Director: Jon Schnepp
Cast: Tim Burton, Jon Peters, Kevin Smith
Spoilers Within: No
Originally posted 4th July 2016 on Letterboxd.
Generally speaking, I prefer watching documentaries on subjects I have little to no interest in. On one hand, if the documentary fails to sway me into new territory then at least I’ve attempted to learn something new. On the other, if it changes my perception of the topic, or introduces me to a whole new subject, then at the very least the discovery can be something great. The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? is the former.
A disclaimer: the only Superman films I’ve seen are the universally panned Superman III (which I unironically enjoyed for all of its numerous failings), the monotonous and forgettableSuperman Returns and the appalling, abhorrent Man of Steel, so my investment in the character is hugely limited. My watching of this documentary was both out of curiosity of what could have been and semi-interest in a behind-the-scenes account of what went wrong.
Whereas the similarly problematic production at the heart of Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau succeeded in satisfying my interest, The Death of “Superman Lives” was interesting on an elementary level, and nothing more. The idea – what would a darker Superman film starring Nicolas Cage have been like? – was acknowledged several times, but most answers had come from personal opinion even before hearing several outspoken industry-types embellish on the most basic of questions. It felt like an elongated special feature that belonged on a Superman DVD box-set, that went on and on without so much as a compelling idea. I agree with its principal intention: Cage would have been an entertaining Superman in a potentially exciting Tim Burton film, but it was 100+ minutes of babbling conjecture from the likes of Kevin Smith and Dan Gilroy, who took the question at its most obvious, and expanded on it in the most boring manner possible.