Review: Superman: Man of Tomorrow

Some movies about Superman are excellent. Some are… rather ungood. And “Superman: Man Of Tomorrow” is intensely, spectacularly, memorably…. okay.

It’s just okay. It’s hard to really find anything to love or hate about this animated origin story for everybody’s favorite blue-and-red Boy Scout — nothing about it is too bad or good, from the serviceable but unexciting animation to the pleasant but not particularly gripping characterizations. It dabbles with some deeper stuff, like Superman’s temptation to live a quieter and safer life, but ultimately it mostly focuses on explosive spectacle and a bit of horror.

Clark Kent has just come to Metropolis to work as an intern at the Daily Planet, where he discreetly uses his superpowers to just kind of fly around in a thrift-store disguise. But after he saves the city from a runaway spacecraft, budding journalist Lois Lane becomes fascinated by “the Super-Man” and is determined to corral him into an interview, on HER terms.

But then Star Labs is attacked by a yellow-toothed space-motorcycle-wearing thug named Lobo, who reveals he is here to nab Superman in order to secure a massive bounty on the last Kryptonian. Who put forth this bounty, and therefore knows that he exists? We never find out. It’s actually just kind of forgotten. Supes doesn’t even seem interested in knowing who wants him captured and/or killed.

This battle is a turning point for Superman in several ways: his costume is destroyed, a Martian appears out of nowhere to defend him, and an innocent janitor is accidentally consumed by purple alien goo. Before long, a new enemy is stalking through Metropolis, sucking the very life-force from everyone it comes across. To stop it, Superman will need to ally himself with a man who may just become his greatest enemy… and also Lobo.

“Superman: Man of Tomorrow” aims to tell the story of Clark Kent’s formation into Superman – how he got his costume, how he got his name, and how he made the conscious decision to be Earth’s protector. None of it is too deep or dramatic; don’t expect lots of introspection and contemplation here. The choice is simple, and we know more or less what he’s going to choose, but the question is HOW Supes is going to make his official debut. And it’s kind of cute to see him do things like tie a blanket around his shoulders to see how he’d look with a cape.

The story itself is a pretty straightforward one, confronting Superman with obstacles – he keeps encountering stronger and stronger foes, both physically and mentally. But it occasionally gives us quieter interludes with the Kent family, or the janitor’s family. Perhaps the biggest problem is that during the climactic conflict, Superman decides to introduce himself to the entire crowd watching it, rather than dealing with the horrifying potential-world-ending threat behind him.

At the same time, we see him getting to know Lois Lane, who’s exactly what you’d expect – she’s kind of arrogant and convinced she’s already the best, but it’s intriguing to see her interact with Clark, growing closer to him even as he grows in confidence. Clark also contrasts wildly against the amoral, crazed Lobo, who livens up the script with his antics (such as telling Lois stories that reduce her to screaming, “Stop! What’s WRONG with you?!”).

As for the animation, it’s a mixed bag. It looks very simple and kind of cheap at times (I was reminded of “Archer” during some scenes, and that show isn’t exactly known for its beautiful animation), but I suppose they were saving the money and skill for the fight scenes, which are sometimes pretty dynamic and fluid. It’s not bad exactly, but it’s not particularly good.

If you’re hoping for greatness, “Superman: Man of Tomorrow” will surely disappoint you with its profound okayness. It’s just okay. If watched for a just-okay everything, it will probably satisfy.

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