Change has once again come to the DC cinematic universe, this time in the rumored loss of its premier star, Superman, or, rather, Henry Cavill.
As reported earlier this week, despite vague statements to the contrary from both Warner Bros. and his agent, Cavill appears to be out of the picture as the titular Man of Steel in DC's forthcoming slate of films. While the verdict is still out on whether the report is true, or if it's just a case of Hollywood hype, the news of the actor's potential departure is the latest development in a multi-year history of troubled productions, dissatisfied actors and disappointing box office returns.
But where did it all go wrong for DC? And could Cavill's exit actually signal a return to form for Marvel's "Distinguished Competition" at the box office?
DC's cinematic universe -- once known to fans as the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), now referred to unofficially as "Worlds of DC" -- began with 2013's Man of Steel. Despite mixed reviews and a controversial ending, which saw Superman kill General Zod, the film earned just shy of $670 million worldwide, a financial success big enough to spawn a highly anticipated on-screen universe to rival DC's major competitor, Marvel.
Unfortunately, it was born under a bad sign. By 2013, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was already in its second phase, releasing both Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World just a year after dropping its record-breaking ensemble film, The Avengers. Needless to say, fan expectation of DC was high, and it was incumbent on Warner Bros. to deliver, if not something similar, then a concept equally as compelling to Marvel's shared superhero universe. What followed, however, was a slate of critically-divisive, commercially inconsistent films that left fans clamoring for the cohesion of the MCU.
After a three-year gap -- during which, it should be noted, Marvel dropped four more MCU films, including its second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron -- Warner Bros. released Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BVS), followed by the even more derided Suicide Squad in the same year (2016). Both films were beleaguered by controversy, be it in the contentious treatment of DC's biggest characters on-screen or even in the off-screen antics of its stars.
Perhaps more importantly, however, DC seemed incapable of capturing what made the MCU so successful. While there seemed to be a significant course-correction in 2017's Wonder Woman, DC's own ensemble film, Justice League (also released in 2017), became the DCEU's lowest grossing outing to date, signaling to some fans the beginning of an inevitable end. But could the loss DC might suffer from the departure of the actor portraying its golden god on-screen potentially be mitigated by the silver lining of an untainted -- and much-needed -- fresh start?