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What Henry Cavill's Rumored Return As Superman Might Mean For The Future Of The DCEU

Fans of the DC Extended Universe just got a big blue surprise.

Multiple outlets are reporting that, after years of speculation as to whether it would ever happen, Henry Cavill is in talks with Warner Bros. and DC Films to make a triumphant return to the franchise as Superman (via NME). 

Cavill has long expressed his willingness to put on the cape once more, but after the critical and box office failure of 2017's Justice League, it appeared as though his time as Supes might have come to a premature end. It stands to reason, though, that another recent mind-blowing development may have led directly to this one: the impending release of director Zack Snyder's four-hour cut of Justice League, which promises to be a completely different experience from the theatrical cut. You'll remember that Snyder was forced to depart the production due to a family tragedy. Avengers director Joss Whedon took over, performing a near-complete rewrite of the script and reshooting the bulk of the film (some sources say that he ended up using only about 10% of the footage Snyder had shot).

With interest in Justice League now arguably higher than it was when the film was actually in theaters, the news of Cavill's possible return to the DC fold isn't a cataclysmic shock. There are, however, a couple of caveats. First, it's being reported that Cavill is not being eyed to return for Snyder-helmed reshoots on that film — there won't be any, although Snyder has reached out to the entire cast to let them know that they may need to record some additional dialogue (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Second, Warner Bros. is insisting that there are still no plans for a solo sequel for Supes — meaning that if Cavill does return, it'll be as a supporting player in other characters' movies (via Deadline).

The Snyder continuity won't be phased out

It's worth noting that this tack has worked out very well for DC's competition, Marvel Studios, which — due to distribution rights issues — decided to take a very similar approach with the Hulk. The Green Goliath never did get a second MCU solo film after 2008's The Incredible Hulk, but he didn't need one; through subsequent appearances in all four Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok, the character not only proved to be an excellent utility player, but even managed to complete a strongly drawn arc.

It's also appropriate to point out that while everybody loves Superman, his recent solo films haven't done particularly well. Like the Hulk, Big Blue seems to function better as part of a (literally and figuratively) strong supporting cast of characters — and as Marvel demonstrated, just because a major player isn't getting a solo movie every few years doesn't mean they can't contribute greatly to the overall narrative of a shared universe.

Which brings us to this point: even though Warner Bros. and DC have found great success post-Justice League by focusing on standalone films rather than continuing to build the continuity that Snyder established, that continuity is and can continue to be an important part of the franchise. Flicks like Shazam! and Aquaman have largely downplayed the shared universe conceit without directly contradicting it, but having Superman pop up in the sequels to those films (which are both in the works) would be a fun and interesting way to remind viewers that, yes, these characters still inhabit the same world — and his presence could also serve as a way to tie the narratives of those films together en route to another big crossover picture.

Another big team-up movie could be on the horizon for the DCEU

It's no secret that Justice League was rushed to the screen. Snyder had planned more solo movies to introduce the characters before bringing them all together, but in an ill-advised bid to play catch-up with Marvel, Warner Bros. insisted that the team-up needed to happen as soon as possible, at the expense of little things like character development and narrative integrity. Snyder has said, for example, that some of the more confusing moments in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were meant to foreshadow Justice League plot points that he was forced to remove, and that Ray Fisher's Cyborg (whom Snyder called "the heart of the movie") got short shrift in Whedon's version of the crossover flick.

This doesn't mean, though, that Warner couldn't mount another big team-up film — and do it right this time, taking the time to lay out various plot elements over a half-dozen or so pictures. Heck, Snyder has also said that he had planned for the story of the Justice League to be a five-movie arc, so we're pretty sure he has a few ideas about the potential narrative directions his continuity could take. We'd even go so far as to suggest that if we were Warner Bros., we would be monitoring fans' reactions very, very closely when Snyder's cut of Justice League hits the small screen next year. If they go as nuts for it as everyone seems to think they will, it's just possible that Justice League 2 — which has been a giant question mark ever since the first film's failure —could get back on track again in a big hurry, with Cavill's Superman front and center.

Future DCEU storylines could be focused on Superman

For that matter, Cavill's potential return could open up a lot of possibilities as to what that next big, overarching storyline could be. To name just one possibility, the DCEU could borrow some plot elements from Injustice: Gods Among Us, the hit video game and comic book series. The story involves Superman, driven mad by the Joker's murder of Lois Lane, abandoning his virtuous ways to rule over the world with an iron fist in an effort to forcibly stomp out evil once and for all. This could even tie in with the infamous "Knightmare" sequence in Dawn of Justice, when Bruce Wayne has a vision in which he's leading a band of rebels against an evil Superman in a post-apocalyptic world (one of those bits of foreshadowing that ended up going nowhere).

Of course, we should probably mention that Ben Affleck — who portrayed Batman in Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squadand Justice League — has hung up his cape and cowl for good, and that the upcoming The Batman will focus on Robert Pattinson's alternate universe version of the character. We're going to go out on a limb to say that the older, grizzled version of the Dark Knight portrayed by Affleck will likely have to be recast, given Cavill's continuing involvement... but it's not like there isn't precedent for different actors stepping into that role within the same film series.

At any rate, it's a pretty exciting time for fans of the DCEU, which just seems to keep finding new ways to reinvigorate itself. We'll be keeping both ears to the ground for an official announcement regarding Cavill's return, and we'll keep you posted.