How Jesse Eisenberg ruined Batman v Superman

Fans and critics had a lot of different issues with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Jesse Eisenberg's performance as the villainous Lex Luthor was, you know, pretty bad. But what was it about his performance that ruined the movie altogether? Here's a spoiler-free rundown of all the ways Eisenberg was less "super bad guy" and more just "super bad."

Over the top...

To date, Eisenberg has been excellent in just about every movie he's starred in. You don't need to look further than The Social Network to know that this dude has the legitimate acting chops. So, with that in mind, it was a bit disheartening to see his broad, mannered take on Lex Luthor, which oftentimes felt way too flashy and loud for a movie that was otherwise pretty somber and subdued. Throughout the movie, Eisenberg stomps through each scene with the kind of overwhelming, distracting force not seen since Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain.

...Yet completely cliched

Look: we get where he was coming from in his approach to his character. After all, he's playing a super-crazy villain with super-crazy mental problems. But every stutter, every tick felt very calculated and clichéd, as if he'd crafted his performance after taking a class in Supervillains 101. It didn't help that the actors around him, many of whom are respected Oscar nominees and winners, went for a subtler approach. Holly Hunter, for example, dug deep into a role that could have otherwise been a throwaway. Ultimately, though, this one may be on director Zack Snyder. A more nuanced actor's director, like, say, Darren Aronofsky, might have saved the movie by asking Eisenberg to take it down a notch. Letting him run wild just didn't work.

Rip-off of Heath Ledger's Joker

Perhaps it was because Dawn of Justice is at least half a Batman movie, perhaps it was because The Dark Knight was just really freakin' good. Whatever the case, it was hard to watch Eisenberg's performance and not think back to Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in Christopher Nolan's modern-day superhero classic. Eisenberg's speech patterns and mannerisms felt almost entirely lifted from Ledger's iconic performance, to the point where he walked the dangerous grey line between respectful homage and downright thievery. We understand why Eisenberg might have wanted to go that route; after all, Ledger won an Oscar for his performance, and set the bar extremely high for all supervillains to come. Still, the whole thing felt too familiar. Even worse, it just made us wish we were back in 2008, watching The Dark Knight in theaters for the sixth time. Had Eisenberg put a different take on Luthor, the character—and the movie itself—might have felt more fresh and original. Instead, everything just felt like a retread.

Predictable unpredictability

Sure, most superhero storylines involving villains are predictable. Anyone who's ever read a comic book or seen a comic-book movie knows that, in the end, the villain is either going to die or, at the very least, wind up in a bad spot. That puts the pressure on the actor playing the villain to distract us from that inevitable conclusion, or risk boring everyone to tears. Sadly, Eisenberg's performance was the ultimate snooze-fest. Because his take felt so by-the-numbers—and because the script didn't really add much to the table, either—audiences were able to pinpoint Lex Luthor's trajectory from the moment the Batman v Superman trailer hit.

Lex Loser

You know he's going to make a grand entrance, you know he's going to cause a lot of problems, and you certainly know he's going to mess it all up. By not adding any substance, layers, or complexity to Luthor in between those moments, Eisenberg made it impossible for audiences to work up a sweat about him on any level whatsoever. We can't fear him, we can't relate to him, and we can't even laugh with him. All we can do is patiently wait for the movie to end and pray that Justice League Part One finds itself a more unpredictable or interesting villain.

Mark Zuckerbad

If you're going into Batman v Superman thinking that Lex Luthor's full set of hair might be a distraction, think again. The real head-scratcher in the movie: Luthor's wardrobe. In certain parts of the movie, Luthor is styled to look like a more villainous, futuristic version of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which is hilarious, considering Eisenberg played Zuckerberg in The Social Network. All that's missing was a hoodie.

Wes Andersucks

Other times, the silly-looking suit-and-t-shirt combo he often wore made Eisenberg look less like the villain of Metropolis and more like the star of a really weird Wes Anderson biopic. Which is a long way of saying that it just didn't work. Unless they wanted us to laugh at Luthor. In which case, it totally, totally worked.