The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened (DSL:WH) is a documentary looking at a failed Tim Burton project called Superman Lives starring Nic Cage as Clark Kent and Superman. The movie was supposed to be made after the success of Burton’s Batman franchise, and was written by Kevin Smith. The failed project has become infamous-- if for no other reason than because of the set photos of Cage in a Superman costume that have leaked. The documentary is an in-depth look at the development of the film, and its eventual cancellation. Tim Burton himself is interviewed, and the documentary includes a lot of very informative behind the scenes looks.
It is not a tour de force of investigative journalism created to make social change or anything, but it does what it is trying to do quite well. By the end of it I can say with confidence that this movie would have been very, very… strange.
Caginess: 6 out of 10.
This is not Nic Cage at his eye-popping finest, but the movies behind the scene clips give a very telling opportunity of insight into the mind and decision making process of the man. He is passionate and quirky, and brings an energy unique to only him.
If you like superhero films, or Tim Burton, than this will be an interesting watch for you. If you don’t, well you can probably pass on it. The reason I chose it is because it was the inspiration for the series, and I think, the best example of what Summer of Cage is intending to do.
It is not hard to make fun of many of Cage’s performances, and we will certainly do that from time to time, but the point of the series is to dive into the works of Cage and explore the fascinating perplexities of his career.
Nic Cage is not just some talentless chump who hollywood keeps rolling out films for. He is an academy award winning actor, and (at least once) was a box office draw. He had many memorable films under his belt-- and not just for ridiculous over the top acting either.
This series has looked at his best, and his worst, and it can be hard to try to come to terms with the fact that it is the same man in each of these performances. It is not hard to understand why some people wonder things like “what happened”. But I think two clips in this documentary are the most telling parts of this entire series.
When he tries on his suit for the first time, he speaks passionately about the development of the projects. He is looking at each part of the suit for thematic resonance, he is asking questions to Burton and his staff, and he is going over plot details. Many fans discover that the actors playing their favorite characters don’t actually care about the projects as long as they get paid, and it is sort of heartwarming to see Cage take the roll so seriously-- and with such childlike enthusiasm. With a world full of modern cynicism, and an industry powered by commercialism, there is something refreshing about a man as passionate about his job as Cage (usually) seems to be. Are all of the ideas he is coming up with good? No. Are most of them? Probably not. I concede that is part of the problem with many of Cage’s films, but that brings me to last clip and my final point for the series.
In his academy award winning speech for Leaving Las Vegas, Cage speaks about the importance of continuing to make films that push the creative boundaries and experiment with what society would call modern conventions. He is speaking more in the moment towards having the opportunity to make low budget films that can simply tell a compelling story, but I think it is telling of a greater truth to Cage’s acting choices. He pushes the limits, he goes past where any normal person would stop, all in the pursuit of something that is uniquely his own. This, I think, is the brilliance and the downfall of Cage.
He believes it is an artist's job to push boundaries, and he isn’t wrong. Artists paint political statements that question the actions of their government, and writers write books that challenge the conventions set upon ethnic and social groups. They don’t know if their work will resonate until it has, so they push the boundaries with the blind belief that it will make a difference to someone, somewhere.
So its commendable, I think, that Cage tries to do the same… even when what you see just leaves you scratching your head.
LA is Editor-in-Chief and Head Writer at Lot 10 Underground. He is an avid Eagles fan and a weary Lakers one. He grew up sneaking through the halls of Hogwarts after dark with Harry and his more talented friends, stumbling along the dark walls of Rock Tunnel in Pokemon Red, storming through flood riddled ships with Master Chief, and questioning Goku's parenting techniques in DBZ. If you'd like to contact him, you can try an owl, but he prefers e-mail.