When I heard the movie Man of Steel was a reboot of the Superman series, I was relieved. Let me start this by saying I’m a huge Christopher Reeve fan. Superman: The Movie is one of my favorite films and I loved Reeve’s interpretation of the character. I also liked Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I thought it was visually stunning, relatively well cast, and relatively well executed. Superman Returns gets a lot of flack and for a while I wasn’t sure why. I could go on for hours about how I thought Kate Bosworth was a poor casting choice or wondering why James Marsden was in the film to begin with. These are relatively minor problems. I came to realize that the problem was Brandon Routh.
When he was cast as Superman, Routh was a young struggling actor from the Midwest that no one had ever heard of. What was striking was the uncanny resemblance to Christopher Reeve. Pop some blue contacts in, put on the glasses, and boom! He’s Clark Kent. His performance was actually pretty good, in my opinion. He had Reeve’s facial expressions, vocal inflections, and physical mannerisms down pat. But it still fell short somehow.
After Superman Returns’ release, Brandon Routh vanished. Apart from Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and a cameo in Zack & Miri Make a Porno he virtually disappeared from Hollywood. I later found him hiding in the Indie section of Netflix. In Fling, Routh played the secondary partner of a woman in an open relationship. He gave a surprisingly poignant and eloquent performance. After seeing that, his performance in Superman Returns confused me. I rewatched the film, focusing on Routh. I spent the film searching for him beneath the Christopher Reeve mask. And then it dawned on me. Bryan Singer tried to keep his film as faithful to the previous films as possible. He told a young, unknown actor to play Christopher Reeve, and that’s exactly what he did. Other actors were given more leeway. Kevin Spacey, having worked with Singer before, was given a chance to make the character of Lex Luthor his own. The same can be said of Bosworth and Sam Huntington with their respective takes on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Routh? Not so much.
I am relieved that Man of Steel is a reboot because I know Henry Cavill will show the world his interpretation of Superman. Cavill has gained notoriety as the multi-faceted Charles Brandon in The Tudors, as well as appearing in Stardust and The Count of Monte Cristo. He has proven that he can play womanizing and roguish, the tough pretty boy, and the son of a swashbuckler. Now he tackles the role of one of the most beloved superheroes of all time. He will give us something new and fresh and was given chances his predecessor was not. It is already clear that Cavill will be a better Superman because we will be brought into his world with new eyes.