To say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was divisive would be putting it mildly. Although there was a lot to love (Wonder Woman's debut; a ton of badass fight scenes; cheeky Justice League cameos), there were also more than a few incomprehensible elements in the long-awaited movie. And none more baffling than Lex Luthor's motivations.
Lex Luthor is iconic. The shrewd businessman has long been a staple of DC as Superman's foil and Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal brought a frenzied ruthlessness to the role. But performance praise aside, Lex's role in Batman v Superman was perplexing at best as he had nothing to gain from goading the two heroes into fighting each other. At least, so it seemed until now.
Eisenberg has had a lot to say about Dawn of Justice lately, which is unsurprising given that he, and the other actors, have faced a lot of criticism since the film's release. So here's what Lex's grand plan was, and why we didn't actually get to see his reasoning.
The Ultimate Backup Plan
Eisenberg's version of the legendary villain was definitely more mentally unstable than past versions. He incorporated a lot of subtle nuances that all added up to some pretty difficult mental conditions for poor old Lex. Does this explain why Lex wanted to kill Superman, using Batman — or failing that, Doomsday?
Eisenberg definitely included this aspect in his portrayal. While speaking to IGN, the actor talked about how Lex became "increasingly unhinged" throughout the movie, which might have been why he chose to unleash such a terrifying monster on the world he claims to be trying to protect:
"He’s a guy who has 40 back-up plans and so when one thing doesn’t work out he has another and if that doesn’t work out he has another, which is why I think he never feels that threatened by Superman and Batman because he knows he always has the leverage and his final act ... was this kind of like last-ditch effort to leave it all on the table."
The idea that Doomsday was a last desperate attempt to defeat the heroes makes sense, especially in light of the deleted scene released soon after Batman v Superman hit cinemas.
Now, we know that by the time he unleashed Doomsday, Lex had already discovered Darkseid's existence in the Kryptonian database and was probably planning to contact him. He also probably knew he was likely to get incarcerated, as Superman and Batman weren't actually killing each other, and so he had nothing to lose from throwing Doomsday into the mix.
Probably. None of this really explains why Lex even started this grand plan. As far as we can tell, Lex had no personal connection to Superman — nothing of his was destroyed (that we know of) in the Metropolis-leveling fight with Zod, and the two characters haven't so much as met, much less built up a rivalry. The only way to possibly inject a motivation for Lex into the story is to riff off his obsession with Superman as Jesus and his apparent hatred of religious authority.
And honestly, none of that really suits an immensely successful businessman who clearly knows how to turn everything to his financial advantage. We can argue over this for ages, at least until the R-rated Ultimate Edition is released. Because, according to Eisenberg, the extended cut is where Lex's reasons are lurking.
Plot Holes? Blame The Editing
When MTV asked who Lex Luthor was "in league with" throughout the movie, Eisenberg referred back to the complexity of the overarching mythology and how it was difficult to include all of this in the final cut:
"It’s a very complicated mythology that I was able to kind of wrap my head around while we were filming, but I think there were certain editorial choices that I was not aware of that they put in retroactively."
With the extended cut reaching three hours, and the original version at four hours long, it's understandable the creative team had to slice the story down to a digestible length. However, it's a shame that if anything had to go, apparently it was the main villain's motivation, which should have been the driving force of the movie — and the key to ensuring the plot made sense.
But this is just splitting hairs at this point. When the Ultimate Edition is released we can reexamine the story and hopefully we'll find some kind of coherency to what was otherwise a fantastically performed, genuinely interesting villain.