With Henry Cavill's reported departure from the DCEU, the future of Superman solo movies is up in the air. Even though Man of Steel 2 was never officially set in stone in the first place, the lack of transparency surrounding the Kryptonian boy scout's cinematic presence is now that much more in the dark.
Superman's portrayal in the DCEU has been rough from the start. After kicking off the expanded universe with Man of Steel, only to breeze past a sequel directly into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the overall timeline and tone was mixed at best - especially compared to the calculated phases within the competing MCU. Then, following the franchise's unorthodox development, as well as five years without a direct sequel, Superman's depiction in Batman v Superman and Justice League was a far cry from the everyman's hero Superman was meant to represent (notwithstanding any attempt to build a multi-movie personality arc), which divided audiences. It also didn't help that neither Man of Steel nor Batman v Superman surpassed critical or financial expectations. And, finally, the nail in the coffin came with the digitally-removed mustache in Justice League, which wasn't just a creative issue, but visual proof that this version of the Man of Steel was a misfire - disappointing more than it delivered.
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So, with Cavill (reportedly) out of the picture, Warner Bros reassessing the DCEU, and hardly any information regarding the future of solo Superman movies, there is plenty to consider in terms of which direction the character will be taken. That said, though, the bitter truth may well be the fact that Superman isn't quite as necessary to the future of DC films as many might have expected. And, whether he's officially overshadowed by Wonder Woman or replaced altogether by someone like Supergirl, the true death of Superman may have finally come to pass.
The report on Cavill's departure suggests that Superman will be "replaced" by his cousin, Supergirl. A movie centering on Kara Zor-El was first mooted in early August, and it now appears to be where the Krypton side of DC Films is heading. This would allow Supes to take some time away before an inevitable reboot, making a recast in-universe a bit more palatable.
When it comes to banner heroes, though, there's another direction; given that Wonder Woman's narrative and skillsets are so similar to Superman's (outsiders with superhuman strength and old-fashioned values who leave their homeworld and deputize themselves as protectors of Earth), the DCEU may already have a solution to their Superman problem. Wonder Woman is the expanded universe's biggest success, critically and financially, so DC's best bet may well be nixing Supes from the picture altogether and having Wonder Woman represent a kind of amalgam of the two characters for the sake of creative consolidation.
Regardless of underwhelming responses toward Cavill's era (though not necessarily Cavill himself), Superman is still undeniably a beloved DC character. Cavill's departure could easily just open the door for a new actor to take his place, which would fit in nicely with DC distancing itself from its first go at the DCEU - assuming enough time was left between films to reintroduce him into the mix, regardless of whether there's a narrative explanation for his change. That said, the constant missteps in the way Hollywood translates this character to the big screen (not just starting with Man of Steel or Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, but all the way back to Superman III in 1983) is the biggest problem. Stepping away from Superman for a few years might do the trick, but even then, if the overall universe being created isn't working to the strengths of its most treasured characters, history may well repeat itself yet again.
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- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020