– by David Kozlowski

Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in last year’s Batman v Superman was divisive and polarizing, to put it mildly. Many fans and media couldn’t wrap their heads around Eisenberg’s fast-talking, manipulative, and often screeching characterization, which veered wildly from past film depictions by Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman. To be honest, Eisenberg’s Luthor was closer to a Joker interpretation, moreso (arguably) than Jared Leto’s actual Joker performance in Suicide Squad (2016). I digress.

According to Batman-News, now we’re learning that Eisenberg’s presence in the upcoming Justice League movie is now a cutting-room floor casualty. (And there was much rejoicing.) We all wondered what kind of impact Joss Whedon would have on this film, and now we have a wee indication that it’s not going to be trivial.

Related – Justice League Has Apparently Screened For Some Lucky Fans

Whedon just stamped a giant thumbprint on this film, and it’s worth discussing what it (might) mean, if you’ll grant me a little rope to explain (or hang myself, as I’m known to do).

In Batman v Superman, Luthor was a Superman problem who ultimately became a Batman and Wonder Woman problem. Luthor was the film’s primary antagonist, but he never engaged the heroes directly. Luthor’s clearly not a physical threat to these heroes, so he fought them on an emotional and intellectual level… and therein lied the problem. Eisenberg’s take on Luthor didn’t sell either emotion or intellect. Not even remotely.

It’s takes a skillful writer and director to strike a balance between invisible versus tangible threats. Eisenberg’s flighty, quirky, goofy iteration simply didn’t sell menace (to me); I have similar qualms with both Spacey and Hackman. Superhero films are only as good as their villains, and Superman has always worked best (or at least better) when the threats are physical (Superman II and Man of Steel being the high-water marks).

Luthor ultimately employed Doomsday as his physical proxy, but the monster was introduced so late in the narrative that it came off as silly, uninventive, and unsatisfying. We have no idea how Steppenwolf (I still giggle when I say his name) will rate as a villain, but Whedon’s erasure of Luthor from Justice League implies that no time will be wasted on a character who does not drive the plot forward. At best, Luthor’s presence would have been an annoying (again) or distracting, at worst he would have been confusing — in what’s certain to be a sprawling film.

How does this impact Justice League? Thought you’d never ask… Whedon’s major struggle in both Avengers films to-date was the lack of a satisfying plan by either of his villains. Loki wanted to rule Earth, Ultron wanted to eradicate humanity — conceptually, these are great starting points. However, Whedon failed to make the execution of their goals very compelling; both films devolved into videogame battles against cardboard enemies, but at least Loki and Ultron threw some actual punches in the process, not so with Luthor.

Whedon needs to show that Steppenwolf has a viable AND interesting plan, rather than just relying upon yet another minion-fest — the first Justice League trailer worried me specifically for this reason. Does anyone think that Luthor could help Whedon solve these issues? Me either. Eliminating him from the film should help to streamline and focus the narrative (one hopes). We’re inside of 3 months until Justice League hits theaters, hopefully we’ll get a new trailer soon that expresses Whedon’s full vision, and reinforces the logic of his Luthor execution.

Are you thrilled or merely excited that Lex Luthor is zapped from Justice League? Let us know in the comments down below!

Justice League hits theaters on November 17, 2017.

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SOURCE: Twitter

  • RadicalAgnostic

    They need to recast this one BAD.

    • TheOct8pus

      Shit! You beat me to the comment….

    • Kronx

      I think we’ve all agreed to give DC an unconditional Mulligan on Joker and Luthor recasting.

      • Lenin1959

        Current interpretations of Luthor and Joker need to be led behind the barn IMMEDIATELY. The Justice League needs real threats – not Eisenberg, but Heisenberg as Luthor! Bryan Cranston was born to play a real threatening Luthor. And how about Mark Hamill himself as The Joker? He’s got the voice and I think he can also pull off the real life acting part. WB – find some reason to recast and go with those two.

        • Kindofabigdeal

          I don’t think Mark has the physicality to pull off Joker. He definitely has the mannerisms and voice.
          Cranston would be cool though. Except I can’t do the Mulligan. Recasting always puts me off at first. I think they have enough strikes against them from the general public as it is.
          And I didn’t mind Leto’s take on Joker.

          • Fallout Boy!

            Mark’s FAT. He hides it under big shirts and layers…

        • Nattown

          Unfortunately since he was Magneto he probably wouldn’t do it but Fassbergerbender is the Joker we need. Leto, no. Cranston is too old. Mark, obviously not. If I had a say, Sharlto Copley would be the next Joker.

          • J’Accuse

            Corey Stoll should play Luthor since he was so incredibly Luthor-like in Ant Man.

  • Fallout Boy!

    Dude. Don’t start with the ‘giggle’ thing.
    Harry at AICN does that crap and he gets eviscerated and ridiculed for it. Raise the bar, kid. Just say ‘hah’ or ‘lol’ or something, anything but ‘giggle’, capis?

    • Sorry to offend. First time use. Sigh.

      • Fallout Boy!

        No offense! I’m a fan offering fair warning lol

  • 2 Left Thumbs

    Eisenberg’s Lex was more Joker than Luthor. He was really more Joker than Leto was.
    Hell, while you have these guys on contract just role swap them!!

    • Not the craziest thing I’ve heard today.

    • Nattown

      Very true.

  • CoolHandJuke

    i was hoping for a prison rape scene…

  • Nattown

    I’m actually a bit disappointed. I think there was something to be “done” with Eisenberg’s Lex. Just ‘serious’ him up. He went through serious trauma, got his ass ‘whipped’, and now he just became cold. Eisenberg has the chops to pull it off.

  • Duck O’Death

    It’s ironic because Joss Whedon’s dialogue used to be quite paculiar (Firefly/Serenity) but Eisenberg’s lines in BvS bordered on non-english at times. His performance wasn’t bad it’s just they don’t need to direct him to be overly non-sensical in order to remind us he’s misguided.

    • Great point, I agree that if anyone could have teased a better performance out of Eisenberg it would be Whedon (I’m also a fan of Fincher’s The Social Network — Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg would have made for an awesome Lex Luthor).

      • Duck O’Death

        Agreed. Was almost Citizen Kane level of character portrayal in Social Network.

  • Psychotic Bitch With a Knife

    Ok this is good. This is a really good move… Next get rid of Geoff Johns

    • 2 Left Thumbs

      Didn’t he come in really recently? Like, right before Wonder Woman came out? We was an executive producer on BvS, but we have no idea to what extent he contributed to that. Maybe he tried to improve it? We need to give the guy a chance, we haven’t seen what he’ll really do with this title yet!

    • Mad Barchetta

      I think that may be a bit premature. Johns has done marvelous (pun unintended) things with DC Comics, from what I have read, and I think any course correction we are currently seeing has much to do with him. i don’t even think we’ve yet seen a movie that can truly be attributed to him . Let’s see how the next couple of movies turn out before sharpening our guillotine.

      • I agree, let’s see how Justice League and Aquaman turn out. If Johns can convert the mainstream audience to care about Aquaman he’s a genius.

        • Mad Barchetta

          Yes, and no to that genius assessment. What Johns is smart about is standing on the shoulders of giants, so to speak. It was Peter David in the 90’s who revamped Aquaman into a warrior king, and I feel certain that his take on the character is what is influencing the DCEU version. I’ve never seen a writer better than David at finding unique angles on characters that take them from meh to Cool! in a heartbeat. Essentially, without David, I don’t see this role being given to Mamoa. Johns’ genius is knowing a good thing when he sees it.

  • Jon Santino
    • Victor Roa

      needs and arrow with Dan Didio

  • Victor Roa

    Well. the reason why BvS never did work is they thought complexity was just “too much junk.” If you stripped down Lex, and just said he’s a criminal master mind that’s enough to at least get him involved with other Super Villains. If it were me, I’d show him a DVD of Michael Rosenbaum, “LIKE THAT! And stay on script! and if you’re good, I’ll let you do neurotic ticks just 2 times in the film.”
    The thing with Joss is…. he isn’t really creative, he just knows how to steer it into a moderate reaction. Like what we hope for is just Waterworld here, and that wouldn’t be that bad.

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.