Well, ain’t that some shit. Barely a month after announcing his return as Superman on Instagram, Henry Cavill took to the social media platform once again. This time, though, it was to announce the opposite.
For weeks, stories had been flying back and forth about how Warner Bros. Discovery was handling its existing DC properties. From a rumored fallout with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins to a dispute with Dwayne Johnson over the Black Adam financial situation, James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DC Studios launch has been tumultuous at best.
Which makes the news about Cavill’s exit so shocking. Whether or not Black Adam is considered a flop or a hit, it’s undeniable that the movie’s media blitz around Cavill’s post-credits cameo generated the most buzz for DC’s cinematic universe in a long while. On the other hand, all of that buzz was generated days before Gunn and Safran were announced as the heads of DC Studios.
The biggest question surrounding the formation of this new studio was always about what to do with the existing DCEU. Would they blow it all up and start over? Will Matt Reeves’ The Batman serve as a jumping point for a new universe? Would they somehow retain what’s come before and course correct the Snyderverse (again)? Gunn’s own The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker existed in the current continuity, after all. What would happen to those properties if they reboot? Also, there is still the matter of the four movies in the current continuity — Shazam: Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom — that still need to come out.
After a lot of back and forth on twitter, Gunn finally revealed the direction they’re taking the franchise. It’s going kaboom:
On the one hand, I understand the need for Gunn and company to put their stamp on these characters, particularly if they’re creating an interconnected universe from scratch. On the other, this is the sixth time they’ve launched a DC Cinematic Universe since 2008 — seventh if you count Joss Whedon’s Justice League as a branch off of the original Snyderverse.
I’m using 2008 as a benchmark because that’s when the MCU kicked off and what DC has been chasing ever since. And for DC fans, these fits and starts have been the most frustrating. The advantage Marvel Studios has had over the last decade is the foundation they’ve established, not just with their actors but also their fanbase. Ironically, Phase 4 has been the most contentious among MCU fans precisely because Marvel is now having to contend with multiple timelines and recasting fan favorite characters.
I’ve long argued that DC’s initial misstep was not connecting Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to Man of Steel. As great as Ben Affleck proved to be as Batman, audiences had already spent three movies and 11 years with Christian Bale. Man of Steel 2 could have built on that history. That said, shoehorning Batman into the franchise in the first place was the other mistake, but that’s for another post.
Marvel’s strength was always what individual actors brought to their roles. Which is a gift and curse, ultimately, because it does make it tougher to imagine other actors as Tony Stark or Steve Rogers — just look at the controversy about recasting T’Challa, for example.
Which brings us to the Henry Cavill of it all. Throughout his tenure as Superman, his love for the character has never been in doubt. Moreover, he’s been a team player despite having his sequel hijacked by Batman or having to have his face CG-altered during the Justice League reshoots. This latest whiplash, though, has to take the cake.
Right around Thanksgiving, The Rock shared a video on Twitter explaining how they were able to convince Warner Bros. to bring back Henry for a cameo in Black Adam.
In retrospect, I wonder if Johnson had an inkling of the Gunn/Safran plan, and was trying to get ahead of it. Still, allowing Cavill to put himself out there to discuss the future of Superman during the Enola Holmes 2 press tour without a deal in place only to get booted from the role less than a month later feels kinda fucked up.
I was never a fan of the Snyderverse, but always thought Henry had what it takes to be a great Superman. Everything he was “excited” for all sounded right. This time, his Superman would be more hopeful and joyful (and finally have a spitcurl!).
Instead, Cavill is once again getting kicked to the curb. It’s a sad development overall. And honestly, it’s tough to gin up excitement for the future of DC Studios. Gunn and Safran might have a great plan ready to put in place, but if the past is prologue, there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see it come to fruition.
Ironically, the Superman news broke on the same day Warner Bros. Discovery announced their #WB100 campaign to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the legendary studio.
This is on the heels of WBD deleting shows like Westworld from HBO Max alongside David Zaslav’s other scorched earth approach to the studio’s legacy. (Don’t get me started on canceling a Batman Beyond movie starring Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer!)
Needless to say, the Discovery era of Warner Bros. hasn’t been great.
It’s also messed up to announce Cavill’s departure the day before Black Adam is to stream on HBO Max. Considering how much the Cavill cameo was hyped, knowing that the post-credits scene won’t amount to anything kinda sabotages any momentum Black Adam might have built from its streaming debut.
Then again, Zaslav has been sabotaging HBO Max, or is it just MAX, since he came on board.
Now watch Kevin Feige announce he’s cast Henry Cavill as Hyperion or The Sentry or some shit. Too bad Hercules is off the table.