Given DC's multiple cinematic universes, James Gunn's announcement that the next Superman project would not include Henry Cavill has proven controversial.
There is no doubt that many things will change with James Gunn and Peter Safran taking over the DCU, but DC's multiverse has made things worse with Henry Cavill dropping out of their Superman series. With the DCU at a pivotal moment, DC Studios director and co-CEO James Gunn must decide what the DCU will be and how it will satisfy a discerning audience. While this new direction will be without Cavill, it doesn't have to be that way.
Despite mixed reactions to Iron Man, Henry Cavill's brief return as Superman in Black Adam was a highlight of the film. Not long after, the announcement that Henry Cavill would return as Superman and the reportedly beginning development of Iron Man 2 seemed to secure the actor's place in the new DCU. However, when it seemed Iron Man was finally getting the sequel it deserved, James Gunn announced (via Twitter) that he would be firing Cavill because his new project was based on a young Clark Kent. Petitions to make the film Cavill had promised immediately started circulating in an attempt to save Superman.
Among those on the slate is Superman. In the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman's life, so the character will not be played by Henry Cavill.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) December 15, 2022
Audiences Have Already Accepted DC’s Multiverse
While a complete reboot of the DCU makes sense, what doesn't make sense is why the Man of Steel series couldn't continue. The DCU has launched at least four unrelated theatrical DC Universes through the Joker, Batman, DC Super Pets, and the Snyderverse films, so the concept of separate timelines is nothing new. So it's going to follow suit and continue that cinematic approach, with Gunn's new project making a Henry Cavill Superman movie.
Also, with so much backlash surrounding Cavill's departure, questions surrounding whether DC can attract a large new audience remain unanswered, while disappointing some former franchise fans. Missing out on the conclusion of a story that's been developing for nearly a decade, and missing out on a second chance for a beloved actor to don the red cape, is certainly disappointing. Cavill's Superman never had the chance to grow into the more hopeful and optimistic figure Snyder plans to explore in later films, which puts the character in an odd position.
The Multiverse Is Big Enough For Everyone... Including Cavill's Superman
According to reports (via The Hollywood Reporter), J.J. Abrams and Tanessy Sicklets' Superman reboot was not affected by James Gunn's decision. If Coates' reboot is anything but Gunn's film, it refutes the idea that Henry Cavill's Superman exit reflects a desire for a single Superman series to represent the franchise. Additionally, with With Batman 2, Joker: Folie à Deux, and Gunn's Peacemaker returning alongside the new DCU lineup, it's curious that Warner Bros. won't greenlight a new Man of Steel project when there's enough room in the new multiverse.
While changes are expected as the DCU finds a new direction, it's clear that even some of its stars are confused about what role they might play in the future of the franchise. Regardless, there's no doubt that Superman will play a major role in the future of the DCU. While James Gunn's Superman decision was met with enthusiasm, it promises to lead to more high-quality movies and an exciting roadmap for the broader DCU.