WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Shazam!
Superman's big cameo at the end of Shazam! proves that the DCEU doesn't need Henry Cavill as its Man of Steel. Kal-El, Last Son of Krypton, has had some bad press in the past few years, but it looks like things may be finally turning around.
Superman has always been one of the most paradoxical mainstream superheroes. He is one of the biggest names in comic books - only Spider-Man and Batman vie for the title - and as the first spandex do-gooder undoubtedly the archetype from which all others riff (indeed, Captain Marvel aka Shazam was initially canceled after DC sued alleging plagiarism). And yet making his stories translate to the big screen has proven difficult. Superman: The Movie remains a highlight of the genre thanks to Christopher Reeve's captivating double performance, but that series went off the deep-end into killer computers and nuclear peace messages.
Zack Snyder attempted to reboot the character in 2013's Man of Steel was a stripped back take in the vein of The Dark Knight (David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan conceived the story), but this new iteration of hope was a tough Kryptionian pill to swallow. This was compounded with the ambitious Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, before a brash course correction of the character with major reshoots (and CG upper lips) in Justice League finally wore out interest.
In the wake of that box office disaster, it would be easy to conclude that audiences were tired of Superman, at least the iteration first brought to life by Henry Cavill. The DCEU is moving into a new, more interesting future that puts focus on breakout stars Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but with The Batman likely a prequel and Idris Elba not, as initially reported, replacing Will Smith as Deadshot in The Suicide Squad, some continuity concerns remain. And so what can DC do other than bench the Man of Steel? Well, Shazam! has the answer.
- This Page: Henry Cavill's Superman Future & Shazam Absence
- Page 2: How Superman's Shazam Cameo Moves Past Cavill
Is Henry Cavill Out As Superman?
Before getting into what Shazam! introduces, it's worth establishing what exactly is going on with Henry Cavill as Superman. His more grounded, haunted iteration was at the center of criticisms for Man of Steel and most certainly Batman v Superman, to the point many question what his selfless sacrifice at the end of Dawn of Justice really meant. As a result, Justice League's reshoots were heavily focused on lightening him up (Danny Elfman even used the John Williams score), but that wasn't enough to correct the damage.
Last year, it was reported that, after lengthy contract negotiations, Cavill was no longer going to be Superman. The specifics were unclear, but it was alleged that his party and Warner Bros. disagreed about the actor and character's importance to the franchise going forward. Both sides refuted the rumblings while not out-right denying them; WB said that no Superman projects were in development but the relationship was strong, and Cavill and his agent shared cryptic social media posts.
Already we've seen Ben Affleck step down as Batman, while Ezra Miller is reportedly making one last effort to get The Flash movie off the ground, so it looks like Cavill is just one of many casualties from Snyder's Justice League.
Instead, the future of Kryptonians in the DCEU looks to have shifted, with a Supergirl script taking priority over Man of Steel 2. While there's not been much word on that recently, that the upcoming DC Films slate is now pretty full up to 2022 shows how low a priority the Superman presently appears to be, at least with the current Cavill status quo.
Shazam's Superman Cameo Is A Result Of The Cavill Issues
Which brings us to Superman's cameo in Shazam, something that had been rumored as early as January 2018. The moment itself is a pretty big deal built up through the story. Freddy wants to play up his friendship with Shazam, so promises he'll visit school for lunch, to which his bullies jokily ask if Superman will join too. So, of course, when Billy comes through for his friend at the end, he brings with him his Justice League pal.
In the film, Superman is only shown from the neck down, with Zachary Levi's stunt double, and not Henry Cavill in the suit. But rather than cutting around the actor, this decision actually comes from the lack of Cavill: Shazam! director David F. Sandberg told Screen Rant that the scene came out of that restriction, with a more humorous way to include the character needed to get around the lack of recognizable star power.
While that is on its own a rather nice example of improvisational filmmaking, it evidences a planned handling of Superman that sees him evolve beyond Henry Cavill.
Page 2 of 2: How Superman's Shazam Cameo Moves Past Cavill
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- DC Super Pets (2021) release date: May 21, 2021
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022