Even actor Henry Cavill is a bit tired of the snarling, darker version of Superman that’s been featured in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman. Now, after Justice League, he’s ready to turn that frown upside down.
Yes, it’s hardly a spoiler at this point that Superman returns in Justice League after sacrificing himself to save the day in Batman v Superman. Even though it’s not immediately obvious, he returns a changed man. That’s perhaps for the better, and even Cavill is hopeful for the character’s potentially brighter future.
In a Sunday Los Angeles Times story, Cavill spoke at great length about the future of Superman in DC’s slate of films. Using terms like “rebirth” and “refresh” for the character’s new beginning, Cavill saw Justice League as a new starting point more true to the character’s comics origin: “This movie highlights the qualities of Superman that exist in the comic books. That’s something I’ve always been very keen to highlight in the character. This rebirth provided the opportunity for me to play those characteristics.”
“Without Superman, there was this loss of hope,” Cavill said, referring to the darker era for the universe showcased in Suicide Squad. “We wanted to make a movie that was about hope and the positive force hope is,” Cavill continued. “And it meant that you had to bring him back.”
Midway through Justice League, the rest of the League do indeed resurrect Superman using a Mother Box, the Kryptonian ship, and a well-timed electric poke from The Flash. The plan is a success, but an angry and confused Superman winds up fighting Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Batman all at once. It feels a lot like the Hulk gone rogue, beating up the rest of the Avengers, especially because Superman can only be tamed by the power of love when he sees Lois Lane.
In a way, the scene feels like a misstep, but it also might be a step in the right direction for the character and the greater franchise. “I’ve always enjoyed the traditional, very classic view on Superman in the comic books,” Cavill said, which includes complex emotions about identity, but ultimately the tone is overwhelmingly positive and “good” in the classic sense of the word.
As such, hope and love become of the utmost importance for the character. As Justice League opens, we see a recording of two adorable children asking Superman questions. We don’t get an answer when he’s asked what he loves most about Earth, but Cavill offered up his own perspective:
“I think — and I imagine Superman would also think — the greatest quality of people and humankind is their capacity to love regardless of hardship or difficulties or personal trials. People can be living in the most horrendous war zone or under the most incredible oppression and yet they can still love so selflessly and so unconditionally — and still bear hope through that love. It’s amazing to see what people can do. I think Superman would recognize that and appreciate it.”
A response like that tells us that even if movies like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman fundamentally misunderstand Superman as he steals clothes from elderly people, murders fellow Kryptonians, and punches Batman through walls, maybe Henry Cavill actually understands the hero’s true nature.
Perhaps the future is bright after all.
Justice League is out now in theaters.