For those of us who came of age in the 1990s, certain truths were self-evident: Clerks was the funniest movie ever made, no superhero movie could ever beat 1989’s Batman, directed by Tim Burton, and Nic Cage made some great action movies. So, for a 15 year old learning that the three behemoths behind these projects were collaborating on a Superman film, named Superman Lives, well, it was pretty mind blowing. When it fell through and didn’t happen, it seemed inevitable and sad – “Nothing gold can stay,” etc. However, the more I learned about it, the more disappointed I became, and not because the movie seemed so perfect that it was a cinematic tragedy along the lines of the cut footage from The Magnificent Ambersons being lost forever.
No, I became interested because of how downright weird it would have been.
A long-haired Superman, clad either in all black or in an electric costume. A Brainiac spider. No flying. Huh?
Clearly, I was not alone in my fascination with this unmade film, because Jon Schnepp (director/editor/producer of various series, including “Metalocalypse,” “The Venture Brothers,” “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast”) has decided to seek funding for a nearly $100,000 documentary about the film, entitled The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? He plans on detailing the production, talking with people involved and, if his stretch goal is hit, filming scenes from the unmade film, so that we may get a taste of what the film actually may have looked like.
I spoke with Schnepp, a lifelong comics fan, about this project, and he has a very optimistic view of what Superman Lives could have been. “I think it would have been a pretty huge hit,” Schnepp claims, and even if I disagree, his position is hard to come down too hard on. He talks about the buzzkill that was Batman and Robin, and how that film’s tanking at the box office probably didn’t help this film’s chances, even if the films couldn’t be any different. “You still hear people blame Tim Burton for Batman and Robin, but he was a producer in name only,” Schnepp says. “You should really be blaming Joel Schumaker.”
As if we needed a reason to do just that.
By watching the above video, Schnepp does a great job of introducing lots of the iconography and production art for the film, but in chatting with him, he took things even further. “We will be covering all of the Superman film adaptations [in the movie],” he says, specifically mentioning the failed J.J. Abrams/McG version that eventually morphed into Superman Returns from Bryan Singer, although it was unrecognizable from the Abrams screenplay.
Schnepp has already received commitments from original screenwriter Kevin Smith and second pass screen writer Wesley Strick, and hopes to speak to Burton, Cage, producer Jon Peters (the man who so loved the idea of the giant Brainiac spider that he repurposed it for Wild Wild West a few years alter), and just about everyone else involved with this insane sounding project.
Especially of note are the stretch goals, not just to film sequences from the films, but have them scored by Bear McCreary (“The Walking Dead,” “Battlestar Galactica”) with full orchestration. And we’re not just talking Clark and Lois having coffee, Schnepp promises Brainiac, brought to life via miniatures and CGI.
Even if the stretch goal isn’t met (but c’mon folks, donate some bucks so you can see Brainiac crab walk all over the place for the love of all things creepy and weird), the opening sequence that Schnepp has planned sounds pretty epic in and of itself:
“Basically how I’m going to begin the movie is on Krypton, and we see little Kal-El getting shot off and Brainiac chasing after him, and then there’s a whole credit sequence. And then we land, and there’s a whole sequence of Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel basically creating Superman, which will be shot in black and white. You’ll see the rocket land in Smallville, and you’ll see them talking about what he’s going to wear, and you’ll see the history of Superman starting in the ’30s and it will go decade by decade all the way up through the ’90s, when we get to the story of Superman Lives.”Continued below
You have four days folks – make this happen.