Everyone knows what happens when Lex Luthor is foolish enough to mess with Superman. I mean, when you cross swords with someone, you better make sure you have the bigger sword, and the folically-challenged Mr. Luthor clearly does not. But what would happen if Kevin Spacey's 2006 Lex from 'Superman Returns' greased up his bald noggin and got it on with Gene Hackman's 1978 Lex from the original 'Superman'? Below, I pitt the chrome-domed arch criminals against each other in four areas essential to being an evil genius. May the best Lex win.
SCHEME: Without giving too much away about the plot of 'Superman Returns,' I'll just say that the schemes are eerily similar: Both involve real estate and blowing stuff up. And since the self-proclaimed "greatest criminal mind of all time" shouldn't be copying anyone's eee-vil plans (even his own), I'm going to have to go ahead and give this one to Hackman. Advantage: Hackman
SIDEKICKS: A criminal genius is only as good as the people with whom he surrounds himself. Hackman both loses and gains points for Otis (Ned Beatty), his willing and dim-witted lackey. I deduct points because Otis is about three tequila shots away from being brain dead. I award points because Otis is funny as hell. So, in essence, Otis cancels himself out. On the flip-side, Spacey's thugs are pretty competent, but are a bit challenged in the personality department. Thus, they also cancel each other out. This portion of the contest must then be decided by which Lex has the better female counterpart. Hackman has the pretty but ditzy Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine) by his side, while Spacey has the pretty but ditzy Kitty Koslowski (Parker Posey) by his. Both are big contributors to the Luthor cause and both are through-and-through heterosexual women -- which, of course, means they've got a soft spot for grown men in red-and-blue tights. But Posey wins the day for Spacey with her keen sense of comic timing and her legendary delivery of the line, "Weren't there two of those?!" Advantage: Spacey
SENSE OF HUMOR: An evil comic-book genius is no fun if he's mad all the time. To truly hate a villain, we have to love to hate him. And to love to hate him, we have to like him just a little bit. And to like him, he's got to be funny. Catch my drift? While Spacey's Lex definitely has his funny moments, Hackman's hilarious banter with Superman is the gold standard by which all superhero-supervillain banter should be measured. Advantage: Hackman
'SUPER' HATRED: Even at his most evil -- like when he was telling Zod to "kill Superman!" -- it always seemed as though Hackman's Luthor relished the competitive nature of their relationship more than anything else. I like to think that Hackman might have shed a tear if Supes ever bit the big one. Spacey's Luthor, on the other hand, blames Superman for his time in jail and resents him for not sharing the secret of his powers. He loathes the son of Jor-El with such a passion, it might even rival the Charlie Sheen-Denise Richards feud. Advantage: Spacey
AND THE WINNER IS ... DRAW. Bald, be-wigged, humorous or homicidal -- Hackman's Lex and Spacey's Lex kick ass equally.