The battle of comic book titans being promised by Warner Bros, and Zack Snyder in the upcoming Batman V Superman may sell the most tickets, but for many, the battle of morals (not muscles) between Superman and Lex Luthor is the real showdown to look forward to. With Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer re-imagining the “Superman” myth for a modern, more grounded world, it only seems right that his nemesis should receive a similar treatment.
As much as the heroes and villains of comic books have attained the status of “modern myths,” there’s no denying that the idea of a ‘malevolent businessman’ changes with the decades. It’s no surprise, then, that according to Jesse Eisenberg, efforts are being made to help Dawn of Justice‘s version of Lex Luthor exhibit a more “modern psychology” than he has had in the past.
While he owes his origins to the world of comic books, Luthor’s methods are far from fiction: scheming to acquire land while ignoring those negatively impacted, or using fear to turn public sentiment against a rival have been commonplace for centuries. But despite that, film versions of Lex have tended to be… well, detached from reality, to say the least.
Gene Hackman’s Lex seen in the Richard Donner Superman movies put millions of lives at risk out of simple greed, and as memorable as Kevin Spacey’s turn in Superman Returns may have been, he followed the same plan without batting an eye thanks to a total lack of conscience or morality. According to Eisenberg, both he and Batman V Superman‘s writers are looking to approach the antagonist a bit differently for modern audiences.
The initial casting of Eisenberg in the role of Superman’s arch nemesis took the world by surprise, but Eisenberg revealed to Total Film (via CBM) that director Zack Snyder didn’t happen upon the actor by accident:
“They asked me if I wanted to play the part before they sent me the script. I’m not sure how it worked, but it’s something I read with the understanding that I could do the role, If I… You know, they don’t just hand the scripts out. But I really liked it on its own terms. I would do it if it was for free and it was tiny.”
Eisenberg then offered insight into how complicated the notion of ‘villainy’ can be, explaining that his own father warned him that actions taken “as a means to some other end” can be just as irresponsible. While some of the modern changes being made by Zack Snyder and the writers are clear – Bruce Wayne isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty – and others are more in keeping with the comics – seen in Superman’s new suit – Lex Luthor isn’t so easy to update.
How do you make Superman’s enemy seem anything but off his rocker, or downright villainous (especially in a genre where ‘simple’ villains are accepted without question)? Eisenberg isn’t spilling details about this modern version of Lex Luthor just yet, but did hint at one reason writer Chris Terrio (Argo) was brought onto the project in recent months:
“There are some indications of how the character should behave based on the script, and then as actor makes it his or her own… I got to know one of the writers really well, Chris Terrio, and we were able to discuss things at length and figure out who this person is to create a real psychology behind what is, perhaps, in a comic book, a less than totally modern psychology. I can only say I’ve been asked to play an interesting role: a complicated, challenging person.”
Despite starring in the likes of Zombieland, The Social Network and Adventureland, Eisenberg has openly admitted that he was less than familiar with the history of Superman or Lex Luthor when he landed the role. Some might see that as enough to cast doubt upon the performance he’ll turn in, but there’s another way of viewing his lack of attachment to the source material.
As one of the few young actors in Hollywood who seems genuinely indifferent to the idea of playing a comic book villain in a big-budget blockbuster, it seems all that matters to Eisenberg is the chance to tackle an interesting role. If for no other reason than the lack of studio-approved talking points in his comments, Eisenberg’s feelings on the film’s script and production could carry more weight with those skeptical that Snyder can handle the chunk of universe-building he has bitten off:
“I’ve been in things that have been popular before… To say: ‘I can’t do that which will appear in thousands of theaters on opening day, but I can do this which will appear in this amount of theaters’… It’s arbitrary. I realize how popular comic-book movies are, and now, working on one, I realize why they’re popular – the story is really good, the dialogue is really good, the artistry behind every department is high, the acting is really good.”
What is it that you hope top see from this “really good” update to such an iconic villain? Do you think a more believable, less old-fashioned maniacal take on Luthor is a well-needed change, or are you more interested in just how much time he’ll spend on screen alongside Batman and Wonder Woman? Be sure to sound off in the comments.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives on March 25th, 2016.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for Batman V Superman updates as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.