How Tim Burton's Superman Movie Was Almost Revived

Superman comics

In the years between Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Superman Returns, Warner Bros tried numerous times to bring the Man of Steel back to the big screen, but to no avail. The most prominent of these unrealized projects was Tim Burton's Superman Lives, which would have starred Nicolas Cage as the Kryptonian hero returning to life in a story inspired by The Death of Superman comic arc. Superman Lives fell apart by the start of the new millennia, but years later, evidently DC Entertainment considered reviving the movie as an animated feature. Michael Jelenic, the producer and co-writer of Batman vs. Two-Face, the latest animated DC movie, recently said:

I had a big pitch, and they took it seriously for a second to do Tim Burton's do that animated.

Since the release of Superman: Doomsday in 2007 (also based on The Death of Superman arc), DC Comics has regularly been releasing direct-to-video animated movies that range from direct comics storyline adaptations to original narratives. Michael Jelenic didn't state why DC decided to pass on animating Tim Burton's Superman Lives after he made the above revelation at New York Comic-Con (via Comic Book Resources), but when a reporter suggested that Nicolas Cage would probably be game to voice Superman for an animated adaptation, Jelenic agreed with that sentiment. Kevin Smith, who penned the first draft of Superman Lives, previously suggested that the movie might work well as an animated tale, but alas, for whatever reason, DC has decided to pass on this idea.

Entering into pre-production in mid-1997, Superman Lives was originally intended to begin principal photography in 1998, but due to scheduling delays and several script rewrites (which took the story further away from his comic book roots), Warner Bros decided to put the movie on hold three weeks before cameras started rolling. Eventually Tim Burton (who had previously helmed Batman and Batman Returns) and Nicolas Cage departed the project, which the whole thing being scrapped by the end of 2000. You can watch the 2015 documentary The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happens? to learn more the troubled production, but the idea that Superman Lives was considered for an animated movie begs the question of if other scrapped live action DC movies could receive that treatment, like George Miller's Justice League: Mortal or Darren Aronofsky's bizarre version of Batman: Year One.

You can see Henry Cavill iteration of Superman back on the big screen when Justice League is released on November 17. And for the animated DC movie fans out there, the company will be releasing a new two-part adaptation of The Death of Superman (just like what was done with The Dark Knight Returns), starting with The Death of Superman in late 2018 and Reign of the Supermen in early 2019.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.