The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015) - Rotten Tomatoes

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

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Movie Info

The Death of Superman Lives; What Happened? 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.

Cast

Critic Reviews for The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (1)

Despite [some] lapses and a padded running time, this film does burst with fascinating inside lore.

July 28, 2015 | Full Review…

A talky behind the scenes look at the Tim Burton proposed adaptation of Superman Lives.

October 31, 2016 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

A must-see for any superhero movie fan.

November 6, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Insightful, funny and powerful...and the actual test-footage featuring Cage as the man of steel is remarkable

September 27, 2015 | Rating: 4.5 | Full Review…

We'll never get to see Cage as Superman, but with "The Death of 'Superman Lives'...What Happened?" Jon Schnepp masterfully portrays a universe where we did.

September 27, 2015 | Rating: 4.5 | Full Review…

A detailed and fascinating look inside the belly of a superhero movie beast that was devoured in development hell.

August 13, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?

½

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 oridinary DOC 9.0/10

Thomas Drufke
Thomas Drufke

Super Reviewer

½

Fascinating, fascinating, fascinating. "The Death of "Superman Lives," What Happened?" follows writer/director John Schnepp as he uncovers the mysteries behind the film "Superman Lives" that never was able to get off it's feet in the late 90's. Everything about the story that you have heard before, throw it out the window, because those are mostly propaganda lies that never dove into enough detail. This is a wonderfully made documentary that shows the extremely creative ideas throughout Hollywood, but also how film studios do not trust those ideas enough to make them money. It is a sad situation that this production had to go through. With interviews from Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, and many many others, the insight given throughout this film is superb. Behind the scenes stories are always interesting to watch, but a behind the scenes story about a canned film is that much more fascinating to watch. Here, they did everything they possibly could, putting together a great documentary. One that I think every fan of superhero films, and just film in general should watch. Not only an interesting documentary, but one of my overall favourite films I have watched in 2015. My one large gripe with the film is that I wish a few more people were interviewed, because it felt a tad repetitive cutting to the same people. That is just one mishap in an otherwise fantastic documentary. Highly recommended!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

This documentary is now widely known because of the fact that some (or most?) of the funding was raised through a Kickstarter campaign, which many fans contributed. So even though Jon Schnepp wrote, directed and edited this project (it was his baby), you could also say, the fans that contributed have rights over this project too, seeing as they backed the film with their own money. Technically its a fan made film, without the fans support, Schnepp might not have been able to complete it. I'm not sure how this all works actually, but wouldn't all the people that contributed towards the film have a claim to royalties? does it work like that? probably not. Anywho, this project is all about the movie that was never made called 'Superman Lives'. The movie was going to be a different take on the Superman universe, or from what audiences knew to expect from a Superman movie. The main force behind this drastic new vision was none other than Mr goth, Tim Burton. Fresh of success with his dark exploration into Batman's world, Burton was gearing up to do exactly the same thing to Superman...with Nic Cage as his Superman. This documentary delves deep into that failed project, the ideas, concepts, the people involved and basically how far they got. See this as another 'Lost in La Mancha' type documentary film. At first the doc mainly revolves around Kevin Smith and his early draft for the movie, nothing amazingly unique though as much of this information has been around for years and easily found online. Personally I found it interesting as I have never looked any of this info up (not being a Superman fanboy), so the idea of having a crossover with other characters such as Deadshot and Batman seemed pretty sweet (naturally). We also get a tonne of input from Jon Peters who, dare I say it, is a typical looking over tanned Hollywood slimeball with an effeminate hairdo that looks like a wig. This guy purchased the rights to Superman back in the early 90's and literately set about trying to create a monster, pretty much tried to destroy the Superman franchise with his stupid ideas. This guy Peters is clearly the type of Hollywood schmuck that just doesn't get it, he doesn't get what popular comicbook characters are about, he's why we often get terrible adaptations with daft alterations. Just watching this guy here, I didn't like him, I didn't like his attitude, he seemed fake, a possible liar, thinks he's a tough guy, the kinda guy that might take credit for other people's work. This is confirmed with the varying comments from both Peters and Smith, Smith says one thing, Peters says another, who is telling the truth is of course not known but I got a real sense of distrust from Peters. It also shows how Peters comes across as a bit of a bully, getting what he wants in the end with the fact he produced the movie 'Wild Wild West' and many ideas he wanted for this Superman project ended up in that bomb of a flick (giant mechanical spider finale). So all that was a solid insight despite the fact it comes across in a negative light. What is the real highlight here (for me at least), was the concept art from various skilled artists (Sylvain Despretz, Jack Johnson, Jim Carson, Harold Belker, Michael Anthony Jackson etc...). These images really show what could of been, what an amazing visual feast of ideas could have been displayed with Burton's dark mindset. Honesty most of it, if not all of it, is truly stunning to look at, the various ideas for Krypton (loved the neon lights and shifting tectonic plates ideas), action sequences, locations, Superman's little pod from Krypton and of course his suit. All of this being a combination of the various artistic styles provided by the various concept artists and Burton's own uniquely gothic tastes. The best of which easily being Burton's take on Brainiac which basically looked like something from 'Mars Attacks', but still good! loved the creepy spindly spider legs idea. Whether or not any of this stuff would have worked on film is another matter, the million Dollar question, but the artwork sells it brilliantly, you can't help but love it. The suit is another big focus of the film, probably the biggest as that's what everybody has seen online with Cage looking dreadful. Again there is some gorgeous artwork showing how the finished product would have looked, his final new black suit, his healing suit and various other stages that were looked at. These images are really helpful to see what the aim was and I gotta be honest...I liked what I saw! The exciting stuff comes from actually seeing the partial creation of one suit, the now famous rainbow suit. We see various people trying on the initial designs and how the neon lights would have worked etc...it looked great in my humble opinion, really fresh and visually appealing. Having Supes big 'S' in bold silver adorned across the chest plate, with all these neon rainbow lights flashing in a synchronised pattern was awesome to see. Think the aliens in the movie 'Abyss' and how their bodies glowed and lit up for a comparison. Another idea they were going with which I believe was totally new, was the little robotic character that would have accompanied Supes from Krypton from the get go. This little guy would have looked after Supes and helped him, not exactly original these days of course, but it was the idea that it transformed into a sort of mechanical exoskeleton for Supes when he was recovering from whatever happened to him. This sounds crazy but again the artwork totally sold me, seeing Superman encased by some robotic suit of armour that enabled him to fly was really unique, and it looked so damn cool! As for Cage, the big bad Cage, I'm still not so sure about that. According to Burton there was a lot of conflict on casting and its easy to see why. Cage would never have been my first choice, apart from his over acting and lack of chiseled features, for me its that hairline, come on seriously, a balding Superman?! even with that wig he still looked balding. Me being new to all this, I will admit I loved the fresh new angles and the big gambles they were aiming for, or willing to take. Of course we will never know if they would have paid off, but I think doing something brave and original with such an epic franchise deserves some kudos. I mean really, killing off Supes?...ballsy move right there, having him come back bigger and badder with that black suit, all in the one movie?! the first movie! gotta give kudos on that plot, that blows most origins stories out of the water. I do think these changes were kinda needed for Supes though, because his formula and look can be become stale, especially after the classic Reeve's movies ('Superman Returns'). Just look at 'Man of Steel', that had many new visual elements to it which looked great and did work, unfortunately that movie didn't gel entirely, but it shows this Burton vision could of worked on some levels. It does appear that this production did get pretty far before it was cancelled, I think it was merely weeks before shooting Warner Bros shut it down. That all being down to the epic failure of Joel Schumacher's 'Batman and Robin' which gave Warner Bros the jitters, so Schumacher did indeed screw up both the Batman franchise and the Superman franchise on one fell swoop. It is a shame because I would have liked to see this movie made, I think it would have been decent, a definitely unique stand alone flick if anything. This doc does give plenty of info about the various stages, if like me you haven't really looked into all this then it will be quite interesting. For others, more dedicated Superman fanboys, I'm not sure this really gives you anything you didn't already know, what's more you can find a lot of this online if you search. Still, its a solid documentary, well made, well researched, plenty of old stock footage, lots of artwork and lots of little interviews from almost all involved. The fact many fans got to help out is also great (apparently the Bluray has loads of extras). Well worth your time if you like any of these categories...Superman, comics, superhero flicks or just plain n simple science fiction and fantasy.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

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