Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?

This is very different from similar documentaries like Jodorowsky's Dune and Lost Soul in that it's not about a movie we wish had been made, but one we're glad was not made. The film in question featured Nicholas Cage as the titular character in Superman Lives, ironically retelling loosely the comics story of the death and return of Superman.

I have always loved Kevin Smith's spoken word epic here and here of his time working on this film. His experience, or his view of his experience, is hilarious and endlessly entertaining. The most intriguing parts in this documentary are the bits where Smith retells the tale while Jon Peters tells his side. Much denial, but the parts that sync up are interesting. I still believe Smith.

Interviews include those with Smith, Peters, the unlikely director Tim Burton, and many others. They're interspersed to create a tapestry detailing the history and demise of the Superman Lives project. And while I am usually dead set against messing with the source material (after all, the source material is what made the product marketable and worth making a movie of to begin with), I have to confess that Burton's vision is an intriguing one.

Just as the American 1998 Godzilla was a good giant monster movie, but a lousy Godzilla movie, so it would be with this vision - a good superhero movie, but a terrible Superman flick. That said, I was intrigued enough that I would probably have seen it had it been made, and possibly liked it as long as it wasn't Superman.

There was a lot of talk about the regenerative suit, the Thanagarian snare beast, preliminary sketches, great inside stuff. The potential cast is also discussed, one that included not just Nicholas Cage, but also Sandra Bullock as Lois Lane, Christopher Walken as Brainiac, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, a role he would eventually play wonderfully in Superman Returns.

I found the Brainiac designs the most intriguing, creepy as they came from the mind of Tim Burton, but intriguing. Jon Peters would certainly be pleased as one looked like the "Jonny Quest" eyeball spider with Brainiac's head on top. Freaky. I don't think I would have been happy to see this version of the Superman mythos, but I think I would have liked to have seen it at least once.

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