Dear Zack Snyder: THIS Is How You Do Superman

Monday’s season premiere of Supergirl had a lot to love. The physical move from filming the show in Los Angeles to Vancouver resulted in a few changes, but most seemed to be for the better. One element I was surprised to see work so well, though? Superman.

Tyler Hoechlin IS Superman
When Tyler Hoechlin was cast as the Man of Steel, I had my doubts. To be fair, I wasn’t familiar with his work at all, so I was only going by appearances (admittedly, always a bad way to judge). It’s hard to explain why, but I just didn’t think he looked like Superman.

Once the new Superman suit was revealed in promotional photos and set videos, my doubts started to evaporate. I was still concerned, especially considering we already have one Superman on the big screen.

When I sat down to watch Season 2’s ‘The Adventures of Supergirl’ on Monday night however, I was completely blown away by Hoechlin’s Superman. At the risk of being hyperbolic, I think he may very well be the best actor to ever play the Man of Steel.

Most people would give that honor to Christopher Reeve, and I can’t argue that his portrayal isn’t iconic. But Reeve’s Clark Kent was a goofy klutz with no real redeeming qualities other than comic relief. Brandon Routh did a fine job in Superman Returns, but let’s face it — he was essentially just aping Reeves the entire time. (I much prefer him as Ray Palmer on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow).

Hoechlin’s Superman was a true hero: warm, outgoing, personable, and powerful. His Clark Kent kept the clumsiness we tend to associate with the character, but coupled it with a Midwestern charm and boyish good looks that most interpretations have failed to achieve.

Superman vs Superman
Of course, it’s hard not to compare Hoechlin’s Kal-El to the big screen version currently portrayed by Henry Cavill.

First, let me just say that I’m one of the people that actually liked Man of Steel. I’m not a big enough fan of Superman to let the canon changes bother me, and I appreciated it for the experiment that it was.

I don’t think anyone (myself included) was pining for a gritty, realistic version of Superman. But after the success of The Dark Knight trilogy, it wasn’t such a bad idea. You’ve got to wonder what Superman would actually be like in our world, and it certainly wouldn’t be nearly as sunny as what we’re used to from the Man of Steel.

Many have complained about the destruction of Metropolis and the killing of Zod. At the time, I didn’t have a problem with that either. One thing I always felt was missing from earlier Superman films was the scale of his battles. We’re talking about a nearly indestructible god of a man here. Any opponent going toe-to-toe with him would not make due with a few rounds of fisticuffs. True, it would’ve been nice to see Metropolis evacuated first, but I thought the destruction was appropriate given the power of the two men fighting. And the writers went out of their way to make Zod’s death unavoidable (though I think few things are unavoidable for a man of Superman’s power).

The problem with Henry Cavill’s Superman isn’t Man of Steel — it’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. As I said, Man of Steel was an interesting experiment. It should NOT have been the launch of a franchise. If you take a gritty, realistic version of Superman and try to thrust him into a universe with Batman, you basically have no choice but to go dark.

Batman is always going to be darker than Superman. It’s inherent in their characters. So in some ways, we shouldn’t have even expected Batman v. Superman to be anything less than what it was: a dark, dour murder-fest.

The One True Superman
It’s a shame, though, that this is the Superman we’re stuck with now on the big screen. And don’t get me wrong: I don’t blame Henry Cavill at all. I think Cavill did a fine job with what he had to work with. In Man of Steel, “what he had to work with” was a modern, realistic version of Kal-El. In BvS, “what he had to work with” was a mess.

So Warner Bros. can keep their big screen Superman. I’ll take Tyler Hoechlin any day of the week.

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