Every reboot of Superman tries something different, striving to find a fresh approach to the material, and Superman: Man of Tomorrow is no different. This direct-to-video release, out now from Warner Home Entertainment, is intended as the opening chapter in a new continuity, a Rebirth, as it were, of the DC Animated Universe.
Other than the destruction of Krypton, baby Kal-El being raised by the Kents, and Clark (Darren Criss) arriving gin Metropolis as an adult, everything else is a modern take. Clark arrives as an intern with Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario) just a grad student making her bones at the paper. Perry White (Piotr Michael) is there in all his bluster with Ron Troupe (Eugene Byrd) there for diversity and not a sign of Jimmy Olsen, Steve Lombard, or Cat Grant.
The story suggests Earth is aware of alien life and S.T.A.R. Labs, now owned by Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinto), is shown as being designed to hold and analyze extraterrestrials but it’s a mere breadcrumb for the future and is never addressed here. Instead, the focus is on Clark’s debut as the aviator-goggled flying man, doing good deeds, and starting to get noticed.
When a rocket prototype fails, he exposes himself to save humanity, and now everyone wants to know who he is. But, before much can be done about this, Lobo arrives. Now, the entire story grinds to halt as he announces he’s been hired to kill Kal-El, the sole survivor of Krypton. They fight, they talk, they battle, they partner. And at no point does anyone ask, “Who hired you? Why did they hire you? How’d you know he was on Earth?” The lack of curiosity, especially when major members of the cast are journalists is appalling.
Superman is aided by the Martian Manhunter (Ike Amadi), who has been badly shadowing our hero and finally reveals himself and has to deal with the consequences.
But, Lobo’s (Ryan Hurst) arrival accidentally turns Rudy Jones (Brett Dalton) into the Parasite, an entirely new origin for the villain., and making him a far more tragic, and deadly, figure. His threat prompts Superman to turn to Lex Luthor for help, which reveals Lex’s sinister side. But, it’s Superman’s humanity that shines through in the climax, showing why he is a hero and worth looking up to.
The story moves along briskly, with the action and destruction doled out every few minutes, with pauses to visit Smallville, including a touching scene with Martha (Bellamy Young) handing the familiar red and blue suit to her son. The budding relationships between Lois and Clark and Lois and Superman also are nicely handled.
Less well handled is the J’Onn J’Onzz and Kal-El scenes, which go for pathos but feels flat. That the story features three supposedly sole survivors of their races is a nice touch.
Visually, there’s a simplicity to the designs of the characters, set against a futuristic city that can be envisioned as city of tomorrow, a fitting home for our hero. Some of the Krypton designs owes much to the Richard Donner films while Lobo is clearly inspired by Simon Bisley interpretation of the character.
The new voice cast is fine, if unexceptional, a freshening without being radical with Darren Criss carrying much of the load.
Overall, as reboots go, this isn’t a bad one, with plenty of room to explore, especially with Batman already operating in Gotham, and alien life visiting Earth with increasing regularity. We’ll see what happens in the next installment, coming no doubt in 2021.
The movie is available in all the usual formats including the 4K Digital HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD Code combo pack. In both 2160 and 1080 scans, the visuals are crisp and strong, retaining all the colors. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is serviceable if unspectacular, which it doesn’t really need to be.
The Special Features are the standard assortment starting with Lobo: Natural Force of Chaos (10:23) where Screenwriter Tim Sheridan, artists Jon Bogdanove and Bernard Chang, DC Daily host Hector Navarro, and voice actor Ryan Hurst very briefly trace Lobo’s humble origins from a bounty hunter in 1983’s Omega Men to star of his own series and ubiquitous appearances through the 1990s and 2000s.
Martian Manhunter: Lost and Found (8:47) presents a similar assortment of talent talking about the themes of the Martian’s role in comparison with humanity. Lacking is the context of his comic book history.
A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie (11:56) is a stylistically cheesy introduction to Batman: Soul of the Dragon, an animated homage the era’s kung-fu craze, featuring the Dark Knight along with Richard Dragon, Ben Turner (Bronze Tiger), Lady Shiva, and O-Sensei, who all stared in the Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter title written by the late, great Denny O’Neil.
From the DC Vault offers up Two episodes from Superman: The Animated Series – “The Main Man”, parts 1 and 2, which, of course, guest star Lobo.