It seems that we may have seen the last of Henry Cavill's Superman, as the actor is reportedly bowing out of the role after three movies. Cavill's agent, Dany Garcia, has refuted this claim, insisting that "the cape is still in his closet." However, Warner Bros.' response was more measured, saying simply that "no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films," and that "we've always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged."
Fundamentally it seems that the problems renewing Cavill's contract come down to money, with Cavill's team pushing for a better payout at a time when Warner Bros. was looking to slim down the budgets for DC movies, and looking beyond the Man of Steel for the DCEU's future. However, there are other factors at play, including a Superman cameo in Shazam! that never came to fruition, and the widespread criticism of Cavill's previous DCEU entries.
Cavill has so far appeared in three movies as Superman: Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and last year's Justice League. Progress on another Superman solo movie has been slow, however, and Cavill hasn't just been waiting around for the DCEU to find its feet. This year he branched out into a villain role in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, and he was recently cast as Geralt of Rivia in Netflix's upcoming adaptation of the Witcher books and video games - a franchise that Cavill is extremely passionate about, according to showrunner Lauren Hissrich.
First, let's address the contract dispute, which is the primary sticking point. Cavill's original contract was for four movies, so a contract extension would naturally need to be arranged before Warner Bros. could move ahead with another standalone Superman movie. According to Revenge of the Fans, Cavill's team wanted to leverage a better deal out of the contract extension - including more movies, more money, and possibly even a producer role. From Warner Bros.' perspective, however, there isn't exactly a burning need to get another Superman movie made. The last three movies featuring Superman have underwhelmed at the box office, and the DCEU as a whole is undergoing a bit of a reboot. Wonder Woman 1984 has stormed ahead and The Batman is starting to pick up speed, but Superman has been left in the dust.
One potential hope for getting Superman back on the right track and portraying him as a hopeful and inspirational figure was the planned cameo appearance in Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi as the titular superhero. The movie is about a kid, Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who is gifted with the ability to turn into an adult superhero. Billy's friend and foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a major superhero fanboy with a collection of memorabilia, so a Superman cameo could have been a fun way to show the Man of Steel as a role model for kids. Unfortunately, however, those plans fell through, and with them went an opportunity to get audiences excited for Superman again.
During his tenure as Superman, Cavill has now faced five years of backlash, criticism, and mockery. Warner Bros.' attempt at building a cinematic universe based on DC Comics has been an uphill struggle, with Batman V Superman and Justice League both widely derided, and Man of Steel proving to be divisive among fans. Movies that should have been opportunities for Cavill to define his version of Superman are instead better remembered for the notorious "Martha" moment and dodgy CGI mustache removal. In addition to apparently making Warner Bros. apathetic towards Superman, it wouldn't be surprising if Cavill himself was growing tired of waiting for the franchise to find its feet.
Regardless of whether or not Cavill is really gone from the DCEU for good, it doesn't seem as though Warner Bros. is looking to make another Superman movie any time soon. It's sad news for fans of Cavill's Clark Kent - especially those who liked him in the role but were dissatisfied by Superman's character arc in the DC Extended Universe so far. Now, it seems, we may never get to see what Cavill could have done with a more hopeful and less angsty Superman movie. Still, at least this frees him up to make a sequel to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020