Few upcoming movies have garnered as much hype as the (still?!) untitled Warner Bros. “Superman-Batman” movie. Set for a May 6, 2016 release, this film seems to have it all: superheroes, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder, and Henry Cavill. Considering the fact that Man of Steel grossed $668 million worldwide, its sequel seems poised to enjoy similar box office success. However, a series of recent casting decisions, culminating in today’s announcement that Jesse Eisenberg will be playing Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor, have triggered some serious backlash.
Fans were initially caught off guard when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. The subsequent announcement that the role of Wonder Woman would be played by Gal Gadot, a relatively unknown Israeli actress, raised more than a few eyebrows. But today’s Lex Luthor decision was the Internet’s final straw. Lex Luthor is a powerful, psychopathic billionaire—a mere mortal with enough perverse confidence to take on the man of steel. Jesse Eisenberg, who has garnered critical acclaim by playing a series of man-children in indie flicks such as Adventureland, doesn’t exactly exude a comic book villain vibe.
Director Zack Snyder defended the decision in his casting statement: “Lex Luthor is often considered the most notorious of Superman’s rivals, his unsavory reputation preceding him since 1940.” Snyder continued, “What’s great about Lex is that he exists beyond the confines of the stereotypical nefarious villain. He’s a complicated and sophisticated character whose intellect, wealth and prominence position him as one of the few mortals able to challenge the incredible might of Superman. Having Jesse in the role allows us to explore that interesting dynamic, and also take the character in some new and unexpected directions.”
Diehard fans are justifiably disinclined to welcome Eisenberg into the cast—after all, Lex Luthor as a neurotic, fast-talking 30-year-old who doesn’t even have the balls to ask Kristen Stewart on a date is a hard pill to swallow. To use a term that Internet comic book nerds will understand, it does sort of seem like the casting directors behind the “Superman-Batman” movie are trolling.
But the dissatisfied Internet hordes should take a deep breath and re-watch The Social Network, which features Eisenberg’s biggest role to date. The actor played young Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg like a pro, and even earned an Oscar nomination in the process. Of course, Eisenberg will be pushing himself outside of his comfort zone with this new, challenging role. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg was an ambitious, psychologically complex smartass who fought perfect genetic specimens in his quest to take over the world. In this totally different movie, Eisenberg will have to stretch his acting muscles to convincingly play a psychologically complex smartass who fights perfect genetic specimens in his quest to take over the world. Already, some fans have started to come around to the creative casting, taking to Twitter to voice their approval and urge fellow diehards to stand down.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. also announced today that Jeremy Irons will play the role of Alfred, Batman’s trusted butler, mentor, and friend. But he’s old so nobody’s tweeting about it.