FEATURE: The Decline of The Movie Star is a Loss For Us All

If recent news is to be believed, Henry Cavill is out as the Man of Steel.

If yesterday’s report from TMZ is to be believed, that story is a nothingburger.

Whichever is the case, we find ourselves with a British mustachio who’s rising star has seen considerable box office success in 2018.

Henry Cavill, the 35 year old at the center of this story, has been on a rocky journey since taking the Superman role. When Man of Steel premiered in 2013, audiences were firmly split on his brooding take with a sharpened edge. As Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice barreled forward in 2016, hopes were high that director Zack Snyder could turn the ship around. Sadly, critics were split even more the second time.

And we all know how Cavill’s third rodeo turned out.

Put bluntly, it’s tough out there for a Superman. But Henry Cavill was never the problem with these films. In each on-screen installment, Cavill has expressed the emotional depth and range required to make Clark Kent the great on-screen presence the world deserves. The limits of an actor’s range always comes down to direction and screenwriting. For all the flaws of these films, the screenwriting was rarely the main problem (though I do take exception to you, dude who’s name rhymes with DOS Meanon). More often than not, it was Zack Snyder’s unique directing style that polarized viewers and limited the places these stories could go. Love him or hate him, Zack Snyder’s films are dark and stylized, laser focused on the internal struggle of his characters. That understandably doesn’t click for everyone; some people out there just wanted a fun Superman movie without the melodrama.

With the messiness of Justice League in the past, it was time to let a new director breath life into Clark Kent. The actors were all ready to go. So were the fans.

But… the studio wasn’t there. And this is where we find ourselves today. What happens when the pressures of franchise film making drive executive decisions?

What happens is they start to see creative talent as expendable.

We’ve seen this with the recasting of Bruce Banner, Rhodey, and Fandral in the MCU, the abrupt firing of Lord and Miller on Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the decline of star power across today’s biggest franchises. Unless your last name is Johnson, Cruise, or Smith, chances are the studios view you as expendable.

Hollywood doesn’t operate like other industries.

Looks matter.

Money matters.

Your sirname matters.

It’s almost a bizarro reality, where “the arts” are commercialized to the point where the human element is lost entirely. It’s easy to forget that Henry Cavill isn’t just an picture on a screen: he’s a human. And it’s likewise easy to forget that all those people commenting on the internet aren’t mindless robots. They’re passionate about the characters they love, whether those opinions be positive or negative.

It would do Hollywood moguls well to find a new groove that gives beloved characters the room to breath, while empowering creative talent to break new ground. Robert Downey, Jr. was empowered to break that ground. So was Gal Gadot. And Chadwick Boseman.

But not Henry Cavill. And because of this, his Superman has always felt like he was on the cusp of true greatness, always looking to the horizon for it to show its face. DC should recognize this mistake and use the opportunity to turn DC Films unto a powerhouse. But the chances of this happening remains to be seen.

For his part, Cavill doesn’t seem to be down and out about the situation. After the news dropped, he posted a humorous video to Instagram, fueling speculation that the news was nothing more than a “negotiating tactic.”

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on Sep 12, 2018 at 4:23pm PDT

Perhaps it is just negotiations. Perhaps it’s not. But perhaps we can all learn something from this exercise.

The Hollywood machine is dirty and brutal. Remember when Alec Baldwin was playing Thomas Wayne? Or what about when James Gunn was directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Things change with ebb and flow. In an increasingly commercialized world, taking that step back and letting it “all come out in the wash” is something we should all do once in a while. And in the meantime, we should enjoy what we already have. It’s a Golden Age of Comic Book films, after all. Cherish it while the fun lasts.

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