It's a bird! It's a plane! And now, finally, (it seems) it's going to be another movie.

"Rush Hour 2" director Brett Ratner is set to helm a new "Superman" flick based on a script by J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote the Bruce Willis blockbuster "Armageddon" and created TV's "Alias" and "Felicity." Jon Peters ("Ali," "Batman") will produce the picture, which is due in 2004.

"J.J. Abrams and Jon Peters were given the daunting task of re-imagining the Superman epic," Warner Bros. Pictures Domestic Production President Jeff Robinov said in a statement. "And J.J. met the challenge, delivering a terrific script with emotion, depth and scale that brings new dimension to this legendary character."

So who will wear the cape in the latest screen adaptation of the legendary DC Comics hero?

"I don't know, really. Maybe an unknown, I think," Ratner said recently while out promoting next month's Hannibal Lecter prequel "Red Dragon." "'Cause it's an inconic character. I don't think you need a [well-known] face, 'cause then you're like, 'Oh, look, it's Keanu Reeves flying through the air.' "

Superman has come to life on several occasions, most recently in live action form on the TV series "Smallville." Christopher Reeve famously portrayed the man of steel as well as his nerdy alter ego, reporter Clark Kent, in four movies beginning with 1978's "Superman," which also featured notable appearances from Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman.

Several attempts have been made to get Superman flying again since 1987's critically panned "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace." With Reeve paralyzed from a horse-riding accident, "Batman" director Tim Burton tried to revive the Kryptonian crime fighter with Nicolas Cage in the title role. The project, often referred to as "Superman Lives," was loosely based on the "Death of Superman" story line from the comics. Burton and Warner Bros. enlisted several writers, including "Clerks" filmmaker Kevin Smith, who all made passes at a script.

Eventually the production stalled and any sort of "Superman" movie project seemed dead in the water. And then along came a spider.

"Spider-Man" smashed records at the box office (see
" 'Spider-Man' Breaks Box-Office Record") and, accordingly, all kinds of comic book-related properties went back into development.

Director Wolfgang Petersen ("Air Force One," "The Perfect Storm") seemed to be ahead of the pack when he enthusiastically announced plans to put "Superman vs. Batman" into production (see " 'Batman Vs. Superman' Director Hints At What To Expect From Superhero Struggle"). But no sooner did that announcement come than he retracted it, saying he'd make a Greek war epic first (see "Batman And Superman Have To Wait In Line Behind Greek, Trojan Warriors").