Director Zack Snyder just can't seem to let go of Justice League and his vision for the so-called DC Extended Universe. In addition to revealing the time-travel arc he had planned for the Flash and the importance of Cyborg and his family to saving the world, Snyder's been consistently teasing fans who want the #SnyderCut with other ideas, like what he wanted to do with Darkseid too.
His decision to use Steppenwolf instead of Darkseid in Justice League kept one of DC's Lord of Apokolips from hitting the big screen. Unless he makes an appearance in Ava DuVernay's New Gods, there's no guarantee that he'll show up in the DCEU anytime soon. However, while those loyal DC fans might mourn the unfulfilled cinematic destiny of one of DC's most iconic villains, Snyder wasted one of the villains he brought to the big screen by failing to capitalize on Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It's no secret Eisenberg's depiction of Lex was a major point of contention in the controversial BvS. In addition to giving him less screen-time to make way for Doomsday, many felt the quirky, eccentric Willy Wonka-esque Lex wasn't what they wanted. Many fans wanted someone more cerebral and cutthroat, and that desire was exacerbated by Lex's menacing moments when he threatened a senator and made Superman bend the knee after kidnapping Martha.
But overall, the failure can more or less be summed up by that scene where Lex places a piece of candy in a politician's mouth and then licks his fingers, which definitely isn't the conniving egomaniac that audiences expected to see. Rather than Snyder focusing on another villain he wanted to do justice, DC fans shouldn't lose sight of how Lex's potential was squandered.
Now, many attributed Eisenberg's love of characters with weird ticks and idiosyncrasies, as per his role as Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, in The Social Network. But even there, he was a convincing full-blown villain. The outcry that occurred after Eisenberg's casting was similar to the fan outcry when Heath Ledger was cast as Joker, but Ledger went on to blow us away as the Clown Prince of Crime. Subversive casting that goes against type isn't an issue, as long as the actor nails the right tone and captures the overall essence of the character. BvS felt like Snyder knew he could get there eventually with Eisenberg but simply wanted to take several winding and experimental roads to arrive at that destination.
Snyder didn't really let Eisenberg embody the true sociopathic genius Lex could be, and the villain's funnier moments were annoyingly similar to Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey's performances. Eisenberg didn't have the space to deliver that kind of perfection and intensity that Michael Rosenbaum's Lex had on Smallville when he finally admitted "I am the villain of this story!"
The Hummingbird Project, Eisenberg's latest starring role in which he plays a businessman trying to lay fiber optic lines across America, is a stark reminder of this. He comes off goal-oriented, highly-driven and subtly sinister but still has some lighthearted moments with his on-screen partner, Alexander Skarsgård, as they topple rival empires and other business-folk in their mission. This feels like the no-nonsense Lex audiences have come to know and love in stories like All-Star Superman where he's dark, but not macabre. Sadly, Snyder failed to get the balance right and didn't Lex be the powerhouse we know he can be.
Snyder's BvS ended with Lex getting his head shaved and essentially going crazy, similar to the current predator he's become in the comic book DC Universe. However, all this big-screen fury was lost in the DCEU's Justice League post-credits where he met Deathstroke on a boat drinking champagne, once more lacking any sort of commanding and intimidating presence. He felt more like a start-up entrepreneur than a seasoned mastermind plotting world dominance, which was so regressive after we saw him staring Ben Affleck's Batman coldly down in prison.
And this is where The Hummingbird Project once more channels the magic Eisenberg had in movies like American Ultra and Zombieland. He's relentless, desperately trying to finish the job as he's dying of cancer. There's a scene where he's so angry at failing, he tries to take a chainsaw to cut down a cell tower -- which is the kind of insanity we'd have loved to see his Lex engage in after an unsuccessful battle with Superman. Instead of that Lex, Eisenberg's Lex acts more like a kid in a candy store frolicking around for Kryptonite. Between Eisenberg's skills as an actor and a vast amount of source material to choose from, it's a shame that the DCEU's Lex was more of a petulant child than a truly frightening villain.