Henry Cavill’s Superman Makes a Lot of Sense as a DCEU Supporting Player Like the MCU’s Hulk
For years, Henry Cavill’s future in the DC Extended Universe has been in question. Fans are still waiting for a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel. Moreover, they’re still recovering from the bizarre CGI mustache removal of Justice League. While the DCEU hasn’t revealed its next move with Superman, some reports claim he could be relegated to a supporting character.
If this holds true, Superman will essentially be the DCEU’s equivalent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Hulk. Although the Hulk’s limited presence is due to a rights issue, the MCU has still made it work. And there’s an argument for why the DCEU could — at least, for now — use Cavill’s Superman more successfully as an ensemble player. Here’s why.
Like the Hulk, some accuse the Man of Steel of being too overpowered
Whenever a superhero is too powerful, storytellers sometimes feel the need to sideline the character. It’s why Hulk was absent from Captain America: Civil War and why Captain Marvel shows up late to the final battle in Avengers: Endgame. And in the DCEU, it’s why Superman’s death is so pivotal to the formation of the Justice League.
Only after the last son of Krypton’s death is Batman (Ben Affleck) motivated to assemble a team of heroes. So to that end, it makes perfect sense why the DCEU might want to downplay Superman’s presence. Putting him front and center throughout means every movie has one of two options.
Superman needs to be neutralized somehow, likely using Kryptonite or magic. Or the stakes must constantly be raised up insanely high. After all, not all villains can defeat the Man of Steel in battle. Just as the Hulk has journeyed throughout the MCU, Cavill’s Superman can serve a similar function. Otherwise, audiences may tire of repetitive storytelling.
Both characters have struggled to deliver breakout hit movies
Perhaps in part because of their power levels, both Hulk and Superman have had a hard time carrying their own movies. The former didn’t make his big-screen debut until 2003’s Hulk, which underperformed and underwhelmed fans. And even his MCU introduction in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk received a similarly disappointing reaction.
Although he’s led far more movies, Superman’s filmography is also problematic. Aside from 1978’s Superman: The Movie, every one of his films has had issues. Superman II, for example, has aged horribly thanks to a jumbled production history. And fans consider Christopher Reeve’s two subsequent sequels among the worst superhero movies ever.
Audiences even met the DCEU with a divisive response. Some fans love what Cavill’s Superman brought to the franchise. Others, however, would prefer a Man of Steel more in line with Reeve’s. Ironically, Warner Bros.’ attempt to recapture that aesthetic failed with 2006’s Superman Returns. The DC icon is one character studios can’t quite seem to nail.
Henry Cavill’s Superman could connect other DCEU heroes
Ever since news broke Cavill’s Superman was back in the DCEU, fan speculation has settled on Shazam 2 as his next destination. The first film teased an off-screen friendship between Superman and the similarly powered Shazam. And the sequel could finally pay off that dynamic. Moreover, it could feed into a potential showdown with Black Adam. And it could be the beginning of a trend.
Now that Superman has come back to life — and the DCEU perhaps still needs to recast Affleck’s Batman — maybe the Man of Steel can take Justice League recruitment to the next level. He can go places other heroes can’t, showing up in post-credits scenes and cameos to prepare for the inevitable Justice League sequel. Superman could even visit the Green Lantern Corps. to persuade John Stewart to join up. The sky is no longer the limit.