The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? (2015) Poster

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A nice tribute to an unmade mess
davidbazuki12 July 2015
Over the years, there have been talks of an unmade Superman movie starring Nicholas Cage, which has been the subject of controversy among not only fans of the character, but comic book fans in general. Pretty much all there was to show for it was a few leaked, horrible images of Nicholas Cage sporting quite a head of hair in a cheesy suit, Kevin Smith's shared experiences from being a writer on the movie, and a supposed leaked script.

This documentary sheds light on the unmade movie and tells the whole story through incredible concept art, and pretty cool special effects tests all of which just don't belong in a Superman movie.In addition there's info from some of the crew members working on the movie at the time. People interviewed include concept artists, director Tim Burton, writer Kevin Smith, Producer John Peters, costume designers, special effects artists, and others caught up in the production at the time.

The thing I personally found amusing was how almost everyone involved with Superman Lives had so little knowledge on the characters, mainly from producer John Peters who had the most insane, outlandish ideas that made little sense to not only the actual movie, but to the universe established in the DC comics. The movie truly felt like like it was doomed from the start.

Anyways, it's a pretty good documentary that tells the tale of how outright bonkers Hollywood can truly be. I'd suggest you watch it if you're into the whole unmade movie type of documentary thing Reminiscent of Jodorowsky Dune, which is another documentary you should also check out.
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A good Documentary that's worth checking out
MattBrady09918 July 2015
Nicolas Cage as Superman...hmm interesting.

The Documentary delves into one of Hollywood's most enthralling 'what could have been' stories. In 1996, Warner Brothers engaged Kevin Smith to write the screenplay ('Superman Lives'). Director Tim Burton assembled an elite group of artists to work on Superman Lives, including Nicolas Cage as Superman. Warner Brothers scrapped the project shortly before principal photography began.

"Superman Lives" a movie that never happened and the film was going to be directed by Tim Burton. Jon Peters as producer and Nicolas Cage himself starring as Superman. This was around the time where superhero movies or just normal movies were bombing at the box office and movies at that time wasn't getting well received by critics and yes we did get good movies around that time as well, but that was in fall time and most of the bad movies came out in the summer time so everybody just expected everything to suck at that time. So I think that's why this movie never happened just because of that and the movie studios were struggle at the time since every movie was bombing in front of them so when they got a new Superman movie starring Nic Cage of course they would say no to it since Batman and Robin and Steel didn't work.

The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? was a pretty good Documentary. It showed me a lot of the behind the scenes and the ideas that Tim Burton came up with and so did the art designers. The ideas they had for the movie and they drawings they did for the monsters that Superman can fight were pretty good and quite creative designs. The Documentary kept my interested from start till finish and it actually gave me second thoughts about Cage as Superman and the whole project itself as I do believe it could have been somewhat good just by the unique draw out art designs. Watch it yourself and you know what I'm saying.

I can't believe I'm saying this but Nicolas Cage could have been a good Superman. Watch the Documentary yourself as they put Nic Cage in the outfit and he looked good as Superman that's just me being honest here.

What I never known about Jon Peters is that he used to be a hairdresser and now his a movie prouder, don't ask me how all that happened. I was pretty shocked about Jon Peters ideas for Superman Lives like he didn't want Superman to fly or even wear his Superman outfit, I mean what? and Jon Peters seems to have a strange thing with spiders because he wanted Superman to face-off with a giant spider and let's not forget that Jon was the producer of Wild Wild West where they were giant iron spider in that movie. Jon Peters at times didn't know what the hell he was on about and he doesn't really care about the character of Superman. Just doing it for money I guest.

My only problem with the Documentary is that they only talk about the ideas about monsters and they only show you fan art of those designs, but I didn't really get a full gaps on what the movie could have been like and how the movie will start and finish, I never got that in this Documentary.

Overall The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? is a good Documentary that's worth checking out.
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Meandering and Over-Long, This Tug on Superman's Cape Needs More Focus
drqshadow-reviews28 January 2016
The infamous bomb to end all bombs, a doomed effort to relaunch the Superman franchise in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic Batman and Robin, never made it to principal photography. Ever since it was unceremoniously dumped back in 1998, the film's been a secretive slab of buried pop trivia and this documentary, through interviews with virtually every guilty party, attempts to uncover what might have been. Facepalm-worthy mistakes abound, from overzealous producers with absurd requests to tripped-out directors with no affinity for the character to one of the single worst casting decisions in recent memory. There's no two ways about it: this was going to be a launchpad disaster, even worse than the slim shreds of leaked information may have led us to believe. The story of its abortion is fascinating, too, in the same way a slow-motion replay of a fatal F-1 crash might be. The documentary belabors many points, though, needlessly bloating its runtime, and the director/moderator is incessantly forced into most shots, which I found grating. As a slideshow of concept art and talking heads recollecting (often, stunningly, with fondness) the mistakes they were never given the chance to make, it provides a short-lived interest. The full duration is something of a chore to push through, however, and it really could've done with some critical editing before release.
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Not bad, but not good either
siderite12 August 2015
It is always fascinating to see the innards of the making of a movie. People that are working so much before you even know that the idea exists. Superman Lives, though, was not that special an idea.

It would have been fun to see a long hared Nicolas Cage play Superman (and I honestly mean it, especially since he was still young and caring enough about his roles) and Tim Burton would have probably reinvented the superhero genre all by his lonesome. However it would have been neither completely revolutionary nor conservatory enough to appeal to movie studios. Its cancellation was not possible, but the most probable outcome.

The documentary goes ahead and describes how the work for the movie started and how they prepared concepts and costumes and they were weeks from starting filming when the project was canceled. Fun to see Kevin Smith contradict Jon Peters on how things actually happened and who had which idea, but in the end the viewer doesn't care one way or the other.

I feel that the documentary, unlike others in the genre, like Jodorowsky's Dune, failed completely in making the viewer care. You didn't see Cage heartbroken for not making the film (in fact he didn't appear at all, except in archive footage), you didn't see Smith or Peters cry tears of frustration for not getting the thing done, and the footage about their preparations and the minute details about the Superman costume left me cold.

Bottom line: Good to watch it in order to learn how movies get conceived and made. Bad if you want to enjoy yourself or feel anything about this movie that was not made.
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What could have been...
DanielRobertRoss11 October 2015
Over the years I had heard about this failed Superman reboot, and then pictures started appearing online, but until this documentary I didn't know the full story. Much like Jodorowsky's Dune, this insightful documentary takes us behind the scenes, showing us not only how the wheels for this project started but finally answers the question of why exactly the whole thing came crashing down.

There's in depth interviews with Jon Peters, Kevin Smith and some surprisingly emotional words from Tim Burton. Sadly Nic Cage declined to appear. Regardless, this is a fascinating journey into what could have been either one of the best comic books movies ever or the most bizarre mess since Batman and Robin. Tragically we'll never get to see Nic Cage as Superman shouting NOT THE KRYPTON! Our loss.
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Hampaus20 July 2015
When you make a documentary about a messy film you run the risk of making a messy film yourself, that's what I feel happened here unfortunately. Too long and not gripping subject enough for a talking head doc.

Should have been better structured, now it feels like the filmmaker got a lot of material and just put it together without a clear thought and without the ability to kill his darlings.


Positive: Tim Burton and some of the material from production that is hard to otherwise get to see.
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Movie art, costumes, spiders - and Nic Cage with great hair.
pixiekatten18 November 2019
I did enjoy this documentary. It interviews some great visionaries, craftsmen and filmmakers and it was a treat to see how they think and their creative process. The issue I had with it though, is that after watching the documentary you end up wanting to know more, much much more. Instead of taking a proper dive into what really killed 'Superman Lives' it merely scratches the surface and goes on (a lot) about the art and design of creatures, monsters, costumes and that famous S on the chest. The documentary maker had all these amazing people at his finger tips - but yet the audience gets none the wiser to what actually happened, and what a Super gem of a movie this could actually have been! We're being slightly teased.

The Superhero movie that could've been sounds quite extraordinary and very 'out there' - actually it sounds absolutely bonkers! And with the team ready to start filming there must have been a proper storyline and interesting character arcs. A whole other level to build on for the documentary. But unfortunately the it sticks to talking mostly about design and the production of monsters and suits. Waste of potential. We get to know a little bit about which actor/actress were planned for some of the parts. And we get to see glimpses of an outstanding Nic Cage, owning the movie entirely through archive footage. I give the movie a 6/10 because it is slightly above mediocre. Listening to Tim Burton and Kevin Smith is always a pleasure. And all of the people being interviewed brings something worthwhile to the table. The old footage of Cage trying on suits is worth the movie alone. But in the end the film kinda drags on, and I really don't feel like seeing more creature designs or hear about spiders.

Along the way you get a feeling for this flick and starts imagining how cool it could've been, you suddenly have so many questions. But the documentary answers a mere few. Which in my eyes is such a fail. It is obvious that everyone involved had a vision and a great passion to make this movie. When the end finally comes it's a bit of a let down. The death of this weird Superman project deserved more than a 5 minute round up at the very end - just quickly letting us know why the plug was pulled, and sort of by who.

The 'what happened?' at the end of the documentary title suggests it will spill the beans once and for all. But it fails to deliver on this promise. If you are into art and design, and specially movie fan art - watch this and you shall be happy. If you're into documentaries about movies and also want to see entertaining behind the scenes with the one and only Nicholas Cage (with superb hair it has to be added) - then watch this and you'll have a good time. Just don't expect to learn much more than the simple fact that someone in Hollywood made us all miss out on a Burton-esque hell of a Super ride! I think we already knew that....
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A interesting story about what might have been.
danielgray197512 October 2019
If you love comics and movies about comic book characters (especially Superman, naturally), then this is a documentary for you. This film pulls back the curtain on what goes into making a movie about the most recognized character on the planet in the strange, twisted, and ego-driven world that is Hollywood. Love him or hate him, a Tim Burton Superman movie would have been truly something to see. Would it have been bad, good, or legendary? We'll never know, but this documentary let's us see what might have been if Warner Bros hadn't pulled the plug at literally the last minute. There were a lot of very talented people that were doing some of the best work of their careers (up to that point) in every department of the film's preproduction. Now we finally get to see some of that amazing and unique art, set designs, props, creatures design, incredible (and some odd) costumes, and even the choices made in the casting of a blockbuster motion picture. I for one was glad that this work was finally being shown, even if only in a "what if" kind of scenario.

Full disclosure, I love Tim Burton's films. His signature style of design sets his work apart and makes his films instantly recognizable. I wish that I could take a trip into an alternate reality where this film was allowed to be made by Warner Bros, just to satisfy my own curiosity about how it would have turned out. It would definitely be different than anything that came before it!
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Interesting documentary, but poorly crafted.
Nixon_Carmichael28 July 2015
The Death of Superman Lives is a story about the bizarre and at times grotesque would be super hero movie, Superman Lives, which was commissioned by Warner Brothers in the 1990s.

The movie never got out of preproduction but documentary filmmaker Jon Schnepp has set to find what in the hell actually happened, uncover anecdotes, footage and notes from the people involved. At the end of the day I didn't learn a great deal of new information but it was nice to hear multiple viewpoints and see some of the concept art from the film.

Director Jon Schnepp has a clear vision of what he's after and has the intelligence to see it through, but where the film suffers is execution. Though I'm aware that this is an independent doc made with what had to be a modest budget, the film itself is at times woefully crafted. The audio is often out of sync, the video quality is lacking and sequence editing seems strewn together, haphazardly. Mr. Schnepps prowess for conducting interviews also leaves room for desire at times.

All things being equal, this is not the worst thing I've ever seen, and it was interesting at times at least and approached with integrity and intellect. I'm not sure it was worth $30, but hey, that's just me, I'm sure that there are going to be some people out there who love this movie.
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This documentary is indeed flying high! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's about Superman & it's worth watching.
ironhorse_iv6 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I'm pretty sure, the majority of people on the Earth have either saw, readt, or heard of Superman, by now. However, I really doubt, that most of today millennium society, have heard of the late 1990s cancelled film version of Superman call, 'Superman Lives', starring the eccentric actor, Nicolas Cage, and directed by the peculiar, Tim Burton. So, what did happen to 'Superman Lives'? This documentary by director Jon Schnepp was made, to sheds light on that. Told by personal interviews with those who work on the doom project. The whole story of what 'Superman Lives' was meant to be, was told through them, intercut with scenes of incredible never-seen-before production concept art, cool visual/special effects, great use of archive footage, amazing reenactments, and last, but not least, tons of tons of props. Indeed, this was a documentary I've been meaning to watch, since I heard about it, at Comic Con, and I finally got to see it. I do like, how the documentary approach its subject matter, it reminds me in a way, how the 2013's film, 'Jodorowsky's Dune', approached theirs. There are tons of similarities between these two movies, in the way, it was made and how it was presented. While, the documentary isn't original in its style; you really do see that Jon Schnepp put a lot of work, into this film, to make this documentary, successful. Lots of impressive research. I was also really shock that Schnepp got some really big names to be, in this film, like Tim Burton. I really thought, Burton was a very introvert person, who wasn't really willing to talk about his work on his previous films; but I guess, I was wrong. It was very surprising to see, Tim Burton, not only smile & laugh, but also share his odd sense of humor, giving a lot to say. I really did, like Schnepp's interview with Burton. The only thing, I didn't like, about it, was the lighting. The room that they were filming in, was way too dark. I'm really hoping, it wasn't on purpose, but I think, it was. Burton has known for overdoing his Gothic director gimmick. It seem like something, he would pull. In addition, there were some other info given, from some of the other crew members working on the movie at the time, like writers, Kevin Smith, Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy. I like, how they explain, how, some of the film elements in Superman Lives was supposed to work, but I really found, the lack of detail, to be, troublesome. I'm somewhat, still confused, on how Superman Lives was supposed to play out, and what made it, differ from all the original scripts after 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, had. I was really hoping, maybe, Schnepp would bring in, more of the pre- script writers to help solve this. Still, I have to say, the three writers, the film, did get to feature; were mostly, alright. I just wish, Wesley Strick & Dan Gilroy had more time to talk, it really seem like the film focus, way too much of Kevin Smith's influences. I found, his interview to be long, and draw-out. Very prideful. However, it wasn't the only one. Producer John Peter's interview; by far, was the most entertaining part of the documentary. The hairdresser turned incredibly successful producer is so outrageous over the top, and full of himself that you can't help, being drawn to larger than life persona. You want to believe, that the man has been in over "500 street fights", really do hate giant spiders, and knows, what, best for Superman. While, he can be a bit annoying; I love, every bit that he was on screen. Even, the awkward, pause, while, I take this call, and you drink water, scene. However, it sucks that the documentary couldn't get, all the key people for this film. It would be nice to see, how key actor, Nicolas Cage or 2006's Superman Returns, director Bryan Singer, thinks about Superman Lives, now, rather than what, they thought, back then. Overall: While, I don't agree with the whole, turn Superman, gritty approach, that they were, doing. I still found myself, personally fascinated with the "what could have been" scenarios. I love, what they did with the character of Brainiac, the most. I really do, hope, he gets to be, in a Superman film, one day. First and foremost, if you're movie enthusiast, you are in for a good time with this documentary! Lots of great inform for any film student. If you're a comic book fan. This movie is a must-have. Lots of crazy fun "point/counterpoint" worth debating about. Who knows, if the film was going, to work or not. It's easy to envision the final film, just being a mess, but 'what could, been great' is also inspirational to think about. Either way, this documentary shows great insight into, what it takes to pull off an epic of this scope, and the struggle of so many people, all working on that one main goal. This is a good 'What If' documentary for sure.
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Good thing this turkey wasn't made
sweenman2311 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
After watching this documentary, I'm sure glad "Superman Lives" was never made. There are way too many changes from the original but, to me, the worst is the no-flying manifesto.

Supe flies; that's what he does. He doesn't hop from building to building. The Incredible Hulk hops. Spiderman and Batman swing. Superman flies.

As corny as the Superman, II, III and IV were, I still prefer them over the more recent entries.

As far as this documentary goes, I had a hard time deciphering the feud between Kevin Smith and Jon Peters, and an even harder time caring. And, by the way, what has Smith ever done well other than "Dogma" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"?
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Chappy Watched: The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?
chappywatched6 February 2016
I am no Superman aficionado so if I have mistakenly got something wrong, I'm sorry and leave your pitchforks at the door!

The first two Superman movies were awesome, the second two are entertaining in how bad they are, Superman Returns is even worse and Man Of Steel, while being full of massive destruction is still a pretty awesome film.

I started hearing about this film when the picture started circulating around the Internet of Nicolas Cage in a Superman outfit. I didn't like the outfit and, as of now, didn't like the idea of Cage playing Clark Kent/Superman but back then I probably wouldn't have minded the casting.

Kevin Smith talks about 3 rules that were given to him by Jon Peters; No flying, no suit and Superman must fight a giant spider. Peters says the first two are not true but I have to say, I'm inclined to believe Kevin Smith over him, mostly due to some of the things he says throughout the doco.

Peters tells Kevin Smith 'You got nothing happening. You got Brainiac coming to the Fortress of Solitude, there's not fight. Have him fight Superman's guards' Um okay 1) Fortress of SOLITUDE – there's no one there! 2) Guards? He's Superman; he doesn't have guards. What superhero has guards!

When Peters talks about firing Smith later, he states one of the reasons being the script wasn't funny. Since when is Superman a comedy! Peters goes on to talk about making the cape a character of it's own; could be taken off and thrown at someone and could even chop someone's head off.


Storyboard artist, Michael Anthony Jackson, the day before getting the call from Tim Burton about doing Superman Lives, signed on to do the first Matrix film but then pulled out the next day – what a mistake that was!

Wesley Strick was hired after Kevin Smith was fired 'I hadn't read any of The Death of Superman. I wasn't up to speed with any of that stuff'

That stuff? HE is supposed to write a movie when he hasn't read the comics! Wow this movie would have been brilliant!

Pretty much the only thing this movie had going for it, after Smith was fired, was the casting; Sandra Bullock as Lois Lane, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Christopher Walken as Brianiac.

I did not like the design they had for Brainiac, it was basically a head on some spider legs. The rough designs for Doomsday were horrible, one of them had faces coming out of his body!

This documentary was very informative to see the process of making a movie of this scale back then, I'm glad to see some aspects of making a Superman film have changed.

After watching this and hearing what it could have been, I am beyond glad that it wasn't made. I think it could have been worse than even Superman Returns!

While it was an interesting look into what could have been and what went wrong, it's not something I need to watch again.

CHAPPY THINKS that although I love what Tim Burton did with Batman, I think Superman Lives would have been more catastrophic than the final destructions scenes in Man Of Steel!
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Hollywood folly
michael-320413 June 2016
Low-budget but comprehensive documentary examination of the ill- fated 1990s attempt to reboot Superman. This is clearly a passion project of writer/director Jon Schnepp and it shows, for good and for ill. Schnepp's enthusiasm for the subject is infectious enough to carry us through what feels like an overlong film without too much drag. Somehow he managed to secure interviews with almost everyone important involved in the abandoned production, including would-be director Tim Burton, all three screenwriters who wrote and rewrote, Warner Bros. honcho Lorenzo di Bonaventura, costume designer Colleen Atwood, a large number of the technical artists who worked on the film's concepts, and most incredibly Jon Peters. Considering that screenwriter number one Kevin Smith has made a career trashing Peters over his involvement in what was supposed to be "Superman Lives," Peters is either brave or foolhardy for agreeing to participate.

The most notable absence from the documentary is Nicholas Cage, who was cast as the Man of Steel and who we see only in archival footage of costume tests, but Schnepp has more than enough to work with. That is part of the problem -- this film presents more than anyone but the most obsessive fan boy would want to know about how the production progressed before it fell apart. It gets repetitive after the first hour and Schnepp isn't himself a dynamic enough filmmaker to keep it lively. The other problem is that, ultimately, despite some of the out-sized egos involved, there is no grand tale to tell here. "Superman Lives" died for perfectly sensible reasons, so this documentary ends on more of a whimper than a bang. While "The Death of Superman Lives" is catchier, this is really "The Short Life of Superman Lives" in that it gives us a good sense of what the film might ultimately have become, but doesn't really join the pantheon of fascinating tales of aborted projects.
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What an incredible documentary!
JoaquimGonsalves15 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A must watch for aspiring film-makers and anyone who loves movies enough to care about the collaborative work that goes on behind it. I'd like to think it's the same as having your family or spouse say, 'I want an abortion.' Can't even begin to imagine the pain.

The artwork, the concepts, the ideas, with Tim Burton at the helm, it probably would have made a masterpiece that would be talked about for years. Like one of them said. "It wasn't made and we still are talking about it." Almost 20 years later!

Personally I don't think it would have brought the studio the numbers at the time, considering Warner Bros'. bad run of luck and the very fact that the audience back then may not have been ready for it. The cinephiles of today though, with their healthy diet of superhero movies, would have thrown money for a story like this. (This documentary was funded largely by a Kickstarter campaign, so there you go)

But when you see what they rather made with the previously allocated budget? (Man, you will be shocked.) You'd perhaps say, they should have gone with "Superman Lives" instead.

A big shout of appreciation to Jon Schnepp for getting this made. An even bigger hug to the entire team for being brave enough to relive the memories.
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poe-4883325 January 2016
Documentaries like THE DEATH OF "SUPERMAN LIVES": WHAT HAPPENED? are legion, it seems (JODOROWSKY'S DUNE, HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER'S APOCALYPSE, TERY GILLIAM'S LOST IN LA MANCHA, etc.). It's impossible to tell if TIM BURTON'S "SUPERMAN LIVES" would've been a Great movie or not, but it's a safe bet it would've been better than anything else we've seen thus far: Burton has shown more often than not an uncanny ability to get to the Soul of the Characters in his movies; THAT'S what makes the mere idea of Nicholas Cage as Superman under Burton's aegis such an intriguing notion. The footage of Cage in costume suggests much.
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Taking Flight At Last...
timdalton00722 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Nearly a decade after he brought the Dark Knight to cinema screens, Tim Burton almost brought the Man of Steel back from dead both literally and figuratively. Superman Lives, as the film came to be known, might well be the most talked about superhero film that never got made despite their actually being little to show for it except for drafts of the script floating around online and a now infamous picture of Nicholas Cage in costume. Or at least until now there hasn't been. The Death Of "Superman Lives": What Happened? is Jon Schnepp's documentary that, thanks in part to crowd funding, finally tells the story of the film that came so close to being.

The thrill of this kind of documentary, even for films that are released, is the behind the scenes footage. Using a wealth of material that's been virtually unseen since 1997-98, Schnepp shows what was a quite active and lengthy pre-production phase for the film. There's a large amount of costume tests being done for Nicholas Cage that takes in that now infamous photo (which Schnepp finds the exact moment it was taken in the old footage) but also him as Clark Kent and additional tests of the Superman costume that reveal something that looks far more familiar to fans. There's also concept art from the many different artists who worked on the film taking in sequences from the different scripts by different writers, it gives some idea of the visuals the film might have had.

The other thrill is getting to hear from the many and varied participants. Schnepp packs a lot of interviews into the running time and he gets some fine results by bringing in everyone from Burton to producer Jon Peters, all three writers who worked on the project (Kevin Smith, Wesley Strick, and Dan Gilroy) plus costume designer Colleen Atwood and many of the artists who worked on the film. Sadly cast interviews are sorely lacking as it appears that the casting was still largely up in the air though Cage appears both in footage from the time doing costume tests and in interviews in the years hence. The interviews are interesting and often show both the enthusiasm and frustration that came along with the project from the struggles with the script to Peters as producer (which leads to some interesting stories that are sometimes contradicted by Peters himself) and exactly why the plug came to be pulled on the film. Yet there's also some regret that the film never got to be made and a lot of talk about what might have been which makes the interviews even more interesting.

In fact, that's the big takeaway from this entire documentary: this is what might have been. Given that Superman Lives was canceled just weeks before production would have commenced, there's still plenty about the film that will never be known. In fact when the infamous picture of Cage gets mentioned, Burton and others are quick to point out that it was merely a test and not the final product on display in that image. Final designs hadn't been settled upon, neither had casting outside of Cage (though the film mentions Sandra Bullock or Julianne Moore as Lois Lane, Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken as villains and Chris Rock as Jimmy Olson). The documentary gives us a glimpse into the pre-production period on a film that never got made and we can only extrapolate from this what we might have gotten on the big screen had the film come out in the summer of 1999 as planned. For that reason alone, it's well worth watching for any Superman fan.

That being said, while it's essential viewing for Superman fans, it does feel perhaps a bit overstuffed. At 104 minutes it does feel overlong and gets perhaps bit too in-depth towards the middle and end of the film's turbulent history. That's in large part thanks to what eventually begins to feel like a seemingly endless sequences of concept art mixed with interviews where those involved try to make sense of events now two decades in the past. As a result, the documentary seems to come to nearly a sudden halt quite like the real life production though Schnepp does take the time to allow both former Warner's executive Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Peters the chance to explain why the film ultimately folded. I suspect though that most would prefer the film to be overlong than too short and it doesn't do it too much harm overall.

For fans of the Man of Steel in whatever medium, The Death Of "Superman Lives": What Happened? is essential viewing. You'll discover much that's new about the most talked about Superman film that was never made thanks to Schnepp's meticulous digging and interviews. Even if you walk away glad that the film never got made or perhaps still feel ambivalent about the whole thing (as I do), you're in for a treat.
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Entertaining and highly detailed but ..
dregj27 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Details the long journey of preproduction and design of the film Superman Lives. With long interviews from kevin smith ,various producers and of course tim burton himself.It is a great story of the film that never was ...yet no one seems to ever acknowledge the possibility that the film would probably have been a spectacular flawed failure.Some of their ideas from plot to effects were ludicrous and at no point does any one even hint at this not being a potential master piece . I found this blind spot for the "movie " quite tragic. I would have loved to have seen the film myself but only for all its car crash value.
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Superman Gets Shot Down
Michael_Elliott15 May 2016
The Death of 'Superman Lives': What Happened? (2015)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Remember SUPERMAN LIVES? You know, that new Superman movie that was going to be directed by Tim Burton and feature Nicolas Cage in the title role? It got into production but the film never managed to see the screen and this fun documentary explains why.

What's so great about this documentary is that many of the main people involved with the production are interviewed here. This includes Burton, producer Jon Peters, the three different screenwriters including Kevin Smith as well as people involved in costumes, set design and various others. What's even more entertaining is that those interviewed are willing too speak their mind on what went wrong.

As one person states, it would have been a great movie or something laughed off the screen and it seems Warner knew this and that's one reason the film was canceled. There's a lot of great stuff on display here including the interviews that are terrific. We also get to see video footage of Cage inside the Superman suit and having discussions with Burton and the crew. Speaking of Burton, you can tell that this film still bothers him.

If you're a fan of comic book movies or just disastrous Hollywood mistakes then you should get a kick out of this documentary.
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Even Better Than I Had Hoped For!
MovieHoliks30 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I have been after this movie FOR-ever, and FINALLY get to see it off Showtime over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend! First off; with movies you have such high anticipation for, you generally think you're going to be let down. Let me tell you right now, this was even better than I hoped it would be!

In 1996, a chain of events took off that would lead to everyone from Kevin Smith (as a screenwriter), Tim Burton (as the director), Nicolas Cage (as the "Man of Steel" himself), etc.. attempting to create what would've been the next big Super hero franchise following in the aftermath of the mega-successful Warner Bros. Batman series. But low & behold, we all know now it didn't happen; well, at least, not for another decade, and with a whole other group of folks involved. I was mesmerized by this film from beginning to end, and was reminded of two other recent documentaries I saw about failed attempts at film-making (behind the scenes)- "Jodorowsky's Dune" and "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau". In fact, Stanley himself is one of the major interviewees in this film, as he was in the "Dune" film.

After watching this film about what described could've been one of the most amazing super hero films ever made, I think to the more recent "Superman Returns" and "Man of Steel" and think to myself- bleck! Oh well, at least we have THIS film we can now all watch and think about what could've been, as maybe something more creative future film-making endeavors can strive for..??

On a side-note: One thing though about this film. Maybe a little bit of a *SPOILER* alert? There is mention of Courtney Cox playing Lois Lane, Jim Carrey as "Brainiac", Michael Keaton making a cameo as Batman; however, when all these events were unfolding I "thought" i had heard that Jack Nicholson was in talks or being considered to play Lex Luthor- ?? There is no mention of him in this film; in fact, Kevin Spacey, who would of course ultimately play him in the 2006 film, is being considered for the role.
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Geeks will find this very interesting and may change your opinions
Robert_duder2 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I mean no offence by the geeks crack. I'm a geek!! I love comics, I adore Superman (I'm a collector and have loved him since I was a boy) and I had really only heard rumblings and rumours about the Kevin Smith written and Nicholas Cage starring Superman movie that never made it off the ground. I think for a long time I assumed it was an urban legend of some kind and then pictures started circulating of Cage in the suit and I still didn't think much of it. If this documentary doesn't surprise you about anything else, it shocked me with how deep into production this movie was. I mean we are talking script completion, special effects, costumes, casting...everyone was on board and in the production stages and that is the best thing this film shows. It also shows how genuinely passionate everyone was about making this work. The idea was they wanted to make a whole new concept Superman that was completely out of the box. Honestly, I am certain that it would have bombed and mainstream audiences would have hated it and die-hard fans would have ripped it apart including me and yet this documentary made me WANT to see this movie. It is based on my personal favourite and I think one of the best comic series' and concepts ever and that was the death of Superman. The project was perhaps too ambitious for one film and too much outside of the box for anyone.

Jon Schnepp isn't exactly a household name and yet he's been around for awhile and worked on some high profile projects. I believe this film was made due to some sort of public forum donation (Kickstarter or something like that) and great for them because its the only documentary on this subject and it is extremely thorough. If I were Schnepp I may have hired someone to be the "host" of the documentary because Schnepp is clearly passionate about this subject and he's obviously a geek himself but he is incredibly awkward in front of the camera and has a ton of nervous tics (that nod...could be turned into a horrifying drinking game. The man nods 1000 times per interview I am sure.) He seems to get more comfortable as the film progresses but not much. He does ask the right questions and covers the right areas but he himself is not a great presence in front of the camera.

The thing for me that I came out of this doc surprised about besides how deep into it they were is that I actually want to see this movie now and that includes Nicholas Cage. My first thought was the same as everyone else...Nicholas Cage would be laughed off the screen. But in seeing the film, watching him in costume and listening to him talk...I began to actually envision him in the role. Now again this would be WAY outside of the box. This would be a total departure from any Superman we have seen before but I could see Cage doing it. Man of Steel (in my opinion) was a butchering of the original Superman concept so why not this? The work put into it would have been (and was extensive.) Alas all we have is this documentary which was fascinating and decently made for the audience intended. Anyone outside of geeks and comic fans will likely be bored with the subject matter and find creator Jon Schnepp even more awkward. Its worth a look for all of us geeks. 7/10
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Superman Lives: what could've been . . . and thankfully wasn't
Mr-Fusion29 April 2019
A fantastic story told by an uneven documentary. The best parts (for me) were the Kevin Smith scenes. He seemed really happy to regale the audience (again) with his bizarre turn as scriptwriter for Superman Lives, and he's a nicely expressive personality. The downside to this is that he's not presenting anything new, and you can still get the same entertaining story in one of his "An Even With Kevin Smith" stand-ups.

Outside of that, the reason to see this movie is the wealth of uncovered costume-test footage with Nicolas Cage and Tim Burton. This paints a different tale than just the pictures we've had on the internet for so many years. Still would've made for a whacko movie. The director conducts a stilted interview with Burton himself (poor lighting and all), but give the man credit; have you ever heard a Burton commentary? They're not easy to get through.

The Death of Superman Lives is worth a watch, and it'll hold your attention, but you can get by with Smith's testimony of events in one of his on-stage conversations. And he makes for better subject matter.
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Superman Lives
aciessi11 April 2017
An absolutely fascinating documentary about the lost Superman film, that was to be directed by Tim Burton, and starring none other than Nicholas Cage as Clark Kent. My imagination went wild the entire time. Just thinking about how amazing it would've been to see a Superman movie, as weird and as sublime as only a Tim Burton film could be. From the looks of it, it was going to be a masterpiece. But corporate shenanigans shut it down. They never gave it a chance. If you are a fan of Superman and the films of Tim Burton, you must watch this. You will be floored by all the footage you are about to see. From concept art, to the camera test starring Nicholas Cage in the Superman suit, you will be amazed at how much went into the Superman film that never was.
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The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?
Scarecrow-888 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting doc about a Warner Bros production which has Tim Burton as director, Nic Cage as Superman, and a bevy of screenwriters, animators, costume designers, special effects geniuses, and conceptional artists which goes through numerous changes and developmental problems before the studio pulls the plug after a series of box office bombs during a disastrous stretch. You get to see Cage in costume tests, with doc director Schnepp interviewing Burton who is thankfully candid. Those brilliant artists involved and their work are given some well deserved notice as are the funny comments on interviewee producer Jon Peters regarding his eccentricities and how those working on the film were annoyed by him. Kevin Smith had an early script ultimately denied and Peters conflicts with him regarding what they were aiming for in developing the film. A Superman film was made but what you see of what might have been could have looked visually amazing. Peters and his spider, Smith and his profane reflections, artists reminiscing about the production, debate over how to make Superman a bit different than previous incarnations, updating the origin of Superman, how Burton and Cage were intrigued with putting a unique spin on the character, creatures involved with Superman and his home world, and other casting possibilities like Walken as a villain named Brainiac are memorable highlights.
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A Documentary for Comic-Book "Sweaties" Everywhere
ThomasDrufke23 November 2016
I've been a fan of Jon Schnepp for a long time. I've watched him on AMC/Collider Movie talk for years now. In the world of comic-book "sweaties", he is the cream of the crop. The man's knowledge spans decades and just about every comic-book character you can possibly imagine. But he also has background knowledge in filmmaking and animation, so I trust him his ability in more than one area. The fact that he made a documentary about the failure of one of the most mysterious superhero projects of all time, "Superman Lives", was immensely intriguing.

I'm not entirely sure why it took me so long to sit down and check it out, however. I preordered the blu-ray the day it became available, but I just kept forgetting to watch it. Well, I'm glad I finally did. "The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?" is one of the most fascinating films I have ever seen. Schnepp devoted years to figure out what kind of a film this was going to be and why in the world it didn't happen. The final product definitely gives you a visual and thematic idea of this film, but perhaps more time could have been taken to tackle why it didn't happen.

The amount of information that Schnepp was able to gather whilst delivering it at a brilliant pace is uncanny. Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen? Courteney Cox, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, or Sandra Bullock as Lois Lane? Not to mention the legitimate casting of Nicolas Cage as Superman? This is information that the casual comic-book fan probably didn't know, and Schnepp covers it all. But it isn't just the obscure casting, it's the enormous spider, the version of Lex and Brainiac combining, or the idea of Superman not flying are all things that were considered by producers for the failed film. Pretty much everything about the comic was flipped or altered for this film.

I think this documentary is important to keep in mind, especially considering how lucky we are in this age of superhero films. A film this strange and this much of a departure from the comic, would never be made today. At the same time, this documentary made me immeasurably interested in how big of a bomb this movie could have been. I want to see this film. I know it will never happen, but I would totally be down to see this insane project. Ultimately, practical reasons, including a spiraling budget, ruined the film's chances. But this could have been an all-time guilty-pleasure. 3 weeks from production!

Overall, I learned a ton of random knowledge with Schnepp's documentary. I also learned that just because someone is in position of power (Jon Peters), doesn't mean they know what's right. I'm sorry but some of the decisions that Peters and some of the other higher-ups were going to make, were horrendous. But in the end, it serves as a fascinating tale of "what could have been". Sure, there are so many questionable aspects to this film that taint the idea at first thought, but man this could have been something special. Special props to Jon Schnepp for making a kicka** documentary.

+Schnepp and Kevin Smith kill it

+Insightfully insane ideas

+Not your ordinary DOC

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Fun Sweaty Experience!
rmckenna1912 April 2016
This is a wonderful documentary about the production process and eventual cancellation of the Nicholas Cage, Tim Burton "Superman Lives" movie. Its something that really isn't known about and this documentary really illuminated a lot about the movie. I loved the crazy weird designs and art that went into this movie and, even though I'm not confident that the film would be any good, I'm fascinated by what this might have been. Jon Schnepp does a great job stitching this history together with great editing of audio and video to really tell a story. I also loved some animations they overlaid on interviews to help explain what the interviewee was talking about. Despite loving this documentary it wasn't totally perfect. At times it had cheaper production value commensurate with it being self funded. There is also a weird segment left in where Jon Peters takes a phone call during the interview. It wasn't clear if this was trying to say something about him but it kind of derailed the generally great pace of this documentary so I felt it could have been left to the ether of bonus content rather than the main film. Overall I loved this documentary and Schnepp's fascination with this project is absolutely infectious. Moreover, I have never felt this kind of passion from Tim Burton before and it was great to see that in this context. Definitely a documentary to check out.
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