1. Superman V
A fifth Christopher Reeve starring Superman movie was pitched to producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind in 1991 by comic book writer Cary Bates. His script would've wisely ignored the events of both Superman III and IV and returned the series to the style of Superman and Superman II. In an interview Bates revealed;
"[It was] our desire to do a fully developed, balls-out science fiction story pitting Superman and Brainiac against each other mano a mano. The premise involved a new take on the whole Brainiac-Kandor portion of the Superman mythos. [Brainiac] comes to Earth for the first time and shrinks Metropolis, adding it to his interplanetary collection of miniaturized cities, but because he becomes aware of the unique super-powered being in his latest acquisition, Brainiac miniaturizes himself and ventures into the bottled Metropolis in person. This leads to a knock-down drag-out battle that ends in what appears to be Superman’s death. A split-second before his atoms would’ve been permanently disintegrated, they are sucked into a bottle-city a few rows over… Kandor. There he is 'reborn' as a mortal man, where he gets to reconnect with his Kryptonian roots as he begins the arduous process of rehabilitating himself and eventually escaping from Kandor to resume his battle with Brainiac."So why wasn't it made? Well, the Salkinds had put the project on hold whilst production was underway on the movie Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, during this time Warner Bros. reacquired the rights to Superman and started production on their TV series Lois & Clark, plus they began developing a new movie themselves...
2. Superman Reborn
In 1993, whilst Lois & Clark was playing in prime time, Warner Bros. began production on a new Superman movie inspired by the previous years DC Comics event The Death of Superman. Jon Peters, the producer behind 1989's Batman was on board, he hired Jonathan Lemkin to write the screenplay.
Superman Reborn would've seen the Man of Steel face Doomsday, a battle that would end with both characters dying. With his dying breath Superman confesses his love for Lois Lane, his soul is released into Lois' body and she becomes pregnant with his child. The baby is born within days and grows into an adult in just a few weeks, taking over from his father as Superman.
Unsurprisingly Warner Bros. rejected Lemkin's script. A second screenplay was penned by Gregory Poirier which still featured Superman's death but this time against Brainiac and with no magical superbaby. For the reborn angle the Man of Steel is bought back to life through a secret government project. Again, Warner Bros. said "no", and Jon Peters decided the whole project needed a drastic change of direction. It was during this time that Kevin Smith pitched his concept for a new Superman movie...
3. Superman Lives
This project still featured Superman's death and rebirth, and Brainiac was involved as the villain, but that's where the similarities to the earlier projects end. Kevin Smith later revealed that producer Jon Peters had given him a strict brief for the story with three rules.
- Superman couldn't wear his familiar red and blue costume.
- Superman couldn't fly.
- Superman had to fight a giant spider in the story's third act.
Peters eventually signed Batman director Tim Burton to direct Superman Lives, and Nicolas Cage was attached to play Superman. Burton threw Smith's out in favor of a new script by Wesley Stick. It still featured the death of Superman and Brainiac, but in this version Brainiac would merge with Lex Luthor and become "Luthiac" - I kid you not!
The documentary "The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?" explores this fascinating project and is well worth your time...
4. Batman vs. Superman
Not the version coming to your local cinema shortly, but rather another attempt to bring the Man of Steel to the big screen back in 2002. Andrew Kevin Walker penned the script and director Wolfgang Petersen was attached to the project. He revealed;
"It is a clash of the titans. They play off of each other so perfectly. [Superman] is clear, bright, all that is noble and good, and Batman represents the dark, obsessive and vengeful side. They are two sides of the same coin and that is material for great drama."The story involved a retired Bruce Wayne who's wife would have been murdered at the hands of the Joker. Wayne seeks revenge and is tricked into battling his former friend Superman, only to later discover that the Joker was in cahoots with Lex Luthor. The two super-friends then team-up to take Luthor down.
The script was revised by Akiva Goldsman (the man who wrote Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) and now went under the title of Batman Vs Superman: Asylum. A copy of the script was released online some years later. An embed of it is below...
Amongst the star names who were touted to be either involved or interested in the project were Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, James Franco, Jude Law, and Paul Walker.
5. Superman: Flyby
Whilst the above script was being prepared Warner Bros. were hedging their bets and had other treatments submitted. Eventually they decided to just focus on the Man of Steel and in late 2002 set about developing a JJ Abrams script called Superman: Flyby. Again the story would see the death and rebirth of the character, but the rest of the script presented a full reboot to the history of Superman.
Superman: Flyby began during the great Kryptonian civil war and featured Superman's father Jor-El at loggerheads with Supe's uncle Kata-Zor. Eventually the war extends to our planet and Kal-El takes up the mantle of Earth's protector. After his resurrection Superman leaves Earth for Krypton setting up a proposed sequel.
Brett Ratner was signed up to direct but after several false starts he dropped out and was replaced by McG. Amongst the actors rumoured to be in contention to play Superman in this movie were Josh Hartnett, Ashton Kutcher, James Marsden, Brendan Fraser, Jared Padalecki and both Jude Law and Paul Walker again.
Warner Bros. were almost ready to shoot when they decided to move the production to Australia to save money. With this decision McG dropped out, later revealing the reason being his fear of flying (not great for a Superman movie!). JJ Abrams offered his services as director, but at this point in time his credits behind the camera only included 2 episodes of Felicity and 3 episodes of Alias, so Warner's declined his kind offer. Instead the studio hired Bryan Singer, who set about restructuring the entire project leading to 2006s Superman Returns....
6. Superman: The Man of Steel
The Brandon Routh-starring Superman Returns did not perform anywhere near as well as all parties involved had hoped. This meant the proposed sequel was scrapped. Although no script was written Bryan Singer had a basic idea for the movie which would have been set a few years after the events of Superman Returns.
The 'New Krypton' that Lex created with Kryptonite and crystals stolen from the Fortress of Solitude has been steadily growing in space and is now about the size of our moon. 'New Krypton' comes to the attention of an unknown visitor from another planet, as a giant spaceship hurtles towards Earth Superman flies up to find out who is onboard. It turns out to be another Kryptonian.
After that details are sketchy but it's rumoured that we would've seen Brainiac on that spaceship. Of course instead of a sequel we got a complete reboot in the form of Zack Snyder's Man of Steel.
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