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Rumors have swirled over the past week that Henry Cavill will return to play Superman for DC, though not in the way many may have guessed. According to reports, Cavill is in discussions for a minor role in another DC hero's movie, and it will be a hero the character currently has existing ties with.
The rumor has led to many online openly wondering if Superman has become DC's equivalent to Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there are mixed opinions about that notion. Some love the idea, though personally, I don't know why anyone would get behind this. Superman is not DC's Hulk, and there are a few key reasons why treating him as such is a bad idea.
The MCU Doesn't Use Hulk The Way It Does Because Marvel Doesn't Want Solo Movies
The MCU's situation with Hulk as a supporting character isn't so much a creative choice by Marvel Studios so much as it is the only way to continue to use Hulk frequently within the universe. Universal owns the distribution rights to Hulk, and as such, Marvel Studios has not expressed any interest in standalone Hulk movies.
The reality is that there are many at Marvel Studios, including Mark Ruffalo, who want to make a solo Hulk movie, and would love if Universal allowed for that to happen. The character arc Hulk has gotten thus far through various Marvel movies is more of a compromise compared to what Marvel would actually do with complete freedom, and in my opinion, not a great model for others to emulate.
While Hulk's outings in multiple movies show a character transformation, audiences have missed a large chunk of the journey along the way. This includes the insane transformation into Professor Hulk, which happened entirely offscreen between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. I don't believe audiences would be as okay with Superman going through similar big changes off screen, nor should they be.
A Superman Cameo Is Fine, But Repeated Ones Are Problematic
You know what's a great way to undermine your lead superhero in a movie? Bring in a stronger superhero with little to no discernible weakness, and then challenge the audience to ask why he wouldn't just stick around and save the day later in the movie. Hulk is stronger than many Marvel heroes, but it balances out because his anger often got in the way of being a competent leading hero.
Imagine Superman in a similar position and try to reckon how he could provide support in any adventure without accidentally overtaking the story. You either have to pre-occupy the hero with an event elsewhere the audience won't see, or incapacitate him in an elaborate scenario that, for anyone who has read DC's Justice League comics knows, can grow tiresome really fast.
Superman is the epitome of a leading character, and giving him a smaller role in a hero movie akin to Hulk just wouldn't work. Audiences know too much about him, and will inevitably want to know what's going on in the Man of Steel's love life, with his mother and how he's reckoning with being the last Kryptonian. People will want another Superman movie, so why yank their chain keeping him around as a background character?
The World Wants Superman Movies, Not Just Man Of Steel 2
I think part of the thought process with those wishing to put Superman in "Hulk mode" in DC is rooted in the idea that Zack Snyder's ultimate vision for the DCEU is still a possibility. I assume the thinking is that Cavill will continue to work elsewhere, but continually make small appearances in DC movies until his schedule is freed up for Man of Steel 2.
Don't get me wrong, Henry Cavill has been a fine Superman, but by no means does the world need to wait on him, for however long it takes for Man of Steel 2 to get a green light. Superman has been rebooted in the past, he can be rebooted again. This is especially true now that the DC movie world is no longer connected, and characters are allowed to exist independently of each other.
I'd even argue that keeping Henry Cavill on as Superman for even one more appearance if he's unwilling to commit to another movie is just a slow pull of the band-aid. Granted, all that has been revealed so far is he'll have a cameo role, which could be as small as that scene in Shazam! where Cavill didn't even appear. This is more a response to the school of thought that Superman would make for a decent Hulk, which I'm obviously not a fan of happening.
I'd still love to see Man of Steel 2, especially with as much time having passed between the first installment. To see how Clark has grown and changed as the hero in a 7+ year gap could be incredible, provided DC found the right storyteller for that tale. There are just too many unknowns about it and the state of DC's future to be overly reliant on it ever happening though, and if I had to choose between that and a brand new Superman, I'm picking the latter.
DC Doesn't Need A Version Of The MCU's "Hulk"
Another reason I'm all about leaving Superman out of other DC hero's movies is because DC doesn't have a shared universe at the moment. Marvel is able to use Hulk to great effect because the MCU is connected, and there's an overarching narrative that allows the character to grow and develop.
Personally, I think DC shifting away from a shared universe was the smartest thing the franchise could've done, and these films have demonstrated a lot more creativity ever since. Injecting Superman into these is a relic to the past that, while some are obviously still very fond of, ultimately keeps the franchise from moving forward. If the past of DC movies is a direction a viewer wants to see brought back however, I can see why the thought of repeated Superman cameos is appealing.
Just Because It's Hard To Make A Good Superman Film, Doesn't Mean DC Needs To Stop Trying
I've seen some takes that because DC has struggled trying to make a critically acclaimed Superman movie in recent years, perhaps putting him in the background (like Hulk) is the best call. I can't think of a worse reason to revert Superman to side character status, because he's part of those hallowed characters in Hollywood who audiences never seem to get sick of.
Look at the Superman movie franchise as a whole, and there are just as many misses as there are hits with critics. And yet, people still love and have loved the hero for decades, and will continually visit theaters to see more of his adventures. There's really no reason to sideline Superman until the character starts to wane at the box office. That sounds like a bad thing, but the good news is there's no shortage of ideas for DC to try and make yet another awesome film for the hero at some point.
I've gone on about this subject enough, so feel free to comment and share your thoughts about whether Superman becoming DC's Hulk-equivalent like in the MCU is a good idea. CinemaBlend will continue to report on any goings on with the Man of Steel, and provide updates on the latest and greatest news happening in movies and television.