One of the baddies for the Man of Steel sequel — though apparently not the Big Bad — has been officially named and cast: Lex Luthor will be played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is probably best-known for playing boy genius Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.
Eisenberg received an Oscar nomination for best actor for that 2010 Facebook-based film, and has been a standout in films like Zombieland and Adventureland and several movies without “land” in their names, such as The Squid and the Whale and last year’s heist movie Now You See Me.
In a statement released today by Warner Bros., director Zack Snyder said:
“Lex Luthor is often considered the most notorious of Superman’s rivals, his unsavory reputation preceding him since 1940. 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.”
My gut reaction is surprise. Although Eisenberg is a fine actor, he “reads” very young — even though he is 30 years old (the same age as Henry “Superman” Cavill). I’m thinking the temptation will be to portray Lex as a “boy genius” or “enfant terrible,” and I think that would sap the character of the gravitas he deserves. (Not that previous Superman films have done him any great service.)
Still, I’m willing to wait and see what Eisenberg does with the role. If nothing else, this certainly will be Lex Luthor as we’ve never seen him before. Well, unless you count SMALLVILLE…