Reviews: The Death of Superman Lives - What Happened?

The ill fated journey of Tim Burton's Superman movie is told in this latest documentary.

"Seriously, guys.
I don't look that bad in
this suit."
Much like the sad tale of Jodorowsky's Dune, The Death of Superman Lives tells the story of a motion picture that had the plug pulled by studio brass that wasn't willing to take a chance on Tim Burton's bizarre ideas for Superman. After lackluster box office receipts from numerous surefire productions and years spent in development hell, Superman Lives was killed off to the chagrin of a tired staff that had dedicated their lives to a new take on the story of Kal-El. 

In the case of this film, it may have been a good thing that it never got made. Superman Lives would have changed the classic superhero story arc into one that featured giant monsters, robotic spiders, and a weaseled Clark Kent played by '90s superstar Nicolas Cage. After a string of arthouse flicks and monstrous box office hits, Cage was given the chance to take the reigns as the man in tights in a comic book feature that strayed from the typical tales of the man from Krypton. 

With a clumsily redesigned suit, the look of Superman would have been strangely awkward. Clark Kent would have been more dorky than usual. And the Man of Steel as we know him would have been altered in a way that would have made Superman Returns look like a masterpiece of modern cinema, but possibly rendered non-existent. While goth mastermind Tim Burton has made some excellent motion pictures, his typically eccentric vision matched with interfering non-comic reading producers would have been a divisive yet surreal entity sharply different than anything done during the Christopher Reeve years. 

"What do you mean, you've
never seen Red State?"
Through various interviews with staffers from the film, Tim Burton, and a monstrously arrogant Jon Peters, the unraveling of the strange take on the Superman film is told with an unfocused tone that feels a bit disjointed if not angled towards prosecuting the corporate magnates that strangled the life out of this thing. As interesting as it is, too many thoughts are not expanded on and the conclusion leaves much to be desired. The most interesting parts of the documentary are the moments in which Kevin Smith and numerous others throw varied insightful insults at cinematic megalomaniac, Jon Peters. The obvious disdain for the man is absolutely hilarious as numerous creative heads go for the throat with varied insults and passive aggressive jabs.

For fans of Superman and comic book fans in general, this movie will serve many purposes. It's an interesting documentary that captures the death of a disaster in the making.It also shows how quickly the theatrical DC Universe could have been altered by non-creatives with a power hungry attitude centralized around their own silly ideas for a decades old character. Yet, the best part is imagining how different comic book movies may have been if Superman Lives had bombed. Watch this one for the killer designs, Kevin Smith's musings on his experience, and all the talented non-executive types that show up to talk about the movie. 

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