Animated Film ● Review: Superman – Red Son
Title: Superman – Red Son
Director(s): Sam Liu
Screenwriter(s): J.M. DeMatteis
Studio: WB & DC Entertainment Released: 2020
Runtime: 1h 24m
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Amy Acker, Diedrich Bader, Vanessa Marshall, Phil Morris
● Based on the three-issue comic of the same name by Mark Millar, the alternate-reality premise is simple: Superman grows up in the Soviet Union under Stalin instead of the US where Lex Luthor eventually becomes POTUS and Lois is his wife.
● Superman is a nice guy at heart, so he uses his powers for the state. Unfortunately, we don’t see how he transitions from the farm boy into the soviet Superman.
● Later, when he realizes that Stalin is a tyrant, he gets rid of him and becomes the soviet leader himself. Having the benefit of superpowers, he spreads his version of the commie ideal with minimal bloodshed and tries to be a benevolent dictator.
● Of course, the US doesn’t trust him and there are always issues, no matter how honorable one’s intentions are. The premise has a lot of potential. The primary weakness of this film is that it only superficially shows the issues that the soviet Superman has to deal with. There is very little exploration. How does Superman reconcile the idea of a better world with what he thinks communism is? How does he actually do it?
● We see him use his superpowers, which obviously helps but that’s about it. Apart from a few things—I won’t spoil by mentioning them—we see little of him dealing with complex issues at a practical level.
● The structure of the film feels like this review, like a series of dot points. It is obvious, even to someone who hasn’t read the comic, that some of the comic material is missing. It’s not nonsensical, just that it’s choppy. To be fair, this cannot be totally avoided since the narrative spans several decades.
● If you are expecting something really cool even if not profound, then you will be disappointed. If you have about one and a half hours to kill, then this is a mildly intriguing “what if” exercise, especially if you are a fan of Superman (which I am not).
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