Starring: Jason Isaacs, Amy Acker, Diedrich Bader, Vanessa Marshall, Phil LaMarr, Phil Morris
Written By: J.M. DeMatteis
Directed By: Sam Liu
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of this Blu-ray set that I reviewed in this post. The opinions I share are my own.
In another time and in another world, the Last Son of Krypton didn’t land in the Midwestern United States but instead crashed down in the fields of the Soviet Union post-World War 2.
Instead of truth, justice and the American way Kal-El now stands for the communist ideals of his new homeland. Without Superman’s appearance in the United States, it alters the entire timeline and continuity of superheroes and villains alike all around the world. The Green Lantern Corps become a new branch of the US military, Batman pops up in the Soviet Union as a young man whose family perished in the gulags simply because they knew Superman before he was “super” and America’s only hope against the Man of Steel is none other than super-genius Lex Luthor.
As DC did with “Batman: Gotham By Gaslight”, they’ve developed this “Elseworlds” graphic novel into yet another excellent animated flick written by comic scribe J.M. DeMatteis and directed by Sam Liu. The voice cast is on par with a few returning actors reprising their roles as well as some new additions to the DC animated film family. Since this is an “Elseworlds” tale, it doesn’t fit into the established DC Animated Universe continuity but the animation style is a nice mix of the American manga style and the classic Bruce Timm animation.
“Superman: Red Son” is one of the few “Elseworlds” titles that I haven’t read yet so I can’t point out many comparisons and discrepancies between the film and comic but I do feel that Warner Bros. did a good job of weaving a complete story with the movie itself. Instead of crash landing in Smallville, Kal-El winds up landing in the Soviet Union and, upon discovering his super powers, turns himself over to the state. He winds up as a propaganda point for everything Soviet and communist for the next few decades. He single-handedly ends the Korean War and puts the fear of global communism in the Western world.
In a role reversal, Lex Luthor is the man who has married Lois Lane and he is the only man smart enough to find a solution to the world’s Superman problem. He creates a clone of Superman called Superior Man, who ends up being reminiscent of Bizarro in ways. Things don’t end well for Superior Man and, thanks to Lois; Lex is faced with a sense of morality in regards to his work and begins working closely with the US government of ways to rid the world of Superman. I wasn’t quite sure about the Lex Luthor role reversal at first but, with Lois at his side providing a moral compass while kicking ass on her own, Lex becomes the best version of Lex to defeat the red-caped menace.
Other DC superheroes and heroines make their appearance. Wonder Woman befriends Red Son Superman as she views him as the best hope for world peace while Batman pops up as a throwaway plot point to show that Superman can be outthought and outwitted. The Green Lanterns appear as a group of flying men working for the military with not much backstory outside of Hal Jordan’s discovery of the power ring thanks in part to the US military. Wonder Woman’s plotline was essential in showing that Superman could still be shown right and wrong but the Batman appearance was odd and confusing. One is supposed to assume that since this completely random child from the gulags takes on the mantle of Batman, there wouldn’t be a Bruce Wayne Batman in the US? That makes no sense at all since Batman and Superman’s origin stories are completely unrelated and happened around the same time in the comics. Even assuming that this change happened, the Batman vs Superman battle that took place in the movie felt rushed and served more as a distraction than anything.
Other than a few minor hiccups, “Superman: Red Son” was a fun alternate take on the Man of Steel complete with some interesting role reversals as well as a surprise villain that required an uneasy alliance in order to defeat. Superman in the wrong hands is an absolutely terrifying thing but “Red Son” showed that no matter what, deep down at his core lays the greatest man that ever lived.
• Cold Red War
• 2 Episodes from “Superman: Red Son – The Motion Comics”
• DC Showcase Short – Phantom Stranger
• A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
• From the DC Comics Vault – 2 Bonus Cartoons and More!
DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1 Dolby Digital
English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles
4K UHD Feature: 2160p Ultra High Definition 16×9 1.78:1
Blu-ray Feature: 1080p High Definition 16×9 1.78:1
Bottom Line: A scary alternate take on the Man of Steel’s origin story in classic “Elseworlds” style. How would the free world stop a communist Superman if he believed in the ways of the Soviet State? The Phantom Stranger short was also a really good short story about one of DC’s strangest phantoms out there.
Running Time: 84 Mins