×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor: Miscast or Inspired Choice?

Reporters debate the choice of "The Social Network" star

The announcement from Warner Bros. today that Jesse Eisenberg had been cast as Lex Luthor in the untitled Superman-Batman sequel scheduled for 2016 was met with howls from the blogosphere.

But in this case, the Internet might actually have a point. Eisenberg, who received an Oscar nomination for playing Mark Zuckerberg in 2010’s “The Social Network,” doesn’t exactly scream evil comicbook villain. And he’s a departure from other names that had been floated for the role, such as “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston.

Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh and Justin Kroll debate the pros and cons of casting Eisenberg in the much-anticipated tentpole opposite Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman.

Ramin Setoodeh: Do the citizens of Metropolis even use Facebook? The decision to cast Eisenberg as Luthor is unexpected, to say the least, and combine that with Affleck as Batman, and I’m a little worried about the future of WB’s “Man of Steel” franchise. (By the way, unlike the critics, I loved the first outing starring Cavill, which came out last summer.) I guess what concerns me most is what you’ll get when you combine the normally good-natured Eisenberg with Zach Synder’s uneven directing.

Synder has been known to put his special effects above his actors (see 2009’s “Watchmen” or 2011’s “Sucker Punch”), which is why the younger stars in his films usually get washed out. Bryan Cranston was previously rumored to be up for Luther, and I think that would have been a much better choice. I could even see his “Breaking Bad” co-star Aaron Paul in the part. But Zuckerberg — I mean Eisenberg — wouldn’t be my top pick.

Justin Kroll: Well, at least we agree on one thing, because I also enjoyed “Man of Steel.” For the first time, Snyder allowed his actors to be at the forefront. A perfect example of that is the scenes with Kevin Costner as Clark Kent’s father, where the human story is the important part, and not the action. I think it shows Snyder’s maturing as a director.

Now that I’ve said that, I think this is a great outside-the box-casting decision by Warner Bros. Eisenberg isn’t a terrifying, menacing figure like Heath Ledger’s Joker or Michael Shannon’s General Zod, but remember, neither was Gene Hackman when he played Luthor in the first “Superman.” Luthor isn’t supposed to be that. He is the person behind the curtain, the man pulling the strings. When you first meet him, you don’t expect him to be the evil being that he is.

RS: But I wouldn’t consider Costner playing Clark’s father a stretch. You could see how that performance would take shape. There’s a difference between taking a risk in casting and casting a movie that feels disjointed, and for the new Superman-Batman, I fear the worst.

Let’s also remember that Luthor, a crazy scientist, has always been played on the big screen (starting with Lyle Talbot in 1950’s “Atom Man vs. Superman,” Hackman in Richard Donner’s 1978 “Superman” and even Kevin Spacey in the underwhelming 2006 “Superman Returns”) by an actor older than Clark Kent. Eisenberg is 30 — the same age as Cavill — but he looks about 25, and he might not be physically imposing enough. And is he going to shave his head? He’ll look like he stepped right off the “Smallville” set.

JK: Look at you, dropping the Lyle Talbot’s name into the mix — I’m impressed. First, I want to make a point about the age difference, because it is a good point. In the DC universe, the Luthor-Superman storyline has gone through various interpretations and in a couple Luthor and Superman arcs, the two are the same age; in fact, in one arc, they even grew up together. Much like the Nolan “Batman” movies, WB has shown that it wants to shake things up, and I think this is a shakeup that needs to happen to separate previous “Batman” and “Superman” films from this one. While “Smallville” may have talent from the CW Network, its showrunners still knew their DC comics history.

RS: For the sake of comicbook groupies everywhere, I hope you’re right about Eisenberg. I am rooting for the movie to work, because Superman and Batman on the big screen could, and should, be an epic Hollywood blockbuster. I really hope Synder puts his characters before his CGI budget, especially since he won’t have Christopher Nolan this time helping on the script like he did on “Man of Steel.”

JK: You joked earlier when you mistakenly referred to Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and I want to touch on that. In “The Social Network,” Eisenberg is extremely unlikable, unremorseful, almost sociopathic in how he completely betrays anybody he cares about. That’s what Luthor needs to be. He needs to be someone I’m not afraid of, but someone I dislike and hate so much I want to jump into the film and throttle him myself and Eisenberg can bring that to the screen. That said, I think we can both agree Jeremy Irons is going to kick some ass playing Alfred.

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content