Recently, it was announced that Henry Cavill would be returning to the role of Superman in future “Don’t Call Us The DCEU” DC Comics films. And that’s great! I think he, like many Supermen before him, could make for a great Man of Steel if given the right material. However, what exactly is that “right” material, material that would make us forget the last decade of Superman films where he was an angry guy getting lectures from his father about why you just need to kill horses sometimes?
Well, common wisdom seems to dictate that if we’re looking for the right kind of Superman, Christopher Reeve is about as perfect as you can get. He was strong when others weren’t, kind when the world turned its back on him, and had an almost puppy dog sense of loyalty toward doing the right thing and being pleasant to everyone. And that’s great and makes for a great Superman, but just having a guy who’s nice all the time about everything doesn’t make for a very interesting character. And that’s why it’s important to remember Christopher Reeve’s most underrated talent when playing Superman: The ability to make the guy a charming little shit.
See, Reeve’s Superman was super wholesome, but he also had these moments where he’d be super cheeky and kind of amused at himself. Like, remember when he tricks Zod into thinking that his powers were taken away at the end of Superman II and kneeled for him, only to surprise him by breaking his hand? Superman definitely did not need to do that, and “sudden forelimb torture” doesn’t exactly fit into the “Rescue cats from trees” playbook. But he did, because what’s the use of being Superman if you can’t have a little fun with overconfident intergalactic warlords?
And remember the end of Superman when he smiles at the camera in a full “This is pretty awesome, right?” display? Or when he, as Clark Kent, got shot by the mugger and then smirked when he revealed that he caught the bullet?