Superman Lives (cancelled Tim Burton film; 1998)
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Superman Lives (previously titled Superman Reborn) is the title for a cancelled Superman movie intended for production during the 1990s. The film was to be directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters. The story would feature Brainiac, Lex Luthor and Doomsday as villains. Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy wrote the screenplays that were nearly filmed. Nicholas Cage was officially announced to play Superman. In 2009, images of Cage wearing Superman costumes for screen tests began to surface.
The project was, however, scrapped. Peters would go on to produce the also cancelled Superman: Flyby. The idea of removing the red briefs from the costume would carry over to many other Superman projects, ultimately taking hold starting with DC Comics' The New 52 reboot and the 2013 Man of Steel film.
On May 1st of 2015, a crowd funded, feature length documentary titled The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? was released.
The origin of the film dated back to the late 80s. Despite the previous film, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, being a critical and financial disappointment, Canon Films wanted to make a fifth movie. However, Canon Films was forced to file for bankruptcy and the film rights reverted back to Illya and Alexander Salkind, who made the original movie.
Wanting to make their own fifth movie, the Salkinds started work on a new script for Superman V, also known as Superman: The New Movie. The script called for Superman dying in battle and being resurrected in the Bottle City of Kandor (the concept of Superman dying predated the Death of Superman comic arc).
In 1993, following the runaway success of The Death of Superman, Warner Bros. approached the Salkinds and bought the rights to making the film from them and discarded the script for Superman: The New Movie in favor of their own.
The movie centered on a version of "The Death of Superman" storyline from the comics. The main villain was the alien supercomputer, Brainiac, and he had a plot to kill Superman by simultaneously blocking out the sun and unleashing Doomsday on Metropolis. The plot works, and Superman is killed.
Later in the movie, he is resurrected by the Eradicator, who acts as his temporary costume, and artificially produces all of his powers.
Superman V: Reborn
- Several details of the script are unknown, but what has been confirmed is that it was loosely based on "The Death of Superman" story. The script features an insecure Clark Kent unable to admit his feelings for the human woman whom he loves, Lois Lane. Before he is able to resolve those feelings with her, Doomsday appears to challenge him. Just as in the comics, they fight to their respective deaths. As Superman dies in Lois' arms, he finally confesses his feelings to her. Unbeknownst to either of them, this final confession not only releases his soul from his body, but said soul enters the body of Lois. She soon discovers that she is pregnant with Superman's child. Days later, the child is born and within the span of three weeks, he grows into the body of a 21-year-old man. As Lois is killed in the middle of the film (by what has not been confirmed, but some reports list it as the resurrected Doomsday), the new-born assumes his birthright as the new Superman and defeats the villain, saving the world.
Superman V: Reborn (Version 2)
- Still using the "Death" story as its basis, writer Gregory Poirier makes Superman's comic book nemesis, Brainiac, the primary villain. In the script, Brainiac was responsible for the destruction of Krypton. He is now on his way to Earth to destroy the last Kryptonian once and for all.
- On Earth, Clark Kent is on the verge of a nervous breakdown as he is unable to cope with his dual-identity as reporter and superhero. He visits a psychoanalyst to discuss these feelings, as well as those he has for Lois Lane. Brainiac makes his way to Metropolis and unleashes his genetic creation, Doomsday (who, in this draft has kryptonite-laced blood), upon the public. This naturally draws out Superman and the two battle to the death. Brainiac has won, and the last Kryptonian is dead.
- After Superman's funeral, Brainiac attempts to steal his body, recognizing it as valuable genetic material. However, his plan is thwarted by the rogue government agency Project Cadmus, who take the body first in hopes of either reviving it or cloning it. During this time, Superman's spirit is shown taking a spiritual journey through the afterlife. At the end of his journey, he concludes that his work on Earth is not yet done and the spirit returns to its body.
- Resurrected, but powerless, The Man of Steel travels to Metropolis to fight Brainiac with the aid of Cadmus. Through the sheer force of his own will, Superman regains his powers and defeats Brainiac, giving him a sense of closure and security in the world.
Kevin Smith's script
The first script to be titled Superman Lives. This film treatment was considered by many fans to be the most faithful to the mythos:
- The story opens in space. Brainiac's Skull Ship, piloted by his mechanical aide, L-Ron destroys another alien craft to drain it, and its passengers, of their energy. This is only a temporary "fix". Brainiac is seeking out a mysterious Kryptonians battery with which he could sustain himself indefinitely. The Skull Ship comes into contact with intergalactic greeting probe created by Lex Luthor. The greeting extends a warm welcome to any-and-all intelligent life outside of Earth, inviting them to Luthor's planet. Brainiac ignores the message until Luthor reveals that Earth is the home to "a visitor to this planet of Kryptonian descent." Brainiac believes that this may be the source of energy he has long sought. The Skull Ship immediately sets course for Earth.
- Back on Earth, a Nightline-type program based in Metropolis is discussing a controversial voter's bill that would effectively outlaw superheroes. A "point/counter-point" debate opens up between the show's two guests: Metropolis entrepreneur Lex Luthor, in favor of the bill, and Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, against it. The debate becomes heated and Lois winds up physically assaulting Lex.
- At this same time, the Governor and her son are making a public appearance at restaurant in one of the less-glamorous neighborhoods of Metropolis when they are attacked by Deadshot. The villain and his gang kidnap the Governor's son and make a hasty escape. Before they know it, their kidnapping is foiled by the appearance of Superman. (It should be noted that rather than describing him as "flying", his actions are described as a lightning-fast "red blur"; similar to the way he is shown in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.) Our hero defeats the villains and returns the Governor's son. Unbeknownst to anyone, all of this is being observed by Brainiac and L-Ron as the Skull Ship hovers outside of Earth's orbit.
- Still reeling from being punched on live television by Lois Lane, Luthor and his valet/bodyguard/lover, Misty, retreat to the LexCorp building. Superman confronts Lex and accuses him of being responsible for the attack on the Governor and her son. Lex smugly points out that any evidence proving his involvement vanished when Superman defeated Deadshot. An angry Superman intimidates and humiliates Lex before leaving. When Lex regroups in his office, he and Misty are confronted by Brainiac and L-Ron. After a rocky introduction—during which Brainiac absorbs a few of Luthor's guards—the villains realize they have a common enemy in Superman. They formulate a plan to destroy him, beginning with Brainiac commandeering a LexCorp satellite.
- After his row with Luthor, Superman secretly meets Lois Lane at the Daily Planet building. The two give a short, flirtatious exchange before she addresses him as "Clark", making it apparent that the two are romantically involved and that Clark Kent has informed Lois about his dual identity quite some time before. The two spend the rest of their evening having a picnic atop Mount Rushmore. During the meal they discuss their relationship, which Clark would like to take to the next plateau (i.e. marriage). Lois is cautious about taking such a step, as she would not want to be responsible for guilt he would likely feel by ignoring a major emergency to fulfill marital obligations. At this same time, Brainiac uses LexCorp to partly block out the sun. The effect leaves Clark Kent momentarily powerless and he nearly falls off the face Rushmore. He simply shakes it off.
- The next day, Lois and Clark meet up with Jimmy Olsen and Perry White, where the latter gives the former three their assignments for the day. During a private moment, Lois and Clark briefly continue the previous evening's conversation. The conversation is cut short by the rumbling of a creature causing destruction in the city. Superman meets the creature and they battle, but Superman is weakened as the sun has now been completely blocked off by the satellite. From the Skull Ship, Brainiac and L-Ron watch Superman battle the creature, which was created by Brainiac, called Doomsday. The fierce battle continues in the city sewers and then on the city streets as both combatants wear one another down. They deliver their final blows and Doomsday falls down dead. Lois rushes to the collapsed Superman and cradles him just long enough for him to die in her arms.
- Days later, a national funeral is held for the fallen Man of Steel in Metropolis (featuring a brief appearance by Batman) that is interrupted by Lex Luthor and Brainiac. Lex presents Brainiac as an ally of Superman now intent on carrying out his ideals. They say that Brainiac blocked out the sun for the world's protection from an alien armada, which the mass populist "see" hovering above them. Brainiac promises the world will be safe under his protection, to which the audience cheers.
- At this time, Superman's body is teleported from his crypt to the Fortress of Solitude where his body is healed and revived (without powers) in a black resuscitation suit by the Eradicator, a living Kryptoniancyborg and the source of the energy Brainiac had been seeking. The Eradicator, who was created by Jor-El, explains who he is and how Brainiac was responsible for the destruction of Krypton and is likely to do the same to Earth. He suggests that he and Kal-El leave the humans to their fate, a decision Superman does not accept. The two take off to foil Brainiac's plans. Once they're gone, Brainiac and L-Ron show up outside the Fortress. After defeating two polar bears that guard the entrance, they enter and discover that they've just missed Superman and the Eradicator.
- Back in Metropolis, Lex Luthor has just uncovered Brainiac's plans to betray him at the earliest convenience (just as Luthor himself had planned the reverse), but decides not to act on it yet. He agrees to an interview for the Daily Planet with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. When Misty leaves the three alone, Lois drugs Lex while Jimmy hacks into his computer, where they discover what Luthor and Brainiac are really up to. Luthor regains consciousness and orders his guards to kill the two reporters as they escape. At this same time, Superman and the Eradicator's plan to destroy the satellite fails and they crash back to Earth in Coast City, where the powerless Man of Steel rushes in to save a family in a burning building. With the help of the Eradictor—who can mimic Superman's powers—Superman flies back to Metropolis, where Lois and Jimmy have just exposed Brainiac's true intentions to the world.
- His "armada" hoax now revealed, an angry Brainiac turns his wrath on the public and kidnaps Lois Lane. The citizens are saved by the incognito Superman who heads to the Skull Ship where Brainiac, L-Ron, Lex Luthor, and the hostage Lois Lane have gathered. The Eradicator reveals himself to Brainiac, who inadvertently reveals the flaw in the satellite's technology. The Eradicator retreats into space with Superman in tow, separates from him, and destroys both the satellite and himself. The now-abundant sunlight instantly restores Superman's powers. He returns to the Skull Ship to confront Brainiac, who has assimilated himself into the body of a spider-like alien creature called a "Thanagarian Snare Beast" that is about to eat Lois. Superman fights and destroys the creature, as well as the Brainiac element inside it. He is reunited with Lois and the two deliver Jimmy Olsen's computer evidence to the police, leading to Lex Luthor's arrest. The final scene is L-Ron in the damaged Skull Ship picking up the remains of Brainiac.
Wesley Strick 's script
- The confirmed details of Wesley Strick's script indicate that, like the previous versions, it followed the "Death of Superman" story. A notable departure from that work is the fact that once Brainiac arrives on Earth, he and Lex Luthor eventually merge into a single entity dubbed "Luthiac". Thematically, Burton and Strick worked to underscore Superman's alienation by virtue of the fact that Superman (Kal-El) is -- literally -- an alien.
Dan Gilroy's script
- The story opens in flashback with Krypton on the verge of explosion. As Jor-El and Lara are placing baby Kal-El in his rocket, Brainiac--who is responsible for this destruction--enters and attacks them. Jor-El manages to ignite the rocket just as he and Lara are murdered by Brainiac. The cyborg vows to hunt down the child.
- The story then moves to modern day Metropolis where we see the now-adult Superman stop a bank robbery. That evening, he meets Lois Lane at the Daily Planet building in a scene reminiscent of the Kevin Smith draft (except in this draft, Lois doesn't know of his dual identity as Clark Kent). During this time, it's established that Kent's identity is in danger, as Lex Luthor may be on the verge of discovering it and revealing it to the world. Clark considers telling Lois before this happens.
- Brainiac comes to Earth and encounters Luthor. The two devise a plan to destroy Superman. They begin by merging into a single cyborg entity known as "Lexiac". Lexiac creates the creature Doomsday to attack Superman. Superman and Doomsday battle to the death, after which time (and a public funeral) the Man of Steel's body is transported to the Fortress of Solitude. The body is revived (powerless) by a mysterious Kryptonian force known only as "K". Superman and "K" leave the fortress and trek back to Metropolis.
- During this time, Lexiac--an advanced alien force with the resources of a multi-national conglomerate at its disposal--plans to destroy Earth just as he did Krypton. He begins assembling an arsenal of nuclear warheads to be detonated on all the world's top cities. He also spends a great amount of timing attempting (unsuccessfully) to woo a grieving Lois Lane. Superman returns to Metropolis and is restored his powers by "K", which is revealed to be the remaining "life essence" of his deceased biological parents. Superman, with the flirtatious assistance of Lois, defeats Lexiac (destroying the "Brainiac" element) with exactly one second left on the nuclear clock. The story ends with Lois in Superman's arms, where she reveals that she is pregnant with his child.
One of the few bits of confirmed casting is Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen. Other names that are often talked include Courtney Cox, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Gary Oldman, Hulk Hogan, Jack Nicholson, Dwight Ewell, Barry Corbin, Michael Keaton and Johnny Depp.