Editor’s Note: Warner Bros Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this entry. The opinions I share are my own.


Background:

When Justice League Dark: Apokolips War ended, the DC Animated Movie Universe (not to be confused with the general DC Universe Animated Original Movies) was in a shambles and Flash was heading back in time to try to reset everything that had occurred since Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Now, the first film to follow, Superman: Man of Tomorrow, gives us a new retelling of the origin of Superman that, unfortunately borrows elements from the 2015 miniseries Superman: American Alien by Max Landis. Landis has become a problematic figure since the charges of sexual abuse started popping up over the last couple of years and I’m a little surprised that DC didn’t opt to use other sources (it’s not like there aren’t plenty of retellings of Superman’s origin to choose from).

Anyway, as it turns out, Superman: Man of Tomorrow isn’t a new start to a shared universe of DC animated movies. And that may be for the best, as this film is boring A.F. Especially when we know that the next three films on the release schedule are the 70s kung fu movie inspired Batman: Soul of the Dragon, the historical action of Justice Society: World War II, and then the adaptation of the classic Batman: The Long Halloween in two parts.


The Movie:

Anyhoo, this film is Superman’s origin, but told in a more grounded, realistic way than we usually see. This is a Clark who is afraid about what being an alien and an outsider means, and all of the central conflicts of the story are built to explore this concept. We’re even given a Pa Kent who is a little more like the Man of Steel Pa than the one in American Alien. Also, rather than focus on Parasite and Lobo as villains for singular episodes of Clark’s growing sense of identity, Man of Tomorrow opts to center the entire story on the Parasite conflict, using Lobo first as a foil and ultimately as an ally.

Oh, and because they can’t tell the story of two “last of their kind” aliens without bringing in the other major character with that particular gimmick, the Martian Manhunter also shows up.

None of this is inherently bad, though, and overall, Man of Tomorrow is a solid piece of work, telling a story about otherness and acceptance. But there’s not really anything in this story that isn’t kind of obvious for any fan of Superman. There’s not a lot of tension and there aren’t even any real plot twists beyond the moment when [REDACTED] is brutally murdered. For a hot minute I thought they might actually let that stand, which would have had some serious impact on Clark’s development.

Of course, they don’t let it stand and the murder was faked, allowing [REDACTED] to show up in the nick of time for the grand finale. I don’t even consider that a spoiler, since there’s no way they were actually kill off [REDACTED] like that. Also, the way that they use Parasite is interestingly tragic, even if it seems that somewhere along the way he parasited the hell out of the 1998 American Godzilla.

I was also a little put off by the characterization of Lobo. He’s introduced as your typical version of Lobo – the bad ass, unstoppable, foul-mouthed bounty hunter (literally foul-mouthed – parents be warned, he curses more than a few times throughout the film – which is weird hearing him say “Eat shit” but following it up with “you bastiches.” I get that bastich is trademarked or whatever, but it just sounded odd going all in on one curse word, but getting silly with the other, both in the same sentence.)

His face turn at the climax is unexplained, especially since he claimed he was initially hunting a bounty on the last Kryptonian – implying that someone out in space knew about Clark and was paying to have him killed – then took payment from Luthor to act as his muscle, before finally deciding to help Superman and Martian Manhunter fight Parasite. They even end on good terms, with Lobo flying off into space to hunt more bounties.

It’s just weird and felt like the writers just ran out of ideas.

The finale is pretty predictable with yet another face turn (Parasite-Godzilla, this time) that was only barely earned. And that might be me being charitable given how many people he straight up murdered across the film’s 86-minute run-time.

Ultimately, Superman: Man of Tomorrow is bland, predictable, and pretty vanilla from start to finish. Even the animation style, a departure from pretty much everything the DC Animated films have done before, comes off as a little boring – although I kind of dig the hard outlines around each character, giving some scenes an almost 3-D diorama feel. The voice acting also didn’t really make much of an impression, recasting every character with new, more TV-centric actors. Nearly every actor does a good job, but nobody really stands out – except for Zachary Quinto who never really feels comfortable in the role of Lex Luthor. As with nearly everything else about this project, his performance is just boring. He doesn’t bring the dynamism that Luthor really needs. Somehow, Ryan Hurst’s Lobo also never really feels as exaggerated as the character needs to be, despite being the only character who actually gets lines designed to be over-the-top.

I guess some fans might appreciate the in-joke of casting Bellamy Young and Neil Flynn as Ma and Pa Kent, but I never cared about Scrubs, so the reunion just fell flat for me.

I just don’t know why this project even exists. We don’t even get a Showcase animated short that have been highlights of recent releases.


Extras:

Lobo: Natural Force of Chaos – Short piece giving some background on Lobo. Interesting, sort of. Especially watching fans talk about what a horrible genocidal monster Lobo is, but how much they love him for it. Weird.

Martian Manhunter: Lost and Found – This is a pretty nicely done tribute to the character of J’onn J’onzz. It almost redeems the movie.

A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie: Batman – Soul of the DragonNow this looks good. The next DC Universe film is inspired by 70s kung fu movies and has Bats teaming up with Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva, and Bronze Tiger to take on Kobra. Very excited to discover that Michael Jai White is returning to voice Bronze Tiger.

Superman: The Animated Series: “The Main Man, Parts 1 & 2” – Whoever thought it was a good idea to include this two-parter must not have realized that Paul Dini’s 1996 introduction of Lobo to the world of Superman: The Animated Series would outshine the new product in just about every way possible. Here we also have Lobo showing up on earth, looking to collect a bounty on Superman, but Dini’s script actually follows up on that idea and then plays on their shared “last survivor of their species” idea by giving them an actual reason to team up in the end, while also providing a reason for Lobo not to keep trying to hunt Superman or invade earth ever again. The characterizations are cartoonish but work in the confines of the series’ aesthetic, letting Lobo be bad, but not too bad and actually making him seem like a cool character that kids could enjoy.

There’s probably a better way to enjoy these episodes than by paying whatever they’re asking for this blu-ray, so if I were you, I’d seek it out elsewhere.


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