Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Published 7 months ago by

Lex Luthor Jesse Eisenberg Batman Superman Discussion Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Well, comic book movies fans who feared that the business of blockbuster shared universes meant the loss of surprises or unexpected twists can rest east: the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman vs. Superman proves that all bets are off.

Now that fans have had time to do what they always do when a casting announcement is made – react loudly, vehemently, and passionately, like any good fan would – we thought we’d weigh in on the issue. That begins with asking a simple question: Even if Eisenberg is younger, smaller, and hairier than the most famous depictions of Superman’s nemesis, could the casting work?

We’ve already made our arguments explaining why there may be far more than meets the eye with the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and feel that the tone of some naysayers dismissing Eisenberg entirely must be addressed. The proof is in the final film, but it’s hard to make the case that this casting already amounts to “disaster.”

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This Isn’t The Same Old Lex

Lex Luthor Gene Hackman Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

The first issue that has to be addressed is the image that comes to mind when a casual comic book fan hears the name Lex Luthor. On film, there is little debate that Gene Hackman provided the most memorable turn as the villainous billionaire, due partly to the success of the overall film with critics and fans alike (although we’d also point out that Hackman refused to shave his head for the part, so criticizing Eisenberg’s non-bald scalp is somewhat misinformed).

For many, Hackman’s portrayal of the villain in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978) was a perfect encapsulation of the Luthor they had known from the earlier comic books: a billionaire genius with an evil lust for more wealth, and a hatred for the goodness and social justice Superman stood for.

The problem with that characterization is that it is about as ‘comic book’ a villain as can be imagined. It may have worked with audiences at the time, but comic book movie storytelling has come a long way since then – and it has been comic book storytelling that has led the way.

Lex Luthor Superman Birthright Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Comic book writers have given Lex Luthor a variety of motivations and relatable personality traits over the past few decades, all in an effort to make the figure not one of pure evil, but a man whose goals could be understood by actual human beings. Several writers have explored the idea, but few better (or more potentially relevant for Snyder’s upcoming sequel) than Mark Waid’s “Superman: Birthright.”

The 2004 graphic novel offered a new origin story for Superman, informed by modern sensibilities, and with significant changes meant to make Superman (and every other character in the story) a more realistic and recognizable one. It was “Birthright” which argued that Superman’s ‘S’ meant ‘hope’ in Kryptonian, that his role as Earth’s protector would come after years of journeying, and that people would be all-too-ready to fear an outsider, even a well-intentioned one.

Those who saw Snyder’s Man of Steel can attest to the fact that Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer followed Waid’s lead in many respects, so there’s serious reason to suspect that they would do the same in developing their idea of Lex Luthor, billionaire industrialist.

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

“Birthright” introduced a Luthor who was the child of an unhappy home. But Lex Luthor was nothing if not a true genius, in every sense of the word. The children around him loathed his ability to memorize a library’s entire contents, grasp theoretical physics and improve upon them, and the people of Smallville looked with suspicion at a boy devoid of the social skills that loving parents would have taught.

Lex Luthor was an outsider among his own people, embodying all of the intellectual aspirations of humanity’s brightest figures, but lacking the moral compass of a Kansas farm boy. The result was a best friend to Clark Kent that made sense: both were incapable of fitting in, both lacked a connection to society, and both were forced to find a way to give their lives meaning.

The difference was that Clark had the Kents; Lex had no one. So while Clark found meaning in family, and the sense of giving and charity they instilled, Lex chose to embrace the fear of lesser minds and drag humanity kicking and screaming into the future; he would be a modern Da Vinci – even if it was only history that would appreciate him.

Lex Luthor Superman Man of Steel Rumors Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Besides making Lex Luthor something of a tragic figure for both readers and Superman himself, the twist on the one-note villain made him a better fit among history’s most influential, most well-regarded, but often most unkind and uncompromising leaders. And other writers took note.

In Brian Azzarello’s limited “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel” series, he took the next step: positioning Lex as Metropolis’ real hero, not Superman. In Luthor’s eyes, he was the pinnacle of human intellect, authority, and leadership while the alien from another world that had people bowing and cheering was mankind’s greatest enemy, not its hero.To Lex, the questions were clear: how would mankind ever progress if someone was there to help them?

If Superman could be relied upon to solve their greatest problems, how could they advance to the point of solving them for themselves? Superman was a demigod trying to ‘help’ humanity because it was weak, and while people would be sad to see him fall, it was better in the long run.

Lex Luthor Casting Discussion Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Azzarello’s case was a hard one to disagree with, making the relationship between the two all the more fascinating, since both believed they were doing what was best for the world. Waid’s origin story for Lex made him a tragic figure who better reflected why Superman ended up as good a person as he did, and the mythology benefited as a result.

It was director Bryan Singer who chose not to take their lead when he made Superman Returns (2006), casting Kevin Spacey as the new villain, but keeping all elements of Hackman’s portrayal intact. Luthor was, once again, out for nothing more than money and power, and willing to kill billions of innocent people in the process. In other words, an uninteresting bad guy.

Even now, Singer admits that if he had the chance to do it all over again, he might choose to do a reboot as opposed to a spiritual sequel to an outdated story. Spacey’s performance may have been strong enough to rise above criticism, but there’s no question his simple evil makes him a better fit among Marvel’s murderous villains who valued money or power over all else – Red Skull, Malekith, Iron Monger, the Mandarin – than those Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder seem to be after.

Lex Luthor Armor Suit Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

It’s foolish to assume that DC and Warner Bros. will suddenly decide to break the trend of villains – Rha’s al Ghul, the Joker, General Zod – who aren’t simply evil and present strong philosophical outlooks. Like it or not, they’re all committed – something Man of Steel proved. Having the classic, power-hungry, spiteful, megalomaniac billionaire Lex Luthor walk into this movie universe simply wouldn’t fit.

The bottom line is that fans looking to previous film appearances of Luthor are likely seeing versions of the character that Snyder and Goyer aren’t too interested in copying. And if they’re pointing to the source material that those versions of the character drew from, Snyder and Goyer have shown they’re not doing the same.

Will Jesse Eisenberg’s ‘Lex Luthor’ be bald? He doesn’t have to be, since Hackman’s wasn’t. Will he be getting into a giant suit of armor to pummel Supes into submission? Probably not, since fans already complained that the same type of fight in Man of Steel dragged on far too long. The only certainty is that Lex will be more believable a figure this time around, meaning he’ll need to be different from previous versions.

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NEXT PAGE: Acting Ability…

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TAGS: batman vs superman, superman

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  1. You know something, I’m betting most of you never read the comics, that’s why you could care less. I’ll bet if some white guy played Shaft, people would go apes#*t!

  2. While at first I was really taken aback and thought “what the heck were they thinking?”, after reading this article I’m OK with the decision, if they can pull it off well. Also accepting Affleck as Batman, but I still can’t fathom Gadot being good as WW. Haha, I guess 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

    • This movie will be pure s%*t

  3. “He’ll be a more believable character” right cause their tons of billionare twenty year olds

    • …as opposed to there being a lot of extremely evil business who fight aliens?

      Not to mention that Jesse is in his 30′s, same age as Kal in this…

    • Never heard of Mark Zuckerberg I take it?

  4. It’s funny, when I hear the name Jessie Eisenberg being in a Superman movie I think of Jimmy Olson. Zack Snyder thinks of Lex Luthor. His casting was great in Watchmen and 300. Was he drunk when he made these decisions?

    This clearly is what will happen will you rush a project. Mistake after mistake waiting to happen. And yes, I admit that maybe with an outstanding script, the movie could be a hit, but the fact that they made Luthor twenty five with hair, and gave us a Wonder Woman that can’t act, and considered having WW come from Krypton???

    I can’t believe there are still people out there insisting this movie might be okay.

    • How can you say that this project was rushed? If anything it has been dragging its feet since day one. The people who insist that this movie could be okay are trying to be optimistic in the face of the constant negativity that is thrown out at every turn Warner/DC takes. Could there have been better casting? Possibly, but if we don’t know the story that the movie is telling then we can’t say this actor would have been a better Lex or this guy should have been Batman with 100% certainty.

    • Dude, #1 Eisenberg is 30, the same age as Cavill. #2The WW from Krypton stuff is not something that was ever considered. It originated with the editor of Batman on Film who offered it up as a mere thought of his own, not based on anything he knew. As for WW herself, Gadot hasn’t been in enough films to know whether or not she can act. So the jury is out there. #3 We have no idea whether or not this version of Luthor will have hair or not.

      Pass a real judgement when you actually see something on screen.

      • For the record? Eisenberg WILL keep his hair.

        And if the product isn’t rushed? Why are so many superheroes suddenly appearing in part 2? Why not make a solo WW movie before squeezing her into a Man of Steel sequel?

        I know many have been waiting for this movie impatiently. I’m one of them. However, I’m also realistic. I’m not getting my hopes up only to have them shot down by the time the end credits begin to roll.

        • I’m assuming Wonder Woman will be in the movie because the story calls for it not just because they could. Also the news about Wonder Woman being in the film was released in 2013. That’s 2 years before the original release date. I don’t see how that qualifies as suddenly appearing. The reason for not doing a Wonder Woman solo movie is that it is too big of a risk. DC/WB is trying to begin a whole new universe and are not able to take that risk right now. They need to make money off their bankable stars (Batman & Superman) before they can take that risk.

          • Point taken. However, DC has themselves to blame. They depend on Superman and Batman way too much. I still say they should have a solo WW movie first.

            I think I speak for many, when I say we are fed up with those two characters and would like to see someone new. We’ve already seen six Superman films and eight Batman films. Isn’t that enough?

            Green Lantern was a refreshing change of pace. True the movie didn’t do well, but that’s what happens when you cast wrong. And I still have many doubts about the casting for this movie as well.

            Aside from the casting, DC has so many fascinating characters but never use them. I would love to see a Flash, Aquaman, or even a movie about Vigilante from the 80′s. Hell, a Spectre movie could be insane! Especially with the effects we can do now!

            • I understand that you want a Wonder Woman solo movie first, but with all the failure to get the character a movie in the past it just seems like too big of a risk without first introducing the character in Man of Steel 2.

              I know that we’ve seen a lot of Superman and Batman movies but in this cinematic universe there is only one Superman movie that exist. While I would like to see new heroes (Nightwing, Aquaman, or another Green Lantern) I know that we can’t until they use their money making heroes.

              Green Lantern’s problems went past just the casting. There was a lot wrong with that movie.

              I too want to see some different DC characters on the big screen, but that won’t happen if they can’t get their cinematic universe off the ground and that starts with Batman & Superman.

              • True, GL had several things wrong with it. And maybe having a cameo in MOS 2 may be the only solution, but there’s no denying there’s a huge demand to see her on the big screen. Which you think DC would find encouraging. There’s even a fan made trailer that I think is awesome.

                I think if DC is going to go down that road, they should do what Marvel did. Just give us a little glimpse and then the solo film.

                Thor wasn’t too popular among Super Heroes and after the Captain America flop in 1990 and the Hulk from 2003, I’m sure Marvel was afraid to take a risk as well.

                Hopefully, DC will gradually introduce new characters instead of jamming them together in one or two movies.

                In fact, maybe a well known character isn’t the answer. Perhaps DC should make a movie with a hero we’re unfamiliar with. (And yes, I remember Jonah Hex)lol

                Either way, it’s hard to predict the outcome. But with a good script and good casting, I believe a movie could be a hit regardless which hero it’s about.

                Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

            • A Spectre movie would be killer!

  5. They’re squeezing her in cause they got no faith in the character

  6. Whichever true or rumor, this movie will be a waste of time and money. Ours and theirs!

  7. If appearances do not matter, then why does the height of the male actor matter ?

  8. Cause they’re not meant to be eye candy for the public.

  9. I
    h a v e n o p e n i s

  10. This shall indeed be interesting to watch,
    whether its a flop or a complete success.

  11. Am I the only who thinks Jesse Eiseberng’actions and actitudes as Mark Zuckenberg in the “Social Network were like thing than Lex Luthor could do?…. LOL.

    • That’s what I first thought of when I learned of Eisenberg’s casting. :)

  12. Okay i really dont mind them trying something new… but i have to be Honest i love the Batfleck idea and i know hell be great i love Cavils Sup and i think even though gal gadot isnt fitting as the role of wonderwomand ill give it a try because i really loved her in the FFF so thats that but i just cant take Eisenberg seriously i dont like his acting and never liked any of his movies, so i know hell never make a great Luthor and even if in the big run hell make it ill still not like it sry but thats my opinion i dont like eisenberg and think hell be a bad luthor….

  13. I personally think he will be perfect! I think he can pretty much devour any role given to him and shine. I particularly love this article explaining the reasons that I think are spot on! And loving these characters through the years when only comics were read and no movies were made. I embrace the ability to take a character, change it but give it the depth that is needed to reflect the essence of what it should portray. Perfect example…Heath Ledger on the Joker! An amazing dark and psychotic portrayal of a villain that outshine the “Good’guy”/Hero. This is the type of acting ability and creativity I am hoping to see in his portrayal and I can’t wait!!

  14. Having Jesse portray Lex is probably the worst idea I have ever heard. Lex is pure evil and totally BALD!!!! I don’t care what they say ….shave his damn head!! This really bothers me!! I’ve always been a fan of the villians and for Zach Snider to totally mess up a movie that has such great potential such as this one, it really bothers me. Do it right Zach!!!

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