Too Much Fun wrote:
And yet, in the movies, he was repeatedly portrayed as being ambitious about real estate more than anything else, including science and politics. I wonder where that idea came from.
It was a cute running gag that lead to some funny lines for the Gene Hackman interpretation for the character, but bringing it back for the Kevin Spacey version was lame.
In the Reeve films, I think it was really just the first two (which were written back-to-back as essentially a single 2-part story) where Lex was concerned with acquiring land. And I think that probably arose because it was a way to motivate his scheme to topple most of the West Coast into the ocean, which was probably picked because it was a big enough scheme to be worthy of Superman and because it touched on timely fears like nuclear weapons and the destructive potential of the San Andreas Fault. So they probably started with the villainous scheme and worked backward from there to come up with Luthor's justification for it. And his desire for a country to rule in S2 was just a continuation of that, as well as being a pretty standard trope (a character backing a potential world conqueror in exchange for being given a minor kingdom of his own). When Luthor returned in S4, as far as I recall, his goal was simply to kill Superman.
As for Superman Returns
, bringing the "land grabbing" motivation back was just part of the movie's excessive imitation of the Donner films. So I wouldn't call it a running gag; it was something that was established as part of the character in the single work that encompasses Superman
and Superman II
(as scripted), and was then imitated by a single later work that was basically a very expensive fanfic.