Here’s why Tim Burton will never work for Marvel or DC again. A lot of it has to do with Burton’s Superman being used in The Flash. That’s right. Many people know about Tim Burton’s Batman movies (they’re the ones where Michael Keaton couldn’t turn his head), but very few people know about Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage working on Superman together.
In this article, we’ll take you through the story of Tim Burton’s Superman, why DC decided to reference it in The Flash, and why Burton felt betrayed, plus a couple of other reasons why he feels big studios like Disney and Warner Bros. are impossible to work with. It’s a curious tale for anyone who’s a fan of Tim Burton or comic book movies in general, as well as anyone who has an opinion on the use of AI in Hollywood.
Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and the 1992 sequel Batman Returns are classic comic book movie staples in the world before The Dark Knight. It doesn’t take itself so seriously (the Joker would have loved it), and it’s aged with a clich? charm. But what happened to Burton’s Superman Lives? Why do so few people know about the film? And why is Tim Burton still so emotional about working with DC and Marvel?
Superman Lives…Kind Of
In DC’s recent multiverse film The Flash, the superhero studio packed as many cameos as they could cram into the film, including one from a movie that never got made. DC superfans could tell you all about Nicolas Cage’s Superman. It’s one of Hollywood’s most unfortunate failures, like Jodorowsky’s Dune or Hitchcock’s Kaleidoscope.
The studio had cast Nicolas Cage to play the Man of Steel, and he had a few words about who should be directing. He told Rolling Stone back in 2022:
“Tim Burton did not cast me. I cast Tim Burton. They wanted Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), and he’s a nice guy and perfectly capable. But for me, the vision I had for Kal-El was more of a Tim Burton-style presentation universe. […] That’s always been both a positive and a negative to me. It’s a positive in that it left the character, and what Tim and I might have gotten up to, in the realm of imagination — which is always more powerful than that is concrete. And a negative in that I think it would have been special.”
But before the studio shut down the project, Burton and Cage worked on the project in pre-production for two whole years. The pair were three weeks away from shooting when everything came crashing down around them. Burton doesn’t have any regrets, but in an interview with the British Film Institute, he did admit putting that much effort into something and then not following through does affect you:
“No, I don’t have regrets. I will say this: when you work that long on a project and it doesn’t happen, it affects you for the rest of your life. Because you get passionate about things, and each thing is an unknown journey, and it wasn’t there yet. But it’s one of those experiences that never leaves you, a little bit.”
Even after a few decades, the project has stuck with him, and it might not have been the best feeling to be reminded of it. But Tim Burton isn’t working with DC or Marvel simply because of some childish grudge. As he said, he has no regrets about Superman Lives. He feels this is part of a bigger issue, that using his Superman as a reference in The Flash might hint at a larger problem.
Burton Won’t Do Another Batman
Tim Burton won’t work for DC or Marvel simply because of the way they use culture unethically. According to him, large studios like Disney or Warner Bros. take moments of cinema or art and use them in a way that seems dishonorable, like how they took a piece of his 90s Superman movie and shoehorned it into The Flash for the sake of a cameo. They didn’t need to ask permission or consider how he might feel because it was only a tiny piece of a movie that was never made. He draws a similarity between it and how AI creates art.
“But also it goes into another AI thing, and this is why I think I’m over it with the studio. They can take what you did, Batman or whatever, and culturally misappropriate it, or whatever you want to call it. Even though you’re a slave of Disney or Warner Brothers, they can do whatever they want. So in my latter years of life, I’m in quiet revolt against all this.”
It sounds like Burton would rather have anything he creates exist free of any kind of exploitation. That is to say, if a filmmaker creates something in the DC or Marvel franchises, it exists there for eternity, inside of a mine for future directors to come across and use for their own work. It’s much more unlikely that a random Netflix director would want to reference Wednesday unless they were doing some specifically authorized spinoff. Tim Burton finds he has a bit more freedom working outside of Disney or Warner Bros.
Tim Burton doesn’t want to work for DC or Marvel again. Here’s why. Read More