Director Tim Burton says he’s “in quiet revolt” against the use of AI by Hollywood studios, which can be unleashed to “culturally misappropriate” past franchises and icons.
In a recent interview with the British Film Institute (BFI), Burton talked at length about his expansive career and key shifts in the entertainment industry.
He suggested he wasn’t thrilled by his former collaborators Nicholas Cage and Michael Keaton’s cameos as Superman and Batman respectively in Andy Muschietti’s The Flash (2023).
In the 90s, Burton came close to directing Superman Lives, a deconstructionist take on the popular American superhero featuring Cage in the title role. The film, however, was scrapped by Warner Bros. a few weeks before it went on floors. It has since been dissected as one of the great unmade films in cinema history.
In The Flash, Cage makes a surprise appearance as his character from Superman Lives. The DCEU film also features Michael Keaton as Batman, whom Burton had directed in two cult superhero movies, 1990’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns. Both films were produced by Warner Bros.
In his BFI interview, Burton said he does not regret the cancellation of his legendary Superman film.
“No, I don’t have regrets,” Burton was quoted as saying. “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.”
He expanded this into a reflection on the use of AI in Hollywood, in an apparent reference to multiverse-style films like 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,” Burton told BFI.
However, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who had written the unfilmed screenplay of Superman Lives, recently praised Cage’s cameo in The Flash.
“I finally got to see Nic Cage be Superman. It has been an absolute delight for me,” Smith was quoted as telling Rolling Stone. “It’s mind-melting. One of the first things I thought when I saw it at the premiere is, ‘Goddammit, (the giant spider) would have worked.’ As much as I used to make fun of (Superman Lives producer) Jon Peters, that looked badass.”