No matter what happens with DC in any medium or otherwise, it always comes back to Superman. Every time.
He is arguably the most popular, well-known and revered superhero on the planet, and many would tell you that it’s not an argument. Spider-Man may dwarf everyone in merchandise and Batman might have the best toys, but Superman is the ultimate above all.
That is why whenever he comes up in discussion, everyone has an opinion on it and it’s always “the right opinion,” even when and especially because it disagrees with yours.
This is also why when The Hollywood Reporter decided to run a story that Henry Cavill’s time as Superman had come to an end in the DC Extended Universe, the internet set itself on fire and burned angrily. No joke, for several hours Superman and Henry Cavill were out-trending the new iPhone announcement on Twitter.
It wasn’t all anger at WB either, it was philosophical differences coming back into the fold. The bloggers and critics that haven’t been kind to Cavill’s portrayal of Superman under the direction of Zack Snyder, basically came out and said “it’s not his fault, he was just put in a mess of a universe.” The rest of us that thoroughly enjoy Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice kindly, and unkindly disagreed…all day…and all night.
This led into debates about Superman’s character…again. Whether he should be a boy scout that saves cats out of trees with powers beyond those of mortal men because he’s better than all of us, or he should be a vulnerable, conflicted being with a lifetime of being raised human in his heart that makes him relatable, is quickly becoming the never-ending debate. You might sooner find peace in the Middle East than you will get people to agree about what Superman is supposed to be.
Therein lies the crux of the issue though, doesn’t it? The sense of entitlement that many people feel with regards to Superman and what his character is “supposed to be.” The people who grew up with Christopher Reeve’s interpretation in 1978 are convinced that it should always be that way no matter what, even if Brandon Routh’s continuation of the exact same archetype in 2006 with Superman Returns failed to connect with audiences. To be fair, a lot of that had to do with the 19-year gap between the last Reeve movie, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Returns, which meant an entire generation had no frame of reference for all of the movie’s connections to the Reeve films.
But even with that, I remember people telling me before MoS that Superman was a boring, over-powered character that they couldn’t relate to. Then after Zack Snyder’s visionary take on the character, that attitude got thrown into hard reverse and it was all about how Superman should never be humanized and never, ever, ever snap anyone’s neck to save an innocent family…or demolish the semi-truck of a misogynistic and violent womanizer instead of just beating the crap out of him in a diner.
The point is that the only thing anyone can agree on about Superman is that he’s very important to the DC brand, no matter what side of the argument you sit on.
With that in mind, we turn our attention to what is happening now with the fate of the DCEU fanbase and the franchise itself hanging in the balance based on what happens between Cavill, his manager Dany Garcia, and WB/DC. The most that we know for certain is that the two sides are negotiating whether or not Cavill will renew his contract as the Man of Steel, Cavill loves the role and would love to continue doing it but clearly has some conditions he wants met, and at this point in time WB has no plans to produce another Superman movie.
That’s literally all of the facts that we officially know. Anything apart from that is where the speculation begins. No one can agree on whether or not there’s a Shazam cameo already filmed or if Cavill turned it down. THR and others are claiming that WB sources have told them the franchise is moving on with Supergirl instead of Superman, while Dany Garcia tweets that “the cape is still in his closet,” WB states that they still have a great relationship with Cavill despite not making any decisions on future Superman movies, and Cavill himself posts a cryptic Instagram video of him and a Superman figurine, only stating that “today was exciting.”
A lot of DCEU fans, including ones that love his performance of Superman, don’t find much of this exciting at all, but at the moment no one is blaming him for this. No, this all lies at the feet of WB for the time being and if Cavill walks, that blame game will only get louder and louder and WB will find themselves in the middle of yet another PR disaster regarding the DCEU.
For all we know, that’s exactly what someone wants, particularly with this negotiation going on, but clearly we have now reached a point where because of the scoopers and bloggers forwarding what they hear from anyone at the studio, Henry Cavill’s status as Superman is as rumored as Ben Affleck’s status as Batman is. As of the time this was posted, neither actor has officially left the DCEU and it has only been speculated that they will.
Whatever the outcome of this, it is clear that for all the people who claim no one cares about Superman, the majority of people absolutely DO care about his character and have no problems declaring how much they do. It really is time to come to grips with the fact that no matter what happens with other DCEU characters, even Batman, that Superman is the one that changes everything no matter what. When Superman is involved, you can’t kill bad guys, hence the true reason people had issue with Batman’s killing in BvS. After all, he killed several villains low level or otherwise in his previous seven films and there was no outcry, but the minute you put him in a movie with Superman it became a grand issue. No coincidence.
When Superman is involved, the majority of people don’t want him presented a different way, no matter how much they may complain about how boring and overpowered he is, no matter how much people including Christopher Reeve himself long ago said that they were tired of seeing the clumsy insecurity of Clark Kent, and no matter how comic accurate a different interpretation may be. Either you do it EXACTLY like 1978 or a mob of angry critics, bloggers, YouTubers parents and fanboys will lash out.
When Superman is involved, he is the priority no matter what. It doesn’t matter if WB decides that they want to avoid controversy and finally focus on other characters in their catalog like Aquaman, Shazam, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, The Flash, New Gods and even Supergirl. Unless you make plans for a Man of Steel 2 movie, whatever plan you have is considered “not a plan” and is just “throwing crap at a wall to see what sticks.”
This is what I hear and see when people talk about Superman, and while I don’t consider it very fair behavior, it is what it is. Superman is the center of the DC universe, especially on the big screen, and one wonders if WB needs to learn and understand that before they make a decision that could kill their franchise before its revitalization even begins.