This week we look at the Tim Burton Superman movie starring Nic Cage that never was . . .
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Alien villain Brainiac sends Doomsday to kill Superman and blocks out the sun to make Superman powerless (Superman is fueled by sunlight, remember?).
Brainiac also teams up with Lex Luthor, but Superman is resurrected by a Kryptonian robot named The Eradicator. Brainiac obviously also wishes to possess The Eradicator and its technology.
Powerless, the resurrected Superman is sheathed in armor formed from The Eradicator itself until his powers return, courtesy of sunbeams, and defeats Brainiac.
SOURCE: An original screenplay by Kevin Smith ostensibly based on the famous Superman DC Comics character that made his first appearance in Action Comics # 1 (June 1938).
WHO’S INVOLVED? Producer Jon Peters (Batman), director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands), screenwriter Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats) and actor Nicolas Cage who was set to play Superman / Clark Kent.
LAST WE HEARD: This project died in April of 1998 after its studio spent $30 million on it with nothing to show for it. Nicolas Cage even attended a costume fitting and a part of a Krypton set was built.
WHY IT’D BE GREAT: Actually it wouldn’t.
Superman Lives is a legendary cautionary tale of what happens when Hollywood bigwigs with no love of or understanding of a popular property or character get their hands on said property and character and make a mess out of it. (See: Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin.)
The pairing of Tim Burton and Kevin Smith seemed perfect on paper, but in reality didn’t work out at all. Instead the project simply left a bad taste in everyone who was involved’s mouths – although it gave Kevin Smith a lot of material for his standup routine at American campuses in later years.
“I basically wasted a year,” Tim Burton later said. “A year is a long time to be working with somebody that you don’t really want to be working with.” (Burton still got paid $5 million thanks to a generous pay or play contract. Not as generous as Nic Cage’s contract though: the star was paid $20 million for doing nothing!)
Why want to see it then? Call it a morbid curiosity. How bad could it be? Nicolas Cage as Superman? Superman wearing an all-black suit and being unable to fly? Brainiac battling polar bears near the Fortress of Solitude and with a gay robot sidekick? A space dog pet for Lex Luthor?
Superman Lives sounds like the sort of train wreck that would have irate fans blog away unhappily at their keyboards for all eternity!
THE PROBLEM: A Superman movie eventually got made in 2006 and another one directed by Zack Snyder is set for release in 2013. To be fair, we kinda liked an early draft of Kevin Smith’s screenplay and always thought it might be a good idea if Warner’s animation studio made a direct-to-DVD flick out of it. But that’s just us.
CHANCES OF GETTING MADE: Zero.
Check out the very funny video below in which Kevin Smith talks about his experiences on Superman Lives: