After months of speculation, and pretty much nothing 100% confirmed about DC/Warner Bros’ mind-blowingly ambitious comic book extravaganza (that still may or may not be called BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN) we now know who’ll be playing Lex Luthor. That man is Jesse Eisenberg. Yes, the inhumanly fast-talking curly smartass from THE SOCIAL NETWORK, ZOMBIELAND and NOW YOU SEE ME.

It’s certainly a brave choice. I must admit, I’m really pleased they went with a more youthful incarnation of Superman’s arch-nemesis. It’s pretty neat that Eisenberg is the same age as current Superman Henry Cavill, which puts them both in pleasing contrast with a more weathered and experienced (in both real and Hollywood life) figure in the form of Ben Affleck’s Batman.

I can also see Eisenberg strutting around with that slightly nervous energy of his, and defeating the opposition with his mental rather than physical prowess, which has always been one of Lex Luthor’s key character traits. I wonder if he’ll be echoing Mark Zuckerberg’s path to a fortune, through guile and brutality, or whether a fat inheritance is involved.

It’s the first time on screen that we’ve had a young Lex. Most famously in three of the four 70s/80s films he was of course portrayed by a hammy Gene Hackman, who was over 20 years older than the Superman standing in his way, Christopher Reeve. Then less than a decade ago in SUPERMAN RETURNS we had Kevin Spacey doing a Gene Hackman impression, again 20 years older than Brandon Routh playing Superman. In previous films, Luthor has always been a vain middle-aged egomaniac obsessed with bettering a living god who doesn’t even have to try to be extraordinary. This time round, a far younger Luthor seems to be up against a glimpse of what he’ll likely become in a middle-aged (and probably bitter and tired) billionaire Bruce Wayne, and what he wants to become (or use for his own ends) in a naïve demi-god who hasn’t quite decided which way to aim his considerable powers.

It’s going to be a film of interesting thematic contrasts at least, and I’m intrigued by what Jesse Eisenberg can do with the role. I just hope the brief of “young Luthor” doesn’t simply lead to carbon-copying Michael Rosenbaum’s take in SMALLVILLE. I don’t think it will – Eisenberg is too smart a performer for that.

The big question is, will he fully commit to bald-baddieness and shave his bonce like Spacey and Rosenbaum, or bottle it and wear wigs and skull-caps like Hackman? OK, it’s not really a big question, I just want to see a de-curled Jesse Eisenberg.

In other news, Jeremy Irons is Alfred. I’m just off to smile myself to sleep at that thought, even if I’m undecided at this point about the Lex casting. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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