The Warner Brothers animation division has been producing successful straight-to-video adaptations of DC storylines since 2007. In principle, the DC Animated Movie Universe forms an ongoing storyline, but the studio occasionally allows for trips to standalone Elseworlds titles. Previously, for example, BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (in which a 19th century Batman competes against Jack The Ripper), and now SUPERMAN: RED SON. The question, however, is whether the comic, with its generation-spanning, complex story, where geopolitical entanglements go hand in hand with solid personal drama, lends itself to an animated adaptation of barely eighty minutes suitable for six-year-olds.
During his childhood in post-war Ukraine, young Kal-El initially hides his burgeoning superpowers. He is often bullied but refuses to show his true nature. Ten years later, and we see a grown-up Superman (Jason Isaacs) who puts all his efforts into great leader Stalin and his dream workers paradise. The US tries frenetically to maintain its sphere of influence, but has little to say against the all-powerful Soviet super weapon. In desperation, President Eisenhower turns to top scientist Lex Luthor (Dietrich Bader) to turn the tide. He then tries to find a counterweight in all kinds of ways, including a cloned ‘Superior Man’.
However, Luther’s wife Lois Lane (Amy Acker) has a more subtle approach in mind: she shows Superman that Stalin has carefully hidden the dark side of his regime from him. An enraged Superman takes over and does everything he can to make the Soviet Union and, if possible, the rest of the world a real paradise. That works wonderfully, and what we know as the free west is falling into an ever-shrinking enclave where economic decline and social unrest rule. Superman himself, however, begins to develop an ever-increasing god complex and is slowly but surely losing his grip on earthly norms and values.
As said, all quite wide and layered. And that’s before DC figureheads Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and villain Brainiac make their appearance. In his original story, Millar takes the time to validate their presence. Each big name gets an interesting alternative twist to his or her background and motivation, with a Russian Batman (including bearskin) as the eye-catcher. In the film, however, there is no room for nuances and shades of gray, with the result that their involvement is somewhat out of the blue. The course of Superman’s own moral decline and his inevitable redemption also goes in fits and starts.
Superman as a character is such an infallible all-rounder that as a writer you really need that space to make him interesting. If you take that away, you will be left with an unbelievable, one-dimensional bravery. After almost eighty years of Superman comics, they should have realized that at DC. Now an adaptation does not have to be completely faithful to the book, the trick is to distil a filmable story from it. The makers of RED SON, however, simply ran away with the blunt ax elements to reduce everything to movie length. And that’s a shame, because this unique variation on a classic superhero deserves more dedication. The forced mix of adult source material with the tone of a children’s film grates, and it is therefore unclear for whom exactly this film is intended.
You can watch Superman: Red Son streaming online here, or find the cast or characters or other information of this movie. The Superman: Red Son movie streaming is free here and you don’t need to pay for Netflix, just choose the video source and click to watch Superman: Red Son full movie.
Find more live movie streaming on Movie Club.
Only Available to Specific Countries. 10s to Signup.