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Henry Cavill vs Tyler Hoechlin: Which Superman Is Better

Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin have wildly different approaches to playing Superman; each has their merits, but one captures Superman better.

Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin have very different approaches to playing Superman; while they both have their merits, one of them shines a little brighter as the Man of Steel. Cavill first donned the cape and tights for 2013's Man Of Steel, a more somber, morally complex take on Superman that left audiences polarized. This was a Superman who experienced doubt, and who was raised by parents who were more concerned with his personal safety than his duty to mankind. For his part, Cavill plays this more dour Superman to great effect, even when the material he's working with isn't up to snuff.

Tyler Hoechlin debuted as the CW's version of Superman on his cousin's show, Supergirl. Hoechlin plays a much more traditional Superman, one who's more than happy to be Earth's protector, a man who just wants to help. And despite the fact that Cavill is actually older than Hoechlin, the CW Superman is a much more seasoned character, having been at the superhero gig for quite awhile. In the new series Superman & Lois, Clark is struggling to maintain the balance between his busy life as a reporter and superhero with his obligations as a father to his teenage boys. It's an intriguing setup that allows Hoechlin to maintain his sunny demeanor as Superman while exploring more emotionally treacherous territory with his family.

So which version of Superman is better? That's a complicated question that's going to ultimately come down to personal preference, but we'll attempt to break down how each version fulfills the mission of being Superman, as well as how they go about that mission.

 

Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin have wildly different approaches to playing Superman; each has their merits, but one captures Superman better.


Superman Black Suit  Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin have very different approaches to playing Superman; while they both have their merits, one of them shines a little brighter as the Man of Steel. Cavill first donned the cape and tights for 2013's Man Of Steel, a more somber, morally complex take on Superman that left audiences polarized. This was a Superman who experienced doubt, and who was raised by parents who were more concerned with his personal safety than his duty to mankind. For his part, Cavill plays this more dour Superman to great effect, even when the material he's working with isn't up to snuff.


Superman Black Suit Tyler Hoechlin 

Tyler Hoechlin debuted as the CW's version of Superman on his cousin's show, Supergirl. Hoechlin plays a much more traditional Superman, one who's more than happy to be Earth's protector, a man who just wants to help. And despite the fact that Cavill is actually older than Hoechlin, the CW Superman is a much more seasoned character, having been at the superhero gig for quite awhile. In the new series Superman & Lois, Clark is struggling to maintain the balance between his busy life as a reporter and superhero with his obligations as a father to his teenage boys. It's an intriguing setup that allows Hoechlin to maintain his sunny demeanor as Superman while exploring more emotionally treacherous territory with his family.


So which version of Superman is better? That's a complicated question that's going to ultimately come down to personal preference, but we'll attempt to break down how each version fulfills the mission of being Superman, as well as how they go about that mission.

Henry Cavill Is The Better Superman

Henry Cavill as Superman in the DCEU
Henry Cavill gets the nod in the costume. Cavill's performance as Superman may not be traditional, but it's powerful. Beyond the fact that no one has ever looked more like Superman come off the page, Cavill manages to imbue his Superman with subtle emotions, like his lingering doubts that humanity really wants any part of him, and the persistent feeling that he can't really make a difference in the world. It's a performance shot through with pathos, but the fact that he overcomes the darkness inside of him makes him all the more compelling as Superman.

Cavill has really only played Superman three times, but he left a significant mark with each performance. Man Of Steel was a revolutionary reinvention of the character for the 21st century, one that becomes more emotionally affecting as time goes by. His fraught relationship with his father Jonathan Kent (a somewhat morally grey Kevin Costner) colors every aspect of his Superman, from the deep-seated self-doubt to the joy at his first flight, he's that complicated farm boy through and through. Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice saw Cavill's Superman double down on the self-doubt and suspicion of humanity, to further polarizing effect. But Cavill manages to sell Superman's grief, especially in the shadow of the Capitol attack he couldn't stop.


It's also worth noting director Zack Snyder, for all his faults, can come up with some amazing shots of Cavill's Superman. There's a physicality to Cavill's performance that no other Superman actor has really equaled, and it made for some truly arresting images, like Superman dragging a tanker ship through ice, or floating above flood victims as he assesses the damage. Cavill's Superman truly captured the wonder, the alien otherness of the last son of Krypton, and it worked more often than it didn't. We'll see Cavill's Superman one more time in Snyder's cut of Justice League for HBO Max, though Cavill's future in the role is in serious doubt now that J.J. Abrams and Ta-Nehisi Coates are developing a new Superman film starring a Black actor in the title role. If we've seen the last of Cavill's Superman, it will have been too short a run for an effective Man of Steel.


Tyler Hoechlin Is The Better Clark Kent

In the same way that Cavill's Superman was innovative in the cape and tights, Hoechlin's Clark Kent is a huge reinvention. Whereas Cavill's performance as Clark is very much secondary to his role as Superman, it's the inverse with Hoechlin. His Superman is enjoyable, but fairly one-note so far. The much more interesting thematic territory comes with Clark's home life, where he's happily married to Lois with two teenage twins. This is an older, more seasoned Clark Kent - even if he still looks fairly young - who has none of the character-defining self-doubt that haunts Cavill's Superman. He's successfully navigating a marriage, he's doing his best by his boys, and he's taking huge life challenges in stride.

Whereas Cavill's version of the character never really slows down to examine his home life or relationship with Lois, that's essentially the entire crux of Superman & Lois - a family drama with the occasional superpowered shenanigans. Hoechlin fits that setup like a glove, giving a charming, amiable performance in an effort to keep his family grounded and safe. This is a Clark who's evolved past his bumbling, Christopher Reeve falling-down routine, and is comfortable in his own skin as just plain old Clark.

There's a quiet ease to Hoechlin's Clark, who only really experiences moments of doubt when it comes to whether or not he's being a good father, as he's kept his identity as Superman a secret from his boys. When he reveals his Superman powers to his sons in the Superman & Lois pilot, it's an honest, affecting moment, and even though the boys react strongly and negatively to having been lied to for so long, you can tell that the family is strong enough to survive Clark's revelations. This is a Lois and Clark who know who they are and what they're doing for the most part, which is refreshing after seeing a cinematic Clark so wracked with guilt and mistrust.

Hoechlin is really just getting started as Superman. The new series has landed with positive reviews and solid ratings, suggesting this will be a version of Clark Kent we get to know for a long time. Hoechlin's already established himself as a capable father and husband; if he can make his version of Superman just a little more interesting, then Superman & Lois could end up being something truly special.

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