Ben’s Breakdown | “Superman: Man of Tomorrow” Sadly Doesn’t Fly

A young boy has his friend over and they’re watching a science fiction movie. During the movie, an alien is revealed and kills someone. The boy’s friend appears traumatized by this and breaks down crying. They call for the friend’s parents and Jonathan Kent picks his son up to bring him home. Clark’s parents tell him the truth and give him an artifact that he’s puzzling over. As he gets older he lands an internship at the Daily Planet. He meets the likes of Lois Lane, Lex Luther of Lexcorp as well as an intergalactic bounty hunter and thug named Lobo who is after Clark because he’s the last Kryptonian, which is a source of surprise for Clark. During an attack by Lobo, a janitor at STAR Labs is covered by a purple goo that drains energy, turning him into something less than human that can kill on touch. Can this new flying man from Metropolis find a way to save everyone and defeat this Parasite?

Superman: Man of Tomorrow came out in 2020 and has found its home on HBO Max. It appears to be one of the earliest of this new breed of animated features that has a style that feels like characters that are cardboard cutouts, but at the same time with the intensity of anime. This may be the new approach for Warner Bros. studio as this is the same approach in the recently released Justice Society: World War II. While I liked the use of this style in the Justice Society movie, I feel less enthused here. It’s not so much with the characters and how they are animated, but with the background scenery. Scenes depicting Metropolis at times look like something out of the 23rd Century. While it is stylistically beautiful it is rather jarring to see a city that looks more at home on an advanced alien planet. What I do like regarding the animation are the characters. While at times they look like animated cutouts, what does stand out are their faces. Odd as this may sound, but many of these characters don’t have exactly a life-like quality to them, rather they are drawn to look incredibly friendly. This is a departure from what we’ve had in years past. Clark is drawn to have a look that would have people gravitate towards. Weird? Yes, it is, but that’s precisely how he is drawn. Even a young Pa Kent at the beginning of the movie has the same type of appearance. This is a quality that is utilized again in Justice Society: World War II with its group of heroes. One could say that they are drawn in a way to make them look perfect as characters. As pleasant-looking as they are there is something almost disturbing at this. I found myself “liking” some of these characters based solely on how they are drawn.

The voice talent is good, but the big surprise is the use of Darren Criss as Clark Kent/Superman. He delivers his line with the boyish charm that screams all American, which is perfect for this type of movie. Zachary Quinto does a turn at Lex Luther and is perfectly suited for the villainous role. A big surprise is the voice of the Martian Manhunter supplied by Ike Amadi who has a striking similarity in his voice and delivery to Carl Lumbly from the Justice League animated series from 2001 to 2004.

Now we get to the story. This is supposed to be the early days of Superman, a hero who didn’t know what he could do or even how to do it. His initial battles with Lobo do nothing but cause destruction everywhere, and when he finally has a meeting with the Martian Manhunter he is mostly ineffective. While this may have some validity for a time, it feels as if it goes on too long, almost as if the Manhunter is needed for Superman in handling with The Parasite. This is a Superman feature and it would be nice if the Big Blue Guy could live up to his reputation. Instead, he doesn’t come off as the Greatest Hero of all time, and I found that to be a disappointing quality in how this character was written. The Parasite has historically been one of Superman’s most dangerous foes, but here he is treated as an alien monster that eventually ends up looking like Godzilla’s second cousin. The resolution is also a tragic one giving possibly an unnecessary sense of pathos since The Parasite was born out of an innocent victim from Lobo’s earlier attacks. It makes it feel pretty much senseless and given that there is enough senselessness in the world today the last thing I want to do is find it in a superhero animated feature. I’m looking for a diversion filled with optimism, hope, mixed with a nice dose of fun. Instead, I saw a superhero who is in dire need of training, living in a world where innocent people die at any possible moment, just as they do in real life, and this is not the kind of movie I want to spend my free time watching.

For its weak story along with richly animated characters, I give Superman: Man of Tomorrow only 3.5 out of 5 Cigars.


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