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Why The New TV Superman Is Better Than Henry Cavill's Superman

Superman is one of the most recognizable characters in worldwide pop culture. He set the template for comics superheroes, and he's still widely considered to be the best of all time. Fans will always have their preferences as to which live-action iteration of the character is the best, but of the two current versions—portrayed by Henry Cavill in the DCEU films and Tyler Hoechlin in TV's Supergirl—the small-screen Supes is clearly superior. 

Hoechlin looks more like Superman without even needing the cape and tights

For many Superman fans, no one has ever embodied the Man of Steel more completely than Christopher Reeve: even without the "S" on his chest, he looked as if he'd stepped right out of a comic book panel, and it's a trait Hoechlin shares. While Cavill is also undeniably aesthetically gifted, and both men share the required height and athletic body type, Cavill just looks like a ridiculously attractive man. Hoechlin looks like he might really have some Kryptonian DNA.

TV Clark is reminiscent of Donner's version, without being a parody

In 1977's Superman, Clark was an "aw shucks" country boy teeming with naïve optimism, a stark contrast from the jaded and fast-paced urbanites of Metropolis, and Donner's influence is felt in Supergirl. Hoechlin's Clark carries himself with a bit more confidence than his clumsy predecessor, but this version already has a support system that knows his true identity.

In comparison, Cavill's Clark is less earnest. His version is more stoic and reserved than bumbling and nervous, and he plays Clark more introverted than both Reeve's and Hoechlin's versions, which lacks the endearing quality that helps fans connect with the all-too-perfect Superman.

The way Clark Kent is written, and played, matters. After all, he's essentially Superman impersonating a human being, and his personality offers his interpretation of what he thinks reflects the most common of human traits. It's how he sees humanity: flawed, but decent and kind. Hoechlin's Clark communicates more of that than Cavill's. Through Clark, Superman appears more relatable, and it's a necessary component in storytelling that helps fans and audiences care about a character.

Hoechlin's Superman is the hopeful hero fans know and love

Richard Donner's Superman is still widely considered a classic of the superhero genre, and that's partly due to Donner's deep respect for the comics and insistence on protecting the character's integrity—an issue he had with the original script when he took the job.

Superman's legacy, and what essentially distinguishes him from every other comic book hero, is that he's better than humanity. It's not merely his strength or near-immortality; it's his ability to find hope in even the darkest situations. Sure, there have been dark moments in his canonical history, but they're relatively few in number and generally considered fairly out of character for the Man of Steel—which is exactly why many people have taken issue with Cavill's version.

Hoechlin's goal was to portray the classic Supes fans know and love. TV Superman is the beacon of hope and reminder than good can defeat evil that little kids have looked up to for generations. To be fair to Cavill, he didn't write Superman the way he's portrayed in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but his Superman is still wearing a super-scowl pretty much the entire time he's onscreen. Can we add brooding to his list of powers?

A Happy Face

Henry Cavill's version of Superman has been accused of being pretty humorless, with very few exceptions to that rule. It seems like, besides Kryptonite, putting a grin on his face might be Cavill-Superman's other big weakness. One of the funniest things that Cavill's Superman ever manages is when he rips a government satellite out of the sky and threatens a couple military folks into trusting that he's a good guy. That's not exactly a great zinger, man. But Hoechlin's version actually fits in with the more upbeat, optimistic world where Supergirl takes place. Seriously...he seems like kind of a fun dude! He smiles, laughs, and even makes jokes. He even winks! You know...things Superman kind of does on the regular. Imagine that!

Cavill's Superman is super stiff

Henry Cavill was maybe a bit too literal in his interpretation of the Man of Steel, choosing to emphasize the "steel" part. Whether as Superman or Clark Kent, Cavill comes across rigid and uptight most of the time he's onscreen. The A.V. Club accused him of posing more than actually acting, and others lamented at his lack of presence, leaving the character feeling flat. Part of that could be attributed to the writing or directing or both.

Previous actors managed to exude charisma while wearing those red and blue tights, and this is another area where Hoechlin outshines Cavill. Poor Henry just doesn't seem to be having any fun playing Superman. Maybe the serious scripts left him feeling a little depressed?

Zack Snyder had nothing to do with it

The biggest reason why Tyler Hoechlin's version of the character is superior to Henry Cavill's comes down to one crucial and unavoidable fact: this ain't Zack Snyder's Superman.

Snyder's interpretation is dark and depressing. Diehard comics fans were already aware that this version existed, but it was a jarring switch for mainstream audiences. Unlike Donner, Snyder didn't base his Superman on any one comic book version; instead, he took a bit of artistic license—and as anyone who's watched Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice understands, Snyder's freedom adds up to So. Much. Darkness.

While Superman does indeed have his dark moments, what makes Superman so super is his ability to always rise above them. His compassion, morality, and restraint are essential to who the character is, and they're what differentiate him from not just humans, but other superheroes.

Many people, including comics superfan Kevin Smith, have noted that it felt like Snyder's knowledge of the source material was limited solely to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight, and therefore influenced the basis of his approach to Superman and Batman. It's hard to watch both of Snyder's DCEU movies without feeling like he'd rather be making a Batman movie—and wondering whether he resents Superman for not being as cool as the Caped Crusader.