All words: Cameron Hatheway
Comic book and movie fans had yet another series of heart attacks last Friday over the latest casting of the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” film. Warner Bros. announced the casting of Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and mentor, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Superman’s longtime nemesis and spokesperson for the Hair Club for Men of Metropolis.
The rumor for the past few months was that Bryan Cranston was in the running for Luthor, exciting many “Breaking Bad” fans, but apparently Eisenberg beat out Heisenberg when a Warner Bros. executive forgot to clean out his ears that morning. No one is bemoaning Irons as Alfred, for honestly any English actor could wear a tuxedo and instantly be transformed into the iconic butler. Known for his roles as Scar in “The Lion King” and Rodrigo Borgia in “The Borgias,” Irons has the talent needed to make Ben Affleck look like a somewhat believable Bruce Wayne.
While I can understand the hate for Eisenberg being Luthor, I can definitely see the possible direction director Zack Snyder wants to take the character and the blossoming franchise. Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s Luthors were all about real estate (underground in “Superman” and a new Kryptonian continent in “Superman Returns”) and quite frankly, not all that threatening. However, if you take a young, gawky, socially awkward Luthor and have him be a rich super genius that no one perceives as a threat until it’s too late, and then you may have the makings of an interesting movie.
In the comics, Luthor is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is he one of the smartest people in the DC Universe, but he’s also a tech savvy mastermind who has an arsenal of death at his disposal. If Snyder were to introduce Luthor’s iconic green and purple Warsuit, say, from leftover parts of Zod’s outfit, Luthor could potentially be a badass. I’m sure Eisenberg works out and has a personal trainer and all that, but every time I see him I think “weakling.” This could be a part of the new Luthor mythos: fragile prodigy who constantly wears the Warsuit for his own protection from the outside world. Add a glove containing different strains of Kryptonite, and he could be lethal.
Batman and Superman will meet, they’ll fight, then by the third act they’ll be united against a common enemy. It’s the typical comic book formula. While it’ll be brains versus brawn in the streets of Metropolis and Gotham, Luthor will probably be working in the shadows on his master plan, ultimately becoming the big baddie of the boss level.
But let’s not forget, casting for this movie has been plagued with negativity since Batffleck was announced back in August. And when Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, it was the Kobayashi Maru; make her too sexy and feminine and fans cried “sexist,” make her too buff and fans cried “too intimidating.”
The reason no one questions the casting in Marvel’s movies is because they’ve got a stellar track record for their cinematic universe. Warner Bros. and DC on the other hand, only have Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy to fall back on.
“Green Lantern” was supposed to be their “Iron Man,” being the seed that would eventually lead to a “Justice League” movie. Ryan Reynolds was a pathetic Hal Jordan, and the film suffered because of it. “Man of Steel” was their second attempt at the start of something bigger, but it too fell short and left a bad taste in fans mouths.
Not wanting to fall further behind Marvel’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier,” and “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” DC did something drastic: reboot the Batman franchise (yet again) two years after the latest film and simultaneously force a Superman sequel with Synder & David Goyer still at the helm. Marvel has Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau, DC has Snyder and Goyer. Not exactly a leveled playing field.
In the end, fans shouldn’t be worried about the quality of the casting, for it will ultimately come down to the quality of the storytelling. While Snyder made a name for himself on “Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” and “Watchmen,” it’s the movies like “Sucker Punch” and “Man of Steel” that have put him along a trajectory similar to the start of M. Night Shyamalan’s career; it started high, but now is plummeting downwards into oblivion.
And yet, Snyder is the lesser of two evils in this situation. The real threat is David S. Goyer as co-screenwriter. While he “co-wrote” “The Dark Knight” trilogy, don’t be fooled for a second that he added anything of quality to the story; that was all the Nolan brothers. Goyer is responsible for the “Blade” trilogy, “Jumper,” and the abortion that is “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.” Let’s not forget “Man of Steel,” for he and Snyder went against executive producer Christopher Nolan’s advice to not kill Zod, but did so anyways.
So expect lots of punching, lots of fancy CGI, and more destruction of cities with millions dead. As long as Warner Bros. can start production on their long-awaited “Justice League” movie, they won’t give two shits what “Batman vs. Superman” ends up being. Fans will still see it just to complain about it, then be first in line for “Justice League” a few years later.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
In the meantime, everyone calm down about this latest casting update: let’s not forget the same amount of hate was spewed Heath Ledger’s way when it was announced he was cast as the Joker. If I recall correctly, that’s still seen as one of the best comic book castings of all time.
Cameron Hatheway is the host of Cammy’s Comic Corner and Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Sonoma State STAR. You can share with him your casting choices for Lex Luthor on Twitter at @CamComicCorner.