Richard Donner’s Superman is perhaps the most admired and cherished live-action version of the character. Donner established his spot in the “Man of Steel” hall of fame by building upon the hero’s most famous attributes. His bulletproof skin and wondrous flight were there, along with his diehard sense of truth, justice, and the American way.
It’s Donner’s version that influences and directly fuels the core themes of DC’s newest animated feature, Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons.
Director Matt Peters crafts DC’s first venture into CG, adapting an incredibly conscious story from writer Jeremy Adams. Super Sons follows Jonathan Kent and Damien Wayne (Jack Dylan Grazer and Jack Griffo, respectively), the “super sons” in question who must protect humanity from an evil alien threat. In more ways than one, Super Sons takes inspiration from the past, not just from Donner’s Superman, but from legendary action-adventures like The Goonies and Monster Squad, and sci-fi classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The result is a film very much reliant on predictable story beats and themes, but one that is very aware of its familiarity. We even start off with the destruction of Krypton, a moment done as many times as Batman’s infamous Crime Alley scene. However, Adams uses this moment to propel the film both in theme and plot, enough to almost warrant subjecting us to yet another Kal-El origin story. Thankfully, the film is smart in quickly sidelining both Superman and Batman early on, giving the younger heroes a chance to shine.
For all its predictability, the story of Super Sons benefits greatly from the chemistry between Jonathan Kent and Damien Wayne. Both approach becoming a hero very differently, with Jonathan’s journey going the route of discovering one’s inner bravery, whilst Damien battles with his necessity for solitude. Neither character takes many shocking turns, but the payoff is satisfying nonetheless.
As for the animation itself; though it has some spectacular moments that genuinely look like they could be from out of a comic, the transition from 2D to CGI is not a smooth one. It can at times look clunky and awkward, but never enough to be truly distracting.
Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons isn’t going to blow any minds here, but that’s honestly alright. For what it is — an uplifting superhero story with nods to a different era of hero films — it works just fine. With hope, DC will learn from what makes Super Sons shine and take more risks with their animation in the future. These kinds of non-continuous narratives create a path for some truly great stories to mix with all kinds of next level animated styles.
Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray, and Digital on October 18, 2022.