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A Lament for the Potentially Good Superman Movie Henry Cavill Never Got to Make

Warner Bros. went to Henry Cavill to discuss filming a Superman cameo for Shazam. They left with no cameo and, in fact, no Superman.

That’s the gist of the story in The Hollywood Reporter, which exclusively reports, “Though neither side is confirming, the British actor, who first donned the blue suit for 2013’s Man of Steel, and then starred in 2016’s Batman v. Superman and last year’s Justice League, is said to be hanging up the red cape.”

The Shazam cameo broke down because of scheduling. After that, it became clear WB had no plans for any further Superman appearances for at least a couple of years. The only Kryptonian WB is interested in right now is Supergirl, who will be getting her own movie pitched as an origin story focused on the character’s teenage years. So, Cavill took the lead role in Netflix’s forthcoming adaptation of The Witcher and opted out of his deal with WB, following Ben Affleck right out the door (though not also straight into rehab like Affleck, whose life has pretty much gone to shit from the second he first agreed to play Batman). 

This means Cavill exits without ever having had the chance to make a truly great Superman movie. He was robbed of the chance to pull off what most other superhero franchises manage: produce a vastly superior sequel after a good, but not great table-setting origin story.

There’s a moment at the end of Man of Steel where I thought that’s where things were heading:

Cavill’s Kal-El, newly battle-tested and determined after his rock ’em, sock ’em Kryptonians fight with Zod, enters the Daily Planet wearing his signature Clark Kent glasses.

Why nobody notices his stunning resemblance to Superman, well, what do you want from them – that’s just part of the deal. Also, how exactly he even got this job considering his complete lack of reporting experience is one of those questions you’re not supposed to ask. Just go with it. Don’t nitpick.

Anyway, he briefly interacts with Laurence Fishbourne’s Perry White, crosses paths with that character we assumed was supposed to be a female Jimmy Olson (who turned out, oddly, to never be seen again), and does an “aww, shucks” back and forth with Lois. “Lois Lane, welcome to the Planet,” she cheekily offers up, leading him to smirk, pausing in appreciation of the double meaning of her line, before responding, “Glad to be here, Lois.” 

He practically smiles into the camera before it fades to black.

There was so much promise there. Here’s the classic Superman team gathered together. Among them, you’ve got two Oscar nominees (Amy Adams, multiple times, and Fishbourne the one time for playing Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It?) and a leading man who certainly looks the part but hasn’t yet fully embodied the character. The next Man of Steel will be more like the classic Superman stories we’ve known, they seemed to be shouting, except this time around Lois knows Clark’s secret. 

I love that ending. I have my share of problems with Man of Steel, but I came away pleased enough to want to see that promised sequel. I walked out of the theater betting Cavill could indeed become a fascinating, more hopeful Superman if directed by someone who actually likes the character and doesn’t just view him the way Alan Moore did when he created The Watchmen.

That obviously never happened. The shortsighted people at WB, almost all of whom now no longer work there, instead jumped straight to a team-up movie and fell back on the security blanket that is Batman. Director Zack Snyder, who seemed to always wish he’d been making a Batman movie instead of a Superman movie anyway, doubled down on the Jesus metaphors and further degraded the Big Blue Boy Scout into an Ayn Rand figure who sees an entire courtroom explode around him and seems to think, “Gosh, it’s so hard being me.”

He also seems to also be having a Deadpool-like “Did I leave the stove on at home?” moment

Then along came Justice League, a film constantly at war with itself between Snyder’s somber musings and Joss Whedon’s more Marvel-like levity. Because of everything which went down behind the scenes there, Cavill’s lasting legacy as Superman might just end up being his re-shoot CGI upper lip covering his Mission: Impossible-Fallout mustache.

What an actor looks like when half of their face is CGI just because they couldn’t shave that day.

I’m sad we never got a proper sequel. After Mad Max: Fury Road, there was some talk of George Miller taking a crack at a Man of Steel 2. Instead, we got BvS and the wildly schizophrenic Justice League movie. Henry Cavill deserved better. Man from UNCLE and the latest Mission: Impossible made far better use of him than the DC Universe ever did.

Maybe Superman doesn’t translate as well to a modern audience as he once did in simpler times. Maybe his godlike powers are an enemy to good drama. Maybe Cavill has shown he’s actually better suited to playing sauve-cool spies and domineering villains, not boring paragons of virtue. And, if we’re honest, Cavill and Adams never completely worked together as an onscreen couple.

But I can’t help but feel like the people at WB simply never gave them a fair shot after Man of Steel. For a brief moment, there was a chance that Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and crew would get to make a proper Superman movie. Instead, they ended up co-stars to the Batman show. 

That Cavill now departs without an actual on-screen exit, even though his character has died and been resurrected, and Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, and Jason Mamoa are now left to lead a Universe without a Superman or Batman is emblematic of just how chaotic things are right over at WB and DC. They’d be better off wiping the slate clean almost completely and moving forward with standalone WW movies and left-of-center projects like Shazam. It seems like that’s exactly what they’re doing, but it’s still awkward. Just a couple of years ago, Batman and Superman headlined their own movie which grossed nearly $900 million worldwide. Now both of those actors are out and their characters retired for the time being.

Thank God they have Wonder Woman: 1984.


  1. I am kind of unable to feel any emotion about it…I mean, yes, Cavil looks the part, but he is an okay actor at best imho. And I myself would prefer a reboot for the DC movies anyway. I don’t want to see more of the DCEU.

    1. Axing him now is probably for the best. I’m similarly unemotional about that aspect of it. However, I was looking for something more positive to say, which is that at one point I was genuinely excited to see Henry Cavill get a crack at a proper Superman movie hopefully made by someone who likes the character. Those days are long gone and what could have been never was, but there as a moment there where Cavill was right on the cusp of maybe making a worthwhile Superman movie. It could have sucked, obviously, but he never really got the chance.

  2. Wow kk you were on this news article quick time. I mean you must habe skipped lunch to do this. I liked caville as supes. I didnt at first due to christopher reeve whiplash and couldnt accept another model. Brandon routh was a copy of reeves so doesnt count. But i think he nailed it. I too wanted a sequel as like batman i am sick of the orign story. It has been too long waiting though so these things happen. However daniel craig came back as bond even with the time gaps so it is possible they just need to throw money. Although i think americans would rather see a yank play him anyway die to the whole stars and stripes thing. I mean i watched that jimmy kerville intervoew where they argued about driving on the left hand side of road and he said “dont make me pull that S off your chest man” which sums it up really. They should stick to supergirl on the telly. Its gonna bomb man. You heard it here first. So might shazaam.

    1. Right you are about me skipping lunch to do that. Well, at least, I ended up eating a very late lunch. All happened simply because I happened to be looking at the right spot right as the news came in and I felt compelled to write something immediately.

      I agree that this isn’t necessarily iron clad. After all, Daniel Craig has reportedly been out as Bond a couple of times now only for him to be back in. However, I don’t think it’s a money thing or a “I don’t know if I want to keep doing this” thing ala Craig. Here, it seems more WB has decided to move in a different direction as part of its DC Universe-wide revamp, and Cavill saw the writing on the wall, possibly before even WB knew for sure. The sequence of events is still in question.

      Re: Supergirl. The history of DC creating movies out of characters it already has on TV shows is not strong. The TV incarnations usually overshadow and outlast the film ones. So, I don’t see much need for this, especially when they already have Harley Quinn and Batgirl films in development, WW sequels for a while, and a whole array of other characters who’ve never been adapted to the screen. But I’m not as willing to declare it an instant-bomb yet, simply because we’re so, so early in the process right now.

  3. Spider-Man became dark. Superman became dark. Iron Man lost his sense of humor and fought Captain America. Heck, even Wonder Woman was all grey concrete and dark grey clouds. WW: 1984 should finally get DC out of the dark. We’ve had enough.

    That said, I like MoS, liked it better than Marvel’s version of Barman V. Superman. Except for a few things, especially the moment he screamed “Noooooooooo!” That was epic. Yeah, it’s sad he won’t get another stab. But he’s probably better off doing other kind of movies.

    He was not able to make a good Superman movie. Except he already did. It’s called Immortals.

    1. “He was not able to make a good Superman movie. Except he already did. It’s called Immortals.”

      Oh, good point.

      “That said, I like MoS, liked it better than Marvel’s version of Barman V. Superman.”

      I have my problems with MoS, but I liked it enough to want to see a Man of Steel 2. Too bad that never happened.

  4. Such a shame, really wish we got the chance to see a proper Man of Steel 2. With a great creative team behind it, there could have been a lot of potential. There’s a lot more to Superman than the mainstream films have not shown, but comics have. Would have been good to get more of that in film.

    1. There’s a cosmic/outer space side to Superman in the comics, sometimes, that’s rarely been shown on film outside of poor ole Krypton blowing up and the Man of Steel Jor-El flying a dragon stuff. Plus, there have been the alt-Superman stories, like the one where he was raised in Russia instead of America. I’m partial to Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski which is basically the classic Superman origin story but done in a more modern, realistic, and kind of Spider-Man-influenced way. Lots of “with great power must also come…” stuff in there.

      Maybe some day any of those stories or any number of others will make it to the screen, but I think DC Films is still struggling with the age old storytelling problem with Superman: how do you make him relatable? and is he even a relevant character anymore, or is he a relic from a different cultural age? Man of Steel ran with the reluctant Messiah imagery hard. Superman Returns had a bit of that, but took the “Is Superman relevant?” as its central storytelling challenge. What we’ve barely seen any of, however, is the classic Christopher Reeves doing good because it’s the right thing to do storytelling. I’m still jonesing for just a fun new montage of Superman saving people.

      What would you like to see them do with Superman at this point?

      1. I actually would really like for them to do an alt universe story. To not worry about the extended universe and do a what if scenario, whether that be Superman being Russian, or Superman being captured by the government when he was a baby etc. Would be a different outlook on the character the mass audience hasn’t seen yet

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