Henry Cavil seems like a very charismatic actor, but is he mighty enough to carry a franchise? I am deliberately not including the Superman reboot, “Man of Steel” – you don’t carry films with Superman, Batman or Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. may be the exception), they carry you – but because Cavil is in discussions to replace Tom Cruise in a film version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
Just about anyone could be Superman – though it helps if they’re white, because of past depictions of the character as well as the expectations of the fan base – and that movie will rise of fall on the strength of Cavil convincing people that he’s worthy of wearing that famous red cape.
But millions won’t want to see it because of Cavil, just as relatively few people probably went to see “Superman Returns” on the strength of Brandon Routh in the title role.
Superman is iconic, and some version of the character has been around for forty or fifty years.
And we have seen this before, though with another DC character: Batman.
For instance, Joel Schumacher, who was handed the franchise from Tim Burton, for some reason decided that camp was the way to go, as if being garish and homoerotic weren’t enough. Yet “Batman and Robin” brought in almost $240 million on a $125 million dollar budget, which was significantly less than “Batman Forever,” which earned almost $340 million on a $100 million dollar budget.
What’s amazing is that ‘Batman and Robin” earned as much as it did, despite the aforementioned homoeroticism. This implied that there was interest enough to relaucnch the franchise under a relatively unknown director named Christopher Nolan.
And the rest is history.
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is a lot of things, though iconic isn’t one of them. I suspect that relatively few people are expectantly waiting to see Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin back on the big screen.
Which is why it’s important and Henry Cavil (and Arnie Hammer) are able to carry what will probably be an expensive movie on their own, without the aid of Superman or Johnny Depp to help them.
And I am not entirely sure that that’s a weight that they can bear.