What The Hell Is Going On With Superman’s Face In Justice League?

Henry Cavill had to have his moustache erased using CGI – but no one expected this.

Justice League
United Warner Bros and DC Comics' Justice League. Image Picture Warner Bros

A lot of questions are being asked of the Justice League movie right now.

Questions like: What exactly was the film’s $300m budget spent on? Was Ben Affleck constipated throughout filming? And who thought it would be a good idea to let a World Of Warcraft reject serve as the movie’s villain?

One question is bugging more fans than most though: What the hell is going on with Henry Cavill’s face? Why does he look like the human version of Shrek? Who did this? How did it happen? How the hell did this end up in the final cut of a $300m movie?

Okay, so a few questions, but you get the point. The origins of Superman’s strange visage can be traced back to the decision to reshoot several key scenes from the movie. By the time those behind the scenes had decided to bring all of the Justice League gang back for extensive reshoots.

Superman's mouth
Oh my God... Whatever you do, don't look at it.

Cavill had already started work on his next film, Mission Impossible 6. Cavill is playing a British secret agent in the film and a character who boasts a damn fine moustache from the looks of it. Cavill having a moustache in the movie is evidently quite important too because, while Paramount were willing to let Cavill return to the US to the reshoots from the UK, they insisted the moustache stayed in place.

That posed a problem to those making Justice League because, as we all know, Superman does not have a moustache. They had a plan though: to digitally remove the ‘tache using advanced CGI techniques. During film, Cavill’s moustache was therefore waxed up to reveal more skin, with several motion capture dots placed on his face to help capture his ‘tacheless movements.

It was then down to the VFX artists to weave their magic. When the story first broke, most people were nonplussed, assuming the effects team would be able to deal with the issue. Unfortunately, as anyone who has seen Justice League will attest, the erased moustache is an unmitigated disaster. While the facial hair is gone from sight, what’s been left behind is a strange, puffed up cleft and an equally odd-looking set of lips.

Things were made worse by the fact Superman’s strange new visage features in the very first scene of the film – a winning start to a pretty terrible movie – and the odd effect has not missed by fans on Twitter. Not one bit.

Yet why are fans that surprised? CGI has advanced impressively in a lot of different areas but perfecting mouth movements still seems to be a problem. Tron Legacy brought us a youthful, CGI-version of Jeff Bridges along with some distractingly unnatural lip movements while the digital resurrection of the late Peter Cushing in Star Wars: Rogue One suffered similar problems.

But this Cavill version somehow feels worse and more bizarre looking. This is down to the fact the previous examples of Bridges/Cushing were digitally rendered characters made from scratch rather than actors with a special effect grafted onto his face.

Cavill hardly helps matters, looking entirely uncomfortable throughout and struggling to master the lip movements required to make the effect work. He goes way overboard, resulting in the cartoonish effect that only dissipates when he isn’t talking.

Some CGI horrors.
Some CGI horrors. No! Don't look at their mouths!

But that may have more to do with the fact this was put together during reshoots. Reshoots that were no doubt rushed to meet the film’s release deadline. With a little more time, the effect might have worked but time is money, as they say. The rushed schedule also goes some way to explaining the film’s shoddy CGI effects but, at this late a stage in the process, was there really any alternative?

Paramount would not have let Cavill shave – Warner Bros. were lucky to get him back for reshoots in the first place – while opting for a bearded Superman would have meant even more reshoots.

Whatever the truth behind the matter, one thing is undeniable: Superman’s strange face is going to end up being one of the lasting legacies of a disappointing Justice League movie and representative of the film as a whole: rushed, shoddy looking and wholly unimpressive.

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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.