What happens when a die-hard fan decides to make a film? TDOSLWH happens. If you’re a Jon Schnepp fan you’ve heard about his 2015 film, The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?, a documentary film that explores the circumstances behind the failed Nicholas Cage/Tim Burton Superman project.
Superman is easily the world’s most recognizable superhero, and yet in the 80’s and 90’s it was his non-super powered ally, Batman, that enjoyed critical and financial success with Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). So it was natural that legendary director and producer Tim Burton wanted to explore the DC universe further and thus began developing a Superman movie starring none other than Nicolas Cage. Ultimately, this film was scrapped. This is what later inspired writer/director Jon Schnepp to explore exactly what happened to the project, what it was about, who was involved and why it never came to fruition. TDOSLWH is an incredibly intriguing documentary led by a strong interviewing presence by the director, Jon Schnepp, as well as an incredible use of art and music to paint the picture of what the film really could have been like.
Unlike most documentaries there actually isn’t too much narration in the film, but it’s tied together by its interviews. The lack of narration would’ve been jarring if it weren’t for Schnepp’s interviewing abilities which uncovered every ounce of detail regarding the process of creating Superman Lives.
Nowadays, Nicholas Cage is the brunt of a lot of internet jokes and memes for his questionable film selections, but there’s no denying that back in the 90’s he was one the most sought after actors in Hollywood. Before watching TDOSLWH even I laughed at the idea of him being Superman, but the way Schnepp uses archive footage, concept art and Burton’s own thoughts on Superman, made me do a complete 180 and managed to convince me that if this project ever made it to theatres Cage would’ve been an incredible Man of Steel.
Overall, TDOSLWH is not your typical documentary relying on lots of archive footage, concept art and interviews but nevertheless gripping and intriguing all thanks to the incredible talent of writer/director Jon Schnepp. In a time when blockbuster films and big budgets rule, it’s refreshing to see filmmakers like Jon Schnepp venture outside of the Hollywood machine to deliver a quality project. No big studios backed TDOSLWH; it was all self-financed. Schnepp had questions, looked at his options, and decided to create a movie about a movie that never happened. In the end we were left with an honest project that delivered in every way. Schnepp reminds us that it’s not just big budgets that make great films; it’s great stories, fuelled by great questions and passion. This is what happens when a die-hard fan makes a film.