Henry Cavill has now played Superman in three movies.
That’s only one less movie than Christopher Reeve.
Just let that sink in for a second. It’s already been nearly five years since the poorly received Man of Steel and nearly two since the even more poorly received Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. DC Films finally limped to the goal that was Justice League in late 2017, only to end up with more mixed reviews and a worldwide box office take no where near what anyone was hoping for, even less than the first two Snyder outings! Even though we are nearing the point where people can call Henry Cavill “this generation’s Superman,” his movies are not doing well, or at least not what they should be doing in today’s superhero crazed movie market.
What’s so disappointing for me about all this is I love Henry Cavill. I think he is the best Superman since Christopher Reeve easily, and (dare I say it???) arguably the best ever. As I’ve said before, Reeve will always be Superman in the same way that Sean Connery will always be James Bond, but if we just let go of the nostalgia and digital moustache erasing for a little bit, he’s right up there for me. And that’s saying something from a hardcore fan. He exudes a quiet strength, he’s a great looking guy, has a believable physique for Superman, and even a pretty good voice for him. His hair is really black and eyes are naturally blue (no digital Brandon Routh effects for this man!). He just hasn’t been given much to work with.
Since Man of Steel was released, I’ve followed the production of this new vision for Superman with much interest, even though I haven’t been crazy about the results. And yet Justice League finally got us there. I’m not sure how much of it was Snyder, how much of it was Whedon’s reshoots or how much of it was Geoff Johns guiding things from behind the scenes, nor do I even care. All I know is that after two disappointing outings as the Man of Steel, we as fans finally got to see a Superman that we recognized. Many commented on Cavill’s portrayal in this movie with much enthusiasm (see here), which could also explain the well-publicized discrepancy on Rotten Tomatoes between critic and audience ratings (for more on that, check out the great Steve Younis’ comments on the topic). All I know is that Superman in this movie was back to normal. He was positive, a symbol of hope, he was inspiring, he was kind. Seeing this was so unbelievably refreshing that for the first time after leaving a Zack Snyder movie, I wanted more!
What worries me now, though, is that we may not get any more. By big budget studio standards, Justice League was a flop, the latest of several for WB. Outside of the Nolan Batman movies and now Patty Jenkins’ hugely successful Wonder Woman, nothing has taken off (no pun intended 😉 ). It seems each of Henry’s outings is met with less and less interest from audiences as Marvel Studios and Fox’s X-Men franchise leave DC Films in their dust. With the recent announcement of yet another restructuring of the DC Films studio film slate, I was honestly quite shocked that the entire franchise wasn’t just completely rebooted and started from scratch with new actors, writers and directors. Gal Gadot’s huge popularity is the only plausible explanation I can think of why plans still exist for Flashpoint, Suicide Squad 2 and Man of Steel 2.
The reasons for why these movies have not been received favorably have been well diagnosed by fans and creators alike, so I’m not going into that here. I will say, though, that if Justice League‘s latest tease of a good Superman is any indication, I think we would be in for a dynamite Superman movie. On top of that, Cavill himself seems to have become something of a fanboy through this whole process, as he drops names of books and characters in seemingly every interview he’s in nowadays (see video of an awesome Q&A with Henry from a recent con above). Just hearing that he himself has been having conversations with Geoff Johns of late to brainstorm what can be done with the character is tantalizingly awesome, to say the least!
Fanboy Henry, Geoff Johns, great Superman formula… will it ever all come together, finally? Wouldn’t it be great if we could point to a signature moment in Cavill’s career as the Man of Tomorrow, in the same way we can with Donner’s Superman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and all the other great franchises? I think we’d be in for a treat on this one. After all, sometimes you have to fail a few times at something before you get it right.
Here’s hoping he gets his chance.