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Superman: Red Son

Year: 2020
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Sam Liu
Writer: JM DeMatteis/Mark Millar/Dave Johnson/Kilian Plunkett
Cast: Jason Isaacs, Amy Acker, Diedrich Bader, Vanessa Marshall, Paul Williams

What a cool idea for a movie. Taking all the usual characters and institutions we know from DC comics lore, it imagines what the world might be like if Superman had landed in the Soviet Union instead of rural Kansas.

When we meet Kal-El he's a young boy in postwar Russia being chased by bullies. When a local girl defends him and sees them off, he reveals his true power, telling her he wasn't scared for himself but for what he could do to them.

A decade later and Superman (Jason Isaacs) is a proud communist, bringing truth and justice to the Soviet people under the direction of Stalin himself, with the American media only dimly aware of the alien being with incredible strength and the power of flight on the other side. When he stops a rogue satellite from destorying Metropolis he meets feisty reporter Lois Lane (Amy Acker), who tells him the truth about Stalin's regime, handing him a folder about the underground gulags.

Enraged, Superman penetrates one of the facilities, finding the inmates sick and being worked to death. One of them is the childhood friend who protected him from the bullies as a kid, and another is a strange, angry youngster who resents the fact that Superman's aided a regime that's enslaved and killed so many and who seems to be surrounded by bats. Superman confronts Stalin and kills him in a rage, assuming the title of Premier.

Meanwhile, President Eisenhower enlists industrialist Lex Luthor (Diedrich Bader), Lois Lane's husband, to create a genetic super-creature the US can use to counter the Soviet superman. Superman himself, having spread Communist ideals peacefully across the world, has been forging alliances with other nations including Themyscira, his relationship with its ambassador, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, looking like it's more than just professional.

But his expansionism is seen as a bigger threat to the American way of life so Luthor unleashes his creation against Superman and the pair battle it out until the engineered American being, juiced up with too much energy from back at Luthor's base, disintegrates into nothing.

Then the DC nods come thick and fast. As you've already seen foreshadowed, an urban terrorist leading anti-Superman protest violence is terrorising Moscow while dressed up as a bat. An invasion by an intergalactic machine intelligence calling itself Branianc is thwarted, Superman reprogramning the machine and making it his advisor. In a new attempt to counter Superman's power, Luthor corrals the power from another crashed alien ship in the form of a green ring, tasking air force pilot Hal Jordan to form a race of super soldiers who can use the alien power to great affect as the Green Lantern Corps.

It's a roll call of the characters and their powers from the comics you know and have seen made into countless movies, books and TV shows and it's great fun to see how writer JM DeMatteis (from the graphic novel by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett) weaves all the familiar threads together into something so inventive.

The flat, 2D animation is nothing to write home about now we're a few decades into the Pixar era, and this'd be even more thrilling as a big budget live action movie. But story-wise, it's still great fun to see it all unfold.

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