[The Week in Geek is a new Tuesday column that plunges headfirst into a deep pool of genre geekiness without ever coming up for air.]
It's a funny thing when a film can make $391 million worldwide and still be considered a disappointment. What the box office gross of Bryan Singer's 'Superman Returns' proved is that audiences were primed for a brand-new Superman film after a twenty-one year absence from the silver screen. What thousands of movie-goers' grumblings proved is that 'Superman Returns' didn't fully succeed at capturing the magic of the world's most famous superhero.
One of the problems with Singer's film was a slavish devotion to Richard Donner's original 1978 hit. While certain aspects felt like a rousing homage (variations on John Williams' impeccable theme), others (Lex Luthor's real estate development schemes) felt like a dead weight on the film. An overall problem with Singer's approach is that instead of kickstarting a new franchise, he only capped off what Donner started decades before.
Warner Brothers is now looking to re-boot the re-boot, turning to director Zack Snyder to step up to the plate and hit a homerun with the latest Christopher Nolan-produced cinematic Superman adventure. The pitch? Superman faces off against the Kryptonian criminal mastermind General Zod.
The motivation here is to provide Superman with a formidable physical opponent for a movie with a harder action edge. While Zod comes straight out of Superman's comic book rogue's gallery, he's already been done once before on film and done well (Terence Stamp played Zod in 'Superman II'). Now, with the villain announced, it seems like Warners can't make a clean break from the original franchise. Don't they realize there are more bad guys in Superman's world than just Zod and Luthor?
It's high time for a Superman movie that feels completely different from anything that's come before, and that includes finding the Man of Steel an enemy that audiences have never seen fully realized on film. Warner Brothers looks cowardly concerning their own flagship character, forever stuck in the past, hoping to re-capture lightning in a bottle by aping a series of films that no one is demanding be aped. We've already got a good General Zod movie; how about giving one of these guys a chance...
The current comic book version of Bizarro is a failed clone of Superman who possesses all of Superman's powers and none of his intellect. Screenwriter Robert Gordon ('Galaxy Quest') once took a crack at a Bizarro-centric Superman film, a spec script for a wild action-comedy called 'Bizarro Superman,' so it's good to know that there's someone out there in Hollywood who appreciates the character. The pea-brained Bizarro is a widely recognizable Superman villain thanks to his many appearances over the years in cartoons and video games, fitting the bill nicely as someone easily marketable to the masses.
For a while, it looked like we'd be seeing Tim Allen as Brainiac facing off against Nicolas Cage as Superman in a Tim Burton-directed, Kevin Smith-scripted Superman movie. Sometimes, it's good news when a project dies. The bad news is that no film has touched Brainiac since then, and he's more than ripe for a big screen debut. This sinister living super-computer has been a thorn in Superman's side dating back to 1958, and, next to Lex Luthor, is easily Superman's Number Two baddie.
Arguably the least recognizable villain on this list is the one that the diehard comic book fans want to see onscreen the most. Darkseid seeks to subjugate every living being in the universe through a powerful cosmic theory called the Anti-Life Equation, and he believes that human beings are the key to that equation. Unlike other Superman villains, Darkseid is completely devoid of basic concepts like compassion or honesty. He's a hulking, coldly calculating despot of pure evil, with a back story that's probably too convoluted to easily translate to film. This would be a screenwriter's most challenging Superman villain, taking DC Comics' most cruel alien conqueror and finding a way to work him into a movie while keeping Darkseid uncomplicated and believable to some degree.