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Sci-Fi Fridays, Episode 4: The Pros and Cons of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor

lex luthor

About a week or so ago, news broke that The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg was tapped to play Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film. Immediately after the announcement, scores of fans unloaded their anger and disappointment on Twitter and other social media platforms, completely shocked by the out-of-left-field casting choice made by Warner Bros. Maybe the backlash wasn’t the “pitchfork and torch” catastrophe that Ben Affleck endured after it was revealed he would be the new face behind the Bat Mask, but there certainly is a lot of animosity in the air regarding this curveball decision. I’m going to provide everyone with a forum to voice their own opinions, but not before first dishing out what I consider to be a fair weighing of the pros and cons of this casting move. Without further ado, let’s look at the positives and negatives surrounding the choice to cast Academy Award-nominee Jesse Eisenberg as one of the most renowned comic book villains ever.

Pros:

1. A young actor is needed for an Origin Story — A supervillain doesn’t just become one overnight, right? Part of the reason why Lex Luthor has never been a compelling on-screen villain is because he always feels like a convenient antagonist instead of a necessary one. A mad scientist whose brain proves to be the perfect weapon against Superman’s brawn is a nice concept on paper, but it doesn’t really connect the two on a deeper, more intriguing level. Now if they both are the same age, dealing with the same stress of managing their unique powers in a society that doesn’t appreciate such gifts, an unspoken bond would instantly form between the two rivals and subsequently enrich their antagonistic relationship. A great movie villain has to be, in many ways, a darker reflection of the hero themselves. Moreover, since Luthor’s villainy wasn’t with him since birth, we’d need a young Luther in order to see what events transpired that turned him into the brilliant madman he eventually became. Therefore, casting young does make sense if character background is what fans are after.

2. Unexpected casting choices have usually turned out great — Be it Anne Hathaway as Catwoman or Heath Ledger as The Joker in Christoper Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, oddball casting choices from the outset have usually panned out favorably. The reason for this is the surprise factor that comes while watching their performance. It’s not a “surprise” that the actor can act the part out well; it’s the surprise that comes from realizing the actor adds greater complexity to a character everyone thought they had pegged down. I firmly believe Eisenberg would have no problem etching out the familiar traits of Lex Luthor if need be, but it’s what he’ll bring to the table that we won’t expect that will have us viewing the character in a completely different light. That’s where the ultimate excitement lies.

3. Physically speaking, he’s the perfect contrast to “The Man of Steel” — This may be a very superficial line of reasoning, but thematically it fits quite well. Eisenberg’s scrawny, lanky physique further emphasizes the dichotomous relationship he has with Superman, played by the buff and broad-shouldered Henry Cavill. Look, we’ve seen various iterations of Luthor throughout the years, and all of them have a confident air about them that in no way finds fault with their physical appearance. I’m not saying that Eisenberg’s Luthor should be self-conscious about his less-than-impressive physique, but there should be an unspoken jealousy Luthor harbors towards Superman concerning the qualities the titular hero has that Luthor, quite frankly, never will.

Can Jesse Eisenberg take on these two caped defenders of justice?
Can Jesse Eisenberg take on these two caped defenders of justice?

Cons:

1. Lex Luthor could turn into Mark Zuckerburg 2.0 — If last year’s Now You See Me was any indication, it looks like Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg impression in The Social Network is becoming a go-to trait in recent works. I fear the young star is becoming typecast, with each role he lands expected to highlight the aforementioned smarmy, pompous, cocky, smart-alecky performance that garnered Eisenberg his first and only Oscar nod. Just like how not everyone wants to see Hans Landa in every role Christoph Waltz tackles aside from The Academy, nobody is itching to see Eisenberg unleash his Zuckerberg nerd-snob mannerisms in every single movie he stars in. Such repetition demonstrates incredibly small range and it makes for a rather predictable (read: boring) viewing experience. If such shenanigans occur in Batman vs. Superman, you can bet critics and fanboys will hit the internet like it’s hunting season.

2. Eisenberg doesn’t have the “likability factor” — Yep, you read that right. A successful comic book villain has to exude at least a small amount of charm or charisma in order be considered a fascinating watch. Eisenberg has played the lead in several films, but can you honestly say you were genuinely rooting for his character to succeed? Okay, I’ll cave to Adventureland, but there’s something a bit cold about Eisenberg’s acting style that doesn’t exactly motivate one to cheer from the sidelines. The great comic book movie villains have always been ones we’ve “loved to hate,” not just plain hated. I fear the latter might be the case with Eisenberg as the very bald yet imposing Lex Luthor.

3. Sometimes looking too young can be distracting — I mentioned in the “pro” section that a young person should play Luthor, but that doesn’t mean Luthor’s fundamental maturity should be lost. Certain young actors feel like adult performers; they exude experience and sophistication, qualities that Luthor has in spades. When I look at Eisenberg, all I see is a young college kid who’d look awkward in a suit and tie get-up. No role Eisenberg has played has changed this perspective, sad as that may be to admit. Therefore, there’s a believability factor lacking when I try to envision Eisenberg as the sturdy and supremely confident supervillain that can thwart Superman at any turn.

So now I turn to you, oh faithful readers. Dispense your thoughts below and don’t hesitate to list your own “pros” and “cons” in regards to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The comment section awaits you!

What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Joseph Braverman

My name is Joseph Braverman. I am 31 years old and a graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. I love watching and analyzing films and television shows. I live in Los Angeles, CA, enmeshing myself in the movie industry scene in any way possible. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @JBAwardsCircuit.

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