Although their live-action films may leave little to be desired, if there’s one area that DC beats Marvel in, it’s their animated shows and films. Going as far back as the 90s’ Superman and Batman cartoons, DC has had a long history of producing quality animated versions of iconic comic-book storylines. The latest of these offerings is Superman: Red Son. Originally a part of the Elseworlds comics series that featured Gotham by Gaslight, it was adapted into a feature-length animated movie in 2018.
The Plot (No Spoilers)
From the get-go, Superman: Red Son brings us a vision of an alternate universe. In this universe, Kal-El, the last son of Krypton, landed in the Soviet Union, not the United States. The Soviet Superman makes his debut in 1953 after the conclusion of World War II and an uneasy peace brokered between the USSR and the USA. From then on, Superman finds himself thrust into the public eye as a symbol of communism— much to the disdain of American scientist Lex Luthor, who makes it his life menace to eradicate the red menace.
Comic VS Movie: Is It Faithful?
If you’re looking for a one-to-one adaptation of the graphic novel, then you’ll be a little disappointed. Certain story beats have been removed for time and dynamic narrative purposes. That said, the movie manages to hit all the key points of the comic. And after all, the omissions could encourage more people to read the original comic series for the full, unabridged story.
Superman: Red Son is a compelling watch— not just because of the seemingly contradictory narrative of a communist Superman, but because of how this Superman affects the world as a whole. Nations fall and rise, familiar characters such as Hal Jordan, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane take on new roles. Most shocking of all? Lois is in a relationship with Lex Luthor. Oh, and Lex has hair (for the most part).
The animation is on par with past DC animated movies and, in comparison to the other Elseworlds story, Gotham by Gaslight does a much better job at adapting the source material.
The voice acting is solid throughout, with Phil LaMarr returning to voice the Green Lantern and Batman VA Diedrich Bader taking a more villainous turn as everyone’s favorite schemer, Lex Luthor.
The film’s overall runtime comes to a respectable 1 hour and 25 minutes. But don’t go expecting any post-credits scenes— this is a standalone film, and it doesn’t connect to the DCAU proper. That being said, if DC ever decides to adapt the popular “Dark Knights” storyline into an animated movie, we may see Red Son Superman making a brief comeback.
As mentioned above, the film does omit quite a few details from the original story. And yes, this will probably upset those who want to see the comic fully-realized in animated form. That being said, comics often don’t work out great when directly transferred to the silver screen. Given that the story was released 17 years ago, it’s not hard to see why the team behind the animated version would want to update the story to better fit its modern audience.
The one sticking point I have with the film’s voice acting is Diedrich Bader as Lex Luthor. His voice just doesn’t seem to fit the character. It gets especially weird when you realize he uses the same tone and inflection he’d used for Batman in past projects. I would’ve hoped he’d changed it up a bit to better reflect Luthor’s more twisted personality.
If you’re already invested in the DCAU then Superman: Red Son is a good way to get your fix while waiting for the sequel to 2017s Justice League Dark. And, if you haven’t seen a DC animated movie yet, why not? Put together, they’re a must-watch franchise that does a much better job of representing DC’s roster fo heroes than their live-action counterparts. Aside from Shazam. What can I say? Zachary Levi is pretty great.
Have you seen Superman: Red Son? Did you read the original comics? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And as usual, feel free to discuss it with us on Twitter @Wolfencreek!