Henry Cavill is no longer super. On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter delivered the news that Cavill, who plays Superman in Warner Bros.’ DC Cinematic Universe, will no longer appear as the iconic character in the studio’s future DC Comics movies.
“Warners had been trying to enlist Cavill, who most recently co-starred in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, for a Superman cameo in Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi and will bow April 5,” THR reported. “But contract talks between Cavill’s WME reps and Warners broke down, and the door is now closing on other potential Superman appearances.”
The news is shocking in that Warner Bros. has spent the past several years trying to build out its DC comic book universe. In the comic books, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman are the holy trinity and cornerstones of the Justice League; excising Cavill’s Superman from the DC Cinematic Universe is akin to removing Chris Evans’s Captain America from Marvel’s Avengers films.
Superman and what he stands for — hope, truth, justice, the American way — is essential to DC’s superhero comics. He’s the force of good, the heart, and the inspiration that drives the Justice League.
But writing out Cavill suggests that the character will no longer play the same role in the comics’ big-screen existence. According to THR, the studio also has no immediate plans to make any solo Superman movies. Instead, Warner Bros. is reportedly headed in a different, younger, and more female direction.
“[T]he studio has shifted its focus to a Supergirl movie, which will be an origin story featuring a teen superheroine,” THR reports. “This effectively removes an actor of Cavill’s age from the storyline’s equation given that Superman, aka Kal-El, would be an infant, according to DC lore.”
This shake-up may be a response to Warner Bros.’ ongoing struggle to get its DC films off the ground, due to critically eviscerated movies like 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League. The studio was hoping that both of those titles would have made an Avengers-like impact at the box office, but neither did, with the latter grossing only $229 million domestically. In contrast, Marvel’s Black Panther hauled in $200 million in its opening weekend.
Further, Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman have failed to resonate with audiences the way Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has, perhaps signaling to Warner Bros. executives that a change was necessary. It’s been rumored that Affleck is also out as the Caped Crusader.
Making Supergirl a major character might help fill some of the story and ethos voids that Superman’s departure will create — the character has similar powers and the same spirit of hopefulness. It also, as THR notes, skews the universe a bit younger and brighter, as Supergirl would ostensibly be joining a team where Aquaman (whose solo movie is out on December 14) and Wonder Woman would be the eldest members; the title characters in Shazam! (out on April 5, 2019), as well as Cyborg and The Flash (both scheduled for 2020), would be her peers.
Warner Bros. has often been criticized for going too dark with its superhero movies, and in doing so, it’s failed to achieve the type of success and momentum that its main competitor, Marvel, has. By going in a different, and perhaps younger, direction, the studio is seemingly abandoning its hope for Superman to capture a bigger audience, and instead trying to draw in a new generation of fans.
Neither Cavill or Warner Bros. has officially confirmed the news.