By now it’s likely not a spoiler to reveal that “Justice League” includes the return of Superman, who sacrificed himself to save humanity at the end of 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” That film, which was generally regarded as overly dark and somewhat unwieldy, gave audiences a version of Superman (Henry Cavill) that felt morose and off-base from the comic books. Here, filmmaker Zack Snyder — as well as Joss Whedon, who stepped in to direct the re-shoots — uses “Justice League” as a chance to reestablish the character.
“He’s definitely different from previous incarnations,” Cavill says, speaking a few weeks ago during the “Justice League” press junket here. “I feel like this is the natural progression from the end of ‘Man of Steel’ into what he is now. This is a rebirth of the character, to coin the D.C. comics franchise right now: It’s a refresh.” He adds, “This movie highlights the qualities of Superman that exist in the comic books. That’s something I’ve always been very keen to highlight in the character. This rebirth provided the opportunity for me to play those characteristics.”
Superman was largely left out of the marketing campaign for “Justice League,” and most of the cast and the filmmakers did their best to keep the revival a secret for as long as possible. But fans, especially those familiar with the comic books, had been speculating for months, asking: “How can you have ‘Justice League’ without Superman?” One of the only clues for his return? Reports that Cavill’s mustache for the upcoming “Mission Impossible” sequel had to be digitally removed during the re-shoots, meaning that Superman would be somewhere in “Justice League” (“That damn mustache,” Cavill jokes). As it turned out, the studio always intended to include Superman but did its best to keep the rollout spoiler free.
“I think die-hard fans will know you can’t have the Justice League without Superman,” says producer Deborah Snyder. “Without Superman, there was this loss of hope. At the end of [‘Batman v Superman’], there was this impending doom. This danger that was coming. That was the impetus of Bruce [Wayne] recruiting the Justice League. That was the why. But the threat is so big and large that they still needed Superman. They needed to be a team.”
“His self-sacrifice causes such a huge ripple,” adds producer Charles Roven. “It’s so inspiring that his presence is really all over this movie before you know whether or not he’s going to come back. The world is not the same without him, because he was representative of hope. Here’s the thing: We wanted to make a movie that was about hope and the positive force hope is. And it meant that you had to bring him back.”
The process by which Batman (Ben Affleck) and the other members of the Justice League bring Superman back to life is complicated, involving several scenes that would be impossible to fully explain here. Suffice to say that Superman’s lifeless corpse (which was not played by Cavill for these scenes) is not lifeless for long. And ultimately, it’s Superman’s reaction to being awoken from death that’s more interesting than how he’s actually brought back. His initial anger and confusion shift to an emotional confrontation with himself over what’s happened to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and his mother, Martha (Diane Lane), since his death.
“I think it’s very confusing for him in that scenario, as it would be for any of us,” Cavill says. “He’s trying to work out what the hell happened. I’m sure there’s a sense of failure there, akin to that sense of ‘I wish I hadn’t died so I could still be here and the world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in now and I could have protected my mother and Lois from the pain they’ve been experiencing.’ There’s that sense of guilt, but it comes with unconditional love. It’s not rational. One of the great things about us is that we still care even though we may not have a reason to feel guilty.”
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