Friday, October 16, 2015

The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? (2015)

Jon Schnepp's THE DEATH OF "SUPERMAN LIVES" : WHAT HAPPENED is a true wonder of film on film documentary filmmaking. Its the sort of film that has few equals and few brothers or sisters cinematically.  It's perhaps comparable to JODOROWSKY's DUNE but if you take in the entirety of the information put out on the Bluray that's not quite right either. I maybe right to call the film a truly singular achievement.

I have not gone through all of the material on the Bluray. I haven't really even looked at it- it's another 8 or so hours of material including two commentary tracks, extended interviews (HOURS of them). When I bought the DVD from Schnepp he said he wanted to push Bluray as far as possible and it appears he has. I say this by way of telling you that what I have to say only really relates to the film itself- I'll be back round to look at it all down the road.

THE DEATH OF "SUPERMAN LIVES"arose out of Schnepp's fascination with the legendary Tim Burton project. As with most people the one tangible bit of evidence available to the world were the weird shots of the regeneration suit which made it onto the internet and had everyone buzzing about how wrong they looked. If that was what the film was going to be no one wanted to see it. The trouble was that the shots and video were not the real story and what was really going on was a hell of a lot more interesting.

Charting the course of the film from the general disenchantment of the previous two Superman films on to Jon Peters getting involved with a plan to restart the franchise on to the death of the project Schnepp has made a film that puts us in the trenches over the long painful period of the attempt to bring the film to life. We watch as Kevin Smith is brought in and fired. How Nick Cage is attached, how Tim Burton begins to spin out his ideas and how the film eventually fizzles when Warner's other big budget films tank - repeatedly (something currently replaying with PAN and it's other features). We watch as the comic fans battle the studio over what they perceive the film to be and we watch as sets and suits are built and dismantled.

The obsessive fascination with the various suits is one of the two small flaws in an otherwise perfect film. There is too much talk of the regeneration suit and towards the end of the segment I kind of zoned out. I understand it was Schnepp's way in to the story  but seeing so much of it when there is so much else to the story is distracting. The other minor flaw is I would have liked a clearer explanation of what the film's story was at various stages. We kind of have an idea at the start but get no real sense of later plot changes.

Nitpicks aside his is a wonderful achievement and I can't say enough good. If you love film and especially superhero films this is a look inside the weird Hollywood mind set that gives us what we are getting.  A must see.

Available on VOD and home video

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