Superman: Man of Tomorrow is a safe and unambitious origin story and that’s perfectly fine

A few months back, the united DC Animated Universe had a grand finale of shocking deaths, destruction, and the entire world going kablewy which means, of course, there’s gotta be a reboot now and this is it: Superman: Man of Tomorrow is yet another Superman origin story which is great because we only have a dozen of them so far. This one though… I like it. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel while, at the same time, tells the story of Clark Kent’s first appearance as Superman from a fresh perspective.

Clark Kent is working as a mild-mannered coffee boy at the Daily Planet when he meets Lois Lane, an up and coming grad student who has just exposed Lex Luthor’s dirty dealings and sent the evil billionaire genius to prison, but just when Clark makes his first appearance in the red and blue tights, an alien named Lobo comes to town looking to collect a bounty on The Last Kryptonian.

That’s when the Martian Manhunter appears and helps defeat Lobo, but not before a hapless janitor is exposed to an alien weapon and becomes the dreaded Parasite.

That’s a lot, I know, but given how many characters make an appearance, the movie’s simplistic, no frills approach actually work in its favor. The movie knows that we know all about Superman’s origin and doesn’t dwell on explaining to us for the dozenth time what Krypton is or how Superman came to Earth. It glosses over them and moves on which is, in a way, quite refreshing.

Man of Tomorrow works best when it focuses on Superman’s interactions with Martian Manhunter, Lobo, and Parasite. We’ve seen Parasite before in All Star Superman, but I love his depiction here as more of a victim than a monster. While the narrative is mostly surface level, I really enjoyed the humanity injected into this character and his own horror at what he was becoming.

Lobo, of course, is always fun and I really wish they would give him a solo movie.

Martian Manhunter… is Martian Manhunter. A dull character, but again, something familiar and welcoming.

I haven’t read a comic book in years (thanks for that, New 52, you killed my interest in the entire industry!) so I’m not sure if this was based on a comic book story, but on the whole I enjoyed this fresh take on an old story. The plot isn’t overly complicated, it doesn’t try anything new or different, but it does the old story well. Man of Tomorrow is like a comforting blanket that you can wrap up in, secure and warm in its familiarity.

The animation also seemed very simplistic and yet, was done with such energy that it worked and gives the movie a crisp look. I remember how simplistic animation made Superman vs. The Elite look like trash, so it’s nice to see a style that fits this unassuming story.

Better than anything, the movie wisely does not try to give Superman an edge. He’s a big naïve doofus, the quintessential overgrown boy scout that Superman should be. I enjoyed this characterization in the wake of seeing Superman’s character become grittier and grittier in other media.

Man of Tomorrow doesn’t break new ground and doesn’t try anything ambitious, but I enjoyed it nonetheless for being an uncomplicated introduction to a new era of animated DC movies. It does what it sets out to do and makes me want to see more.

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