With Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice hitting theatres in just a few short weeks, recalling the history of the Man of Steel on screen seems only appropriate. While his comrade and co-star Batman has enjoyed a long tenure of box office success beginning in 1989 and with only brief interruptions since, Superman has flown over a harder path. Apart from Richard Donner's seminal 1979 classic and its first sequel, Superman's cinematic outings have suffered from poor quality and reception. Superman III met with critical pans and audience disappointment, while Superman IV: The Quest For Peace fared even worse. So began a twenty-year gap for the Last Son of Krypton on the big screen, which lasted until Bryan Singer's Superman Returns in 2007.
During Superman's time in the desert, major directors came and went from the project, as did name talent like Johnny Depp, Anthony Hopkins and Ralph Fiennes. Still, the movie couldn't get made.
One of the highest profile projects which garnered a good deal of attention came in the late 1990s, at the zenith of the first cycle of Batman films. Titled Superman Lives, the project boasted some big name talent and even got so far as to have a teaser poster and a set release date. Then, it didn't happen. In 2015, documentarian Jon Schnepp tracked down the creative team and attempted a reconstruction of the film, and sought to discover why it never came to fruition. While certain elements remain in dispute, the core ideas have been uncovered, and certain elements are must-know for cinephiles and Superman fans.
10 The Story
The Superman revival began with notorious Hollywood producer Jon Peters. Peters, who started as a hairdresser, became a producer with A Star is Born which he produced with girlfriend of the time, Barbra Streisand. During production of that film in the 1970s, Peters gained a reputation as something of a volitile, indecisive character. By the 1990s, he was riding high on the success of the Batman films which he'd shepherded to production.
9 Tim Burton Had Kevin Smith Fired
8 Burton's Take
Despite the success of his Batman films, the eccentric Burton claims to hate comic books, with the character of Superman in particular arousing his revulsion. Still, he found himself attracted to the idea of doing another blockbuster for Warner Bros., which he hoped would warm relations between he and the studio. Following the release of Batman Returns, Warners had grown wary of Burton's mainstream appeal.
7 Burton Wanted A 1950's Sci-Fi Feel To Design
Smith's screenplay had included the villain Doomsday, as well as the nefarious billionaire Lex Luthor and the alien Brainiac as villains, along with the staple characters of Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen. Batman would make a cameo during a funeral sequence, with Michael Keaton earmarked to return to the role. With the script in flux, Burton and his production artists began designing the film.
6 Some Weird Casting
Prior to Burton signing on, Peters wanted Nicolas Cage for the part. Cage had just won an Academy Award and become a hot box office draw. As a lifelong Superman fan, Cage jumped at the opportunity.
5 Production Issues
From the get-go, budget proved a major issue for the film. The film would require a number of massive sets, including the Fortress of Solitude, Superman's Tomb, Brainiac's Skull Ship, and the city of Metropolis itself. Burton scouted locations in Pittsburgh to double as Metropolis, while Warner Bros. began reserving studio space for the film. The number of big-name stars would command an even higher budget, as would the need for credible special effects, both practical and computer generated.
4 Creative Tensions
3 Anatomy of a Superhero Blockbuster
2 Death of a Superman
The demise of Superman Lives sent Burton and Peters into a tailspin. Burton reportedly stormed out of a meeting and vanished for a week, refusing to return calls to Peters or Warner's executives. Peters threatened to throw a Warner Bros. production executive out a window, though he didn't fret too long: the funds for Superman Lives were reappropriated to another Peters production, Wild Wild West. Wild Wild West would also pick up the concept of a giant spider villain, though it couldn't save the movie from bombing on release.
Cage would never get over losing out his dream role as Superman, and would name his own son Kal-El as a sort of memorial to the project. Spacey would go on to play Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, while Peters would dwell on the Superman project for another decade, coming close to production yet again with the unrelated Superman Flyby, which also proved a disaster.
The return of Superman in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman prove however that despite the Hollywood nonsense and terrors of Development Hell, Superman still lives.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheRichest?Get Your Free Access Now!