Henry Cavill is Superman again, and a sequel's coming – here's what it should be

Henry Cavill's Superman stands in court in Batman vs Superman
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

It's official – Henry Cavill is back as Superman. In a video posted to Instagram, the man himself said, and I quote, "I am back as Superman". And since this comes shortly after he cameoed in Black Adam as [checks notes] Superman, things look pretty definitive.

We’ve also had the news that James Gunn will co-lead DC's movie and TV studio along with producer Peter Safran, an appointment Gunn confirmed on Twitter – and word is the pair are currently looking for pitches on what direction to take the last son of Krypton for a new movie.

I've got a pitch for you, DC! Well, it's less of a pitch and more a series of opinions on what would make a great new Superman movie for the current times, would improve on where Cavill's previous movies went wrong, and that dive into the character's heritage. And I've got three great directors in mind to make the movie, too. 

1. The character

Superman is a character we can probably stop over-complicating with internal moral conflicts as his starting point. The last few movies have made those his purpose too much – but he works best as a simpler force for good. That shouldn't make him boring or simple – his complexity comes from how he responds to the world around him. 

It's not interesting to have an already torn and melancholy Superman be thrown into morally grey circumstances – it's interesting to have a man of unimpeachable morals put in an unsolvable situation. This is one of the many things the original Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman movie nails; and it's what Superman Returns stumbles over even while trying to mostly achieve the same thing. The latter saddled its Superman with choosing to be a deadbeat dad over his feelings of loss about Krypton. Superman should love humanity and then have to face its imperfections, not start off feeling ambivalent about humanity and then be reluctantly forced to do his thing to save it.

And crucial to then making a Boy Scout version of Superman work is letting Cavill be funny and confident – to the point of being slightly arrogant. It works so well for Reeve because you believe so strongly in his morals that his slightly arrogant edge comes across as, well, bulletproof rather than edgy. It's justified arrogance, like the world's best footballers stepping up to take a penalty – you don't begrudge them for it, because it's fair. And with Superman, it's never used to belittle others – it should come from self-confidence rather than insecurity, and can be great to add humor to his interactions.

And Henry Cavill is amazing at this! When I saw Man of Steel, I didn't really get why they would want this guy to play Superman outside of looking the part. But then I watched The Man From UNCLE, and I realised that he's the perfect Superman, but in the wrong film.

He's fantastic at wry, knowing deliveries of punchlines in outlandish situations – which is something that might come up a lot in a Superman movie! If you let them.

Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel in 1978's Superman

You'll believe a man can be a good dude in a hard world without being a resentful and distant demi-god. (Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

2. The story

Whenever the chance of a fresh start for Superman comes up, there's often a call to do All Star Superman – a beloved comic series (and animated movie). I don't think that's a good idea – All Star Superman is A Lot. A huge amount happens, it's full of vignettes, and it concerns Superman facing his own death, which feels like retreading what we've already covered. My only exception to this would be the part where Lois gets superpowers, because, quite frankly, Amy Adams deserves them. 

I am not the first to point this out, but a powerful thread for a Superman story today would absolutely be his status as an immigrant – you could discuss him being a refugee, an illegal immigrant, or both. I don't think it should be the focus of the story, but to skip over it is to skip over crucial context for the character that stretches back to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's status as the children of immigrants (Siegel's family,  in particular, fled the growing anti-semitism of the early 20th Century in Europe). These issues are important again now, and a Superman story should be bold enough to comment on them.

As for the main threat, I'd love to see less of the world-threatening dangers and a return to situations that are simply bigger than Superman alone can handle, even with super-powers. I'd like to see an adaptation of Action Comics #23, which was Lex Luthor's first appearance. Luthor is engineering a war between two countries for his own ends, which feels like a great way to challenge Superman – his old foe is at the heart, he'd want to avoid any further casualties, and the situation is larger than even his powers can contain.

If they want to go more colorful and weird (or less heavy than potential war) an adaptation of For The Man Who Has Everything could be interesting. The original comic story sees an alien plant cause Superman to dream of living life on an undestroyed and utopian-seeming Krypton, but it descends into extremism and fascism. It doesn't have to go that far, but a story of Cavill's Superman having the chance to exist in Krypton of his dreams (albeit a fake one) and rejecting it because he loves being with the flawed-but-real humans could be a great development for the character from what's come before. The whole thing could have been orchestrated by a version of Mr Mxyzptlk (yes, that's the correct spelling), if you want to bring in a classic villain, and reality warping is again the kind of threat that takes away the issue of Superman's powers being so strong.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

The directors of Everything Everywhere All At Once are prime candidates for Supes' next outing. (Image credit: A24)

3. The directors

There are three obvious directors with great action movies in 2022 that spring to mind for this film. My pick would be Gina Prince-Bythewood, who's fresh off The Woman King, and previously helmed The Old Guard for Netflix. She knows action, her movies look great, and her films weave set pieces and other themes deftly – the mixing of a coming-of-age story with a war drama and moment of political upheaval in The Woman King is all meshed perfectly among heady and clear action.

Daniels, the directors of Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO), have surely already had meetings with the bosses of both big superhero studios. Again, the brilliance of EEAAO is how it uses inventive action as part of telling its story, and it manages to be fun, serious and heartfelt all in rapid sequence.

And there's Joseph Kosinski, director of Top Gun: Maverick. Every studio in world must be wooing him after that huge success, but what's great about Maverick is how focused and taut it is. It has character development wrapped up in tense aerial action – we spoke to Kosinski himself about the latter ahead of the movie's release in May – and it doesn't rely on throwing out huge set pieces at random intervals to achieve that. It grows tension over the training missions, with some natural suspense and action moments that come from that, building up to a final peak of everything that's come before. We could do with that kind of simplicity among the increasingly complex and bloated superhero movies coming out now.

With the right mix, hopefully we'll be celebrating the next Superman film as one of the best HBO Max movies of the future.

Matt Bolton
Managing Editor, Entertainment

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at T3.com, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.