How convenient that just when DC needed to distract us from the sad debacle that is The Flash’s box office results, there’s an all-new Superman (and Lois Lane) to announce? Philadelphia-born David Corenswet, 29, will step into Kal-El’s famous red and blue suit, while Rachel Brosnahan will spend the next few years gazing adoringly at him. The pair will make their first foray into the DC Universe in head honcho James Gunn’s Superman Legacy, due out in 2025, replacing previous incumbents Henry Cavill and Amy Adams.
Corenswet is best known for a supporting role in the Ryan Murphy series The Politician, while Brosnahan is the better-known of the pair, having brilliantly headlined five remarkable seasons of the Amazon Prime stalwart The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. What does their casting tell us about Gunn’s film? Is there a clue here in that Corenswet looks nothing like Christopher Reeve, by far the most iconic big screen iteration of the man of steel? Or in the fact that DC have picked an actor best known for their comedy to play Lane? It’s hard to tell at this stage.
What we do know is that Gunn has hinted heavily that he’s going for a version of the last son of Krypton that will rely heavily on feels, and will have chosen his leads accordingly. Meanwhile Corenswet (who does at least share Reeve’s 6ft 4in stature but looks as if he will probably need to spend the next year munching through giant tubs of Weight Gain 4000) has spoken previously about wanting to see somebody do an “upbeat throwback” take on Superman, adding: “I love the Henry Cavill dark and gritty take, but I would love to see the next one be very bright and optimistic.”
All this bodes well for something of an old skool Superman movie, though hopefully not one that cleaves so closely to the 70s and 80s films that it ends up having nothing to say for itself, as per Bryan Singer’s bloodless Superman Returns. We can certainly hope for a Kal-El with a little more joie de vivre than Cavill’s iteration, who despite all those expensive special effects, never really made us believe he was a Christ-like alien sent from another star system to save humanity from itself.
The comic interplay between Reeve and the wonderful Margot Kidder that in many ways defined those early Superman films was largely missing from the Zack Snyder-era movies. The addition of the Emmy-winning Brosnahan, who can play a wry double-hander like few actors of her generation, means Gunn will be in a more than comfortable space if he wants to head back to such territory. It would also be joyous to see the return of the bumbling, clumsy Clark Kent of the Richard Donner template, though if Gunn had intended to go down such a road, it seems likely he would have employed an actor such as Nicholas Hoult (who was also up for the role and can play the clown superbly) instead.
There has rarely been more pressure on a superhero movie than there will be on Superman Legacy, which arrives at a time when critics are beginning to turn on comic book movies generally, and when audiences are apparently tiring of DC’s middling efforts to compete with more successful rival Marvel. Andy Muschietti’s The Flash intelligently reset the DCU, but because so few people have seen it, Gunn will most likely have to do the job all over again.
We are about to find out if the advent of a new, standalone Superman movie still holds the cultural cache that it once did, or if more than a decade of mercurial DC efforts has turned audiences off the legendary publisher’s spandex-sporting titans altogether. It was reported this week that The Flash has only just made back its $200m (£158.5m) production budget, despite having been in multiplexes for the best part of two weeks. That means the film could be on course to lose between $100 and $200m, depending on how much was spent on its marketing budget, and assuming that it does not suddenly start putting bums on seats in unprecedented fashion, late into its run.
Superman Legacy may have a title that hints at nostalgia for the past, but its success or failure is very likely to define DC’s immediate future, and perhaps even that of the comic book movie era itself.