Many DC fans know that Tim Burton made two Batman films in 1989 and 1992. They might also be aware that, back in the '90s, the director was developing a movie based on the Man of Steel called Superman Lives.
That film, which would’ve starred Nicolas Cage, wound up in development hell for several years before it was ultimately canceled. Then, in 2023, noted box office bomb The Flash used digital effects to bring Cage’s Supes into its climactic Multiverse scene. The reaction from fans and critics… wasn’t great.
Tim Burton Calls Out Warner Bros. Over the Flash
Veteran director Tim Burton spoke to the British Film Institute about the use of his and Nicolas Cage’s Superman in The Flash. The 2023 superhero movie, which also contained an appearance by Burton’s Batman (Michael Keaton), saw Cage's Superman battling a giant spider as the Multiverse began to collapse.
When asked whether he had any regrets over the cancellation of Superman Lives, Burton remarked that he had none, but the fact that he didn’t get to make the film resulted in a lasting impact:
“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.”
Burton proceeded to throw a bit of shade Warner Bros. and DC’s way, noting that he’s in “quiet revolt” due to what he deems a “cultural misappropriation” of the Superman and Batman that he had a hand in bringing to life through their inclusion in The Flash:
“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.“
The Negative Reaction to Flash’s Multiverse Cameos
Previously, Nicolas Cage himself labeled his cameo in The Flash as “satisfying” but “quick.” It’s worth noting that the Superman that actually shows up in the film is actually a CGI stand-in that some might call unsettling.
In fact, that entire sequence was chock full of appearances from previous incarnations of famous DC heroes, all ghoulishly recreated through the use of computer-generated imagery.
This included Helen Slater as Supergirl along with Christopher Reeve and George Reeves’ Supermen from the 70s and 50s, respectively. George Reeves’ role was particularly egregious considering that he ended his own life in 1959 over being rigidly typecast from his time spent wearing the cape.
So, naturally, Tim Burton, who has long marched to the beat of his own drummer, had his own unique manner of expressing displeasure over his characters being capitalized upon in Flash. And so did many others who watched the film.