The internet usually hates whoever is cast in upcoming superhero movies. It’s a fact of life. Superhero casting follows a pattern: 1) Announcement, 2) Fan backlash, 3) Supportive media backlash to the fan backlash, 4) The movie comes out and everyone forgets they hated that actor. We’ve seen it time and again, most famously with Heath Ledger and the Joker. It’s important to remember that no matter how virulent the nerd-rage, the weirder the casting decision the better it usually works out.
The latest target of internet fan-ire is Jesse Eisenberg, who has been cast as Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. I know, that’s a very strange sentence. Not only does Eisenberg seem like the very last person to get involved with a superhero movie, but he in no way fits the image of Lex Luthor, a middle-aged, bald, businessman. Of course the internet hates him now.
I’ve said before that each new thing learned about Batman vs. Superman (or whatever they end up titling it—Superman vs. Batman?) makes me less interested in the movie, so if nothing else, this is an interesting choice. It’s unexpected and a little head-scratchy, but it does make me want to see what Eisenberg-as-Luthor looks like. This project needed an injection of intrigue, and now they’ve got it. Plus Eisenberg is a good actor, and no matter how odd the choice may seem, you’re always better off starting with a good actor.
But I have some reservations. First and foremost, we still have the problem of this not being a real Man of Steel sequel. We really need to see the world in which Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor makes sense. But we’re skipping right over the world building in favor of getting to “Batman and Superman punch each other”. I get the feeling we’re just supposed to read the subtext of this choice—that Lex Luthor will now be a twitchy asshole type, sort of Lex Luthor by way of Mark Zuckerberg—and have that be enough. I’d like to build up Luthor as a proper villain, to take the time to learn what makes him so formidable that Superman—the all-powerful being who single-handedly shut down an alien invasion—can’t handle him. But I suspect it’s going to come down to, “Oh he’s a hacker, call Batman”.
There’s also the issue that none of these casting decisions seem to belong to the same movie. Henry Cavill & Co. is one movie (the lost Man of Steel sequel); Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Irons (cast as Batman’s butler Alfred) belong to another; and Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa are from yet another. It’s like Warner Brothers/DC is mashing three separate projects into one, and the pieces aren’t quite fitting together. That lack of cohesion doesn’t do much for my confidence in this project. I’ll withhold judgment, though, until at least getting a proper trailer. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that the greater the nerd-rage before the movie is even made, the better the final product.
Attached – Eisenberg with Mia Wasikowska on Friday, just as this new was breaking. (Lainey: Funny how that happens.)