I am one of the few supporters of Superman Returns. It isn’t a flawless film. I’ll admit that. Neither was the original X-Men. And with that set up for X2. We will never know what Bryan Singer’s Super Returns follow up would have been like. At the end of the day Warner Bros. (who had ponied up the money for Superman Returns, which caused Fox to find a replacement for him for X-Men 3, which makes them partially responsible for that whole mess.)

That’s how much Superman Returns made domestically. 200 million. Not too shabby honestly. The film did alot of stuff right. Like most fans of quality cinema, it ignored Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

General Zod couldn't stop him. He was more powerful than a locomotive. In the end all it took was Mark Pillow and Jon Cryer, who is also responsible for the dumbing down of America (See Two and a Half Men, but only in small doses.)


The film cobbles together a vague history of the first two Superman films. I thought Singer’s effort was strong enough for a redo, not to mention his track record. The main problem he faced was that all the money that had been spent over the years with false starts and other projects that turned into nothing were all rolled into his film’s budget. The Nicolas Cage/Tim Burton Superman Lives project.


This is what Tim Burton thought Superman Looked like.


And this is who he wanted to play him. Also, Superman wasn’t going to fly, though he was going to have a car that did. He fought a Polar Bear at the Fortress of Solitude and had a gay robot side-kick. I don’t know how robots can be gay, but it was going to be.


Here’s a link to some of his concepts on Braniac. I think he went to his trash can and got some drawing he threw away during Beetlejuice.


30 million dollars down the drain. Preproduction and pay or play deals, and nothing to really show for it. Oh, and Jon Peters said that Superman’s iconic costume was “too faggy”. This from a former Hair Stylist.


As best I can tell, this is the only thing that came out of this phase of the production that was worth anything. I would have loved to of seen Superman fight this Doomsday. I suspect if the new film is successful, we’ll eventually see Big Nasty in there somewhere.

After Burton left the project, it spiraled into chaos, as roughly anyone with writing credits or a background in direction was given the shot at directing or at least pitching their idea. Micheal Bay and Martin Campbell were both offered the director’s chair and both turned it down. Will Smith was also offered the lead. He turned it down on the grounds that he had made enough white people mad with Wild Wild West. Fair Enough.


Somewhere in all of this, Darren Aronofsky was going to take a stab at adapting Batman: Year One into a film. ( a gem of an idea that eventaully led to the reboot we all know and love Batman Begins.) He took some severe liberties with the source material. Batman was no longer Bruce Wayne. His Batman is a homeless man on the street. Alfred is an African american mechanic. Who goes by Big Al. Batman drove a souped up Lincoln Towncar. He gets called Batman because the ring he wears on his finger (that have the intials TW for Thomas Wayne) look like a Bat. Really. Supposedly Aronofsky never had any intention of doing Batman. He wanted to make Warner think he was going to so that they would greenlight The Fountain Here’s a quote from the man himself.


“I never really wanted to make a Batman film, it was a kind of bait and switch strategy. I was working on Requiem for a Dream and I got a phone call that Warner Bros wanted to talk about Batman. At the time I had this idea for a film called The Fountain which I knew was gonna be this big movie and I was thinking, ‘Is Warners really gonna give me $80 million to make a film about love and death after I come off a heroin movie?’ So my theory was if I can write this Batman film and they could perceive me as a writer for it.”


This eventually led to them combining the franchises which eventually led to them separating them again. It is worth noting that Christian Bale was approached to play Batman in Year One. (He was also a finalist for Robin in Batman Forever.) The script is kind of a mess but here is some of the concept work, which to be fair is pretty sweet.



This is good, but can we think more "homeless" and less billionaire...



What would it look like if it was a Lincoln Towncar?



Who are these people? They are neither not Bruce Wayne or my not Alfred, Big Al.

One such writer suggests that Afronosky never had any intention of making the movie and made sure by making it so far fetched from its genesis. Whatever the reason, it eventually led to this stage of development…


The next major director that was attached was Wolfgang Peterson, who proposed a Batman/Superman film with Jude Law as Superman and Colin Farrel as Batman. Andrew Kevin Walker of Seven fame was hired for scripting duties. Peterson eventually left the project in favor of Troy. Akiva Goldsmith (who rewrote the Walker draft and is responsible in part for Batman and Robin) did place an in joke in another film he wrote that was also produced by Warner Bros. (I am Legend) Anyone with a quick pair of eyes or access to a pause button can check it out. Or Just look down now.



An ode to the film that never was.

The next major team to attach themselves was JJ Abrams and Brett Ratner. (1 out of 2 isn’t bad)  This draft was referred to as Superman: Flyby (terrrible name) In an apparent Mad Lib session of casting. Josh Hartnett, Ashton Kutcher, Brendan Fraser and  with Matthew Bomer as the favored one for the role.



Christopher Reeve continued to suggest Tom Welling, whom you might know from Smallville fame. But what does that guy know?


Oh, yeah. Greatest actor to ever wear the suit. THE Superman by which all others are measured against. That guy.


Harry Poooooooottttteeeeerrrrr... I mean Suuuuuppppppeeeeerrrman!!!!!!



Always my weapon of choice.


This has nothing to do with anything, but any time someone mentions Christopher Walken, my mind always wanders to this…


That and Batman Returns.


Who's your daddy? And that's Sir to you B*tches.

The one thing this project did have going to it was it’s supporting cast. Christopher Walken as Perry White, Anthony Hopkins as Jor-El (He must have the most potent sperm in the world as he was in the running for Superman’s father and was recently cast as Thor’s father Oden in Marvel’s Thor) and Ralph Fienes as Lex Luthor. Tell me that wouldn’t have been something to see. And all this with JJ Abrams. The man rebooted Star Trek and the X-Files (kind of) and wiped the stank off Mission: Impossible left by M:I 2. How much more credibility does the man need?



Ratman Returns

Angered by his inability to direct and only get Rush Hour sequels greenlit, Ratner eventually left the project, with money likely in hand.



McG was then attached to the project, in hopes of buying himself a full last name. In Warner Bros. defense, he hadn’t yet ruined the Terminator franchise but anyone that is willing to put Charlie’s Angels I and II on there resume should be evaluated physiologically and mentally.



You don't have to view the trailer if you don't want to.

At this point Bryan Singer stepped in as director. This halted his pre-production on X-Men 3, and took his full staff with him. Ironically, Brett Ratner then took over helming duties on X-Men: The Last Stand as Singer took over Superman. After worldwide marketing cost, previous productions that didn’t come to fruition and Superman Returns actual budget, the final price tag was 350 million dollars, which made Superman Returns the most expensive film ever made at the point that it was released. Hearing that someone was making movies more expensive that him, James Cameron came out of retirement.



They did what! Those Mother F*ckers.

Superman Returns went on to gross 391 million dollars worldwide. It’s a respectable sum. I think the Warner’s were content to give Singer another shot at the movie until this happened…


When Warner realized that the 500 million they anticipated from Superman Returns was short by roughly another 500 million dollars, they suddenly had a severe underachiever. Why have a million dollar franchise, when you can have a billion dollar franchise?


Flash forward to 2011 and this is the new face of Superman. Henry Cavill, of Tudors and War of the Gods fame. Zack Snyder, who brought us Watchmen and 300. (The man does know his comic books) Personally I would have liked to see Singer’s follow up. I have been a huge fan of his work since Usual Suspects ( I am watching X2 as I write this.) I know he had a superior, intelligent sequel in him.  Sadly this will never come to be. Out of all the names that have been bandied about, I think Snyder is the best choice for the job. With Nolan producing and Goyer scripting, the film is in more than capable hands. I think Snyder is talented and more than qualified for the role. I don’t think he’s the artist that Singer is. The first Superman film (Superman: The Movie 1978) is a quientesntial piece of Americana. Richard Donner may have produced his masterwork then. Much in the same way he was robbed of his chance to follow up his film, so was Singer. I am looking forward to Snyder’s Man of Steel, but in the same way that I’ll always be upset that James Cameron never made his Spider-Man, I think I’ll just be left to stew about Singer’s Man of Steel.


In a final note to the new filmmaker’s, Harrison Ford IS Indiana Jones. You can’t get generic Captain Crucnch. John William Superman score cannot be improved upon. If you think you can recast General Zod, you can’t. Terrance Stamp is still alive and well. There is only one man for that job. If you want the son of Jor-El to kneel, you know who to call…