To start, I’ll briefly review the film ‘The Death of Superman Lives,’ which is a film documenting the legendary movie that almost was, aka Tim Burton’s ‘Superman Lives.’ Directed and starring Jon Schepp (of ‘Metalacolypse’ fame), featuring interviews with a hilariously dumbfounded Kevin Smith (who wrote a draft of the screenplay), legendary Hollywood producer Jon Peters (who also worked with Tim Burton on 1989’s ‘Batman’ film), and a host of other writers, producers, concept artists and costume designers, who all tell the tale of Warner Brothers attempt to make a Superman film for the 90s, that ultimately failed due to the high budget, risky casting choices, and dubious fortunes of Warner Brothers at the time.
The interviewees discuss the origins of the film, when Jon Peters gained the rights and began assembling his team, including Kevin Smith, to start production on the blockbuster. In one of the zanier and more amusing stories, Smith regales Schepp with the three rules Jon Peters gave him for the script, which included no flight (Peters thought it never looked right on screen), getting Superman out of his costume (which Peter shockingly stated, at least according to Smith, was too “faggy”), and lastly, that he wanted Superman to fight a giant spider (later renamed a Thangarian Snarebeast to combat the ridiculousness of the request).
Peters is quick to refute the first two rules in his interview, but Smith is adamant that those were the rules. The film documents the two years of production that went into the movie, including Tim Burton getting involved, over 3 screenwriters hired to adapt and fix the script, casting Nic Cage and having costume fittings with the man, and the trials of tribulations of all these stubborn creative minds trying to create a Superman for the 90s. Sadly, the film was weeks away from production when it finally got cut, with the bulk of its budget going to Will Smith’s ‘Wild Wild West,’ which Peters was also producing, and which finally gave the man his giant spider.
I highly recommend the film, as it is a thoroughly engaging journey into the heart of a major Hollywood blockbuster, with all the ego and craziness that goes along with it. After seeing the film, one cannot help but wonder if it had come out, whether it would have jumpstarted the age of superhero movies and ultimately got us a ‘Justice League‘ movie decades before the one coming out in the near future.
After the screening, we were treated to a panel that included director Jon Schepp, concept artist (and guest of honor) Bill Boes, and producer Holly Payne (as well as other crew from the documentary). Most amusing from the panel was the discussion of the model of Brainiac’s skull ship, which producer Jon Peters literally took out of the hands of Bill Boes while he was working on it, wanting to claim it as his own on the day before the production was terminated by the studio. We also learned that Jon Peters has seen the film, and seemed to generally enjoy it despite the fact that it does often make him look a bit foolish, though he was curious as to why Kevin Smith was featured so prominently on the poster, as in his words, “that guy was barely involved.” Apparently, he had no idea of the kind of celebrity, and bastion of nerdy culture, that Kevin Smith has become in the days since penning a script for ‘Superman Lives.’
All in all, the screening and panel was definitely one of the highlights of the convention for me, and I hope this article and the other good press is enough to convince anyone reading this to go check out the film itself, which is out on Blu-Ray right now.