SYNOPSIS: What if the Man of Steel was raised behind the Iron Curtain? So begins DC’s acclaimed Elseworlds story, Superman: Red Son, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies. Based on DC’s famed Elseworlds tale from 2003, Superman: Red Son takes place in an alternate reality where the spaceship bearing the last survivor of Krypton crash lands – not in rural Kansas, but in Stalinist Russia. Can this Cold War-era Earth survive the coming of a Soviet Superman?
I figure if you’re reading this review, you know the premise of SUPERMAN: RED SON because you read the graphic novel. Just in case you’re among the uninitiated, here’s the deal…
What if Kal El of Krypton had landed in 1938 Soviet Union and not Kansas/The United States?
Well, he’d become “Superman,” but not the one we all know and love. No, he becomes part of the “State,” a symbol of communism and the Soviet Union, and a Cold War threat/deterrent to the U.S.
It’s not as if this Superman is bad — he still has a strong sense of what is “right” — but he’s not all that good either….well, for a while.
Both the film and source material share all of that, and the core narrative of the former is the same as the latter. However, I’d say that the movie is more “inspired by” the graphic novel than a straight-up adaptation of it; it’s more GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT than THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS — you know what I’m saying?
I really liked this movie, and I found the fact that two main characters — Lex Luthor and Superman — both came off as villains and heroes was very interesting. While you know the deal with this Superman, S:RS‘s Lex is still Superman’s adversary, but he’s also in charge of protecting the U.S. and eventually becomes the country’s president. His methods are very “Lex Luthor,” but understandable too in context to the film.
The only true from start-to-finish hero is Wonder Woman. Diana is depicted as Themyscira’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union and both her and Superman feel as the other is a kindred spirit due to their powers. However, I’ll let you all find out for yourselves whether or not they remain allies throughout the film.
And then there’s The Batman…
Look, I knew that the author of the S:RS graphic novel — Mark Millar (not a big fan of him, personally, but love his work) — wrote Batman as an asshole, so I wasn’t surprised to see him portrayed the same way in the film. Regardless, it’s still hard to see my beloved Batman be an asshole. While you feel sympathy for him and get where his anger is coming from, he’s still an anarchist asshole. To be honest, the Batman/Superman dynamic and face off in BATMAN v SUPERMAN reminds me more of what we see in this movie as opposed to Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
When it comes to the voice acting, a job well done by all.
Jason Isaacs is very good as a Russian Superman and captures the conflict this Man of Steel has to deal with. Roger Craig Smith — who is no stranger to voicing Batman — does his thing yet again with a Russian accent this time. While I’m a huge fan of Diedrich Bader, it was a bit jarring for me to hear him voicing Lex Luthor and not Batman as I love his Batman voice from BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Props also go out to Amy Acker as Lois Lane-Luthor (Yup!) and Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman. And Paul Williams (who is a brilliant songwriter and also voiced The Penguin in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) as Brainiac is no slouch either!
Animation-wise, S:RS is on par with the DC animated movies we’ve seen of late — very good-ish.
Overall, I really liked SUPERMAN: RED SON (even though Batman is a bastard and the BvS version on steroids), and it’s a well-done production. Heck, most of these DC animated films are pretty darn cool.
Now, on to PHANTOM STRANGER…
Well, it’s really groovy, man, and really Phantom Stranger-ish too.
Set in the late 1960s, PHANTOM STRANGER riffs off of the Manson Family and, yes I’m serious, the Scooby-Doo/Mystery Inc. gang if they were losers and didn’t have a talking dog…you’ll see.
I’ll leave my “review” at that, but I will say that I dug it, man. I’ve always enjoyed these DC Showcase Shorts and I hope to see more of them included with the DC animated movies.
As far as the extras/bonus features…
Well, there’s the aforementioned PHANTOM STRANGER. Also included — and I found it really cool — was the “motion comic” version of SUPERMAN: RED SON, 2 cartoons from the “DC Vault,” the “Cold Red War” featurette, and a preview of the next DC animated movie — JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK APOKOLIPS WAR (which looks very meh). – Bill “Jett” Ramey