What's harder to make than a Superman movie?
We posed the question last fall when Zack Snyder was tapped to direct Man of Steel. Today, as Warner Bros. confirmed it was pushing back the release of the Henry Cavill-led, Christopher Nolan production to June 2013, ensuring seven long years will have lapsed between the hero's big-screen adventures, we realized the answer remained the same.
Nothing—nothing is harder to make than a Superman movie.
As the talents behind the following never-was Superman movies could still attest:
1. Superman Lives: Part of us is sad that Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage had the cape pulled out from under them just weeks before filming was to start on this would-be reboot in 1998. (And imagine how poor Pittsburgh, so close to being a stand-in for Metropolis, felt.) Then the other part of us watches the reputed costume test, and, to be honest, we're relieved the franchise didn't go all Danzig.
2. Superman Reborn (aka Superman Lives, aka the Kevin Smith version): This mid-1990s screenplay by the Clerks' manager never really got close to making it off the page. But it's notable nonetheless for the priceless story Smith got out of his meetings with producer Jon Peters. (Two words: Giant spider.)
3. Batman vs. Superman: Pre-Nolan, the Caped Crusader was about as hot (read: cold) as the Last Son of Krypton. And, so in 2002, Warners looked to have the embattled characters prop each other up in an action team-up for Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm). But then Petersen decided, not incorrectly, that putting Brad Pitt in a skirt (for Troy) was a more pressing matter. Batman vs. Superman got shelved. And so it went.
4. Justice League of America movie (aka, Justice League Mortal): A filmmaking great, one George Miller (Babe, Mad Max), was going to direct. A no-name actor, one D.J. Cotrona, was going to be Superman. The writers were going on strike...Oops, er...Oh, well. Another Supes-related project got grounded.
5. Superman: The Man of Steel (aka Superman Returns sequel): Remember how Warners was absolutely, positively going to make another Bryan Singer-Brandon Routh adventure provided the duo's 2006 behemoth broke $200 million at the domestic box office, which it did, barely? Forget about it. Where Superman movies are concerned, there is absolutely, positively no such thing as a sure thing.
(Originally published Oct. 5, 2010, at 5:01 a.m. PT)