According to The Hollywood Reporter, Henry Cavill’s representation and Warner Brothers have stalled on contract negotiations as the studio looks to keep Cavill attached to the role of Superman both in his own solo featured films and in collaborative efforts like a sequel to Justice League and cameos in other DCEU films such as Shazam! Potential scheduling conflicts for Cavill appear to be partly to blame for a failed attempt to have Cavill make a cameo in Shazam!
This is all happening at a critical point in time for Warner Brothers as they look to iron out the wrinkles that have shown up in their attempt to roll out a cinematic universe starring the top superheroes from DC. Knowing the critical disappointment the majority of the DC films have been in this plan, Warner Brothers is hoping to do some course correction with their attempt and Superman appears to be put on the backburner for now.
Cavill, a talented actor possibly in the prime of his Hollywood career, has to do what is best for him. If committing to the role of Superman is important to him, cooler heads may prevail and Cavill will don the red cape again. But considering how much the films he has been a part of have been received, you can understand why he may not feel this is in his best interests.
Cavill launched the DCEU with Man of Steel in 2013 and the movie scored 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a colossal mess that scored about half that much on the movie review website. Justice League fared slightly better in 2017 but still struggled to get the DCEU on the right track after the wild success of Wonder Woman earlier in the year.
One of the criticisms of Cavill’s portrayal of Superman has been the character came off as too melancholy and somber. That may be a fault of the direction and tone of the movies he was in, and not a direct reflection on Cavill in the role. On the contrary, given what the earlier movies set out to do, Cavill performed admirably. The movies were just too dark in tone to best represent Superman regardless of who was suiting up in the blue suit and red cape.
DCEU losing two actors who played the two giants of DC
Ask anyone who the most famous characters in the DC universe are and nine times out of ten the response will be Superman and Batman. It is no coincidence then that Warner Brothers used these two characters to weld the foundation for the DCEU on the big screen, with a terrific introduction to Wonder Woman as well, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Regardless of how you feel about the DCEU and how it was thrown together, having Batman and Superman be the two main cogs in the extended cinematic universe was an obvious decision to make.
Ben Affleck was a casting decision that raised some eyebrows initially, although Affleck’s portrayal of the Caped Crusader was among the highlights of the film. But after two appearances on the big screen as Batman, Affleck has been backing off from the role and involvement in future Batman projects. With the previous reports of Affleck looking to get out of Gotham and the latest rumblings suggest Cavill is leaving the Fortress of Solitude, that would seem to be two significant losses for Warner Brothers.
It is. There is no way to shake that any other way. Losing Cavill and Affleck stings as the two could have been mainstays in the DCEU for years to come if things turned around. As it stands now, Gal Gadot will take on the mantle as the DCEU’s leading force, and that is not a bad thing. Gadot has been outstanding in her role as Wonder Woman, and the DCEU is at a possible crossroads where having Wonder Woman take the lead could play incredibly well for them.
That has nothing to do with the political and social justice impact of having a woman lead a group of superheroes against the forces of evil. This is more reliant on the fact that Gadot as Wonder Woman has just worked better than any attempt at Superman or Batman has in the DCEU. Wonder Woman helped turn the page for the DCEU to something more colorful, optimistic, and entertaining as a whole. If the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel (slated for November 2019) lives up to the bar of the first standalone film, then the DCEU will be able to move forward knowing they can count on Gadot in that role, so long as they can keep her happy moving forward.
So what happens with Superman now?
Simply put, you cannot sell a DC cinematic universe without a Superman, or a Batman. Wonder Woman is fantastic, and it will be good to see how Aquaman, Shazam and Flash pan out in their own solo adventures down the line. Warner Brothers is also moving forward on other projects to expand the DCEU with films focusing on other bright spots in the cinematic universe such as Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn (Birds of Prey has even been bumped up ahead of a Suicide Squad sequel) and giving a fresh look at the character of Green Lantern. Warner Brothers is also going off the rails with a Joker origin story (starring Joaquin Phoenix). On top of that, there are plans to get started on projects focusing on Batgirl and Supergirl.
Word of a Supergirl film coming into development appears to confirm any standalone Superman project is on ice for the foreseeable future. And perhaps that will be best for all involved with the DCEU.
If we have reached the end of the line for actors like Cavill and Affleck, the DCEU will need to figure out how to address these two tentpole characters moving forward. Adapting the overall story arc for the DCEU could lead to some drastic changes in the vision for Superman and Batman. One way to address the Batman situation could be to have a character like Nightwing step in to fill in, complete with the appropriate backstory showing a divide between the two. Or bringing the “Batman Beyond” premise to the DCEU could be in order, where Bruce Wayne is retired and serves as a protege to a newer, younger Batman.
Addressing Superman is a bit different because Warner Brothers has already tried playing the death of Superman card (of course, even in the comics, Superman returns from the dead). And there is no real heir to Superman. That role could be filled by Supergirl, but it is also tough to have Supergirl without Superman in the same universe. Even on TV, the “Supergirl” TV show could not avoid the inevitable introduction to a TV version of Superman.
Sometimes the simplest answer ends up being the best answer, and the easiest solution for Warner Brothers would be to simply recast Superman for the DCEU. Obviously, this is not the most ideal situation, but if Cavill is walking away, then Warner Brothers may have no choice. And you can cast a new actor in a role of an iconic character. It is not the end of the world.
We have had multiple actors play Batman. The Harry Potter series had to recast Dumbledore. Marvel has had to recast some characters at times too, including the Hulk and War Machine.
Early reports suggest recasting Superman is already in the works. Michael B. Jordan has been the name connected most to the early rumor mill headlines. But the pressing issue is how soon will Warner Brothers try their hand at Superman once again? Given the current projects on the table and the apparent need to recast the iconic superhero, it makes sense to give it all time to breathe and allow for the best possible planning before giving this another go. According to a report from Deadline, any changes to Superman will not be made and worked on for the next phase until some time “down the road.”
Taking a break from Superman and Batman is likely as close as Warner Brothers will get to hitting the reset button on the entire DCEU. It would be unwise to totally scrap everything in the DCEU given the success of Wonder Woman and the level of excitement that character and series brings to the table. As much as it would seem easy to just blow everything up and start over from scratch with a well thought-out plan of attack to establish multiple characters before ultimately bringing them together, that is just not feasible for Warner Brothers. Instead, the hope will be placed on strong efforts to create good films with their current projects and reshape the way fans receive their work.
There will be another Superman someday, and it won’t matter who plays him as much as the work done to create a Superman that resonates with fans and viewers. DC fans want to like Superman. They may just have to wait a while for Warner Brothers figures out how to make one fans will like.