The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? The Blu-ray!

Here's another fun, Kickstarter-funded documentary on cinema: The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?, telling the story of the unfilmed Superman movie that was to star Nicholas Cage and be directed by Tim Burton. And unlike the recent That Guy Dick Miller, they've offered a blu-ray option, so we're not again stuck with the collectors' edition in SD while casual viewers are watching it online a lot cheaper in HD. And more than that, it's a very substantial special edition, promising "over 8+ HOURS of EXCLUSIVE content."

This film is very reminiscent of Jodorowsky's Dune, and I mean that as a compliment. I was a little worried at the very beginning, with the director putting himself onscreen as the focus, like this was going to be about a documentary filmmaker with an obsession over a lost Superman movie rather than just being about the lost Superman movie. And when it cut to candid convention footage of comic book fans offering not particularly insightful or interesting thoughts on the idea of Nicholas Cage playing Superman, who are all hard to hear with the loud convention-goers chattering behind them, I started to feel pangs of buyer's remorse. Especially since they charged ten bucks shipping when it only cost them about three. Visions of Paypal charge-backs started dancing in my head...
But the film immediately kicks into high gear from there, and really everything else is great. It's all professional and looks and sounds great, including a subtle and effective score. There's a bunch of in-depth interviews with pretty much everybody you could hope for: Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, Jon Peters, Grant Morrison and a heap of special effects, costume and design people, as well as comic artists, all come together to really burrow into the details of what went on in the pre-production of this film. One highlight was getting to hear Jon Peters refute parts of Kevin Smith's infamous tale of working on Superman Lives from An Evening With Kevin Smith, while justifying others.
There's also lots of artwork, models and screen-tests and even recreations to really give you the feel of what this film would have been and get you as close to seeing the actual film as possible without it actually existing. The only big guy they couldn't get, understandably, was Nicholas Cage himself; but they have a lot of great behind-the-scenes footage of him and archival interview clips where he's talking about Superman Lives from other sources, so his voice really doesn't feel absent. Considering he wasn't really involved with the designing and most of the pre-production like the people directly involved were, I definitely didn't feel shorted of Cage. The entire film was very satisfying.
Speaking of satisfying, this is a pretty great blu-ray for the film, too. It's properly pressed, not a BD-R, and it's region A B and C. It's a 1080p 16x9 image (normally I wouldn't even bother specifying that on a new release these days, but when it's a scrappy little self-funded release from a first time company, it's good to be safe) framed at 1.78:1.  Vintage footage is sourced with varying degrees of quality, but the original interview stuff was shot in genuinely HD digital and looks crisp, with DTS-HD 2.0 audio. And you wouldn't normally expect subtitles on an indie title like this, but yeah they've got English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
And thank goodness it's a dual-layer disc, because there's a really impressive amount of extras on hand. We start with two audio commentaries, one by the director Jon Schnepp on his own, and one with him, his editor and three producers. Do you like Kevin Smith and wish there'd been more of him in the movie? Well, there's two features, about 45 minutes each, just talking with him, plus a one hour and fifteen minute Q&A with Smith and Schnepp, giving you about three solid extra hours just with Kevin Smith. That ought to be enough to keep any Smith fan happy, though he pops up a bit more in some of the other extras, too.

There's a 45+ minute featurette which is almost a sequel comprised of all new footage and artwork, plus another brief 5 minute follow-up with several of the interview subjects. There's about 50 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, a ton of additional and extended interviews, including more with Tim Burton and Grant Morrison, more convention footage, another Q&A, red carpet premiere footage (which is a full half hour itself), and the trailer. I definitely come back to the word "satisfying" here. It's all the extras any fan would want and probably more to the point where most viewers will find themselves picking and choosing (and if so, may I suggest skipping the second commentary, where they repeatedly devolve into just talking in silly voices) rather than pouring through every second of it. But if you want it, it's all there.

...Sometimes more than once. Yeah, the one downside is that some of the footage repeats; i.e. an interview clip with Smith will be in both his featurette and the deleted scenes, which makes watching all the extras all the way through a bit of a grind.  A few bits even appear three times.  I really wish they'd edited the special features a little less haphazardly, because it saps some of the fun out of watching everything, though at least they erred on inclusion rather than exclusion.  And they've included a ton.
I was worried about this film coming off as amateurish and lacking, but TDOSLWH rose to the challenge. There is also a DVD option, which is missing most (but not all) of the extras and of course squishes the picture down to SD. But considering the quality of this release, I'd say go for the blu if you've got the player. And if you've already streamed the film online, there is definitely more than enough great, additional content to justify still ordering a physical copy. Just, you know, be ready to take a hit on their BS shipping charge.


  1. Well, parts of it were, frankly, amateurish. Some of the interviews were shot with handicams, at best. They weren't lit. They were using on-board mics, they were framed poorly, and the interviewer is just sitting there in the frame. Other interviews are clearly professionally shot, lit, and wired for sound, so it's a bit of a contrast. I also can't believe this thing cost $200,000 to make. That money did not end up on the screen.

    1. Yeah, the guy definitely wanted to put himself in the movie, which I'm not sure was a great idea. He also directly addresses the audience and stuff, so I'm not sure it's so much about being less and then more professional as just undecided about how much he should be a character in his own film. Some of the blu-ray extras definitely have a self-indulgent feel to them that go along with this...

      I didn't think anything sounded so bad to think they used on-board mics? Or do you mean external mics but mounted to the camera? 'Cause I thought the sound was always pretty clean, apart from the shots at the convention I mentioned in the review.