A New Take On The Man Of Steel’s Origins
Tripwire’s contributing writer Laurence Boyce takes a look at Warner Bros’ animated Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow…
Superman: Man of Tomorrow
Director: Chris Palmer
Voice Cast: Darren Criss, Alexandra Daddario,Zachary Quinto, Ike Amadi, Ryan Hurst, Brett Dalton, Neil Flynn
While most superhero origins have been told multiple times and in many different ways, the beginnings of Superman have been particularly fertile ground for retellings and re-imaginings. From John Byrne’s 80s Man of Steel to Frank Miller’s recent Superman: Year One, the journey of a baby from the doomed planet of Krypton to mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent has become something of an iconic story. Latest DC Universe Animated Original film Superman: Man Of Tomorrow is yet another re-interpretation of the early days of everyone’s favourite Kryptonian that adds a few gentle twists along the way.
We begin ‘in media res’ with a young Clark Kent watching a shonky old sci-fi film in which hideous aliens terrify everyone of Earth – a stark reminder of what Clark and his family will happen if his alien heritage is revealed. A few years later and Kent is ready to start as a junior reporter at the Daily Planet. On an assignment to S.T.A.R Labs to see Lex Luthor test a new rocket, he meets grad student Lois Lane who manages to expose Luthor’s corrupt ways thanks to some surreptitious recording. But if taking down the most powerful man in Metropolis with a phone isn’t big enough for one morning, the rocket goes awry. But thanks to a mysterious flying man, disaster is averted.
With Lois trying to find out more about this ‘Super’ man, Clark continues to make his way in the world. But when a fight with bounty hunter Lobo – which sees the intervention of Martian Manhunter – sends the world into a frenzy, he begins to worry if mankind is ready to accept him. But when Parasite – created as a by-product of the fight between Lobo and Superman – starts to rampage, it’s time to get a new cape and blue suit and introduce the world to the Man of Steel.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow cannily plays with the classic origin story by assuming that those watching know about it anywhere. As such this film plays a little bit on dramatic irony as we know the details of Superman’s heritage, said details only slowly being revealed to Kal-El throughout the film. Moments such as his first reaction to the word ‘Krypton’ or his parents making him the Superman suit are there as iconic little vignettes and are there to delight the comic book savvy fans. And there are a few Easter Eggs and cameos (such as a brief glimpse of Batman, which also provides a little ironic inspiration) that will also raise a few knowing smiles.
But the very nature of the film doesn’t really have time in being to indulge in many interesting character beats. Aside from Kent creating and growing into the Superman persona, everyone is given pretty short shrift. Lois Lane is all feisty and sassy without much else, Martian Manhunter is angst ridden and dark while Lobo is all sweary and mean. There are all fine for what they are but they start to become nothing more than a vehicle in which to deliver exposition.
The animation style itself has that vague whiff of anime that has typified a large majority of the DCAU films but its style is rather bland. Set in a timeless ‘now’ which has a blend of the modern day and futurism (the skyline of Metropolis has an alien feel to it), there’s a bit of Saturday morning cartoon about the whole affair.
But while it does sometimes feel a little slight, the whole affair does rattle along at a tremendous pace and there is little here that lead to boredom with a nice line in action sequences and enough interesting examinations of Superman’s origins to make this a worthwhile watch.
The Bluray of the film comes with two featurettes examining the respective origins of Lobo and Martian Manhunter, which are both actually rather good. There’s a ‘Sneak Peek’ of forthcoming title Batman: Soul of the Dragon that promises to channel spirit of 70s Kung Fu films (especially if producer Jim Kreig’s get up is anything to go by) whilst there are two featurettes on previous released films, namely Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five and Batman / Superman Public Enemies. Finally we have The Main Man Parts 1 and 2, two episodes of Superman: The Animated Series featuring Lobo which are good fun as they are written by the ever-reliable Paul Dini.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow is available now from Warner Bros Home Entertainment on Bluray, DVD and digitally.