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With Man of Steel in theaters, Superman is at the forefront of pop culture once again. The film re-introduces moviegoers to the story of a man from Krypton who's finding his place on earth and squaring off against the villainous General Zod. Walking out of the theater, many might speculate over what the sequel might bring. Will Lex Luthor be the next big villain to face the Man of Steel? That has yet to be confirmed, but in speculating the potential for Luthor as the villain in the next Man of Steel film, Sean and Kelly discussed the potential for Luthor to be showcased in his own movie beforehand. Could a villain movie even work and is Lex Luthor the right character to take center stage in such an attempt?
The article below makes vague references to Man of Steel but does not include any major spoilers from the movie.
Sean O'Connell - Kelly, we both managed to see Man of Steel, and we both arrived at the same conclusion -- through different means. It feels like Lex Luthor can be, will be, and almost has to be the next step in the story that David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder are trying to tell. There are LexCorp references all over Man of Steel. but you hit me with what I thought was a brilliant alternative to cramming Lex Luthor and his dense back story into Man of STeel 2. You think that Warner should take a gamble on a standalone Lex Luthor movie. Explain! Because I love the idea. 3:17 PM
Kelly West - Leaving the theater today, my husband and I were discussing the potential for the Man of Steel sequel. Lex Luthor seems like he'd be the right direction to go in terms of the villain for the follow-up, and the conclusion I came to was that the world is ready for a full-on anti-hero story. Not simply a movie that develops its villain as the primary antagonist to the hero, but a film that sets up the future villain as the protagonist of his own story, priming viewers for the inevitable showdown that will be set up in the next Superman movie. Lex Luthor would be a great character to be featured in his own film, giving us a full origin story into who he is as a man and his transformation into a villain.
Sean - I agree. And if you read my column on Man of Steel, you'll know that I felt the key moments in Superman's mythology were rushed. I could handle a two-hour Krypton movie, with Michael Shannon butting heads over philosophical and political issue with Russell Crowe. I could have used an entire Smallville movie with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. These segments felt cheated, and I already predict that Lex Luthor's story in a Man of Steel sequel would, by necessity, have to be rushed. This could correct that problem. But do you think people would turn out for a Luthor movie?
Kelly - I do. I think there's something to be said for dark lead characters. Viewers like them. Just look at all of the dark characters leading this summer's TV shows. Part of the reason shows like Breaking Bad and Dexter work so well is because they allow us to get into the mindset of the bad guy. Understanding why these antiheroes do what they do makes us care about what happens to them.
It's that investment that draws us in and in order to get people to invest, they need time to get to know the characters on both sides of the story. I agree wholeheartedly about some elements feeling rushed in Man of Steel, even though the movie still tipped past the 2-hour mark. A Lex movie could set up the character without rushing, giving him whatever backstory they want to give him so that we know who he is as a man and a villain before he's set against the hero. Then the next Superman film isn't just about how Superman defeats Lex, but also about how Lex's story ends.
Sean - I like the idea a lot, but in order to do it properly, I think that the Lex story should happen concurrently with what happens in Man of Steel. That way, Superman could still be involved. Like Wicked, it could use events that we've already seen in Steel, but tell them from a different perspective. I think that would help audiences better appreciate Snyder's movie, and better understand Lex Luthor.
Here's where I think we'll have a problem. The time it takes to film, market and release a Lex Luthor movie would delay the eventual Superman movie that audiences want to see. It also delays plans for a new Batman movie, and even a Justice League of America movie. Unless you think that the Lex Luthor movie and Man of Steel 2 should be filmed at the same time, and maybe hit theaters within weeks of each other?
Kelly - Filming at the same time might be an option, but putting the releases weeks apart seems far less likely. I was thinking more like the way Marvel spaced out their character movies and then did The Avengers, except in this case, DC would be stepping outside the box even further by dedicating one of those character movies to a villain. The big question does seem to be whether or not people would be willing to wait longer for another Superman movie if it meant getting a Luthor movie. I would, but other fans might not be so patient.
Sean - Ha! Yes, patience is not a character trait I associate with superhero movie fans. They want a Batman-SUperman combo in theaters tomorrow, and a JLA movie in theaters next week! I also think that Luthor would be an odd choice to be the groundbreaker for standalone villain movies. D.C. fans might prefer a Joker movie, not that that is an option. But if Warner and D.C. were able to launch the "idea" of standalone villain movies, I think you'd quickly see Marvel jumping on that bandwagon and possibly trying to get a Thanos movie greenlit so audiences can have a better understanding of his powers long before The Avengers 2 reaches theaters.
Kelly - See, I see Lex Luthor as being a prime candidate for a villain movie because people are familiar with him. There's a mainstream draw that would give this whole concept the boost it needs to actually work. The Joker - as you mention - is another option but - as you also mention - he's not really an option. He does fit the idea in terms of familiarity. But since we're talking about Superman, Luthor seems like a great villain to showcase. He's human, which could make him relatable, at least at the start, and he's familiar enough to draw a crowd beyond fans of the comics.
In the interest of making the next Superman movie amazing as opposed to just good or great, a Lex Luthor film could really build some momentum for the story, bringing the audience into the mind of the man and villain before his world collides with his nemesis.
Sean - I'm all for it. The only other option I can think of, and it's one that Marvel has started, is if Warner sponsored a Lex Luthor TV series that built up to Man of Steel 2. You could do 13 episodes of a killer Luthor program, and have it lead right up until the Steel sequel. Yes, it would mean that people would have to commit to that other form of entertainment. But do you think that's another way for an audience to get to know this fully-formed villain?
Kelly - Definitely. As I mentioned, TV can't seem to get enough anti-heroes these days, particularly on cable. Applying the Dark Tower plan - a TV show or some kind of miniseries or limited series to bridge the gap between movies - could work with the right writers and the right network. It would certainly solve the time issue, assuming they could split the Luthor actor's schedule between the TV show and the next MoS movie. Some might argue that the Luthor series would be treading into territory TV's already explored, since Smallville spent a fair amount of time developing its own Lex Luthor, but this would be a rebooted Luthor for the small screen.
So, while I'd love to see a villain movie and I think Luthor's the character for it, a TV show would be another way to flesh out the character and I think there would be an audience for it.
Sean - So we've solved one of Warner's problems, should they decide to go the Lex Luthor route (which Steel certainly suggests). Should we get producers' credits for our charitable work here?
Kelly - Ha. That seems only fair...
Would You Like To See A Lex Luthor Movie?
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