Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The latest Lex Luthor shows the importance of proper supervillainy

Despite the overwhelming amount of bad critical reviews, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did very well at the box office on it's opening weekend. How long that will last remains to be seen but it's not the heroes of the film that I want to talk about here.

While I have not seen the movie yet(most likely will wait until it's available at Netflix), there's one thing that kept popping in both the professional and the fan reviews,even among those who did like the movie and that is the off kilter performance of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

Many felt that he was playing a more manic version of Mark Zuckerberg(due to his leading man role in The Social Network) or as one review put it, a "cokehead millennial" . That's pretty bad when an iconic villain like Lex Luthor sounds like he should in the cast of Wolf of Wall Street there. Like I said, I haven't seen the movie but Eisenberg's Luthor was the main cause of my doubts about BvS, based upon most of the trailers that I saw his strange twitchy self in:

Another critique that's truly troubling is that many people found Eisenberg's Luthor to be a lot like the Joker, which could turn into a huge problem for the DC cinematic universe later on.

A newer version of the Joker is set to appear in this summer's Suicide Squad(played by Jared Leto) and while those characters could conceivably team up in a future film, having two off the wall types is going to be both confusing and off putting.

The personas of each bad guy or girl in the traditional comic book world are meant to mirror the dark side of the hero/heroine that they're facing off against, which is why the chaotic and colorfully dressed Joker works so well when paired with the grimly serious and somberly clad Batman.

 Lex Luthor's keen intellect and sleek designs to dominate humanity are set up as a contrast to Superman's physical strength and homespun values. They are two distinctive villains for very good reasons and playing mix and match with their character traits is just sloppy storytelling, in my opinion:

Yes, past live action versions of Lex Luthor have gone over to the campy side but even those prior performances managed to showcase the deadly intelligence of Superman's ultimate nemesis.

The Lex before this one happened to be Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns(which is not as bad as everyone made it out to be back then)and yes, there was a touch of Gene Hackman's camp in his performance but it worked to his advantage.

While Kevin Spacey's take on the character did generate a ton of "WRONG!!!" one liners, he was a good casting choice and did succeed in keeping the menacing nature of Lex fully present even when he went off on a mocking riff or two . His Lex was humorous but never clownish and that makes all the difference:

I'm sure that some would say this BvS rendition of Lex Luthor is much younger than his former big screen incarnations and therefore, not meant to be as evilly steady on his feet.

Sorry, but I don't buy that argument. Smallville proved that even a twenty-something Lex could be just as dangerous as a middle aged one. Michael Rosenbaum's performance as the frenemy of small town boy Clark Kent was a huge draw for me to the show in the first place and a big reason why I did watch it for as long as I did.

Even in those episodes where Lex got into over the top mode, he was still a compelling character capable of being a real threat to Clark and the people he loved. Also, he maintained a sturdy sense of poise and power that made it easy to see the future potential of a full fledged adult Lex Luthor in full control of his fate and fortune:

I think that one of the big lessons that needs to be taken from the dubious results of BvS is that developing your villain is equally as important as establishing your hero and I hope that DC takes these criticisms of this Lex Luthor to heart as they go forward with their film franchises.

If, as I suspect, Suicide Squad does better with critics and fans than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has so far, there will be a demand for a Legion of Doom movie to go along side a Justice League film. In that case, building up a formidable base of bad guys is crucial here. After all, we've seen just how pitifully punishing it became for Batman's gallery of rogues on screen and as much as I don't wish to bring Marvel into this, Loki has become a sinister superstar, thanks to his smashing success in their various films.

So, hopefully, the next time we see a major DC villain on film, he or she will be a fearsome force to be reckoned with. That doesn't mean they can't serve up some injustice with a smile but they also should have fans and newcomers alike bear witness to the awesome strength of supervillainy:

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