Batman v Superman may not have been the most stellar movie of the year, and certainly wasn't very well received amongst a lot of fans and critics. One of the biggest talking points of the film was none other than Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg.
While many believed that this iteration of the character was over-the-top cheesy and extremely Riddler-like in his mannerisms, others seem to believe that Eisenberg's Luthor possessed a level of depth previously unseen in any of the numerous incarnations of the character. Others claimed that he lacked enough character motivation for his actions in the movie.
Personal opinions aside, it is quite reasonable to say that the character is more than just an evil, psychopathic, billionaire genius hell-bent on killing Superman. More specifically, thanks to the excellent dialogue in the movie, Lex Luthor's philosophy and ideology was explained clearly, with reference to various moral and ethical dilemmas that have perplexed philosophers for centuries.
Lex Luthor's Philosophy
If it wasn't obvious enough from both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Supes is considered to be an all-powerful, godlike figure in the DCEU continuity, and for good reason. Considering the massive amounts of collateral damage due to the Black Zero event, it's no surprise that there are dissenters who believe that Superman is a threat to humanity. Lex Luthor shares this same belief, as stated numerous times throughout the movie.
While at first glance, this dialogue may seem like a simple representation of flawed logic, it's essential to not take it at face value. Rather, it is necessary to fully understand what the writers were suggesting by adding this line of dialogue.
This line paves the way for an entirely new philosophical concept, first raised in Ancient Greece by the philosopher Epicurus.
The Problem of Evil
The "Problem of Evil" is a problem of logic and ethics, particularly questioning of the possibility of the existence of an omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent God. In the case of Batman v Superman, Lex Luthor embodies this very belief.
This dilemma can be explained in three easy steps:
- If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god exists, then evil does not or cannot exist.
- There is evil in the world.
- Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God does not or cannot exist.
Although initially Lex's logic may have appeared to be flawed, it actually makes complete sense. In the case of Lex, he believes that if an all-powerful God actually existed, he would have prevented the "evil" – his relationship with his father, and the fact that his father used to beat him up – in his life.
However, since that did not happen, Lex concludes that such a figure cannot exist, and therefore must either have a weakness which can be exploited, or is morally and ethically corrupt.
When Lex comes across a physical representation of this seemingly all-powerful figure in Superman, this entire belief shatters, as what Lex believed to be true his whole life seems to be in question. Hence, he strives to prove that Superman "cannot be all good" or "cannot be all powerful".
The Knightmare Scene, another extremely controversial aspect of the movie, is a great representation of a Superman who is morally corrupt, as he turns evil after the death of Lois Lane, directly adapted from the famous Injustice storyline.
Every challenge and conflict faced by Superman in Batman v Superman was set up by Lex in order to bolster his contention. Superman undergoes tests of morality as well as physical strength, and attempts to overcome them all. After Lex fails to prove that Superman is morally and ethically corrupt despite his best efforts (culminating with the kidnapping of Martha Kent), Lex unleashes Doomsday in order to demonstrate that Superman isn't all powerful, and he does so successfully as Superman perishes towards the end.
The other aspect of this philosophical dilemma is the issue of absolute virtue. In contrast to what Lex believes, millions of people worldwide consider Superman to be a hero, and worship him as a God, who is considered to be all powerful and all good.
The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, argues that one must always act selflessly, for the greater good:
This is in direct contradiction to Lex Luthor's belief, as he believes that it is impossible for anyone to be a force purely for the good.
Lex Luthor believes the idea of absolute virtue to be a lie, and strives to prove Superman's "fraud", by making him undergo tests of morality and ethicality. Lex decides to establish once and for all that Superman is morally corrupt, by kidnapping Martha Kent, and pitting Superman against Batman. This could have gone down two ways: either Superman kills Batman, thus reinforcing Lex's claim that Superman isn't all good, or Batman kills Superman, thus once again, validating Lex's claim that Superman isn't all powerful.
Failing to prove his point (after Superman makes peace with Batman), Lex unleashes Doomsday as a last resort to kill Superman, and succeeds in verifying his conviction.
This line of dialogue perfectly captures the essence of the character. Lex Luthor's primary principle is that it is impossible to possess such extreme levels of power as Superman without having him turn rogue, and use his powers for destruction. Combined with the abuse he endured as a child, it's no wonder Lex despises this physical manifestation of a supposed "God", and wants to prove a fraud.
Chris Terrio knocked it out of the park with the dialogue in Batman v Superman, and we can only hope that the upcoming DCEU movies, particularly Wonder Woman and Justice League follow suit!
If you enjoyed reading this, make sure to check out my other articles and follow my page for more content! Leave any feedback or thoughts in the comments section below!
What do you think of 'Batman v Superman' and the philosophical concepts explored in the film?