Superman Lives (previously titled Superman Reborn) is the title for a canceled Superman movie intended for production during the 1990s. The film was to be directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters. The story would feature Brainiac, Lex Luthor and Doomsday as villains. Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy wrote the screenplays that were nearly filmed. Nicolas Cage was officially announced to play Superman. In 2009, images of Cage wearing Superman costumes for screen tests began to surface.
The project was, however, scrapped. Peters would go on to produce the also cancelled Superman: Flyby. The idea removing the red briefs from the costume would carry over to many other Superman projects. The next Superman movie that was released (after several such scripts being written and then aborted) was Superman Returns. On May 1st of 2015, a crowd funded, feature length documentary titled The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? was released.
All versions of the movie were loosely based on "The Death of Superman" storyline from the comics. The main villain was the alien supercomputer, Brainiac, and he had a plot to kill Superman by simultaneously blocking out the sun and unleashing Doomsday on Metropolis. The plot works, and Superman is killed.
Later in the movie, he is resurrected by K, who acts as his temporary costume, and artificially produces all of his powers.
Burton scripts (the story that was actually going to be filmed)
Wesley Strick's script
Like the Superman Reborn stories, it loosely follows the "Death of Superman" story. A notable departure from that work is the fact that once Brainiac arrives on Earth, he and Lex Luthor eventually merge into a single entity dubbed "Luthiac". Thematically, Burton and Strick worked to underscore Superman's alienation by virtue of the fact that Superman (Kal-El) is -- literally -- an alien.
Dan Gilroy's script
The story opens in flashback with Krypton on the verge of explosion. As Jor-El and Lara are placing baby Kal-El in his rocket, Brainiac--who is responsible for this destruction--enters and attacks them. Jor-El manages to ignite the rocket just as he and Lara are murdered by Brainiac. The cyborg vows to hunt down the child.
The story then moves to modern day Metropolis where we see the now-adult Superman stop a bank robbery. That evening, he meets Lois Lane at the Daily Planet building in a scene reminiscent of the Kevin Smith draft (except in this draft, Lois doesn't know of his dual identity as Clark Kent). During this time, it's established that Kent's identity is in danger, as Lex Luthor may be on the verge of discovering it and revealing it to the world. Clark considers telling Lois before this happens.
Brainiac comes to Earth and encounters Luthor. The two devise a plan to destroy Superman. They begin by merging into a single cyborg entity known as "Lexiac". Lexiac creates the creature Doomsday to attack Superman. Superman and Doomsday battle to the death, after which time (and a public funeral) the Man of Steel's body is transported to the Fortress of Solitude. The body is revived (powerless) by a mysterious Kryptonian force known only as "K". Superman and "K" leave the fortress and trek back to Metropolis.
During this time, Lexiac--an advanced alien force with the resources of a multi-national conglomerate at its disposal--plans to destroy Earth just as he did Krypton. He begins assembling an arsenal of nuclear warheads to be detonated on all the world's top cities. He also spends a great amount of timing attempting (unsuccessfully) to woo a grieving Lois Lane. Superman returns to Metropolis and is restored his powers by "K", which is revealed to be the remaining "life essence" of his deceased biological parents. Superman, with the flirtatious assistance of Lois, defeats Lexiac (destroying the "Brainiac" element) with exactly one second left on the nuclear clock. The story ends with Lois in Superman's arms, where she reveals that she is pregnant with his child.
Pre-Burton (development hell history)
Superman V: Reborn
Several details of the script are unknown, but what has been confirmed is that it was loosely based on "The Death of Superman" story. The script features an insecure Clark Kent unable to admit his feelings for the human woman whom he loves, Lois Lane. Before he is able to resolve those feelings with her, Doomsday appears to challenge him. Just as in the comics, they fight to their respective deaths. As Superman dies in Lois' arms, he finally confesses his feelings to her. Unbeknowst to either of them, this final confession not only releases his soul from his body, but said soul enters the body of Lois. She soon discovers that she is pregnant with Superman's child. Days later, the child is born and within the span of three weeks, he grows into the body of a 21-year-old man. As Lois is killed in the middle of the film (by what has not been confirmed, but some reports list it as the resurrected Doomsday), the new-born assumes his birthright as the new Superman and defeats the villain, saving the world.
Superman V: Reborn (Version 2)
Still using the "Death" story as its basis, writer Gregory Poirier makes Superman's comic book nemesis, Brainiac, the primary villain. In the script, Brainiac was responsible for the destruction of Krypton. He is now on his way to Earth to destroy the last Kryptonian once and for all.
On Earth, Clark Kent is on the verge of a nervous breakdown as he is unable to cope with his dual-identity as reporter and superhero. He visits a psychoanalyst to discuss these feelings, as well as those he has for Lois Lane. Brainiac makes his way to Metropolis and unleashes his genetic creation, Doomsday (who, in this draft has kryptonite-laced blood), upon the public. This naturally draws out Superman and the two battle to the death. Brainiac has won, and the last Kryptonian is dead.
After Superman's funeral, Brainiac attempts to steal his body, recognizing it as valuable genetic material. However, his plan is thwarted by the rogue government agency Project Cadmus, who take the body first in hopes of either reviving it or cloning it. During this time, Superman's spirit is shown taking a spiritual journey through the afterlife. At the end of his journey, he concludes that his work on Earth is not yet done and the spirit returns to its body.
Resurrected, but powerless, The Man of Steel travels to Metropolis to fight Brainiac with the aid of Cadmus. Through the sheer force of his own will, Superman regains his powers and defeats Brainiac, giving him a sense of closure and security in the world.
Kevin Smith's script
Kevin Smith came up with the title "Superman Lives", believing it to be better than Superman Reborn.
The confirmed details of Smith's script can be seen in detail at the article entry on Kevin Smith Wiki.
Smith threw out the idea of getting Tim Burton to direct. Ironically this would cause Smith to be booted from the project after Burton was actually hired, as Burton strongly disliked his script. For years after this Kevin Smith would delight audiences by telling humorous anecdotes lampooning many involved with this failed project.
Reborn costume design by James Carson
Brainiac's giant battle suit by Rolf Mohr
Brainiac's giant battle suit by Rolf Mohr
Doomsday concept by Kerry Gammill
A fan made facsimile of a "teaser poster" that was on display at Toyfare '97. It used a logo concept by Sylvain Despretz