After Tim Burton was done putting his quirky stamp on the Batman franchise, Warner Bros. turned to him to revive another dormant DC Comics franchise in Superman Lives. Loosely based on The Death of Superman comic book storyline, where the Man of Steel is killed by the genetically pumped-up monster known as Doomsday, the movie was set to ignore the Christopher Reeves series completely by casting none other than Nicolas Cage as the Last Son of Krypton.
Scripts were written by Kevin Smith and Rich Heinrichs, sets were designed, and photos of Cage sporting a plastic Superman suit surfaced in order to drum up anticipation for the movie’s summer 1998 release date. But budget problems and creative differences soon surfaced, ending with Burton and Cage leaving the project. In the end, Warner Brothers had spent $30 million trying to get Superman Lives airborne, but instead just wound up with one of the most expensive anecdotes in Hollywood history.
Superman Lives is a classic case of too many conflicting visions fighting it out for dominance, with the only true winners being the audience who didn’t have to deal with bizarre plot points like Burton’s decision to remove Superman’s power of flight, a battle featuring giant spiders, and the inclusion of a polar bear army guarding the Fortress of Solitude. Oh, and Tim Allen was also in serious talks to play Brainiac. Yes, Burton was en route to a disaster of Gigli proportions, but it was at least shaping up to be an entertaining calamity.