Monday Morning Critic – Why Jesse Eisenberg Is The Best Possible Choice For Lex Luthor In Man of Steel 2: Batman vs. Superman

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Author’s Note: This was written before word of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death came about. I’ll have something to write about that in the near future.

The interesting thing about Friday is that it gave us some exceptional news about the casting of Batman vs. Superman, the informal title (for lack of a better word) for the Man of Steel sequel set to cast Ben Affleck as the new Batman opposite Henry Cavill’s return as Superman. Jesse Eisenberg will join the cast as Superman’s archrival Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons brings in the classy British swag as Alfred, Batman’s butler and man servant.

Irons is a no brainer, I think, because you need someone dignified and British in the plus 50 category for Alfred and Irons is as classy sounding as it gets. Outside of Michael Caine there aren’t too many other actors of similar status you could have for the role. Irons is a perfect fit, much like Caine was, but Eisenberg at first glance is a hilarious casting for all the wrong reasons.

My first thought was “Woody Allen lite as Lex Luthor?” I felt like Ron Burgundy when they announced it.

It’s shocking because everyone incorrectly presumed that the front runner was Bryan Cranston, coming off a brilliant finale to Breaking Bad and being able to pull off bald, evil guy in his sleep. Cranston is at his career peak right now and this would be easy transition into film roles full time for him. “Superman vs. Heisenberg” felt compelling because Cranston is finally getting his due as a tremendous actor and “Superman from the neurotic guy who talks about his bowels in Zombieland” feels like an intergalactic letdown by comparison.

I mean the easy joke is to discuss Lex Luthor changing Superman’s Facebook password and whatnot, of course, but that’s what Twitter and hack comedy writers are for. Me, I tend to think that this could be an amazing casting decision in retrospect. Heath Ledger was sharply criticized for getting cast as the Joker for The Dark Knight and that turned out beautifully, of course, and this could be a similarly brilliant decision. Why?

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Eisenberg is designed to be the perfect foil for Henry Cavill. Both guys are so profoundly different as actors, and built so differently, that it makes sense to cast someone completely opposite. And I can see why Cranston ultimately didn’t get the part; ultimately we’d have wanted him to play it like Walter White and it’s take away from the greatness that was Breaking Bad a little bit to see him break out a similar character for Man of Steel 2: Electric Bugaloo.

We’d want him to basically just be Walter White again and that’d be no fun on a number of levels. Bryan Cranston can’t recreate that sort of magic and we shouldn’t want him to, either. There’s no other way he could really play Luthor with a ton of meaning, either, as Cranston is at his best when he gets to go dark. And all of the guys rumored to be in the mix for Luthor were interesting as well, but not quite so much as Eisenberg.

Idris Elba and Denzel Washington were heavily rumored, with Washington a #1 choice of the studio at one point. If memory holds Bill Murray and Joaquin Phoenix joined Cranston as potential candidates for Superman’s arch nemesis as well at some point and didn’t get the role. Everyone they considered was established in a profound degree in comparison to Cavill; they’d look like a real rival in better ways than Eisenberg is on the surface. Cavill’s a bit younger than nearly all of them, as well, thus if you’re continuing the “Superman is learning how to be Superman” overall story that Man of Steel established it makes sense to have an older, more veteran arch-nemesis.

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It’d be the same with Elba, Washington or any of the other choices. You’d have someone who’s got the sort of big screen persona to hold their own with someone like Superman. It’d be cliche, as well, to have another sort of big powerful personality on screen alongside Cavill, Affleck, et al. Considering they had Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe in the first film it wouldn’t be all that much of a shock.

That’s why Eisenberg makes a ton more sense than any of those guys on distinct and profound level: because it goes against the grain in every way that matters. It’s a decidedly anti-tradition pick for the following reason: it’s the role Eisenberg was made for.

No one will ever confuse Eisenberg with having a huge personality or a powerful presence on camera. He’s a new generation’s Woody Allen avatar, a neurotic sniveling little guy who reminds everyone of one specific type of person. Eisenberg’s screen persona reminds you of the guy that trash talks you to every girl at a party when you’re at a party, hoping to tear you down and make himself look like a more reasonable choice of companionship. You want to punch him in the mouth for a lot of good reasons but don’t because that’s assault.

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Making Lex Luthor into this brilliant coward, formulating schemes to try and take down someone he wishes he could be, is exceptionally brilliant on any number of levels.

Eisenberg next to Cavill on screen will give you everything you need to know about them immediately on a pure, physical level. Eisenberg is an average guy who’s a little on the skinny side and Cavill, when he’s working out and “eating a lot” to get his Superman physique, looks like a Greek God next to him. He’ll look like the guy who can’t win by playing fair, who has to break the rules and be that sniveling little coward to try and take down the Man of Steel.

Everything you’ll need to know about why Eisenberg has a distaste for this guy, and why Cavill is the good guy, will come through on a superficial level if done well enough. We know Superman is the hero, of course, and Eisenberg plotting some scheme to kill Superman and rule the world (or set him up to be taken care of by Batffleck) works on a much more visceral level. A big powerful and charismatic actor like Idris Elba, for example, looks like a rival trying to do something.

A little twerp with a mean streak trying to take down this genuinely decent superhero … that’s something that could be a lot more fun and dangerous. And that’s why the Oscar nominated Jesse Eisenberg is the best choice for the role.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

From elsewhere in the Inside Pulse Network:

Travis wrote about That Awkward Moment, which you can read here. He’s on par with its assessment.

A couple of my own DVD reviews: Carrie and Force of Execution.

Mike Noyes disliked Paranoia.

Brendan Campbell chats about Bad Grandpa.

And now on MMC … we DANCE!

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – Drug War
Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is a meth dealer who makes Walter White look like an amateur. When he gets caught he gets a deal: turn in his entire operation or get the death penalty. Drug War follows Choi in the 24 hours after his deal as he works with the cops and tries to double cross everyone and get away from it all.

This is an interesting Hong Kong crime film, for sure, and remarkably violent. It’s a violent crime film and a wild ride through a day in the life of someone who is trying not to be a rat … after having agreed to become one.

Mildly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

The Lego Movie – Legos and stuff, I suppose.

Skip it – If you have kids it’ll keep them occupied … but this looks pretty awful.

Monuments Men – George Clooney does an Ocean’s 11 but in World War 2.

See It – It’s interesting to see that this film has gone from being trailer’d as a wacky action comedy to a more straight action thriller. That doesn’t bode well … but it hopefully should at least be interesting.

Vampire Academy – Vampires in high school? The trailer is really awful.

Skip it – Everything about this screams terrible.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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