Tim Burton in Death of Superman Lives

Jon Schnepp

I’m not going to rehash the story of when I met Kevin Smith while working a movie theater box office in the mid ’90s and how he told me about the experience of writing a Superman movie (those days filmmakers didn’t have to be guarded about things being easily spread on the Internet after chatting with fans). You can read what he said then in a piece I wrote early last year on the Kickstarter campaign for The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? Now it’s time to see what Smith says now, in the first trailer for the documentary, which is about the failed project.

Also in this trailer are a lot of other prominent people who worked on Superman Lives, including director Tim Burton (who is nearly driven to suicide talking about the sad fate of the film on camera), Lorenzo di Bonaventura (then the Warner Bros. exec who greenlit the movie; now producer of the Transformers and G.I. Joe film franchises), production designer Rick Heinrichs (Oscar winner for Burton’s Sleepy Hollow), Wesley Strick (screenwriter who took over from Smith), special effects artist Steve Johnson (who went on to do Spider-Man 2) and costume designer Colleen Atwood (a three-time Oscar winner, including one for Burton’s Alice in Wonderland).

There’s no interview with Nicolas Cage, unfortunately, but there is footage of him being fit for his costume, and some test footage of his version of Superman flying. Check out the trailer below.

This movie looks about as good as I expected, which is to say I haven’t expected much besides whatever director Jon Schnepp could find as far as existing archive goodies (which seems to be a lot, actually) and whomever he could get to talk on camera (which is also a lot of relevant people, actually). I’m not into the aesthetic choice of him being on camera as if this is a news magazine show segment, but whatever. Not every movie of this sort can be Jodorowsky’s Dune.

Still, The Death of “Superman Lives” has a bit of a benefit and burden in the success of that documentary, which presents the story of another failed sci-fi movie that fans were anticipating and now get to mourn once again. I doubt too many will compare this with that to such a degree that they’ll be too disappointed with the quality of filmmaking here. Meanwhile, the positive reception of Jodorowsky’s Dune will surely help to woo viewers to yet another “un-making of” doc.

It should be pointed out, too, that this doc is not finished. In fact, the new trailer is sort of another call for crowdfunding support. This time Schnepp is using a service called FanBacked and looking for an additional $85K (he made $115k from the Kickstarter campaign). He’s currently got a booth at Comic-Con, which is smart thinking. It’s also smart that he’s already including disclaimers all over noting that this doc is claiming fair use regarding all Superman copyright material.

Originally The Death of “Superman Lives” was due out last winter. It’s unclear when Schnepp expects the film to be released at this point, but hopefully it’s soon enough to appease all of us who are curious to see more of this story.


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