Superman: Red Son Review
It would probably be too weird for mainstream audiences to grasp alternate universes right now, even though they are beginning to make headway in our superhero movies. As much fun as it would be to see a live-action version of the classic stories from Marvel and DC that do not take place in their mainstream continuities, I don't think we are quite there yet. We will have to see how successful Marvel is with their multiverse stories in the coming years, and to see what DC does in the future if the idea is going to be appealing or not to the general audience. Alas, there is always Warner Brothers Animation to itch that spot for comic book fans dying to see movie versions of these stories.
"Superman: Red Son" asks the question, what if Superman landed in the Soviet Union and stood for Communism and Soviet ideals instead of landing in Kansas and taking on more democratic ideals? It tells the story of how Kal-el (he never really goes by the alias Clark Kent) was an ally for Stalin and how he viewed American ideals as bondage and corrupt. We see Lex Luthor as more of a hero, as he tries to stop this Superman in the name of protecting the free world. The features fun new takes on Batman, Wonder Woman, Brainiac and the Green Lantern Corps as they react to this continuity. In the end, its a story about even the most pure of us can be manipulated to believe anything. In the world we are living in now, that's actually a fairly important issue.
The movie retells the story in movie form. All the big moments from the book are represented, for the most part. We see how Lex Luthor got Brainiac to shrink Stalingrad, we see the United States propaganda version of Superman created by Luthor who ends up losing badly (Bizarro anyone?). We see how the United States government uses the Green Lantern Corps to their advantage. The thing is, this all feels like it is moving in fast forward. The movie is only a little under an hour and a half. So it seems the story from the comics is always bulldozing through moments that feel like they should have time to breathe.
There is also some changes to the ending to form more of a happier ending. Even though I can't really say that "Red Son" ended badly. Don't worry Conservatives, "Red Son" isn't some type of Bernie Sanders indoctrination, in movie or comic form. Superman eventually sees the errors of his ways and saves the world. There is some lip service to the Global United States Luthor creates at the end of the comic book, but its altered in the movie to give him a more heroic ending. Also, there is no predestination paradox from the comic book. So comic book fans should know it doesn't quite end the way the comic book did.
Jason Isaacs is one of my favorite British actors, starring in such things as "Armageddon" and "The Patriot" and "Harry Potter." I had no idea he could create such an amazing Russian accent but I remember being surprised reading his name when the credits were rolling. Its very good voicework.
Overall, this is another win for Warner Brothers Animation and their straight-to-DVD DC films