The sequel to last year's Man of Steel from Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) Warner Bros. studio has had more than its share of criticism regarding casting choices. With the most recent news about the film, it seems that things aren't going to change any time soon. After weeks of rumor and speculation tossing out everyone from Bryan Cranston and Joaquin Phoenix to Denzel Washington as potentially being courted for the role, the upcoming "Batman vs. Superman" film finally has its Lex Luthor.
Jesse Eisenberg, best known for films such as Zombieland, The Social Network, and Now You See Me, has been cast as Superman's archenemy in the 2016 film. Reactions have been mixed, with some fans decrying the casting as worthy of ridicule while others are excited to see what Eisenberg brings to the film.
Eisenberg's casting wasn't the only "Batman vs. Superman" announcement made recently, however; it was also revealed that Jeremy Irons would play Alfred Pennyworth, Batman/Bruce Wayne's faithful butler who was most recently played by Michael Caine in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy.
What this tells us
Though there have been questions raised by some of Warner's casting decisions for "Batman vs. Superman," there are a few hints about the film's direction that we can pick up from the choices that the casting directors have made. Keep in mind that this is ignoring rumors such as the "U.N. Justice League" and other claims that have been made about the film, since even Eisenberg's casting shows that rumors don't always bear fruit.
Eisenberg's casting shows that the film will feature a younger Lex Luthor. This is similar to how the character was portrayed by Michael Rosenbaum in "Smallville," putting him similar in age to Superman instead of being an older character as many of the rumors had him pegged. Given Luthor's skill with technology and Eisenberg's age, it's possible that this version of Lex will be an opportunistic tech-industry whiz kid; I wouldn't be overly surprised to see the producers draw influence from the likes of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg for the new Lex because of the younger age at which they came to prominence.
As for Jeremy Irons' casting as Alfred, it hints that the producers still want a strong English actor to portray the character. Irons is a classically trained actor who has been in the London theatre since 1969 and has won Emmys, a Tony, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and even an Oscar for his acting work. Of course, he also starred in Dungeons and Dragons and Eragon, so he isn't above making bad movies every once in a while.
It's possible that "Batman vs. Superman" will feature a slightly more action-oriented, Alfred similar to the character's portrayal in the animated series "Beware the Batman" and occasionally in the comics, though any action scenes would likely be very limited to keep the focus on the main protagonists.
Is this a good sign?
As more casting choices are announced, we're getting a slightly better view of the direction that Warner Bros. is going with the Man of Steel sequel.
The choice of Israeli Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, for example, shows that the film will portray the character a bit closer to her origins -- though she would have been closer to Greek than Israeli, the casting still differentiates her from the standard "American" portrayal that's been seen on screen.
Even the much-maligned casting of Ben Affleck as Batman hints that the character might be a more intellectual character than action-oriented -- Affleck isn't exactly known for his action roles, and action-based roles such as Daredevil and Reindeer Games are frequently cited among his worst films.
The casting of Irons and Eisenberg may have been done to add a bit more credibility to the project, especially in the case of Irons, as it will give Affleck a strong actor to play off of, similar to how Christian Bale's Batman was tempered and guided by Michael Caine's and Morgan Freeman's characters.
It's also similar to the direction that Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Marvel Studios has taken with the supporting casting for its films, with actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Glenn Close, and most recently Michael Douglas taking roles in Marvel superhero films.
The cinematic showdown
With over two years between now and when the "Batman vs. Superman" film is slated to hit theaters, there's still a lot of speculation ahead as to what the final movie will be. It also remains to be seen whether Warner Bros. will hold fast to its May 6 release date, since Marvel Studios shows no signs of backing off with the unannounced film that it also has scheduled for the date.
Warner needs a solid hit with this film as it will be the launching point of a larger cinematic universe. Without it, the gap between its DC Comics movies and the shared Marvel Studios universe will grow even wider. While some of the early casting choices for the film were questionable, the addition of Eisenberg and Irons has renewed the faith of some fans and has them interested in where the project is headed.