Since Superman is one of my favorite superheroes I was definitely not going to pass up on the opportunity to watch the animated film “Superman: Man of Tomorrow.”
Growing up I became enamored by Superman and his story. A hero who, as an infant, was sent to Earth from the doomed and dying planet of Krypton, that infant maturing into the Earth’s champion and servant.
While maturing, that hero had to learn how to accept himself for who he is and who he will eventually become. This film captured the essence of that.
Clark Kent, voiced by Darren Criss (Glee, American Crime Story), is a young man slowly coming to grips with who he is. He is a millennial from Smallville, a town in America’s heartland, who is struggling, but persevering, to become a reporter at the Daily Planet through an internship.
He is also struggling to adjudicate with being an alien from another planet. Who hasn’t struggled with who they are? Who hasn’t battled coming to grips about a certain part of themselves? The film has used this to give depth to the character of Clark Kent while showing how relatable he is to us.
I noticed that the story and writing in this film has borrowed some, If not all, the influences or themes from several Superman mediums.
Clark’s self-acceptance and lessons to love himself was a huge theme that was borrowed from the Smallville TV show. Like in CW’s “Smallville,” Jonathan and Martha Kent, voiced by Neil Flynn and Belamy Young, became the first people to adore and protect Clark while teaching him how to use his abilities and to use them with care. Also similar to Smallville, Clark meets J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, voiced by Ike Amadi (Mortal Kombat Legends, Infinite Crisis), who becomes a mentor by offering to teach Clark what he knows about his Kryptonian heritage.
Clark’s “Flying Man” costume seen in the film is an homage to the Proto-Superman costume seen in Landis’ American Alien. In the film, Clark wore a leather jacket along with an aviator hat and goggles. The only difference is that, unlike in American Alien, he did not have the House of El symbol emblazoned on his chest — nor did he wear a cape with it.
The showdown between the Man of Steel and Lobo, voiced by Ryan Hurst (The Walking Dead), was also similar to the meeting seen in American Alien.
The chemistry between Criss’ Clark and Lois Lane, voiced by Alexandra Daddarrio (Baywatch, Rampage), reminded me a lot of the chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder from the Richard Donner Superman films. Like in the Donnerverse, there’s a journalistic rivalry there — but there is also a small, growing attraction between the two.
I found it hilarious when Lobo joked that more Kryptonians were going to come and rip the Earth apart in order to find Clark. When Lobo described what would happen when the “Kryptonians” came to Earth to Lois during an interview, I already started to think about Zod, Ursa, and Non. After that graphic description, Lobo just laughed and told Lois that he was just joking, much to her ire.
And of course, the ensemble of villains in this film cannot be forgotten.
Rudy Jones, voiced by Brett Dalton, the janitor who would become Parasite, was a tragic and reluctant villain. During a battle between Clark and Lobo, Rudy gets caught in the crossfire and one of Lobo’s gadgets turns him into a creature that sucks the energy out of objects and living organisms (think similar to Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep in “The Mummy”).
Before becoming Parasite, Clark befriended Rudy learning that the janitor is a war veteran who lived as a husband and fathered two children. It is Parasite who also pushed Clark to accept his Kryptonian heritage and help humans understand that aliens are not what the media perceived them to be. Parasite also played a huge role toward the end of the film by sacrificing himself to save Metropolis from a nuclear reactor explosion.
We certainly cannot forget about Lex Luthor, voiced by Zachary Quinito (Star Trek, Heroes). Quinto’s Luthor reminded me a lot of Michael Rosenbaum’s Luthor with a little bit of Gene Hackman’s, just a man who always has something up his sleeve while exuding evil confidence.
The day pass from jail was something that did not really surprise me too, especially since that’s something Lex would do with his power and influence. Lex also used his charm in order to fool Superman by pretending to help the man of tomorrow with parasite — only to study how he can defeat the Man of Steel.
I enjoyed the animation of the film and how it stayed true to all the characters. Clark’s design was very geeky with the glasses and tie while Superman’s was muscular and heroic with the cape and spandex.
Lois’ design was in tune with how a journalist would dress while Lex’s design was typical of a wealthy man. I also liked J’onn J’onnz civilian guise as Detective John Jones since it gave off that vibe of mysteriousness.
There are a few things I would have wanted to see in the film, but didn’t. I wanted to see Clark eventually build the Fortress of Solitude. I thought that the device he had as a kid would have led to him taking a trip to the Artic where he would fling it into the ice building the iconic crystalline edifice.
Another thing I would have loved to see was perhaps a glimpse of another Kryptonian (perhaps General Zod or Kara) coming to Earth to evoke hope that another Kryptonian does exist. I did love the Batman’s cameo in one of Lois’ pictures regarding his cool cape, though.
Overall, Man of Tomorrow was a great film and it feels like a fresh start after the Justice League animated films, that began with Justice League: War in 2014, just came to a close. I hope they make a sequel to this film where Clark learns more about his Krpytonian heritage, shows his growth as a journalist and his developing relationship with Lois Lane.
There are some people who would argue that Superman, or Clark Kent, isn’t relatable. For those who say that, I cannot change their mind, but I disagree. I would do myself, and possibly other Superman fans, a disservice if I did not tell those naysayers to go watch this film. It’s that awesome.
4.0 out of 5 Daily Planet Globes