Lex Luthor is often labeled as the ultimate super villain, but while he may be diabolical, his power over Superman lies in their history together, and opposite Batman, Luthor is doomed to fail. Warner Bros. just announced that Jesse Eisenberg will be playing Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman/Superman movie, but announcements of other villain castings have yet to be made.
Which begs the question, if Lex Luthor were the only super villain in the movie, would he be able to take on both Superman and Batman? Further, what would his relationship with Batman look like? Or will Warner Bros. decide to play it safe and cast another villain or two for Batman to take on, and keep Luthor primarily opposite Superman?
Luthor’s history with Superman is long and complex, dating back to when the man of steel was known only as Clark Kent. A small town farm boy, Kent was unaware of his origins growing up. He happened to befriend billionaire Lex Luthor in high school while beginning to discover his powers. Through adolescence, Luthor and Kent remained close, cultivating a bond that was later shattered when Luthor became a power-hungry business mogul.
At least, that’s one version of the origins of the relationship between Luthor and Superman. Other explanations exist in various comics, but modern depictions, such as WB series Smallville, follow the outline above.
It is the history between Kent and Luthor that ultimately gives Luthor power over Superman. Sure, kryptonite is the physical medium that renders Superman unable to use his powers, but it’s Luthor’s mind games that really hit Superman where it hurts. As he increasingly becomes aware of his powers, Kent feels more isolated and constantly struggles with the question of his humanity. Luthor plays into those insecurities in a mentally and emotionally crippling psychological battle. It is this puppetry of the mind that launches Luthor to a level of nefariousness that other villains can only heckle over.
How can Luthor manipulate Superman’s mind if he is unaware that he has a history with the man of steel? Clark Kent never reveals his powers to Luthor, but throughout Smallville and other series, Luthor seems to be suspicious of his adolescent friend. Luthor is the type of genius who invariably would play on his suspicions. He may not be certain of Superman’s true identity, but nevertheless, Luthor throws jabs at his arch-nemesis that he knows would hurt Kent, just in case his theories are correct.
Opposite Batman however, these psychological tactics are doomed to fail, for Lex Luthor has no history with the caped crusader. What will Luthor do? Kryptonite won’t work. The two tactics that the super villain has always relied on simply won’t stand up to Batman.
Where does that leave Luthor? Brute force? Will the bald man take on the trained, seasoned fighter with a plethora of weaponry and cutting edge technology at his fingertips? Will the fight be reduced to a battle of the billionaires, with both throwing money into inventions until one savings account finally runs dry? Would that ever happen? How long would that even take?
More announcements will undoubtedly be made, as the official name of the movie hasn’t even been decided yet. Superman vs. Batman? Batman vs. Superman? Warner Bros. has so far left it up in the air. Whether or not other villains are announced remains to be seen. If other villains do make an appearance, it will be interesting to see how Luthor interacts with the caped crusader. If Batman has nobody else to take on, Lex Luthor will undoubtedly be doomed to fail set opposite two of the most powerful heroes ever created.
By Julia Waterhous