Why Jesse Eisenberg is the Lex Luthor we need right now

Contributed by
Jan 31, 2014

Earlier today, Warner Bros. dropped a bomb on its comic-book fans. It made two casting announcements for its Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman. First, Jeremy Irons has been cast as Batman's confidante and butler, Alfred. That's fine by me, because let's be honest, I'd watch him sweep and do dishes any day of the week. Irons is just that good.

But Irons wasn't the problem. He's not the one who made Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the Internet, as a whole, explode. Jesse Eisenberg holds that honor, as it was confirmed that he'd play Superman's archrival, Lex Luthor. For the most part, the reactions have been either indifferent or negative. Indifferent because some people have given up on Snyder's vision, and negative because Eisenberg doesn't fit the "look" they wanted.

Personally, I'm willing to give Eisenberg a shot. Why? Because he's a ridiculously talented actor who has a lot to bring to the table, and because his type and presence give us exactly the kind of foil that works against a superhero who has been shown to be the ultimate expression of physical power. As fans, we don't know what version of Luthor the writers are going for. Does he have to be a cartoonish megalomaniac like Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey's Luthor? Or should he be an imposing guy that wears robotic battle suits in his spare time? 

When I saw Eisenberg's name, I immediately thought of Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville. His Lex Luthor started off as morally ambiguous and eventually became a slimy politician whose desire for power had no bounds. I think that's the route they could take with Eisenberg. He's very smart and quick-witted. He's in no way a physical threat to Superman, but what Luthor lacks in stature, he makes up for in intellect. 

To me, it's less about Eisenberg, and more about the script. They obviously wanted Luthor and Superman to be as different as possible. If they write Luthor as cunning and manipulative as he should be, we're in for a treat. I'd like to see him as an insecure businessman who's notorious for using intimidation tactics. He can do more damage with his words than his fists, and he doesn't need an imposing build when it's his brain that does the heavy lifting. 

Batman vs. Superman is part of a much bigger story. So we need a Lex Luthor who has an unlimited supply of Kryptonite on tap. We need a villain who hires a team of other villains to do his dirty work. We need someone so underhanded that he could bring Superman to his knees without lifting a finger. Luthor isn't some meathead off the street. He's always been a man with a plan. I like the idea of the most dangerous person being the one you least suspect. Eisenberg can give us that.

The bottom line: It's not always about the looks, but the challenge. Superman needs someone who pushes him to his breaking point, who forces him to ask for help without overpowering him. Eisenberg's shown us he can be that guy. Cue the Justice League.

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