The cancelation of Man of Steel 2 has been controversial among the DC fanbase, including those who had problems with the films that Henry Cavill’s Superman starred in. Numerous moviegoers have expressed their dislike of new DC Studios head James Gunn getting rid of the previous Superman and his continuity, making the past decade of films essentially irrelevant. Despite Gunn’s actions being the cause of this rage, the events can ultimately be tied back to Zack Snyder.
Snyder’s controversial Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made the former DC Extended Universe something of a toxic property, with its haphazard production leaving even Superman adrift. Due to this, Cavill’s time was cut short long before James Gunn got on board, mostly due to how mishandled the whole universe was. Here’s how the release of Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot sealed the fate for Cavill’s Kal-El nine years ahead of time.
Zack Snyder’s View on Superheroes Is Unlike Any Previous Superman
More than any other superhero, Superman is associated with hope, optimism and — in some unfortunate cases — a bit of outdated cheesiness. The latter issue definitely explains why Snyder made Man of Steel the way that he did, as something that went against the more Pollyanna depiction of the character in previous films was certainly a necessity. The idea for a new Superman film was birthed by the success of The Dark Knight trilogy, with Christopher Nolan conceiving it but not wanting to direct it. Instead, Zack Snyder was chosen to helm it, having been impressed by his use of visuals and ability to “deconstruct mythology.” While this may have been Snyder’s strength elsewhere, it was a weakness concerning Superman.
Zack Snyder sees the idea of superheroes being faultless figures with squeaky-clean reception as being outdated, especially once he brought the superhero comic book deconstruction Watchmen to the big screen. Watchmen had a story in which superheroes are painfully fallible people, with the most powerful among them losing his humanity and sense of connection to the world at large. It was an utterly cynical story that completely ripped away the innocence of superheroes, and it’s influenced generations of creators since then.
Many have erroneously seen it as the only way to truly do superheroes. Zack Snyder has previously gone on record stating that purer examples of superhero storytelling are incredibly hard to believe and that those who think these characters would “truly” act in such a manner should “wake up.” To be fair, someone so highly swayed by works such as Watchmen would logically view superheroes through this lens, with anything else being too cartoony and a “beautiful lie.” Thus, given that he went on to handle the ultimate personification of more overtly heroic ideals, it’s almost shocking that Man of Steel and its maligned follow-up weren’t even more controversial.
The DC Extended Universe that manifested after 2013 was most certainly not planned beforehand, especially considering that Man of Steel was initially meant to be a reboot of the Superman film franchise, potentially set in the same continuity as The Dark Knight. There were never intentions on Snyder’s part to use the movie as DC’s equivalent to 2008’s Iron Man, and if that was WB’s plan from the get-go, they failed to secure a director whose vision would lay a successful path. Man of Steel and it’s sequel essentially applied the rules of Watchmen to Superman, and to say it was an awkward combination is an understatement. The backlash to his depiction of Superman was strong for Man of Steel, but the outright lambasting of Dawn of Justice and its reception as a box office disappointment meant that Snyder’s vision ultimately had to go.
The Awkward Course Correct of the Snyderverse Killed Cavill’s Superman
With the theatrical version of Justice League, Warner Bros. tried to course correct from the tone and reception of the Snyder movies, resulting in a disjoined failure of a film that blatantly tried to copy the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It didn’t help that Superman’s presence in the film was the butt of jokes due to the questionable CGI used for him at different points. Behind the scenes, development has been extremely hectic and rudderless, with projects planned and thrown at the wall without much rhyme or reason. Without a strong foundation of where to go forward with the films, it was impossible to slot a potential Man of Steel 2 into the mix.
This can all be tied back to the controversy over Zack Snyder’s Superman films and how the shared movie universe has been fighting a connection to them ever since 2013. Such a haphazard foundation with the veritable king of superheroes set the tone for the DCU and given its mixed reception at best, it certainly set things up for failure. Thus, when David Zaslav become CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery and wanted to make Superman a cinematic priority again, it meant excising what many saw as a cancerous tumor from the hero. Sadly, said tumor took the form of Henry Cavill, who, for as much as he’s beloved by fans was the face of the Snyderverse and the DCU.
Even before Zaslav and James Gunn were on the scene, the lack of a concrete idea for a Man of Steel sequel stemmed from questions on where to go with such a controversial take on Superman. Thus, the Last Son of Krypton’s appearances at the end of Shazam! and the Peacemaker TV show had Superman making headless cameos, slowly making audiences aware that Cavill would be phased out of the role. Sadly, the actor who was perfect for the hero was let down by Zack Snyder, whose lack of cohesion with the fundamentals of the character derailed him on the big screen for a good 10 years.