Jesse Eisenberg ‘Batman Vs. Superman’ Casting Controversy: Why the Critics Are Usually Wrong

Jesse Eisenberg 'Batman Vs. Superman' Casting Controversy: Why the Critics Are Usually Wrong

Daniel Craig, Heath Ledger and Michael Keaton can attest to the fact that not all casting backlashes are warranted

Fans across the social media landscape cried foul Friday when Jesse Eisenberg, who is neither bald, middle-aged nor Bryan Cranston, was cast as Lex Luthor in “Batman Vs. Superman.”

“The Social Network” star's major offense: He does not instantly call to mind Superman's arch-nemisis. He will, you know, have to act.

Noah J. Thomas declared, “Batman vs. Superman is going to be the worst movie ever.”

And Daniel Robinson inveighed, “I love Jesse Eisenberg but Lex Luthor he is most certainly not, what a terrible decision sort your casting director out.”

The instantaneous outcry over Eisenberg's casting mirrors the backlash that greeted news his future co-star Ben Affleck would play Batman. Jeremy Irons tapped to play the butler Alfred escaped derision, primarily because he has a monopoly on being repressed and British — but it's a drama that's played out many times before, and will play out again and again.

Also read: Jesse Eisenberg Cast as Lex Luthor in ‘Batman vs. Superman,’ Jeremy Irons to Play Alfred

Indeed, the backlash to Charlie Hunnam's casting as the whips-and-chains loving Christian Grey  in “Fifty Shades of Grey” was so intense that most fans seems relieved when he ditched the project a month later citing “scheduling conflicts.” It was as if they had a trophy to mount on their newsfeed stuffed with righteous indignation.

These characters are iconic, and often exist on the printed page. That makes fans feel proprietary and liable to lash out if the actor or actress tapped to essay the role on screen fails to completely conform to their rigid interpretation of Batman or Lex Luthor or Superman.

It's worth noting, however, that in many cases these flash judgments turn out to be laughably wrong in hindsight.

Heath Ledger, whose menacing and unhinged interpretation of the Joker haunted audiences’ dreams and scored an Oscar, was deemed a whiff when it was announced, with one fan on Reddit predicting it would be “the second downfall of the Batman series.” (“Batman & Robin,” “The Dark Knight” was most surely not.)

Also read: Ben Affleck's Batman Casting Bolsters Warner Bros. Relationship – Despite Jeff Robinov Exit

Likewise, Daniel Craig was the object of ridicule when he was unveiled as the sixth actor to play James Bond. After all, 007 couldn't be blonde! A website, Craignotbond.com launched to organize a boycott of Craig's inaugural outing, “Casino Royale,” and reports circulated that he couldn't handle the Aston Martin's stick shift.

The reward for this pessimism was a charismatic action star whose energy and swagger galvanized the aging series, earning him comparisons to Sean Connery's take on the role.

That's to say nothing of the scores of tween hearts that broke when Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward Cullen in “Twilight.” Years and millions of shrieking fans later, Pattinson recalled that the decision to go with the then relatively unknown actor was greeted with “unanimous unhappiness.”

Perhaps the greatest Batman of them all — and the only one to nail Bruce Wayne's brooding and sardonic side, Michael Keaton — was one of the first to be stung by this fanboy fury. As a Toronto Sun article from back in the day notes Batman readers would have preferred to have seen Sylvester Stallone or Clint Eastwood in the title role.

So Jesse Eisenberg, take heart. Casting critics are often opinionated and just as frequently wrong.

  • Lost in the corridor

    Super geek Eisenberg will really have to act beyond his current range shown.
    Other than playing a snotty me-me generation type, many do not see the skill set or tools in this individual. Of casting this days is never about ability, it is all marketing… Sadly.
    BTW Eisenberg bankable? Really?

    • Daniel Lewis

      Did you miss the point of the entire article?

      • Shawn Savage

        Yes. He did. He's a future meme walking.

  • ABIGGUY

    We said Heisenberg, not Eisenberg!

    • Jack

      This story broke a few hours ago and you are already the hundredth person to make this joke.

  • ahrmann

    To be fair, Daniel Craig has been an AWFUL Bond, his film's $uccess notwithstanding. I'll pop a cork when his run is done.

    • Jay Hicks

      Craig is actually a better Bond than any actor they've put into movies, so your rant makes zero sense…move on…

      • ahrmann

        Hah, ok Chachi. Moving on.

    • James Stanley

      I think he ‘s good, although I didn't get into his run of bond until “Skyfall” came along.

  • Soopie

    Now that this tired argument is out of the way, discuss the castings that failed….

    Just because some unlikely castings succeeded, doesn't mean every unlikely casting is set for success. This casting seems like a bad choice aimed at the teen boy demo which is usually what wrecks movies.

    • Shawn Savage

      Totally. All of the teen boys are lining up at the box office to catch a glimpse of Jesse Eisenberg. Sometimes it's just best to admit that you're on the wrong side of history, and 10 years from now, snapshots of these comments will surface, in proof of what idiots people were making of themselves.

  • Jack

    To be fair. No matter if it was Jesse Eisenberg or Bryan Cranston cast in this part, its still gonna be written for a Jesse Eisenberg type character. Zack Snyder and company do know what they're doing with casting. They seem to be going towards a more rich and powerful Luthor than a physically intimidating Luthor. I think it would be wise, to at least wait for a trailer to debut before getting too upset about the casting in the movie.

    • James Stanley

      Indeed, although now that I think about it, the choice might have been down to a need for an actor with Charisma and sense of smarts. Eisenberg has all that based on the films he's done.

  • Dingus

    How do the authors of these articles get away with so many typos and errors? Did you guys ditch editing altogether?

  • hupto

    This actually makes sense. Eisenberg's stock-in-trade is playing the obnoxious, smartest-guy-in-the-room–and if that ain't Lex Luthor, I don't know what is. And they can certainly age him if need be.

    Funny, I don't recall anybody complaining about the buffonish Luthor played by Gene Hackman. Oh, yeah, right: we were all grown-ups back then.

    • James Stanley

      What about Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor?

      • hupto

        He was all right. A bit broad, but certainly not as cartoonish as Hackman's version. (No knock on Hackman, of course; he was just playing it as written and directed.)

  • dominick

    jonah hill as the penguin and kevin pollack as brainiac for the JLA movie. in the immortal words of jeffrey dean morgan, it's all just a joke!

  • danteSalways0N

    A lot of you fail to see the genius in this casting. Every one is correct, he's too skinny, he's too young and he's not intimidating enough. That's exactly what they were going for. What if we found out that bill gates was actually a criminal mastermind?..we'd probably say the same thing. Basically you can't afford to underestimate your opponents. Why do you think batman has been able to beat supes. He's not stronger or faster. But he is one of the smartest DCU characters. His contingency plans have contingency plans. This version of lex will be the same way. Not physically threatening but super intelligent. Like an evil younger version of Bruce wayne

    • James Stanley

      Yeah but let's not forget that Batman is intimidating on the outside as well as the inside.

      • danteSalways0N

        You miss the point. Lex luthor isn't batman

        • James Stanley

          I know that. I'm just saying batman also emits a considerable amount of gravitas from his appearance as well as his intellectual capabilities. I am in no way comparing him to Luthor.

  • James Stanley

    Yeah but lets not forget that sometimes the critics can be right with certain things. I mean what are the odds of Eisenberg putting our fears to rest when we finally see the finish product?
    In all honesty though, Man of Steel was the first Superman movie I've ever seen so technically I should feel too bad about these turn of events. But I do, mainly because I use Wikipedia a lot and picked up what Lex Luthour has been over the years through there. Jess can do clever though ( as “Now you see me” would have it ) so we'll wait and see. After all the film is due for another 2 years.

  • Prinjal_boruah

    Guys wait till the movie comes out..this might be something different in a good way

  • Lewis Ewbank

    The problem isn't just Eisenberg…it's Gadot as Wonder Woman AND Affleck as Batman. That's three questionable casting additions for three major and beloved characters and a franchise resting on them pulling this thing off. There are A LOT of questions from fans on how in the hell this can work. We want it to work. These three absolutely have to pull it off somehow, one or two can…but if one of them fail then the franchise could fold under it's own weight.

  • DesignItLive

    That all Truth. BUT, AND THAT IT'S NOT TO FORGET:
    Also the story and the costumes are extremely important.
    The Idea for the Joker of Scars on the mouth, this was a genius Ideas.
    And would not be, i don't belive that Batman Movie would good been.

  • truthslinger

    Lex Luthor becomes president eventually in the comics. There is no chance that Eisenberg could portray someone who could get the whole country voting for him. Its about 5 -10 years before he could even portray an adult and be believeable.

  • Zeke

    I believe studios are casting the opposite of every fanboys choice just to try and win them back in the end by the actor/actress proving that a role can be defined by their acting and not look or certain mannerisms that a comic reader may compare them to.
    Say Cranston was casted as Luther and the movie completely bombs. Who is to blame for that? I say no matter what, the studio is going to have last word on who they want cast. Let's wait to see if we are going to get the Affleck from Daredevil or if we are going to get the Affleck from Argo before we bash and say we aren't going to see it, but end up going anyways.

  • Allen Greggory

    As most everyone that has had this opinion of the decision to cast Ben “no affect” Affleck, the writer has missed the point. As far as Keaton as Batman, at the time he was cast he had only done comedies, and the fan base was concerned that he didn't have the dramatic chops. He obviously did, and everyone was happy with the result. In the case of Boring Ben, he has already proven his unworthiness. Remember, HE PLAYED DAREDEVIL AND HE SUCKED. Reading other columns on this subject, it is always pointed out that Affleck is an award winning film maker. While it is true he has done well as a writer and director, no one is lining up to give this guy and awards for his acting. An analogy would go like this: This Jimmy Carter guy won the Nobel Prize, maybe he would make a good President. The fact is, HE HAD THE JOB AND HE SUCKED AT IT. Daredevil is basically Batman with super senses, and he has already proven he couldn't bring it home. As far as Eisenberg/Luthor, there has been enough variation in the comics and on film of this character that there is less potential for damage. But Affleck is not going to be fun to watch, I predict.

  • rosie1843

    Critics are really stupid. They have already passed judgment on Jessie Eisenberg's portrayal of Lex Luthor, just as they have done the same for Ben Affleck's Batman . . . and yet, the movie hasn't been in production yet. God, how stupid!

  • JW

    Jesse will do fine. He is actually pretty sneaky in real life just like Lex.

    The real problem with this movie is the obnoxious, idiot playing Wonder Woman….Gal Gadot. The director will definitely regret hiring her. She is trouble. She also looks nothing like Wonder Woman and is a bit unattractive, in real life. Or maybe it is just her personality showing through.