10 Movie Franchises That Ruined Iconic Characters Twice

10. Lex Luthor - Superman

Lex Luthor Gene Hackman Jesse Eisenberg
Warner Bros.

The First Time

Gene Hackman's hammy performance as Superman's (Christopher Reeve) arch nemesis Lex Luthor is an undeniable high-point of the first two Superman movies.

However, the actor sat out the third film, only to make a belated return in 1987's universally maligned fourth (and final) outing, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Though some attest that Hackman is the campy highlight of an otherwise atrocious film, he dials up the cartoonishness to cringe-worthy levels while Luthor is saddled with a boneheaded nephew character, Lenny (Jon Cryer), for most of the movie.

That's not to forget Luthor's outrageously daft plan, to create a new foil for Superman by taking a strand of his hair and attaching it to a nuclear missile. The result is Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), an antagonist somehow even stupider than he sounds.

For all of Hackman's fine work earlier in the franchise, the character had become a laughing stock by this point, and with Superman IV's budget being less than one-third of the first two films, Hackman can't even justify it as a "take the money and run" paycheck role.

The Second Time

After Kevin Spacey served up a Lex Luthor performance in Superman Returns that paid firm homage to Hackman's better years, the character laid dormant for an entire decade before returning for a radical reinvention in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Fans were initially excited when Jesse Eisenberg was cast to play a younger version of the icon, given his brilliance at playing Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

But then the film was released, and it became clear that Eisenberg's twitchy, squeaky-voiced Luthor just didn't really work, like, at all.

As terrific an actor as Eisenberg is, neither the script nor his performance choices felt worthy of Luthor, though his brief re-appearance in Justice League's post-credits scene did feel a little closer to the Luthor we know and love (sporting the signature black suit and bald head).

With Warner Bros.' plans for the DCEU now up in the air, it doesn't seem likely that Eisenberg will be invited back to reprise the role again, and it'll probably be a good few years before the character shows up in another Superman movie.

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