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Henry Cavill’s Humourless Performance as Superman in Man of Steel

Written by Laura Duckett

To some of us, it seems that Henry Cavill appeared from out of nowhere. He has the classically handsome appearance befitting of any superhero, the ability to depict a humble attitude despite his character’s overwhelming superiority over most other beings, and that all important screen presence. And he did a pretty good job as Superman in Man of Steel. But what he doesn’t display is a sense of humour. It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of this discrepancy; was it the fault of the writers for not adding an extra level of depth to his character, or was it because Cavill took the role too seriously?

I would argue that both are true. Cavill has been given the daunting task of embodying an icon, and he’s not about to sacrifice it for the sake of a few extra laughs. But at what cost? Nowadays, it’s hard to find a superhero movie without an element of comedy. I admit that it is hard to adapt an existing character to suit a modern day audience, especially as there are so many different mediums from which to draw upon; the Superman of the comic books is different from the Christopher Reeve or Dean Cain versions. However, I feel that Cavill didn’t bring anything new to the table, and I’m not saying that Man of Steel lacks comedy, it’s just that Cavill stomps all over it with a self-sacrificial attitude. I think he needs to lighten up.

One positive aspect of Cavill’s performance is his ability to show control over his emotions. This means that he doesn’t have to rely on dialogue to portray his emotions; his facial expression and body language tend to be enough to carry the scene. Granted, with a lack of control, Superman would not be able to keep a low profile in his every day life, however, for me, the scenes in which he does not hold back his emotion have more of an impact.

All in all, Man of Steel’s Superman is not a memorable character. The writer has relied on the Superman’s high profile status to compensate for a lack of personality; the only time we find that he has any interest other than sacrificing himself for the greater good is when we catch him watching football on TV. Cavil did what he could with the tools he was given, but without really taking a risk. With that being said, he did bring something we rarely see in Hollywood these days: humility. I felt that this aspect of his character carried through to the screen, establishing a superhuman model to which a human audience can aspire.

What did you think of Cavill’s performance as Superman?

About the author

Laura Duckett