Obvious spoilers for the Batman v Superman movie.

In Batman v Superman, Lex Luthor is a villain. He wants to discredit Superman.

Why ?

He explains to Superman

If God is all powerful he cannot be all good and if he is all good he cannot be all powerful.

Does he think that since Superman is all powerful, he cannot be all good ?

I considered "because he is a villain" as an answer but it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the movie.

I'd like to know about this movie but I'm also interested in knowing the situation in other media.

  • 27
    I don't want to say that bad writing is a superpower, but it's basically a superpower.
    – Liesmith
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 11:46
  • 32
    “In Batman v Superman, Lex Luthor is a villain.” Spoilers! Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 14:28
  • 5
    The Epicurean paradox?
    – TRiG
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 17:02
  • 3
    @Praxis - speaking as an Englishman, "beef" sounds very American and "grief" is more natural...
    – HorusKol
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:28
  • 2
    Well, I asked a question on English.SE
    – Kalissar
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 9:44

4 Answers 4


The quote you mention is the only motivator we're given but it should be enough to go on. Lex's full quote reads:

See, what we call God depends upon our tribe, Clark Joe, 'cause God is tribal; God takes sides! No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy's fist and abominations. I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be.

Lex was abused by his father. We are to assume that he called out to God for help but was never delivered from his abuse. So he was soured to the idea of an ultimate protector. He grew to believe that if there was some sort of God, that either he wasn't powerful enough to stop his father or didn't care enough to.

Lex projects that belief onto Superman, positing that if he's as powerful as people think he is, there's no way he can be as good as people think he is. And if he's as good as people think he is, he can't possibly be powerful enough to be worshiped like he is.

Lex's hatred of Superman comes from a twisted idea that the people are better off if their "false God" is exposed for what he is. If you take down their savior, their eyes will be opened - like his were - to the fact that they can't rely on anyone to protect them.

This is why Luthor tries to force him to try to kill Batman. It proves that either Superman isn't morally good enough to be above murder or isn't strong enough to defeat Batman. Either outcome proves Lex right.

  • 3
    although in other media, we have more history for lex, and lex/superman interactions, in this movie-verse this is apparently the first time lex and superman meet, at least as far as superman can tell. In other media/verses, regardless of why lex is just a super-villian and superman is pretty much just in his way all the time. Here however, I think we see Lex as a super-villian-to-be, and he simply sees superman as someone who will get in his way when he really starts rolling. Interestingly, lex is more of a anti-batman than anything else. Smart rich guy with toys.
    – Escoce
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 16:27
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    But he is not, nor does he claim to be, nor to all appearances do people think he is, powerful enough for the paradox to apply.
    – Random832
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 16:50
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    @Random832 sure it does...the paradox is simply this...you can't be two places at once, or if you can, then why don't you?...that's it and the sum total of the paradox. If you are all powerful, then you must have chosen to let bad happen, which means you can't be all good. Or conversely, if you are all-good, then you can't be all powerful because well...you can't be two places as once. Interestingly, we are proven both to be false because superman was going to kill batman to save his mother. Which make Batman right, doesn't it? Hmmm also makes the JL a check system as much as making a team.
    – Escoce
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 17:13
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    You say "no one believes that Superman is all powerful", but Alexander clearly believes something along these lines or is making a clear analogy, since he quite literally says exactly that to Superman. He may not think Superman has godlike power, but he is certainly the closest thing to a god that humanity has experienced thus far. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 20:46
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    The argument is that Good + Power == No Evil. If there is evil, the either good or power is not true. This argument applies well to superman. Just because the strongest form of this argument (e.g. when applied to the Abrahamic God) does not apply literally, does not mean the argument does not apply. It's also worth noting that this is likely a logical and consistent argument to Lex. Given that not only does it match his personal experience, he seems involved in weaponry and therefore has a personal fortune based around this idea.
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 2:16

The Luthor we're seeing in the movie is closest to the version we've seen in the comics (and animated Superman series) since the John Byrne post-Crisis revamp. Examining his motivations might help clarify Movie-Lex's thoughts.

Lex, as in the film, is no longer a generic super-criminal, but an incredibly successful businessman. His inventions are found at every level of society, from industry to personal electronics and every other niche in between.

When Superman appears, he suspects his motivations; partially because he's an alien, but partially because nobody could be that altruistic without having an angle. Lex believes that mankind should not rely on aliens to save us and solve our problems, but on ourselves. More specifically, they should rely on him.

In short, Lex's motivations and behavior are almost exactly that of Max Lord on Supergirl, though they've bent over backwards to claims he's not just "her Luthor".

The second, underlying motivation is sheer and simple jealousy. Before Superman came along, Lex was the biggest thing in Metropolis, and the single person on whom the most people relied and trusted. Superman's appearance dropped him to the place position, and he can't stand it.

The battle between them has gotten far more personal over the years, but those two core motivations are the center of it. Movie-Lex has similar thought processes, but not nearly as clear, or rational.

  • What basis do you have for your jealousy theory? Is there a line in the movie, a reference from the promotional material, an interview with the creators that supports this? Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:35
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    Interviews with both John Byrne and Marv Wolfman back at the launch of the books. The wiki page for Luthor also backs up the idea: "His hatred of Superman is explained as the citizens of Metropolis have had more admiration for the Man of Steel than for Lex." That scenario was played up in Geoff Johns' mini-revamp of the book. Scenes where people were teeming around Luthor's office building like Willy Wonka's factory, begging for a golden ticket to a new life. ONce Superman appeared, those crowds more looked to him for help. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:40
  • For the comic Lex, this is true. But I meant to ask what your basis was for the belief that these comic truths apply to the BvS Luthor. Sorry I wasn't clear. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:43
  • As I'd explained, more an attempt to use the motivations from the earlier media to extrapolate possible thought processes for movie-Lex. His suspicion of Superman's altruism seems clear, and the constant reference to him and Zod as "aliens" certainly suggests xenophobia. But of course, and sadly, I suspect the real and only reason Lex hates Superman in the movie is that the script demanded it, and similar to why kids like Apple Jacks, "He Just Does". Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:49

The psychological core (subtext) of Lex Luthor's opposition to Superman is that he hates the impossibility of the concept: there's one man who, for no good explanation, is thousands (or millions) of times as strong a regular person. Despite all the science and inventions mankind has achieved over centuries of effort, Superman could eliminate human civilization in a single afternoon. As the ultimate representative of Earth's scientific ability, Luthor feels personally insulted that Superman is insurmountably superior to anything we could do or build.

You can hear some of that viewpoint coming through from Jesse Eisenberg Luthor. (It's comparable to earlier stories of as arrogant mortals resenting a god. Some might say that Luthor is wrong-genre savvy: if this were hard science fiction, then he'd be the hero)

What's my source for this? You see bits of it in the background of many Lex Luthor stories, but it's noticeable from the first few years of 1930s Superman. Back then, villians were basically nameless and disposable, and Superman was often challenged by a scientist or builder who wanted to test his rocket / engine /discovery against Superman's might (he always lost, badly). Eventually instead of bringing in a new enemy professor each time, the character type was subsumed in the recurring Lex Luthor personality.

PS. It's often mentioned that Superman was involved in an accident that burned off Lex's hair. That did happen (in a discarded continuity), but wasn't part of the character's origin: Lex Luthor debuted in 1940, while the hair-incident was published in 1960's Superboy. The Superboy line included all sorts of silly retcons, including Bruce Wayne becoming a costumed crimefighter before his parents died.


In the early comic books, Luthor's baldness was inadvertently caused by Superboy when Superboy saved him from an explosion in a high school chemistry lab.

That being said, it's obvious that Luthor is an extreme pyschopath, and the incident is more of an excuse for his history of bad behavior than the actual cause of it.

Considering that today baldness is considered a suave look, I think it's more a case of Lex Luthor being PO'd because Superman keeps thwarting him.

  • 2
    What does this have to do with the movie?
    – phantom42
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 13:36
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    @phantom42: Kalissar did say he/she was interested in other media too. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 14:30
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    Wrong Lex Luthor. That was his father. The Lex in this movie was Lex Junior. Superman hasn't really done anything to him at the start. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 16:50
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    @DarrelHoffman SSDD Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 0:47
  • I upvoted this answer, because it gets the order of his motivations right. BvS Lex is crazy. Yeah, in his mind he has reasons for his behavior, but those are at best rationalizations (at worst, from an outside perspective nearly random). That's why we have an atavistic aversion to the extremely mentally ill. Their actions are not predictable.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 3:09

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