'Superman: Red Son' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Jason Isaacs, Amy Acker, Diedrich Bader, Vanessa Marshall, Sasha Roiz, Tara Strong, Roger Craig Smith, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: What if the Man of Steel was raised behind the Iron Curtain? So begins DC’s acclaimed Elseworlds story, Superman: Red Son, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies.
Blu-ray Verdict: How would Superman be if baby Kal-El crashed into Communist Russia instead of Capitalist America? 'Superman: Red Son' explores the idea, which is based on a comic book mini-series.
In truth, it's a rather intriguing premise and the film does indeed have some interesting moments. Unfortunately, it tries to squeeze too many ideas into an hour and a half format and it just feels too rushed. Many ideas are not fully developed or explored.
The movie opens with a young boy who is being chased by some bullies. The boy is rescued by a young girl called Svetlana, who scares the rowdy boys away.
When the conflict is over, Svetlana comes to the young boy, cleans him up and says: "I can't keep saving you like this, Somishka. You have to stop running and find the courage to face them", only to have the boy reply he was not scared of the bullies, but of hurting them!
The boy promptly demonstrates his powers to Svetlana, who then proclaims that he should give himself to the State, to help people.
As far as settings go, this one is simple yet effective. It shows us how this Superman is a kind soul who wishes to avoid conflict, yet he still wants to better people's lives.
Superman in this movie is, above all, an idealist. He truly believes in his ideas and truly desires to help others, accentuating the main plot point of this movie: the struggles of rulership, what it takes to be a successful leader, in both the good bits and bad.
In fact, the struggles of rulership Superman faces that this movie barely has a villain, or even an antagonist: Lex, Superior Man/Bizarro, Batman and Brainiac are there to provide the action superhero movies are known for but they are not the main focus.
In reality, if you are expecting this to be a superhero movie with a clear villain, a plot to take over the world, a hero and lots of action you will be disappointed. This movie is an inwards reflection of Superman and how he behaves in a position of power.
That said, while I do think I would say the team behind this movie made a good job showing how Superman keeps trying to find solutions to the problems as they arise, it's far from perfect.
Sometimes they are rushed, as aforementioned, as if to include parts of the comic that became orphaned by the changes, but more about that later.
As for Superman, he's far more proactive than his comic book counterpart. While in the book Stalin is killed by his son in convoluted plot, here it's Superman who kills him when he becomes disillusioned with Stalin - a man who preached one thing in public, but in private did nefarious things.
After seeing atrocities committed by the USSR, he kills Stalin and takes the leadership.
As a leader, Superman tries his best to prove the welfare of his citizens. Unlike the comics, we don't get to see how exactly the geopolitics are faring.
So no global empire, no secession of Georgia and what not. The most we get are some remarks about revolutions, so while Superman is not willing to make the first move, he's more than happy to help those who ask.
In this, Lex is not a man plotting Superman's downfall at every instance. I mean, he is, but he's not the antagonist to Superman in a traditional rival sense, here he represents foreign interests that go against Superman's.
He doesn't hate Superman because he's an alien or what not, but because he believes there are better options than what Superman is offering.
Superior Man/Bizarro seems like an excuse for a fight scene. In the comic, he's used to demonstrate how Superman affects Lex ego, but in this film it's an example of how Superman reacts to foreign aggression: even after an invasion with a weapon of mass destruction, he minimizes losses and takes him to an inhabited area and, even when defeating him, shows compassion. Even after such attack, Superman does not declare war on the US.
Batman is an example of people unsatisfied with the current regime. After all, you can't expect everyone to agree with you, you ought to make some people angry, inside and outside.
How Superman handles the Sons of Batman (name not used in the film) shows the pressures of leadership: he has to deal with them somehow, but he can't just kill or send them to a gulag else he would be just like Stalin.
In the end he takes another option, but is it that different from what Stalin did? For context, in the comics Batman's parents were killed by Pyotr, giving him a hate for all structures of powers, in here he's a direct victim of the most unsavory things done by the USSR.
For some criticism, well, the way Diana lost faith on Superman was rushed. It seems there was a mismatch, with the faith wavering in weird moments and not when Superman started upscaling his methods.
The same with the Ambassador Lee character: Superman was shown to be nothing but kind and passionate to his subjects, yes there was the thing about using the Brainiac tech on dissidents but that is hardly that terrifying.
We are never shown he using it on people who merely disagree with him, just actual mass murderers. Breaking from impersonality, I admit I'm against that form of punishment, but apparently so is every world leader who eat supper with Superman, made worse by the fact we are not even sure how Superman decides who gets the implant: is there a trial? is the populace in favor of what appears to be a muffled death sentence? We are not given answers.
In a minor point, the way Superman deals with some issues. Suicide and depression are treated with medicating water supplies - while it's completely in character for Brainiac to do that, one would expect Superman to push for something like healthcare, not drugging the population.
The ending was also interesting. It borrows from the books - Lex and Lois convince Superman has gone too far so he fakes his own death.
In this movie, this happened just after Superman lost his temper and was attacked by the US. Here it improves the ending of the comic, in which Lex becomes the president of the world and through scientific prowess and an ideology that is not that different from Superman's rules for millennia.
In this film, there's no twist ending with time paradox and the sort, there are still plans to make a global United States but it's not Luthor at the helm, there's not "more of the same, but different", we don't know what happens and it serves it well.
Oh, and as for Brainiac, he represents the struggle for power within the State machine. He was an advisor to Superman, putting his own interests forward manipulating the Man of Steel.
For when you're in power even the people you think are under your control and want your best might have ulterior motives.
Simply put, Superman decided he went too far and that people should be allowed to choose what they want, and that's all. Ergo, I didn't find this movie overly preachy, but it did show that doing the right thing - or what you believe is the right thing - isn't always as simple as it might seem. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• DC Showcase: Phantom Stranger (Animated Short) – Animation legend Bruce Timm helms Phantom Stranger as both executive producer & director from a script written by Ernie Altbacker (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract).
Set in the 1970s, the short follows young adult Jess as she joins her friends at a party in a dilapidated mansion hosted by the mysterious Seth … when odd things begin to happen to Jess and her friends, can Phantom Stranger intervene?
Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick) gives voice to Phantom Stranger, and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Impastor) provides the voice of Seth. Phantom Stranger also features the voices of Natalie Lander, Grey Griffin and Roger Craig Smith.
• Cold Red War (New Featurette) – An exploration of the Cold War through the lens of the Elseworlds classic Superman: Red Son, as Superman rises to power and tension escalates between the United States and the Soviet Union.
• Two episodes from Superman: Red Son – The Motion Comics.
• A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War – An advanced look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.
'Superman: Red Son' will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.
Fans can also own 'Superman: Red Son' via purchase from digital retailers beginning February 25th, 2020 before it arrives as a 4K ULTRA HD™ BLU-RAY COMBO PACK AND BLU-RAY™ COMBO PACK March 17th, 2020.
'Superman: Red Son' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital] Purchase Link
'Superman: Red Son' - Official "Batman-Helicopters" Clip
'Superman: Red Son' Official Trailer