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Will Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in 'Batman vs. Superman' Invigorate the Franchise?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 31, 2014 at 5:16PM

I have no problem with this morning's news that Jesse Eisenberg is set to play Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder's "Batman vs. Superman," and Jeremy Irons will take over fellow senior Brit Michael Caine's role as Bat butler Alfred. At least--as the vociferous Twitter reaction indicates--Eisenberg represents a change-up in the next "Superman" movie.
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Jesse Eisenberg at Sundance 2014
Jesse Eisenberg at Sundance 2014
Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons

I have no problem with this morning's news that Jesse Eisenberg is set to play Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder's "Batman vs. Superman," and Jeremy Irons will take over fellow senior Brit Michael Caine's role as Bat butler Alfred.

At least--as the vociferous Twitter reaction indicates--Eisenberg represents a change-up in the next "Superman" movie. If we must return to this all-too familiar villain--played by a bald Kevin Spacey in Bryan Singer's much-criticized 2006 "Superman Returns"-- at least let it be a radical interpretation. Eisenberg can thank his chilly brainiac roles in "The Social Network" and "Now You See Me" for landing this one.

I'd like to think that Warner Bros. will improve on Zack Snyder and David Goyer's last by the numbers "Superman" outing, "Man of Steel" ($630 million worldwide is not as much as it sounds for a $225-million-plus production) which veered too far toward jam-packed action, but I remain skeptical. Adding Ben Affleck as Batman is a sign that they recognize that they need to add heft to young Superman Henry Cavill. 

Should we bank on Affleck's professed admiration for this script? He tells Playboy:

"I don't want to give away too much, but the idea for the new Batman is to redefine him in a way that doesn't compete with the Bale and Chris Nolan Batman but still exists within the Batman canon. It will be an older and wiser version, particularly as he relates to Henry Cavill's Superman character. It was a unique take on Batman that was still consistent with the mythology. It made me excited. All of a sudden I had a reading of the character. When people see it, it will make more sense than it does now or even than it did to me initially... If I thought the result would be another 'Daredevil,' I'd be out there picketing myself. Why would I make the movie if I didn't think it was going to be good and that I could be good in it?"

Wisely, the new Warners team has pushed the release date back to May 6, 2016. No need to rush on this one. Get it right.

This article is related to: News, Batman, Zack Snyder, Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.