– by David Kozlowski

Who is the definitive Superman, in your opinion? There’s certainly no shortage of options; beginning in 1948 with Kirk Alyn (look it up), and onward to George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, Tyler Hoechlin, and Henry Cavill. Until recently, they all wore a variation of the same classic costume, in both film and television iterations.

While we can certainly debate the origins (and merits) of modern superhero films, few would argue that Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman film, starring Christopher Reeve, is the genre’s seminal masterwork. Donner’s Superman is arguably THE baseline for every superhero film that followed, in the same way that George Lucas’ original Star Wars in 1977 reset expectations for science fiction movies. 

For a long, long time Reeve definitively embodied the core aspects of the character, particularly in his calm and quiet demeanor. He wore the costume, simple though it was, with a grace and dignity that has never been surpassed. Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006 was largely a continuation of the Reeve mythos; Brandon Routh’s appearance (and performance) was definitely more of an homage than a reinvention — but there’s just something about the way Reeve wore the form-fitting spandex that no one else could really pull off. 

In 2013 Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel introduced Henry Cavill to the canon. Snyder expressed a version of Superman that leaned hard sci-fi and emphasized spectacle over character. Cavill’s bulky, texturized costume contained dark and muted tones — a complete veer from the enduring primary colors of Reeve and his predecessors. 

Yesterday, Snyder revealed a photo from the Vero social media app (via Comic Book Movie) of Cavill’s Man of Steel test screening. Cavill actually wore the original Reeve costume, and it’s kind of surreal.

No one would mistake Cavill for Reeve, but it’s still kind of a haunting shot. Reeve famously worked out for months in preparation for Donner’s film, to bulk-up and fill-out the costume, yet he always seemed a bit slight nonetheless. Cavill has a much more muscular body type, but in the Reeve costume he is noticeably slimmed-down. Let’s be honest, unless you’re Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, spandex does no one any favors.

Snyder explained the rationale for putting Cavill into the Reeve costume:

“We didn’t have the suit made when Henry was auditioning, so he wore the original Christopher Reeve suit. He put it on and when he came out of the trailer, everyone was like, ‘Dang, you’re Superman!’”

Cavill certainly exudes some of that “gee-whiz, guys” attitude in this shot, which Reeve so effortlessly conveyed. All-in-all, it’s a cool image, but it certainly lends a bit of melancholy to the moment. There will never be another Reeve as Superman, but it’s hard to deny that Cavill conjures a familiar beat from the Donner classic, while still bringing something new to the part.

How do you feel about Cavill donning the classic Reeve costume? Let us know in the comments down below!

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SOURCE: Zack Snyder (via Comic Book Movie)

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.