It’s rare that DC and Marvel fans agree on superhero movies. It’s even rarer for them to join forces online. But while the future of the DC Extended Universe might be hazy after Justice League’s disappointing box office, one thing is clear: Fans REALLY want a new Superman solo movie.
The underwhelming response to Justice League has led fans to worry that Warner Bros. may reboot the franchise altogether – or at the least, abandon the solo Superman sequel fans have hoped for since 2013’s Man of Steel. In protest at this, for the past week DC fans have flooded the internet with Henry-Cavill-as-Superman memes, gifs and videos, and in true DC style, they’re even petitioning Warner Bros. to “Give Henry Cavill a Superman sequel”.
While Man of Steel divided critics (though it was a triumph compared to Batman v Superman), the general consensus was that Cavill made a fine Superman. “Cavill displays a magnetic presence,” praised The Atlantic; “He brings to the role exactly the right haunted, stricken but resolute air,” TIME Magazine declared, and Forbes raved about his performance. “The casting was perfect. Cavill makes the role his own in a way I wasn’t certain would ever be possible after Reeves. He brings a sense of immediate power and physical presence to the role, yet also a gentleness.”
The criticism of Man of Steel’s Superman stemmed from the darker version of the character envisaged by director Zack Snyder – as well as the excessive, destructive action. The Washington Post said it best when they wrote: “Cavill makes a handsomely credible Superman — or at least he will, in an already-planned sequel that, with luck, will more thoughtfully exploit his talents. In Snyder’s bombastic creation [Superman] is reduced to little more than a joyless cipher or dazzling physical specimen."
This fan initiative maintains that Cavill’s Superman was shortchanged from day one. After Man of Steel, audiences wanted less angst and disaster porn and more character-development. Yet the subsequent Batman v Superman was an even larger stride away from the classic Superman beloved around the world. In the Batman-centric theatrical cut Cavill barely got to speak, and instead of Superman embodying hope, he was given lines like "Superman was never real." Instead of allowing him to smile more, he was killed off.
Justice League, finally, held some good news for Superman fans. For all its faults (we don’t need to go over that CGI upper lip), Justice League was at least fun. Despite the fact that Superman didn’t appear until the last half and was missing from the marketing, the Man of Steel that did grace the screen was charming and inspirational – a big step towards the Superman fans always wanted to see.
Yet Justice League was plagued with problems from the get-go. A recent exclusive by The Wrap examined the shocking missteps this movie endured. From Warner Bros. CEOs prioritising bonuses over good production to crippling disagreements about the tone of the movie, Justice League eventually just ran out of time. And boy, did it show.
This latest disappointment has spurred comic book fans into action, and they are almost universally agreed on one thing: while Warner Bros. may not have grasped how to execute a winning DCEU formula yet, to have Henry Cavill’s Superman be a potential casualty of their own mistakes would be, as the fan petition passionately declares, “a cinematic travesty”.
An uplifting, character-driven Superman sequel is what both the fans and the character deserve. It’s also what Cavill deserves, who has been the epitome of dedication and professionalism. While most DC fans don’t want a hard reboot, starting a few things afresh may not be a bad idea; e.g. the name Man of Steel 2 could be replaced by a Superman title – thus letting the public know this film depicts the hero they know and love, and have wanted to see more of since 2013.
The appetite for DC superhero movies is there – but only if they’re done well. The fans are asking that Warner Bros. forget rushing to unite the characters to emulate the Marvel cinematic universe – which took years of careful consideration to do. Instead, they should focus on listening to the criticism (from both audiences and critics) and learning from their mistakes.
Warner Bros. didn’t appear to pay much heed to what audiences wanted when they bolted to make Batman vs Superman and Justice League. Hopefully, these movies’ issues will motivate them to listen to what the fans are saying – because their message is clear: Warner Bros., you've got the right guy. Now give him a real chance to fly.