“There’s an emotional core to the character. It’s not a silly villainous character. It is an entirely different thing. Also, the tone of that (‘Superman’) movie is so different. Like, that movie wouldn’t be made now. Like, the way we expect movies to be now is to have some kind of – I mean, it’s probably for the best – there’s some kind of psychological accuracy. That the person is coming from a place probably diagnosable in some way.” This is what Jesse Eisenberg told MTV News in relation to playing infamous Lex Luthor, principal villain, in the forthcoming “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
The “silly villainous character” to who he’s referring is Gene Hackman’s version of Lex Luthor in 1978’s “Superman” wherein Kal El’s arch nemesis was less a forbidding menace than a comical self-aggrandizer. His requisite villainous scheme is to trigger the San Andreas Fault with a nuclear blast, sending California tumbling into the ocean, therefore sending prices of Luthor-owned real estate along the new coastline soaring. It’s insane, treated with more absurdist flair than real world ominousness.
But then absurdist flair is so much of what I see real world villains these days. I see men villains just like Lex, men in loud suits with ridiculous hair making boorish and outsized proclamations while surrounded by sycophants and piles of money. It was no less a pseudo-authority than Donald Trump who once said he wouldn’t “make a deal just to make a profit. It has to have flair.” He also has a place on Park Avenue, thirty-five stories up rather than two-hundred feet below, but still. He plasters his name on everything, shades of Luthorville and Costa del Rex.
It’s hard to miss Donald Trump these days. He’s always been a self-brand-oriented blusterer but as his Presidential run has gained steam Tropical Storm Donald is on the verge of being upgraded to a full-grade Hurricane. Like him, hate him, threaten to move to Canada if he somehow sets foot in the Oval Office, he’s hard not to watch. It’s not charisma, mind you, as much as it is a vibrant silliness, an entertaining lunacy, a swagger so self-impressed I expect him to arrive at tomorrow’s GOP debate aboard a litter carried by former cast members of The Celebrity Apprentice. He’s got the swaggering indefatigable bravado of a movie villain, never unconfident in his schemes, utterly impervious to criticism, declaring that he will achieve everything he touts starting day one absent any trouble without providing even vague specifics of how he’ll achieve this because he expects these things to happen simply because he is who he is – Trump. He’s a person coming from a place that’s probably diagnosable in some way – that is, imperial narcissism.
Perhaps Mr. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor will be indelible. I hope it is. But don’t tell me that “Superman” movie couldn’t be made now. Maybe Hackman’s Luthor is nothing more than a silly villainous character, yet his silly villainy is psychologically accurate, and just as menacing.