Henry Cavill was never going to let a CGI mustache removal be his kryptonite.
Cavill has always shown dedication to a role that isn’t easy to take on. Ask Brandon Routh and Dean Cain about becoming Clark Kent/Kal-El. Sometimes you put the “S” on your chest and that’s all people see when you’re trying to move on to other roles. But Cavill has also been successful in other projects, including “Mission: Impossible” and Netflix’s “The Witcher.”
Other than Christopher Reeve himself, no actor has embodied the image of Superman in live-action quite like Cavill has. He gives off a commanding and calm presence that seems to have leaped in a single bound from the comic book page to the big screen. Think casting Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr., but sub in a guy who works his triceps to failure and doesn’t skip leg day.
Downey’s biggest muscle as Iron Man was a sarcastic, know-it-all mouth that was written for his on-screen strengths. Cavill’s Superman has yet to actually say anything that interesting. He’s just always looked the part. That’s not his fault, though. If WB/DC could get someone to write Superman with the depth that the Nolan brothers brought to Christian Bale’s Batman, Cavill would be back to a solo Superman franchise in no time. (Remember that “it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me” line in “Batman Begins”? Still slaps.)
But if a charismatic actor with a jaw that looks like it was penciled by John Byrne and a build that could have been sketched by Ed McGuinness is that passionate about getting Superman right on-screen, you don’t let him off the lot. Warner Bros. should get credit for not allowing the failure of “Justice League” to get in the way of perfect casting.
Despite the mostly positive fan reaction to Cavill’s potential return, it can be argued that he hasn’t been the dominant presence in any of his turns as Superman just yet. Michael Shannon’s Zod and Antje Traue’s Faora-Ul were the must-see Kryptonians in “Man of Steel,” and “Batman v Superman” saw Gal Gadot rise to the top of the superhero movie depth chart at WB/DC. Has Cavill even had a defining Superman moment on-screen other than dying when everyone knew he’d be back?
His DC movie redemption tour for now won’t include the “Man of Steel” sequel that didn’t happen, replaced by “Batman v Superman.” That decision can’t be knocked. It gave us Wonder Woman, an eventual billion-dollar “Aquaman” movie and the audacity of Batfleck’s untapped potential.
But if all we’re getting are super-cameos, make the best of them. Cavill was supposed to show up in “Shazam!” but couldn’t make it work. An appearance in the “Shazam!” sequel that will likely feature Dwayne Johnson — who has been connected to the role of “Shazam!” antagonist Black Adam for years and is the one guy in Hollywood who looks like he can bench more than Cavill — would be a fun start.
Be happy that all sides want to make this work. And by all means, make sure the all-black super-suit makes it into HBO Max’s Snyder Cut of “Justice League.” Just don’t let this Superman go to waste.