Red Sun in the Morning, Krypton's Warning
Legion of Super-heroes (DCT 05)
I have had decidedly mixed feelings about the DC TomorrowverseA fresh start for DC's direct-to-video animated films, this is the successor universe to the DC Animated Movie Universe, promising bright new stories for DC's classic stable of heroes.. I can understand, from a creative stand point, the desire to reboot a long running universe. The DC Animated Movie UniverseWhile DC Comics was amping up production on this big "MCU-killer", the DC Extended Universe they were also quietly putting together another shared movie continuity, the DC Animated Movie Universe. This series was more closely related to the comics, directly adapting a number of famous storylines to, arguably, better effect than the live-action movies could. had a lot of continuity built up across its nearly twenty films , and much of that continuity was tied up with the "New 52", a storytelling initiative that DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. has long since moved past. Hell, as we all know, rebooting continuity is DC's power move. If the writers wanted to be able to tell fresh stories with ha new world without having to worry about all that came before, then a new universe makes a certain kind of sense.
With that said, the stories that the Tomorrowverse has told haven't exactly been winners. Superman: Man of Tomorrow was okay enough; SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s. battling Lobo was fun, but then it bumped up against yet another retelling of Parasite's story, and film didn't really have anything new to say about that villain. Batman: The Long Halloween was an overly long chore (split into Part 1 and Part 2), and Green Lantern: Beware My Power was an absolute storytelling bomb.
bout the only film from the series I generally liked with little in the way of caveats was Justice Society: World War II, and that film succeeded by shoving The FlashStruck by lightning while working in his lab, Barry Allen became a speedster known as The Flash, launching an entire set of super-fast superheroes. through time and space into the 1940s (and possibly on a different reality). That could have been done with any version of The FlashStruck by lightning while working in his lab, Barry Allen became a speedster known as The Flash, launching an entire set of super-fast superheroes., really, so we didn't need the creation of the Tomorrowverse to make it happen. Really, any time I pick up a Tomorrowverse film I approach it with some trepidation. Will it be good or, more likely, will it suck?
Thankfully Legion of Super-heroes, the new Tomorrowverse film (and fifth full length adventure of the series) is much more of a winner. But then, it also sets up a story where it takes a lead character and shunts them off to another pocket of time, free to tell and adventure not connected to the main continuity (such as it is) in any real way. I can appreciate showing off all the cool corners of the DC Universe (Earth 2, the future of the 30th Century) across these various films, but maybe we should get a story that focuses on Earth once in a while, DC.
The film focuses on Kara Zor-El (Meg Donnelly), last daughter of Krypton. We watch as she spends time with her mother right before the Red Sun of Krypton unexpectedly goes nova. Thankfully for Kara, her mother shoves her in one of the only functioning spacecrafts and sends Kara off towards Earth. She's told to protect her cousin, the little baby Kal El, who is flying to Earth in another ship. Unfortunately, debris from the exploding planet hits Kara's ship, knocking her out and sending the vessel way off course. By the time the ship course corrects and gets Kara to Earth, time dilation has sent her far further into the future than her cousin, meaning he's the fully grown up Superman (Darren Criss) while she is still just a teenager.
New to Earth, a civilization seemingly so backward in so many ways, Kara finds herself struggling to fit in. She has powers she doesn't understand, but she hasn't been on Earth her whole life so she doesn't know the way things work. She tries to act as a hero, Supergirl, but she causes far more damage than she prevents, a detail BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen. (Jensen Ackles) is quick to point out (oh yeah, and Flash is here, too). Feeling like she can't get anything right, Supergirl expects to be kicked off the planet by the Justice LeagueThe premiere team at DC Comics, their version of the Avengers (which actually came before the Avengers and, really, has existed in some fomr since the early 1940s), the Justice League is the team-up to end all team-ups, featuring some of the most popular, and longest running, characters in all of comics history (and also Booster Gold). for being a menace. Instead, Kal sends her to the future to train with the 30th century equivalent of the league, the Legion of Super-heroes. There, many of the students accept Kara with open arms, but one student immediately has beef with her, Braniac 5 (Harry Shum Jr.). The two fight, and bicker, and can't get along, but they may just be the only two that can stop a quiet threat building within the Legion... if only they can find a way to work together.
The film does take a little time to get going, and if I had to knock off points for anything I would point to the prologue as being the least essential part of the film. We spend a good five minutes on Krypton, watching Kara and her mother, Alura, spend the morning together. It's nice, and frankly it's great to see a well rounded mother-daughter relationship depicted in superhero media. The only issue is this is all set up to get Supergirl to Earth, via the destruction of Krypton which we've already seen before (in the Tomorrowverse as we saw bits of it in Man of Tomorrow as well). I like the bits between Kara and Alura, but considering this film is only 83 minutes long and that intro technically doesn't add anything to the actual story, I would have cut that. Better would have been a Kara on Krypton story that ends with the destruction of Krypton. That could have given us all the solid mother-daughter storytelling we need while featuring a take on Krypton we haven't seen before.
The film then jumps ahead to Kara already trying to get settled into Earth, already operating (rather poorly) as Supergirl. The film is willing to jump to the meat of the story here, which I appreciate, and we quickly get to see how much destruction she causes (a Man of Steel level of destruction), and then she's quickly sent to the Legion in the future. This quick and efficient storytelling I can appreciate. It sets up a problem -- Kara is destructive without understanding that the damage caused has to be repaired by people and not, say, Kryptonian repair bots -- and then provides a solution that furthers the story. That's solid plot progression. It also informs the characters. Kara feels like she doesn't fit, that Earth can't ever be her home. Kal is compassionate and, instead of listening to what Batman wants, he finds a solution that actually would make his cousin happy. And Batman is Batman. It works.
And then we get a full adventure with the Legion of Super-heroes. This feels a lot like a new take on the Young Justice formula. A bunch of teen heroes are brought together and have to learn to train, to fight, to work as a team. It's not really anything new, but it does work in context. We need an in to understand the Legion, a group of heroes that haven't been depicted much on screen, and this is an efficient way to do it. Does it feel like it leans into the high school storytelling tropes just a little bit? Maybe, but there are only so many stories you can tell about teen heroes, especially while keeping things fairly light and colorful.
One thing I will say is that I appreciated the dynamic between Supergirl and Braniac 5. Having watched the CW Supergirl series, I totally expected her to end up with Mon-El (Yuri Lowenthal), the Daxamite with powers comparable to Kryptonians. That's her love interest, right? Nope. This time Kara ends up having solid sparks with Braniac 5, and the movie is pretty good at playing up their love/hate chemistry. It's like Moonlighting but for the superhero teen set. It was an unexpected left turn that worked.
This film is a light and happy adventure, even in its few moments when it takes a dark turn. That suits the superhero group at the center of the story, the Legion of Super-heroes. Their bright and shiny future, with its absurd, science fantasy tech, has always been one of the happier, brighter parts of the greater DC Universe. Sending Supergirl here so she can learn to be bright and happy with them was a solid choice, and the film's tone helps to keep that general brightness. As a contrast to some of the darker stories of the DCAMU (to say nothing of the grim-dark DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe.), the film works.
It's not perfect but it is fun, and I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than Batman: The Long Halloween or Green Lantern: Beware My Power. If anything, this confirms something I don't think I realized up until now: I kind of a fan of Supergirl.