I am really enjoying the new WB Animated DC stories of late and since the New 52 DC Animated Universe came to an end with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, there has been a nice fresh take on the stand-alone stories that have been told. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines was a nice retelling of the character’s origin story and more recently Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons took a planned web series and turned into a feature length story that gave him an origin story that pushed him into the more anti-hero than villain. But now I feel there is an attempt to launch a new connected DC Animated Universe and naturally the next hero to have their origin story retold to help lay the foundation for this Universe is Superman: Man of Tomorrow.
Right from the first scene in Man of Tomorrow, you instantly feel that this is a very different and more personal telling of the Superman origin as the film opens with two young boys watching a classic 50s style Sci-Fi film about aliens invading earth. One of the boys is greatly upset by this and starts to cry and when his mother is called to collect him, we learn that this is a very young Clark Kent who has been told how his parents, Johnathon and Martha found him. This is really a side to the Superman origin we rarely get to see become an element of the story, how Clark himself feels being the alien and the fear of how the rest of the world would react if they were to find out. It is a theme that is cleverly threaded throughout the film which I will come back to later but it is one that lays the foundation of the type of Superman, this Clark will become.
For that really is the essence of this story, the journey for Clark to become Superman and it is filled with little subtle factors that immediately gave me the sense that this was far more than just another origin story for the Last Son of Krypton but indeed the DC universe around him. We have a Clark Kent longing to fit in with everyone else but who also wants to use his great powers to help the world around him, going as far as to dress up in a disguise to hide his identity when he goes out to try and save people. This story is more about the man who will become the legend than the legend itself. Darren Criss voices both Clark and Superman with a delicate balance, brilliantly bringing both to life as we experience what it must feel like for Clark, who in the early half of the film still has no idea where he came from and has a genuine fear for others finding out who and what he really is.
Alongside Clark’s origin we have a superb update to Lois Lane, voiced by Alexandra Daddario who helps to give her new origin tale, as a graduate of a Lex Luthor Journalism scholarship, manages to take down the corrupt Luthor, excellently voiced by Zachary Quinto as well. Immediately this shows Lois as a capable and independent young woman who uses the situation to not only get the story, but to bring down the most powerful man in Metropolis as he entry to the story. Not hard to see why this young Clark is quickly enamoured and impressed by her. But the writing is clever enough to really keep some of the traditional aspects the same such as the Daily Planet led by Perry White and Lex Luthor being the criminal mastermind manage to keep the sense that though some aspects are new some are still very much familiar for fans and in so doing, allows more room to refresh elements to perhaps the most famous origin story in Comic Books.
Visually I love this new animation style which to me felt classic yet new at the same time. Clark is drawn as a much slimmer but athletically toned man rather than the bulk size of the original TAS series and in the New 52 era of animated films. I love that Martha still makes his first Superman suit for him from the baby blanket he came to earth wrapped in as well as the adding of a cape because “it will look cool”. It completely stands apart from previous animated universes and gives a real crispness to all the fight scenes which have a nice grounded but large scale feel to them as seen when the films guest stars finally appear.
The biggest surprise to this origin story to Superman is in the two guest characters who help establish him as the hero he will be become. Martian Manhunter is a clever choice to help Clark discover his Kryptonian heritage but it is the other guest that really brings this story to life, DC Fan favourite Lobo. Now Lobo is a very interesting character to choose in order to bring Superman to a new DC animated universe, he did not feature at all in the New 52 animated Universe so having him front and centre in this new origin tale is fantastic for me and immediately options up more non-Earth stories. His battling of Clark is really what leads him to becoming Superman but is it the theme I mentioned earlier, of Clark’s fear of being discovered as an alien that is helped by Lobo and the Martian Manhunter. When the city is threatened by Parasite, the big bad of the story, it is the reaction of the humans to Lobo and Martian Manhunter that gives Clark as Superman, the platform to speak about fearing what they do not understand and a very well delivered monologue really helps position Superman as a visitor and immigrant to this world and a hero to show how acceptance is a good thing.
My only criticism comes with the Blu-ray itself, which once again has the most basic menu possible and it would be nice to see something presented better with animated menus or at least music instead of just the box art used as the background. I was disappointed not to have a making of special feature for this film, instead we get two character specials looking at Lobo and Martian Manhunter as well as both episodes of the Super Man TAS when he first met Lobo giving me more hope that a Lobo spin off film is in the works in the future.
I really enjoyed Superman: Man of Tomorrow which manages to juggle a good number of origin stories alongside the Man of Steel and does so without losing the pace of the story telling. If this does become the foundation for a new DC universe, I mean Batman was name dropped in the story as already being active in this world, then I think it could be a really fun and exciting trip for fans to see fresh takes on known characters and stories. I like this Superman and style of storytelling and am excited to see where they go next with this universe and to see who and how, new characters are added to it and I do hope that they take their time and introduce them with standalone stories before bringing them together.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow is available NOW for digital download, and available Blu-ray.