Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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Superman: Red Son
Warner Provides The 4K UHD disc for this review
Warner Provides The 4K UHD disc for this review
Superman: Red Son is another in the growing list of DCAU “elseworlds” stories. A set of alternate reality stories that allow the comic book writers to play with canonical superheroes in ways that they normally wouldn’t have been able to thanks to how characters have been written for decades (if not nearly a century for some characters). The 2003 three issue comic run from Mark Millar was a fantastic little trio of comic stories, and was a nice throwback to the days of olden Bolshevik commie villains as well. It even spawned a 2009 motion comic run, as well as the story being told in animated form back in the Bruce Timm days. However, translating the comic book to film was done a bit awkwardly here, and while it is sometimes a compelling animated film, the jarring changes to the story line seem out of place and reduce the impact of the original story.
The story starts us off back in 1955, with Kal-El’s spaceship being thrown off course by several hours, causing him to land in what is known as the Soviet Union instead of in Kansas. There he is raised on a collective farm until it’s discovered that he has his super powers. Then he’s handed over to the all powerful Stalin, who uses the boy’s incredible powers as a symbol for Soviet Russia, as well as a tool to keep the lay people in line who don’t see the benefit of the “glorious” communist regime. However, Superman’s innate purity finally sees through the lies of Stalin, executing him for putting people in Gulags and turning the Soviet Union around.
Years later Superman’s (voiced by Jason Isaacs) goal is nearly implemented. He’s united the east, Taken over parts of Asia in his glorious quest for world peace, and even defeated the all powerful Brainiac who tried to capture part of Moscow. However, his reign is not exactly innocent either. While he doesn’t put people in gulags or force them into labor camps, he “peacefully” is able to subdue those who rise up against him through brain washing and Brainiac’s technology.
The original 3 comic issue of Superman: Red Son was a great set of comics, and had a very nuanced look at nurture vs. nature. It was originally a critique against communism and the social climb of the Soviet Union, criticizing and heavily ostracizing that sort of fascist rule, just seen through the lens of Superman. This film adaptation feels a bit more like The west’s fascism vs. east’s communism, and has lost many of the nuances of the critique in favor of a more action packed 84 minute adventure. There have been several major changes to the story as well, some working for the shorter film, while others are jarring and not really needed. One of the major ones is them turning Princess Diana gay for no apparent reason, and robbing the story the whole “jilted lover” routine from the comics, which kind of loses the impact when the bitter and angry Amazonian turns her back on Superman. It’s not a horrible thing, but it does come across as doing something just to garner “points” with a certain demographic, and not really caring about the narrative fall out from said change.
There’s a super violent change about half way through that I won’t spoil, but it also feels a bit odd. The biggest one is actually the ending though. The whole time travel, closed loop, ending is really shortened and condensed. A move which leaves the “aha!” ending rather trite and typical, instead of the really neat psychological twist it was afforded in the comics. Still, the story is fun, the base theme of the comics are translated well, and it’s rather compelling narrative at times. Not the best of the DCAU, but not the worst either. Rather a middle ground one that just doesn’t reach it’s potential.
Rated PG-13 for violent content, bloody images, suggestive material, language, thematic elements and some smoking.
4K Video: Video:
• Cold Red War (New Featurette) – An exploration of the Cold War through the lens of the Elseworlds classic Superman: Red Son, as Superman rises to power and tension escalates between the United States and the Soviet Union.
• Two episodes from Superman: Red Son – The Motion Comics.
• A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War – An advanced look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.
While it suffers from being lesser than it’s comic book source material and some pacing issues, Superman: Red Son has some really good action sequences and a great score to compliment good voice acting. The visuals and take on Superman’s history is very unique, adding a different layer to our understanding of the man of steel, but I also would have liked more dissection of the whole “nurture vs. nature” conundrum that makes up Superman’s core. They almost seemed to ignore the whole Kent family being a MASSIVE impact on his moral compass, and just played it off as a part of his nature, something which I would have really enjoyed more time to explore here. As an elseworlds story it’s solid on it’s own, but as I said above, definitely weaker than the source material. The 4K UHD disc is a VERY solid upgrade over the Blu-ray, and easily the best the film looks on home video.. Decent Rental for DCAU fans.
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Amy Acker, Diedrich Bader, Vanessa Marshall, Phil Morris, Paul Williams, Phil LaMarr, Greg Chun
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 84 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 17th 2020