Since the release of the exciting film by DC and Warner Animation, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. We have been left wondering what would be the developers next move, it appears there is no sign of another connected universe though. Which is fine, regardless of the lack of a connective universe we are still interested in every new installment. Unfortunately, Superman: Man of Tomorrow might not be the right place to start.
The story takes inspiration from the graphic novel, Superman: American Alien released in 2015 and written by Max Landis. Though it was thought this might be another origin story for the Man of Steel, it very much is that but told differently than what we are use too. A young Clark Kent starts as an intern at the Daily Planet, but has not discovered the full potential of this abilities. Those discoveries are quickly made when disasters caused by Lex Luthor forces Clark to react and tap into a portion of his powers. His power is fully realized when the bounty hunter Lobo arrives in Metropolis to hunt down the last kryptonian. During his confrontation with Lobo many other players take a role in developing the lessons and growth in Clarks journey to becoming Superman. Players like Martian Manhunter who takes on the role of a mentor and teacher to Clark, helping him unlock the secrets to his past and the origin of his abilities. As well as Rudy Jones transformation into Parasite, who is caught in an accident during the Superman and Lobo brawl and gives him the ability to leech off the power and life of anything or anyone he touches. As Parasite becomes more and more powerful from sucking the life out of everything around him, Superman and Martian Manhunter must work with Lex Luthor to figure out how to stop an unstoppable creature.
Let’s begin with the positives of the film. The animation is something new and unique to what we are use too when it comes to DC’s other animated films, thankfully it works so well. Incorporating thick and bold lines that are similar to an anime style of animation, which surprisingly works for a character like Superman. Darren Criss takes on the role of Superman and the young actor makes sense for the version of Clark Kent the creators are going for. Alexandra Daddario plays as Lois Lane, giving a performance that makes us more and more curious about the potential of using her in a live action version of Lane. The most interesting choice that turns into a massive payoff is Zachary Quinto as Lex Luthor, especially after the divisive choice to use Rainn Wilson for the criminal mastermind in the last four DC animated films. Other excellent casting choice in the film also come from Ryan Hurst as Lobo and Ike Amadi as the Martian Manhunter. Every character is also very well characterized, the decisions they make and reactions to certain situations feels accurate to the character. Sadly, that is where the positives of film come to halt.
Time to get into the negatives, and there are more of them than there are positives. To put it bluntly, the movie is just boring. The film has a very slow start and barley picks up speed towards the middle of the movie. I understand our characters must first be established first before anything interesting happens but that is what isn’t realized here, Clark Kent and his change into Superman can be told in a much more intriguing way, just take Smallville for example… or at least the first four seasons. Much of the film just feels very bland, starting with the design of Metropolis which there isn’t much of. Metropolis should be a large, busy and lively city, but in this film every building has the same design and it sometimes feels uninhabited. Furthermore, I am confused if there is much of a score. Which might not seem like a very important detail, but a score can make or break a film. Take Man of Steel for example, one of the best parts of that Superman movie was the use of music in scenes to increase the tension of emotion we as an audience are supposed to feel. Let’s now move onto the main antagonist of the film, Parasite. Parasite always seems to be an underrated supervillain when he is actually one of the most interesting and powerful of Supermans rouges gallery. Having the ability to take the power and energy of anyone he touches always made for an interesting adversary for Superman to take on. An excellent example is his appearance of Superman: The Animated Series, a smart and intelligent man who knows how to get close for Superman, forcing Superman to have to come up with a different way to stop him instead of just pounding him into the ground. In this iteration, he possess the same abilities but he can also take the energy from anything else he touches. Making him this giant overpowered super being, he literally drains Supermans powers twice. Parasite becomes so powerful that he is completely unstoppable, which raises the stakes and often makes for interesting storytelling. But the results that lead to his demise just holds no drama or intensity to the film, adding to another dull quality to the movie.
While the diverse appearances, character designs, voice cast and animation comes together nicely, the rest of the film doesn’t with its bland esthetic and boring resolution. The film had a lot to live up too, especially coming off of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. However, there has become a certain standard to what we expect from DC and Warner Animation and this isn’t it. Despite the setback though, we will always come back to watch these films and see our favorite comic books come to life through animation. We still look forward to the long awaited adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween, rumored to release in 2020.