Monday, March 5, 2018

Cancelled Superhero Films 2 - Tim Burton's Superman Lives


This script was initially referred to as Superman Reborn script, and it was written by Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy. This script features Brainiac, Lex Luthor and Doomsday as villains. Then, writer Kevin Smith was brought in to make some major rewrites. Smith's casting choices included Ben Affleck as Clark Kent/Superman, Linda Fiorentino as Lois Lane, Jack Nicholson as Lex Luthor, Famke Janssen as Mercy, John Mahoney as Perry White, Jason Lee as Brainiac and Jason Mewes as Jimmy Olsen. Following his success with the Michael Keaton Batman films, Tim Burton was asked to direct and Kevin Smith was made to leave the project. In the end, Nicolas Cage was confirmed to play Superman. Other actors approached include a pre-Superman Returns Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, Tim Allen or Jim Carrey as Brainiac, Courteney Cox as Lois Lane, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen  and Michael Keaton in an unspecified role.

The Story

The story opens in Krypton on the verge of destruction caused by the artificial intelligence, Brainiac. Jor-El and Lara decide to stay back to fight Braniac, but not before sending their son Kal-El away to Earth. As they are preparing the rocket, Braniac attacks the House of El. Jor-El manages to launch the rocket just before Braniac kills him and Lara. Braniac vows to hunt down the child and kill him.

Many years later in modern day Metropolis, the now-adult Kal-El lives a double life as the nerdy Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent and as the superhero Superman. Although he successfully fights crime in the city, he is also going through depression as he can no longer cope with the pressures of keeping the world safe and maintaining a stable personal life. He visits a psychoanalyst to discuss his issues.  At the same time, Clark learns that Lex Luthor might have uncovered his secret identity and will expose it to the public. Later that evening, he meets Lois Lane at the Daily Planet building and starts to contemplate revealing his secret to her before she finds out about it from Lex.

Meanwhile, Brainiac arrives on Earth and befriends Luthor, where the two hatch a plan to destroy Superman. They merge into a single cyborg entity, "Lexiac" and create the creature Doomsday to attack Superman. An epic battle ensues and both Superman is left in a lifeless state while Doomsday dies. Superman's body is transported to the Fortress of Solitude. The body is revived, albeit powerless, by a mysterious Kryptonian force known only as "K". K then accompanies Clark back to Metropolis. On their journey, K teacher Clark how to overcome his depression and life his life. 

During this time, Lexiac plans to destroy Earth just as Braniac did to Krypton. He starts to assemble nuclear warheads to be detonated at the largest cities around the world. At the same time, he tries to seduce Lois to join him but fails. When Clark finally returns to Metropolis, K reveals that he is actually the last surviving essence of life of his Kryptonian parents. K sacrifices himself by restoring Clark's powers. Clark goes to meet Lois, where he reveals his secret to her and gets her to help him defeat Lexiac. With her help, Clark destroys the "Brainiac" element just before the nuclear warheads are unleashed The story ends with Lois in Superman's arms, where she reveals that she is pregnant with his child.


Due to the film's increasing budget, it was put on hold in April 1998. Burton then left to direct Sleepy Hollow. The studio starting considering reverting the title from Superman Lives back to Superman Reborn. At this point in production, $30 million of the $190 budget was already spent on production. After Cage left the project in 2000, Warner Brothers offered the project to other directors, including Michael Bay with even Will Smith considered to play Superman. Burton has gone on record by stating that his experience working on Superman Lives was  one of the worst in his life. Eventually, the entire project was scraped and production was shifted towards producing Superman Returns. A documentary was made on the pre-production of this film and why it was never made.

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