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Long before the superhero movie genre became extremely popular, Christopher Reeve convinced audiences across the world that a man could fly through his portrayal of Superman. Richard Donner was the first director to handle the Man of Steel in a full-length feature film, but due to behind-the-scenes drama, he was replaced in the middle of Superman II. However, had Donner been able stick around for more Superman movies, he'd come up with some ideas, such as including Brainiac. When asked to clarify if the super-intelligent alien was indeed a Superman villain he wanted to tackle on the big screen, Donner answered:
Well, one of the villains, yes. I mean, I felt there was a different way of approaching it, but the intellect of Brainiac was very exciting.
By the time Superman: The Movie came out, Brainiac had been around for 20 years, so he'd had a lot of time to cement himself as one of Superman's greatest enemies. The character has been depicted differently through the years, but at that point in time, he was a green-skinned humanoid from the planet Colu who was chiefly known for traveling across the universe and shrinking one city on each planet he visited to add to his collection, such as Kandor from Krypton.
Bringing Brainiac to life in a Superman movie in the 1980s would have been incredibly ambitious, but as Richard Donner said in an excerpt from his interview with Retro Fan provided by 13th Dimension, it was among the many things he was considering. Alas, other than Lex Luthor and General Zod, none of the original Superman movies used villains who's already appeared in the comics. It wouldn't be until 2013's Man of Steel that Faora, who was introduced in 1977, became the third of this bunch. Three years later, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice brought in Doomsday.
While we still haven't seen a theatrical version of Brainiac yet, the character did finally make his live action debut last decade in Smallville, where he was played by James Marsters. Then earlier this year, a Brainiac who much more closely resembles his comic book counterpart appeared as the main antagonist in Krypton Season 1, where he was played by Blake Ritson. The character has also popped in numerous animated TV shows, direct-to-video animated movies and video games.
Given how up in the air the Superman side of the DC Extended Universe is right now, it's hard to say if we'll ever see Brainiac within this franchise, though Henry Cavill had expressed interest in the character being used in Man of Steel 2. Still, I'd like to think that in an alternate reality where Richard Donner got to direct all four original Superman movies, if not even more, was able to realize his goal of showcasing Brainiac, even if the special and practical effects used to "create" him might look dated now.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the latest updates on DC movies, and be sure to look through our DCEU guide to learn what's in development for the franchise.