Perhaps the world doesn't need the Man of Steel after all. But don't tell that to Bryan Singer.
The helmer, who gave up the reins of 20th Century Fox's mega-successful X-Men series to revive Warner Bros. Superman franchise told fans at San Diego's annual Comic-Con International over the weekend that he still hopes to direct a sequel for the summer of 2009, despite Superman Returns's underwhelming box-office returns.
"I plan to get all Wrath of Khan on it," Singer said, referring to the blockbuster 1982 sequel whose crowd-pleasing action is credited with turning around Paramount's sagging Star Trek fortunes on the big screen.
The PG-13 Superman Returns, with Brandon Routh filling out the tights previously occupied by Christopher Reeve, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, grossed a solid $21 million its first day in theaters June 28 and $52.1 million over its first weekend.
But despite decent reviews, Superman Returns failed to leap into the box-office stratosphere in a single bound. After nearly a month in release, the highly anticipated comic book flick has raked in $170 million domestically, normally a terrific tally, but given the film's reputed $250 million price tag, it's considered a disappointment for distributor Warner Bros.
While Warners initiated development on a follow-up before Superman Returns even opened, assuming the film would be on par with Sony's Spider-Man movies, Singer admits the prospects are now "iffy."
"We haven't concluded a deal," the filmmaker said, adding that if a sequel gets the go-ahead, "the intention is to do it for 2009."
If a Superman sequel does fly, Singer signaled his intention to up the ante.
"I just know that there are certain things that were established in this movie, certain aspects of the characters' relationships," he told Britain's Empire magazine. "Now that the character is established, I'd like to take the opportunity to bring in a more threatening element, a more terrible, foreboding element."
The auteur demurred when asked whether a possible villain might be fanboy favorite Brainiac.
"Perhaps," he said.
Singer could recruit Brainiac, Bizarro, Doomsday and even Mister Mxyzptlk, but right now Supes faces more formidable foes: a fickle audience, outsized expectations and antsy studio bosses.
According to TMZ.com, Warners execs are waiting to see whether Superman Returns crosses the $200 million domestic mark before making a decision.