Jesse Eisenberg is a great choice for Lex Luthor. Jesse Eisenberg is a terrible choice for Lex Luthor. It sort of depends on what kind of Luthor they’re going for. Eisenberg was great as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and he was great as Magical Mark Zuckerberg in Now You See Me, so him joining the still-untitled Man of Steel sequel seems like a net positive.
Of course, Michael Shannon is a great actor, and he spent half of Man of Steel encased in a weird exoskeleton ranting about the genetic codex. Remember the genetic codex? It was the whole reason anything happened in Man of Steel, a movie which made a lot of money, but I bet if you asked someone who just saw Man of Steel to explain what the genetic codex was, they would stare blankly into space or maybe think you were trying a weird new pick-up line.
To be clear, I didn’t like Man of Steel. Lots of people didn’t. I suspect that negative reaction — moreso than residual Daredevil angst — was behind the whole flare-up over the Batfleck casting news. There’s a general skepticism about the Supersequel in all corners of the geekosphere, a sense that Warner Bros.’ naked attempt to out-Marvel Marvel will go supernova. But every new bit of casting information offers a more tantalizing possibility: This movie could be crazy.
And I mean that in a good way. Marvel Studios has a solid track record, but they’re an old-school movie factory: Their films have a not-unpleasant sameness, an assured quality. Marvel doesn’t make terrible movies. If you really try to track the story of Thor: The Dark World you realize that the movie should be a mess of blind-alley plotlines — Jane just finds the Evil Magic Red Stuff accidentally? — but Marvel rewrote and reshot and cleaned and buffed it into tip-top shape.
But then there’s Batman vs. Superman or Men of Steel or Superman: Turn Off The Dark Knight or whatever they’re going to call the movie. Henry Cavill is an eight-feet-tall colossus and his main villain will be played by the most famous nerd in recent movie history. Eisenberg is technically the same age as Cavill, but Cavill has probably looked 40 since puberty. They’re in the same movie as Ben Affleck, and it’s impossible to know whether we’ll get Argo Affleck dripping gravitas or Runner Runner Affleck having a blast.
Jeremy Irons has spent the last few years playing some variation of The Most Evil Man In The World — Margin Call, The Borgias — and now he’s been hired to play Alfred, a role most recently essayed by your British uncle Michael Caine. Alfred doesn’t necessarily have to be a kindly Michael Gough figure, but I can’t remember any version of Alfred who looked like he enjoyed eating the hearts of adorable orphaned puppies. Also, Gal Gadot is playing Wonder Woman, which means the movie needs to find time to define what Wonder Woman is and also define what Gal Gadot is. And theoretically Amy Adams will still be in this movie, too?
Last year saw Hollywood announce a slew of deep sequels to popular franchises from now through the end of the decade. In turn, there’s been an evolution of the process by which we moviegoers anticipate sequels. And even if you’re as excited as I am about the recent announcement of Thor 3, there’s a sense that we kind of sort of know what we’re getting from Thor 3. It’s a variation on a past theme. Whereas this Man of Steel sequel sounds crazy. The question is: Will it be just crazy enough to work?