Stop Asking for Bryan Cranston to Play Lex Luthor

     August 28, 2013

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Ever since Man of Steel 2 headed for nigh-inevitable development, fans expected Lex Luthor to be a part of the sequel.  They got the punch-fest they desired in the first movie, and now it was time to see Superman’s arch-nemesis.  Luthor has the possibility to be a fascinating character and the best kind of villain: one who believes he’s the hero of the story.  And when seen from a certain perspective, he is.  Luthor has a legitimate problem with Superman, which is “What happens if Superman decides to stop being good?”  There are other factors that remain a consistent part of Luthor’s personality: ego, selfishness, duplicity.  But the citizens of the world should share Luthor’s concern, and to Man of Steel‘s credit, the story does open the door to that interpretation because Superman inadvertently destroyed Metropolis by not taking his roughhousing to a less populated area like outer space.

But there’s very little conversation about the character of Lex Luthor, and more focus on who should play a rudimentary, preconceived notion of Lex Luthor.  There’s a push among fanboys for Bryan Cranston to get the role, and those fanboys need to stop pushing.

breaking-bad-character-portrait-bryan-cranstonThe fan-casting of Cranston is reaching dangerous levels where it’s almost being treated as a given.  Yesterday, a fan trailer for Man of Steel 2 (or Batman vs. Superman or Superman vs. Batman or whatever it’s going to be called) became a viral sensation.  Putting aside the fact that it’s a prime example of “teaser culture“, the trailer was well constructed and a lot of work clearly went into it.  But it cast Cranston as Lex Luthor because that’s as far as the author could see.

This assumption has permeated to the point where The Daily Dot ran a headline today, “Did ‘Breaking Bad’ predict Bryan Cranston’s Lex Luthor casting?”  That’s a horribly misleading headline because it’s missing the word “fan” before the word “casting” (it’s also a bad headline because even if the word “fan” was in there, the answer is obvious).  It’s also linkbait that makes a joke at the end of the article dismissing the claim they put forward in the previous nine paragraphs.  It’s shame because this article casts a shadow over all the serious work The Daily Dot does such as pointing out sexism in the entertainment industry.

The Daily Dot sources Cosmic Book News, a site I’d never even heard of until this morning.  I know that’s arrogant on my part, but it’s even more arrogant for them to claim this casting as fact, and then say Warner Bros. will announce it once Breaking Bad has finished airing.  That’s not a fact.  That’s a rumor.  It will become fact if Warner Bros. confirms it.  Daily Dot and Cosmic Book News are throwing fuel on a fire for people who don’t recognize a crass attempt to garner hits.

Fanboys tend to have limited vision in their casting, and these kinds of stories only play into confirmation bias.  These fans look for physical resemblance first, and talent second.  Cranston couldn’t fit more perfectly into a simplistic ideal of what Lex Luthor should be.  The Emmy-winning actor has played a ruthless bald guy to perfection.  Walter White will go down as one of television’s most memorable characters.  Cranston’s acting talent is immense, and he looks good bald.  What more do you need?

lex-luthor-man-of-steel-comicFor starters, you need a movie that has Lex Luthor in it.  That’s the big assumption: Luthor will be in Man of Steel 2.  This has been confirmed nowhere.  While Luthor is a likely addition to the cast, we could still be surprised by his absence.  Remember when The Dark Knight Rises was in development, and there was heavy speculation that the Riddler would be the villain because he was a top-tier enemy?  But Christopher Nolan went with Bane, a relatively recent character and one who’s most memorable accomplishment is breaking Batman’s back.  Then Nolan reinvented the character to the point where the only remaining characteristics were physical strength and a mask.

But whereas Riddler was one of many well-known villains, Superman fans are only looking for Luthor, and they’re oddly looking for the familiar Luthor they expect.  Cranston superficially fulfills those expectations.  These fans fail to realize that actors don’t like to be typecast.  Breaking Bad has given Cranston unbelievable opportunities, and instead of allowing the actor to show off his range, fanboys want him to do the same role under a different name.  That’s boring for an actor, and then it carries an inevitable comparison of Lex Luthor to Walter White.  I doubt Zack Snyder wants to have his movie stand up to one of television’s greatest shows because they share an actor.

However, let’s assume fans got what they wanted.  By some miracle, Cranston decides he wants to basically do Walter White again, and Snyder has no problem with that.  Here’s what happens: people will see the performance and say, “We’ve seen him do it before.”  Adam already pointed out how wrong fans were when it came to casting Heath Ledger, an Oscar-nominated actor at that point, as the Joker.  It didn’t play into what fans thought the character should be, and some people still refuse to accept his performance because it doesn’t match up with the comics (even though it kind of does; the character resembles Grant Morrison‘s interpretation from Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth).  The comics aren’t the movies, and I don’t know how many times movies have to prove this.  These are supposed to be adaptations, not transfers.  If you want a transfer, watch Sin City, and then witness how unnecessary it is.

Ultimately, demanding anything from Man of Steel 2 is pointless, because if you care enough to complain about every piece of casting, you care enough to see the film.  Instead of trying to get what you think you want, be excited for the possibility of something new.  It may not work out, but casting Bryan Cranston as Lex Luthor will be doomed to failure before the razor even touches his hairline.

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