Even as James Gunn works hard to usher in a new DCU and a new Man of Steel with Superman: Legacy, many fans are still angry that Henry Cavill will no longer be playing everyone’s favorite big, blue Boy Scout. In fact, the biggest threat to new Superman actor David Corenswet may not be Kryptonite but endless fan comparisons of his performance and Cavill’s performance. However, here’s a truth that may hit the fandom even harder than Batman hearing the word “Martha:” Henry Cavill’s Superman is extremely overrated.
Henry Cavill’s Version Is Nothing Like The Hero From The Comics
There are many reasons for this, including the fact that the character never really felt or acted like the Superman that audiences fell in love with on the printed page or in Richard Donner’s beloved Superman novels. The character is meant to be an exemplar of hope, which is what he tells Lois Lane his symbol means in Man of Steel. Nonetheless, that origin story for Henry Cavill’s Superman ended with him brutally breaking Zod’s neck and killing him, effectively giving the normally hyper-moral Superman a baptism of blood in Cavill’s first cinematic outing.
Batman V. Superman Was Superman At His Worst
Henry Cavill’s Superman being much darker than he should be was at its absolute worst in Batman v. Superman. Instead of serving as the light contrast to Batman’s overly dark Dark Knight, the Superman of this film seemed dark and disdainful toward humanity…something that seems even bleaker in a film that begins by emphasizing how many people the Kryptonian killed in his careless aerial battle with Zod. The character is especially dark when telling Batman “The Bat is dead” and “consider this a mercy,” implying that Superman is doing a kindness by not using his godlike powers to hurt or even kill Batman.
Zack Snyder Agrees
Incidentally, if you think our read of Henry Cavill being too dark in Batman v. Superman is uncharitable, you should know that director Zack Synder agrees (sort of): as reported by ScreenRant, the director stated during an online watch party that at one point during the titular characters’ knockdown, drag-out fight, we see Superman through the eyes of Batman.
That’s why he looks more “ruthless and dangerous” than we might expect during the fight. Seeing through Batman’s POV could theoretically explain Superman seeming like an asshole for many of their interactions, but that doesn’t exactly make Superman look like a character worth rooting for.
He’s A Major Disappointment In Justice League
That last plot cements that Henry Cavill’s Superman is basically the flawed and evil character from the Injustice video games: after all, it only takes the death of Lois Lane to cause Superman to take over the planet and institute his own creepy New World Order. The plot of those games is fascinating and we can see why Zack Snyder apparently fell in love with them, but part of what makes an evil Superman easy to swallow in that alternative universe story is that it’s not the “real” Superman. By contrast, Snyder ensured the DCEU had a murderous, would-be fascist tyrant as its beacon of hope for nearly a decade.
Is It All Henry Cavill’s Fault?
As you can tell, most of our criticisms revolve around how this version of the iconic character was written, but it’s worth noting that Henry Cavill’s actual performance as Superman really does pale compared to Christoper Reeves and even Tom Welling.
He likely could have done more with the role if given better writers and directors, but Cavill spends most of the time just giving us stern expressions and wooden line deliveries. For us, this was the final kiss of death for the DCEU’s Superman: in addition to being a dark, violent, and even murderous character, this Superman has no real personality.
David Corenswet As Superman
In short, we’re hoping David Corenswet does a better job than Henry Cavill at bringing Superman to life, and we’re similarly hopeful that Cavill finds success in future projects (we’re certainly hyped to see what he can do in the Highlander reboot).
But the blunt truth remains that Cavill’s performance as Superman was so leaden that it could block a Kryptonian’s x-ray vision. We’re glad that he had to “bury the cape,” as it were, and superhero fans everywhere should consider this a mercy that someone else will be taking over for the reboot.