Around the same time, Bryan Singer, enjoying his off-time from the X-MEN franchise, pitched his ideal to a sequel/revamp of the classic Richard Donner movies and WB saw potential in the idea. Confident in Singer's solid track record, they greenlit what would become SUPERMAN RETURNS, starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey, expecting it to be a runaway hit, but it underperformed instead despite generally positive reviews.
Despite a disappointing box office and tepid audience reaction, WB greenlit a sequel to SUPERMAN RETURNS titled THE MAN OF STEEL, to be directed by Singer, who also wrote the script alongside his usual suspects, Evan Dougherty and Dan Harris, who sought to disprove people who felt SUPERMAN RETURNS didn't have enough action.
The script featured Brainiac being lured to Earth by the Kryptonite landmass that Superman hurled into space. Masquerading as a Kryptonian explorer who left Krypton prior to its destruction, Brainiac challenges Superman's role in the world by intervening on human conflicts and using his abilities and technology to cure diseases, end world hunger and other feats Superman was told to avoid by his father, Jor-El, so humanity wouldn't grow reliant on him. Now a social outcast, Superman eventually discovers Brainiac's plans to destroy Earth and has to earn back the world's trust in order to save it.
The original cast was set to return, but the project went through numerous rewrites and false starts as Singer became involved with other projects. It soon became clear that it was just treading water, but it was never riding a wave again, and THE MAN OF STEEL was soon declared dead.