It’s not everyday when a juggernaut corporation like Warner Bros. puts up an entire new movie up for free, even if it is for a single day. But that’s precisely what they did during the recent DC FanDome event! Superman: Man of Tomorrow, the latest DC animated film and a reboot of the DC Universe animated film franchise, was made available for that one day and those who were lucky or observant enough to notice it was there for everyone to see got to watch the entire film’s 86-minute runtime. It just so happens I was one of those folks.
I actually didn’t think Warner Bros. would show the entire film because it was just released but I will applaud them for doing it. However, will I be applauding the actual film?
Of course, since DC FanDome is over, the only way to see Superman: Man of Tomorrow now is to purchase it from the various streaming sites or get the official Blu-Ray when it comes out next week. Which is why this will still be a SPOILER FREE review since you might not have seen it yet. Anyway, on with the review!
Superman: Man of Tomorrow is basically a new retelling of Clark Kent’s early years as well as the birth of the Superman identity. While they do change a few details here and there, none of the broad strokes of The Man of Steel’s origin has been changed in the film. Baby Kal-El is still rocketed to Earth from a dying Krypton. The Kents still name him Clark Kent and raise him in a loving home and Clark Kent does eventually embrace the Superman identity. This has always been his origin story and you can’t really tamper with the formula without getting the hardcore Superman fans mad.
However, I will say they way they tell the story does feel a little more interesting than the way it’s been told before. That’s because there’s actually very little Superman here. It’s almost like Clark Kent’s story in actuality. Well, that’s all I can really say without giving anything away as this is a SPOILER FREE review. It is kind of refreshing as it does show that Superman is the secret identity here and Clark Kent is real person. It shows why Superman, the alter ego, is a super powered man trying to do good in the world. It’s because it’s what Clark Kent would do.
I also really liked the art style they used for Superman: Man of Tomorrow. It looks like it uses traditional hard-drawn animation but it’s all computer generated cel-shaded animation from what I can tell. Yet everything looks so good. It’s not good enough to really fool anyone to think it isn’t cel-shaded CGI but it does give the entire film a very distinct style and uniformity to everything that I really liked. The animations are incredibly smooth as well and, because of some really smart camera angles, everything does look dynamic and well shot.
What really caught my attention were the facial animations. Man, we’ve come a long way from the stilted CGI faces from yesteryear and a lot of recent video games and movies have taken solid advantage of today’s tech to do just that. But there’s something about how Warner Bros. animated the faces in this movie as they are very expressive when they need to be and subtle when necessary as well. In particular, the animations done with Lois Lane’s face are particularly eyecatching and hella expressive. Expressive enough to make me forget for a moment that this wasn’t hand-drawn animation!
Because of how good the animation and art direction is, it makes it all the more disappointing that the action in Superman: Man of Tomorrow falls rather flat. They may use a lot of good camera angles to frame the action well, but the actual fight scenes themselves are lackluster. For a man who has super speed, the fighting is much slower than you would expect. Also, the impact of the punches and kicks don’t really have a lot of impact to them. Also, the action scenes seem to just end, which is pretty lame. It doesn’t help that there isn’t a whole lot of music during the battles. It mostly feels like its timidly being played way in the back until they have this gigantic dramatic moment where the need the music to swell. While it’s great for highlighting those big moments, it doesn’t really enhance the rest of the fight scenes. The lackluster action is my biggest criticism on Superman: Man of Tomorrow and did affect my overall enjoyment of the film.
The voice acting in Superman: Man of Tomorrow is mostly good. I had my concerns when they cast Alexandra Daddario as Lois Lane as I couldn’t picture her as the tough reporter type but she mostly pulled it off. She managed to pull off the snarky side of the character. Zachary Quinto’s version of Lex Luthor works because he does make the character smart and sure of himself. I also like the actors they cast for Ma and Pa Kent.
Oddly enough, the voice actor that didn’t work for me all that much was Darren Criss, the person who plays Superman! In actuality his Clark Kent generally works but his Superman needs a little bit of help. It’s not bad but I have two problems with it. One, it doesn’t sound all that different from his Clark Kent. It might be a minor gripe but we’ve already had previous superhero cartoons where the voice actor does go through great pains to make both characters sound distinct from each other. Why couldn’t Darren Criss do the same? Second, and this is kind of linked to my first criticism, it’s not a commanding voice. It sound kind of wimpy if you ask me! Now, that works find when he’s Clark Kent. But as Superman, one of the strongest being in the universe? It’s not terrible but it could have been a whole lot better.
Overall, I will have to give a rather weak thumbs up to Superman: Man of Tomorrow. Despite the rather boring action (in a superhero cartoon, no less), it is worth watching because of how fantastic and unique the art style is. The overall story is good and takes a different approach to the more traditional origin of The Last Son of Krypton. I will say that it’s a good start for a new franchise but not a stellar one. I will be looking forward to future entries but DC and Warner Bros. do have to step up the action next time.
Have you seen Superman: Man of Tomorrow? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!