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Saturday, July 30, 2016

1st Pics of Tyler Hoechlin as Superman on the Set of Supergirl

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Edited by Robert Beach

With the summer almost done, the time has come for the major networks and studios to start ramping up for their big fall premieres.  For me as a geek blogger, that means we’ll be seeing a lot of news and reveals about superhero TV, which itself just means revelations are coming from the CW and a handful of flailing competitors who aren’t nearly as good. However, even though CW has managed to expand its dominance in superhero TV to dizzying levels they do still face a major challenge this coming fall, and her name is Supergirl.

After a respectable but not mind blowing season 1 on CBS, Supergirl has migrated to the CW where the demands for high ratings are reduced but so is the budget.  Supergirl already crossed over with CW’s The Flash in season 1 and the same folks who invented the CWniverse produce her show, but her high profile nature and difficulty with ratings make her a serious challenge for the powers that be at CW.  

The show has decided to show Superman, presumably cutting through the abyss of copyright regulation about who can show Superman on TV.  Tyler Hoechlin is stepping into the role of the man of steel and this weekend we got our first good look at him.

What’s so bizarre about Hoechlin’s Superman is the divide it highlights between the people promoting Supergirl and the people making.  This is something we all pretty much knew was going to happen with the show changing hands from CW to CBS.  CBS, as a station, is a lot more bright and accessible, and their advertising tends to reflect that, hence why so much of Supergirl season 1’s marketing was defined by the kind of vibrant colors and sunlit visuals that have become anathema to DC adaptations. 

Meanwhile, CW’s lesser budgets mean they’re more inclined towards darker, night time visuals allowing them to hide the elements of their characters that aren’t as well realized.  That’s why so many of their heroes feature muted colors that blend easier than the bright, defined visuals of Supergirl season1.  All of that we knew so really we should’ve suspected that the first images of CW’s Supergirl would be compromised that way. 

To wit, our first look at Hoechlin’s Superman is honestly pretty bad.  Despite being crafted with heavy use of Photoshop and all kinds of image specialists, it can’t overcome the limitations of CW’s house style.  The abundance of lens flares on the image is decidedly distracting, and Hoechlin himself looks oddly small as Superman.  What’s more, his red belt looks goofy with how it pops off his body and is clearly useless. 

I like the idea that Superman’s belt holds important stuff, but if you’re just going to admit outwardly the belt is decorative there has to be a better way to realize it than the cheap plastic design seen here.  Finally, there’s the odd element that Hoechlin looks kind of…shaggy.  I get that his whole shtick on Teen Wolf was that he was a hairy manly man, but his five o’clock shadow here is very un-Superman.  In fact, he reminds me a lot of the evil Superman from Superman 3, which I don’t think was intentional.

That was the promotional image; underwhelming, mishandled, and a pretty bad start, but then the first major images of the production started filtering through, and suddenly the story changed.  Seeing Hoechlin in action, under the light of day, he went from an odd and unconvincing choice to a true Superman pretty quickly. 

The most shocking thing about the un-edited Superman images was just how vibrant his color palette was.  Rather than the dull and drab tones of the promo images the bright right and blue of the costume pop instantly under the bright light of day and in particular against an urban backdrop. 

What’s more, Hoechlin brings a great physicality to the part that feels very natural and accurate.  Just from a handful of static poses he looks and feels like Superman, even more so than Henry Cavill.  I suspect that’s because Supergirl is being handled by people who find the idea of Supergirl and Superman to be an inherently hopeful and inspiring one, so they’re more inclined towards letting Superman appear as a powerful and capable being rather than Snyder’s tendency towards casting him as a false messiah. 

Even the belt looks better from the action shots, a tighter fit that doesn’t seem so obviously artificial and childish.  The textured design of the suit may be reminiscent of Man of Steel’s Superman design, but the vibrancy is much more in line with the ’78 Superman, even if Hoechlin himself is overall most reminiscent of Brandon Routh or, at best, George Reeves. 

I think where Hoechlin shines like Clark Kent.  Getting down the difference between Superman and Clark Kent is a tricky bit of acting that not a lot of folks pull off but just from a physical comparison I like the visual language of Hoechlin’s Clark.  More than just the glasses, there’s a weird blend of relaxed tension that he brings to the physicality I like. 

He looks like a guy who’s always really tense and nerdy but kind of relaxes into that being their whole identity.  It also helps that he looks incredibly dorky with his giant glasses, plaid shirt, and swished hair.  One of the cleverest elements of this casting is that Hoechlin can be made to be shorter than Jimmy Olsen, which helps sell the ruse of he and Superman being two different people. 

So, what can we glean from all this about the change over of Supergirl from CBS to CW?  Well, I think the biggest thing we’ve learned is not to jump to conclusions.  After that, I believe that we don’t need to worry too much about the changes.  Even though the FX budget is diminished, CW has managed to work wonders with super shows like Legends of Tomorrow or The Flash, and it’s plain to see that even if the promoters style has changed the producer's style has stayed very much the same. 

As for Hoechlin, I think he’ll be a pretty good Superman if not necessarily one of the stand-out versions of the character.  I mean, at this point the number of iconic Supermen still stands at 2 (Christopher Reeve and Tim Daly), so I feel like just being a good actor that sells Clark’s earnest sincerity is all Hoechlin needs to be. 

Supergirl season 2 is scheduled to begin on October 10th, 2016.

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