Originally Posted by Il_Siciliano
Apologies, I probably haven't expressed my point clearly - Lex Luthor, although I think he's a good villain (I like Lex more than I like the Joker), is in my opinion simply not that interesting cinematically. He doesn't translate well into a movie villain. In movies you don't have the time to establish a character like you do in a comic book run or a tv series, so effective villains need to be captivating or at the very least have a good visual gimmick.
Lex Luthor hasn't been a successful movie villain. I like Gene Hackman but his Lex was little more than comic relief, and definitely nowhere close to being a timeless movie villain. Kevin Spacey's Lex was boring and had no defining psychology.
Think about all the truly great movie villains. Darth Vader, The Joker, Hannibal Lecter, Anton Ciguhr, Bill the Butcher, Magneto, there are all larger than life characters, and they are either exceptionally archetypal (Ciguhr, Joker, Darth Vader, Lecter) or extremely complex and borderline sympathetic (Bill the Butcher, Magneto), sometimes both.
Lex Luthor has never really been all that complex, and every time the comic have managed to make him seem a little deeper or more sympathetic, you must realise that because this was in a comic book, that a lot of that was building on years and years of dedication and goodwill on the part of the reader. Making Lex more interesting in a comic is easier because the reader has a whole bunch of background and stories to base his understanding of the character on, so not only will there be less groundwork to do, but the reader will usually be quite open to seeing a character's psychology fleshed out more.
Here we have a 2 hour movie. And we need to say everything there is to say about this version of Lex Luthor in those 2 hours. Frankly, I just don't think the character has enough impact, visually or psychologically, to make a brilliant movie villain. He doesn't look cool or freakish or anything other than bald really. He isn't psychotic like the Joker or Hannibal Lecter. He doesn't have superpowers like Magneto, he lacks the moral complexity of Bill the Butcher, he's not a tragic figure like Khan or Darth Vader. He's just not a movie villain in my opinion.
Terence Stamp is amazing, and his Zod was cool, but I still would argue that (my own fanboyism aside) Zod was not a great movie villain. The fact that he's got a good stare and sounds awesome saying kneel before Zod doesn't make him a great villain in my opinion. He was cool, but also a creature of his time.
Neither Gene Hackman nor Kevin Spacey played Lex Luthor, not really anyway, as much as Tommy Lee Jones played Two-Face.
Also, your line of reasoning makes no sense, almost every comic book that fleshes out a character is based on previous appearances. Here's an example of stories that make Lex a deeper character- Luthor: Man of Steel. It's a story based on the "continuity" of the DCU, but owed no real allegiance to it. It's entirely standalone and explores purely Lex, and why he hates Superman.
The entire reason Lex is such a good villain is because he represents how driven, and unnaturally focused humanity can be when we absolutely despise someone. He represents the shallowest, avaricious, petty and most hateful aspects that humanity has to offer. He is the absolute worst of us and also displays the potential we have in all of us, just like Superman does, he is his antithesis.
And the best thing about that from a narrative point of view is that he doesn't even realise it. He genuinely believes that he is the hero here. The Superman philosophy of Nietzsche dictates that the Superman is the pinnacle of human achievement, the peak- or from the view of the cynic- the end. The end of humanity. Lex has devoted his entire life to trying to make humanity better, and then a god comes in and does it all differently, and openly declares himself to be the end of humanity's progress, and Lex is the only one who can see the harm he is doing, so the responsibility to save them is upon him.
The reason Lex is the most dangerous villain is because, like Joker, he would risk everything to defeat their hero. Zod wouldn't dare lose the lives of all his companions, Brainiac wouldn't lose his collection etc. But Lex would risk the lives of every single man, woman and child on the planet, if it meant he could kill Superman.
And if these films are only 2 hours, I'm already disappointed.