Rating: Superman Lives is the ultimate superhero movie What If? A Tim Burton-directed, Nicolas Cage-starring reboot of the franchise adapting The Death Of Superman, its a bizarre film that languished in development hell mere years before the modern comic book resurgence began. The thing is, what most people know about the film begins and ends with that single photo of Cage mid-blink at a costume-fitting. The cause of endless derision across the internet, its actually a pretty inaccurate representation of what Burton and co. were cooking up. Jon Schnepp attempts to shed some light on the famed troubled production with his lovingly and exhaustively researched documentary, The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? What he reveals is that, far from being an obvious disaster waiting to happen, Lives was an incredibly exciting project, with a unique, well-defined vision. Whether it would have been any good isn't something even those who poured years of their lives into it wish to speculate, but based on the passion shown here there's the possibility it could have been something awesome (or at least better than Man Of Steel). What makes this documentary more than a narration of the "Superman in film" Wikipedia page though is the exhaustive approach Schnepp's taken. He sits in the lavish living room of pretty much every key creative (bar Cage) and gets them to dish previously undiscovered secrets, then seamlessly edits regrets and dreams into a coherent narrative with little need for his own commentary. Interviews with original screenwriter Kevin Smith, Burton and (most excitingly given how hes framed by the comments of others to be the key thorn in the film's side) producer Jon Peters are particularly enlightening, painting the project as the epitome of too many cooks. Some of Schnepp's more out there creative choices dont really work, sure; recreations of various set pieces look cheap and much less interesting than simply seeing the corresponding concept art, while having talking heads deliver key information over flashy visuals can reduce the impact of both through input confusion. Thankfully, the documentary moves at such a pace, never stopping the development of the story (aside one from impromptu telephone call which hammers home one of the films most unnerving conclusions), that these dont really matter. Besides, to get hung up on such trivialities misses the much bigger picture The Death Of Superman Lives is really telling. Superman Lives was the last superhero movie attempted in a time when superhero movies werent cool. It was the product of an era where comic-literate screenwriters were pushed aside and the attendants of conventions were the point of derision; when blockbuster heroes weren't clad in spandex by default. And yet in its story were many of the same introspective ideals that dominate the modern comic book genre, from Spider-Man 2 to The Dark Knight, even to Man Of Steel. Nowadays, a take like this would be greenlit in a heartbeat, but back in 1998 (mere months before Blade changed everything) the concept was too grandiose and the scale too big for studios to finance. And that's what's the most fascinating thing about the unmade film to come from all discussions with producers, directors and concept artists; what killed Superman Lives isnt what everyone automatically assumes when seeing that picture of Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel (namely, Nicolas Cage as Superman). In reality, the movie got perilously close to production, with a finished script and locked cast; the only real barrier was budget, and that was only scuppered by outside factors. Not wanting to ruin one of the film's great reveals, but had a few studio-level things gone differently, this film would have been made. And it's for that reason any superhero fan should check this out - The Death Of Superman Lives may be ostensibly charting the production of one failed movie, but Schnepp is really encapsulating the end of an entire era of Hollywood blockbusters. The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? is available to download in all formats from www.tdoslwh.com.Have you seen the movie? Did you like it as much as I did? Let us know what you thought down in the comments.