Man of Steel 2 is dead — Henry Cavill officially out as Superman

DC movies in order: Man of Steel
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Henry Cavill’s schedule just got a little emptier. Following news in October that he was leaving Netflix’s The Witcher, to be replaced by Liam Hemsworth, it’s now been confirmed he won’t be back as Superman either. In fact, the long-gestating Man of Steel 2 won’t be happening at all.

This news was confirmed by Cavill himself, over on Instagram, and James Gunn — the new co-chairman and co-CEO of DC studios. Evidently the recent changes going on behind the scenes in DC’s movie division are to blame.

I will, after all, not be returning as Superman.” Cavill said, following a meeting with Gunn and his co-chairman/CEO Peter Saffron. “After being told by the studio to announce my return back in October, prior to their hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life.”

Cavill wished Gunn and Saffron the best in the new DCU, but emphasized that while his time as Superman may be over, everything the character stands for still rings true.

Gunn, who has always been very open about his work on social media, reiterated this news. He confirmed that he and Saffron have a DC slate “ready to go” and that a Superman movie is on the cards. However, this movie will be focused on an earlier part of Superman’s life, and won’t be played by Cavill. Gunn announced that he is writing the movie, but a director hasn’t been chosen yet.

DC has done Henry Cavill dirty 

DC's movie division has had a turbulent decade, and it seems to have affected Henry Cavill's Superman more than most. To the point where the character's future was regularly in doubt.

Man of Steel was criticized for its dark tone, and the fact Superman was a brooding, lonely and generally rather miserable character — instead of a beacon of hope and light. This was further amplified when Superman was killed off in Batman vs Superman, and stayed that way for most of Justice League’s runtime.

Cavill’s Superman was then seemingly-discarded by DC, and the character only appeared twice in the years following: a faceless Cavill-free cameo in Shazam, and then another brief appearance at the end of Black Adam. Black Adam was supposed to mark the triumphant return of the hero to the big screen, with a solo Superman movie announced shortly after release.

But this recent cancellation means behind-the-scenes turmoil has claimed yet another victim. While we don’t know what is going on in the actor’s head right now, the fact this has happened just after his departure from The Witcher stings a little. Though it’s still unclear whether the reports are true, Cavill left over creative differences with the production team — and the heavy deviation from the source material.

This isn’t necessarily the end of Henry Cavill at DC, even if he isn’t the star of the next Superman movie. Gunn tweeted that a number of future possibilities had been discussed, though what they might entail is less clear. It could be that Cavill could return as a brand new character, or that his Superman will return at an unspecified point in the future.

Since the multiverse is such a hot topic right now, playing a huge role in the MCU and the upcoming Flash movie, there are plenty of opportunities to see Cavill’s Superman again. Whether it’s as an aged version of the hero, in the vein of Kingdom Come, or a multiversal crossover like Crisis on Infinite Earths. Similarly, rumors that Aquaman star Jason Momoa is a frontrunner to play Lobo in the new DCU, means it’s possible Cavill could return as someone other than Clark Kent.

Nothing has been confirmed, however, and the only thing that’s definitely happening is a reboot of the Superman film series.

This is a turning point for DC movies

This news does seem to be the final nail in the coffin where the current DCEU canon is concerned. Wonder Woman 3 has reportedly been scrapped, with director Patty Jenkins no longer working on the project, while Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom is reportedly the last time we’ll see Momoa as Aquaman. Black Adam’s disappointing box office and reception also likely means the future of Dwayne Johnson’s superhero passion project, and any associated spin-offs, is in doubt.

Frankly, a do-over and starting the DC movies slate from scratch is probably a good thing. DC seemed so eager to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe following Man of Steel’s relative success, only for its early steps to fall flat. Batman v Superman was heavily criticized, and failed to exceed $1 billion at the global box office. 

This tepid reception reportedly led some some scrambling behind the scenes, and a lot more studio interference on Suicide Squad and Justice League. Suicide Squad’s theatrical cut was a tonal mess, thanks to heavy reshoots and interference, while Justice League ended up replacing director Zack Snyder mid-way through production. Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought in to complete the movie, leading to another messy film and multiple reports of abusive behavior on-set.

Messy is probably the best way to describe the DCEU following Justice League. While some movies, particularly Wonder Woman and Joker, proved to be successful, it always felt like the studio didn’t really know how to proceed, seemingly greenlighting movies whose production never went anywhere. New Gods, Nightwing, Wonder Twins, Green Lantern and more.

Even those movies that did make it to production ended up facing various challenges. Batgirl was unceremoniously canceled after filming was over; the Flash has had more delays than we can count; and even Black Adam took about 15 years to actually make it to theaters.

In a franchise that’s seen various retcons, soft reboots, and plenty more u-turns, a fresh start can only be a good thing. Especially if the incoming DCU has a solid plan and the skills necessary to make it a success. Not just an attempt to copy the Marvel formula and cash in on the popularity of DC heroes as quickly as possible.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.