toro. He needs someone to quarter his budget and throw away the fucking computers..

  • Just watched this. Man, that Jon Peters is a character. Also interesting, that some elements of the film stayed and kinda got used in the subsequent Superman films, like Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor in “Superman Returns” and the piece of Kryptonian technology that turns into an image of Jor-El is kinda in “Man of Steel”.

  • Stalkeye

    Peters’ comments where hysterical! The man comes off as a self parody and his idea of Giant spiders and Polar bears had me shaking my head and saying “Whadefuck”?!!?? And his tough guy persona makes him more of a joke. “Iv’e had over 500 street fights”. Uh, yeaaahhhhh, riiight…

    http://media.comicbook.com/uploads1/2014/11/cage-114100.jpg

    Still looks ridiculous.

  • Peters is living proof that you don’t need talent to succeed in Hollywood. You just need to be a professional bullshitter.

  • Stalkeye

    Watching Peters conjure up those silly ideas for Superman, reminded me immediately of the infamous STUDIOHEAD!! XD

  • Truth is crazier than fiction sometimes 😀

  • ErnestRister

    Louis B. Mayer turned down distribution of the Mickey Mouse cartoons because he said the sight of a mouse on screen would frighten women and cause pregnant women to have miscarriages.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Studiohead and Peters ate the same pot brownies in college.

  • Stalkeye

    I wonder what other drugs he takes. I must admit, he doesn’t look bad for his age. 70?!!?? Burton on the other hand, looks like Death itself. Well, the Fucker was always into Goth anyways.

  • Stalkeye

    Amen.

  • Sagamanus

    Umh umh. It’s got a beautiful plastic sheen and nothing a coat of Turtlewax can’t improve upon even more.

  • Stalkeye

    IKR? Should’ve been renamed “Slippery-slickman”!

    “Slippin in the dooor” instead of “Scraping at the door”.

  • KilliK

    dont forget the giant octopus-like world engine which MOS fought, that was reminiscent of Peters’ giant spider.

  • KilliK

    classic

  • Both. I wish that AbramsMan movie got made, so it would had killed Lil’ Jeffrey’s career right at the beginning.