Any time a superhero’s ever been cast in a movie, you’re all-but-guaranteed to hear some amount of controversy and commotion amongst fans. The jury may still be out on whether Ryan Reynolds and his abs were better suited to Hal Jordan or Wade Wilson, but that discussion got G-Man and I thinking about some of the more memorable might-have-beens. Like how Green Lantern was about this close to being played by Jack Black in 2004, or how Common and Armie Hammer (the “Winklevi” in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and the new Lone Ranger) were days away from play GL and Batman in the cancelled JUSTICE LEAGUE movie. You can’t get much more unforgettable than the notion of Nicolas Cage as Superman, though. With a reboot coming right around the corner for the man of steel, we figured it’d be fun to look at the big movie that was supposed to come in 1998.
21 years separated the releases of SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE and SUPERMAN RETURNS, and that’s a copious amount of time for every possible idea to be considered. And I do mean every possible idea, from Christopher Reeve reprising the role to fight Dudley Moore as Mr. Mxysptlk around the Bottled City of Kandor to a hexalogy that’d focus individual movies on villains like Silver Banshee. The most fascinating unrealized iteration, however, had to be one that involved Kevin Smith, Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage. It would’ve alternately been titled SUPERMAN LIVES or SUPERMAN REBORN.== TEASER ==
As you probably sensed from the title, the proposed movie would’ve been an adaptation of the seminal DEATH OF SUPERMAN story arc. Of course, turning a sixth-month-long crossover into a single movie requires some significant trimming, so almost all of the REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN portion that pertained to Superboy, Steel and Hank Henshaw would’ve been removed. Doomsday was be siced on Supes by Brainiac as part of an elaborate scheme to get a hold of the highly powerful Kryptonian weapon, the Eradicator. Instead of taking over Supes' identity for a while, this Eradicator would fulfill its mission by resurrecting him in an alien suit that would ultimately make him powerful enough to vanquish these foes.
If you’ve ever watched or even just listened to one of Kevin Smith's his public speaking “evenings,” you’ve liked heard some of the more amusing anecdotes about this project’s behind-the-scenes development. You can hear the whole story from the man himself here(SALTY LANGUAGE ALERT) but the most eyebrow-raising portion's about the list of rules Smith had to follow for the script...
- Superman couldn’t fly.
- Superman had to wear “90’s looking” black costume.
- Superman had to fight a giant spider at the end.
After a couple drafts, Smith parted ways with the project once Tim Burton signed on to direct and brought his own crew of writers. It’s doubtful we’ll ever see his unused script turned into a comic as has happened with THE GREEN HORNET and SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, but it is widely available online. The project continued for a while without his involvement, and even got to the point where Nicolas Cage had a costume fitted and several builds of Superman’s Eradicator-charged armor were built by Steve Johnson’s Edge FX special effects house.
A while back, Johnson open his vaults and posted some videos of that suit in action. Watch it below…
Producer Jon Peters reportedly wanted Cage for the roll because he thought he’d be the first actor to play Superman who anybody would immediately believe is from another planet. Interpret that as you will. I imagine he’d be the biggest Superman fan to ever play the character if this project did actually ever go through, though. You suspect a lot of lead actors pay comics lip service by saying they’re big fans, but Cage actually had a multi-million dollar collection comics that included ACTION COMICS #1. He even named one his sons Kal-El (seriously,) so I nobody can question the man’s sincerity about his fandom.
Thus concludes are brief look at the SUPERMAN movie that could’ve been. Are you maniacs relieved that this radical reinterpretation of Supes' mythos never got off the ground, or would you have liked to have seen it touch down in some way or another?