The glasses. It always comes back to the glasses with Clark Kent/Superman. Are they enough of a disguise? Why doesn’t anyone in Metropolis clue in that the mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is their city’s brave saviour, again and again, Superman? It’s so obvious! Duh!
Cinema’s current Superman, Henry Cavill, thought he’d put the age-old question to a test by wearing a Superman T-shirt in Times Square, in very close proximity to promotional billboards of him in his Superman suit (and Ben Affleck as Batman) right by the Times Square subway station. And he brought a film crew with him to document it. When he later went on the Jimmy Kimmel Show (on St Patrick’s Day, judging by the Guinness. Sláinte!) to promote the upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he announced his verdict (and I’m paraphrasing), “Yup, they’re obviously enough. Look what happened. Nothing.”
Number 1, Cavill isn’t actually Superman, he just plays him; just like there is no actual Metropolis although it is modelled after New York City (and no, the mall in Burnaby, BC does not count). Granted, they’re the next best thing, but the citizens of New York do not have the same relationship with Superman that the citizens of Metropolis do and before you call the men with the white jackets, I realise I am talking about a fictional character (created by a Canadian, no less) and a fictional city. But from the sheer number of comic books about Superman, SOMEthing super big and bad and dangerous is always happening in Metropolis, so he’s always saving SOMEone or SOMEthing, or trying to (he doesn’t always win, after all). He’s a busy superhero! As he is as Clark Kent with another full-time job at a newspaper daily. Our man on the silver screen, who we see every few years and who audiences have only had one adventure with (and it was a bloody origin story, so how much of it was actually Clark Kent leading his double life as Superman?!), not so much. Also, it would only be the people closest to Clark Kent who would even be in a position to wonder if, maybe, perhaps, noooo, he couldn’t be.
This brings me to Number 2: how well known is the Jersey-born Henry Cavill in the US? And I’m talking the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, not New Jersey, across the way from New York. Let’s consider the recognisability factor. How about how much dosh his previous film made as an analogy for numbers. The first Superman film in the reboot Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder came out in 2013, did $116 million on its opening weekend which is a healthy figure. But it ‘only’ made $229 million by the time it left theatres in September according to iMDB, but WB made their money back (budget was $225 million). There is no verified Twitter account in Cavill’s name, and his 562,000 worldwide Instagram followers have enjoyed 40 posts from him thus far. Combine a film that came out almost three years ago with negligible social media presence, I would therefore gauge his recognisability in the US as ‘middling’ at best. Also, what other projects has he starred in: every episode of The Tudors (TV series from 2007-2010, broadcast in the US on specialty network Showtime), the eye-rolling The Immortals from 2011 (which grossed 83.5 million and I actually paid money to see, what of it?), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 2015, a cinematic reboot of the 1960s TV show (and it was definitely a show of that time: Cold War; heroic male secret agents – one a serial ‘player’, the other did when being Russian wasn’t an impediment; women ‘had their place’: eye-candy as sexy spies and secretaries or unf**ckable), that grossed $45 million. I state again: he had middling chances from the off.
I think there is much more ado about Superman in Metropolis, than there is about Henry Cavill in Times Square, New York. Lab conditions these were not. So, I’m sorry, Mr Cavill, Henry, if I may, I am going to stand firm on this: your experiment proved nothing, but full props for the effort in your little promo stunt; it is no doubt entertaining. THE question, however, remains unanswered.
If we, however, reframe the question to “would people recognise Henry Cavill from the Superman film?”, why don’t we reconvene in Times Square in a month or so after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has opened on March 25 and closer to tourist season and see if there’s a difference. You’re welcome.
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