WARNING! This review contains spoilers! Do not read if you have not yet watched the new CW series Superman & Lois.
Believe it or not Superman’s visual storytelling has actually fared better on TV than in theaters. This is where you say, “What about Christoper Reeve? He was brilliant!” Reeve’s performance as the Last Son of Krypton was unforgettable… for the first two films. While Superman: The Movie (even with goofy Otis and Miss Teschmacher) and Superman II are classics, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace are both absolutely forgettable. IV is also unwatchable.
In 2006, Brandon Routh (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) was introduced as Superman in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. While Routh’s performance was solid and Kevin Spacey made for a memorable Lex Luthor, the film lacked action and also portrayed Superman as a stalker. That’s a bit of a problem. The Box Office agreed as the film underperformed.
Then there was Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). I think we all know how Zack Snyder’s universe has divided DC fans especially when it comes to how Kal-El was portrayed.
While I loved Henry Cavill in Man of Steel and thought BvS: The Director’s Version was far better than the theatrical release, the Box Office said otherwise. Superman was too sullen. The color palette was drained. Superman scowls. Superman broke Zod’s neck. Where are the jokes? Superman has a hairy chest. Have you seen Cavill’s chest? It’s a jungle.
While fans enjoyed Cavill’s version of Superman in Joss Whedon’s theatrical failure, 2017’s Justice League, we still had a bad story and “Mustache Gate.”
However on TV, every decade, whether animated or live action, we have enjoyed long runs of the man with blue cape. From 1952 to 1958, audiences tuned into first the classic black and white, and then color version, of George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman.
The sixties and seventies gave us various versions of animated Superman (The Animated Adventures of Superman and Superfriends).
From the late 80s into the early 90s, audiences received a different take of Superman, complete with a cheesy techno intro, in syndication with Superboy played by first, John Haymes Newton and then Gerard Christopher.
The 90s offered up Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. While the series lasted from 1993 to 1997, I wasn’t a huge fan as I felt there was too much Clark and not enough Superman.
Also, in the 90s Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, the creators behind the iconic Batman: The Animated Series brought us Superman: The Animated Series in 1996. Many would agree that this take on Superman is the benchmark. Clark was portrayed as humble guy from Kansas, but not a bumpkin. He was a talented investigative reporter. As Superman, not only did Clark possess super-strength, but the series also leaned into his vast knowledge of science.
The series also had an ongoing story arc that pitted Superman against arch-nemesis, Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips.
2001, brought us a new take on Superman — the life before he became The Man of Steel in the form of Smallville. While Tom Welling portrayed Clark with poise and strength as well as a healthy dose of teen angst, many fans were disappointed 11 years later at the reveal of Clark as Superman.
In between the series there were starts and stops on the theatrical side to get Superman in theaters again. There was the failed Superman project with Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage. There was also a failed JJ Abrams project.
Which brings us to 2021.
So How is Superman & Lois?
I’ll come right out and say I was never a fan of Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf) when he was introduced as Superman on Supergirl during the series second season.
It’s understood that Supergirl was the titular character and had to be hero, but Hoechlin came off as weak and goofy. I realize there were fans who enjoyed his portrayal, but I just didn’t see it. In fact, I cringed during his time on screen especially during the crossover series, Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Superman was the least of the heroes, as he was easily pushed around, which included The Flash, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning and even the Legends. Also Hoechlin, through no fault of his own, looked smaller than the other heroes.
But I’m always excited for a solo Superman project, so I gave it a chance. And I’m glad I did.
Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of the Boy Scout, from the opening scene when he rescues a boy from car crash — an homage to the first Superman comic — to dealing with his two sons Jon (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin) and his relationship with Lois (Bitsie Tulloch), is spot on.
Clark’s family grounds him in this series and that is a good thing. Superman is Bulletproof while Hoechlin’s performance as Clark is vulnerable.
The extended 90-minute pilot starts off with a brief recap of how Clark came to Earth. We all know the story by now, but you know Krypton explodes, Clark is sent here and JonathaEmn and Marthaaaaa Kent raise him.
As mentioned above, we then see Superman completing his first rescue with nice nod to the animated short films from Max Fleischer. This is Superman, but he’s still Clark Kent.
After we witness how Lois and Clark met and fell in love, we get into the meat of the story. This is a Superman for 2021.
Not only does Clark have to deal with supervillains but he has two teenage sons he has to raise in an economy that has entered a recession. Freshman Jon has made the Varsity Football Team at Metropolis High and Jordan is the opposite – reclusive, moody and in therapy for social anxiety.
Jon’s surprising achievement is the catalyst for his parents to once again debate about telling their sons who their dad really is. Lois is for it, however Clark doesn’t want them to have to bare the burden of possibly one, having superpowers and two, being half aliens.
“High school starts tomorrow,” Clark says, trying to commiserate. “I know freshman year was pretty tough for me. Did I ever tell you about the time I was the team manager of the football …?”
“Yeah, everyone duct taped you to a tractor,” Jordan sniffs. “Life’s a little different in Smallville than it is in Metropolis.”
In the meantime, Superman must also deal with a mysterious new villain who tried to melt down a nuclear plant. The effects of Clark saving the plant with a chunk of frozen water are astounding. We are talking cinematic VFX, unlike the other Arrowverse shows.
Afterwards, Clark receives devastating news that Martha has died of stroke back on the Smallville farm. And to make the day even worse, he is a part of layoffs at the Daily Planet as paper news is being forgotten.
The Kents return to Smallville where Clark is reunited with banker Lana (Entourage’s Emmauelle Chriqui) and her husband Kyle (Erik Valdez). They discover that Martha, in order to help other farmers from losing their properties, took out a shady reverse mortgage (Tom Selleck would have a heart attack here) on the Kent farm.
The Kents, with Clark unemployed, are faced with either selling something that has been in the family forever to the bank, or returning home.
They choose the latter.
It’s here we see Jon and Jordan’s relationship with each other and a possible love interest – Lana’s daughter Sarah played by Inde Navarrette – start to flourish.
The series also shows us Lois doing what she does best – investigative reporting as well as peek into her relationship with her dad, General Sam Lane played by Dylan Walsh.
After a potentially devastating accident in the barn, Jordan is determined to find out why the two brothers survived. The answer lies underneath – Clark’s spaceship. To say the boys are shocked would be an understatement. Horrified is more like it.
When they confront Lois and Clark about their discovery, the two parents confess what they have been hiding. The boys, especially Jordan, are hurt and angry at the answers/lies and storm off.
Before Clark can be dad and deal with them, he is forced to confront the mysterious villain named The Stranger played by Wolé Park. His suit of armor reminds me of Halo, but it’s okay. I had a feeling who it was.
The two have a spectacular battle that takes us across continents, over oceans and finally into space. After shoving a piece of Kryptonite into Superman’s chest, The Stranger escapes.
As Superman falls to earth, reminiscent of Routh’s descent in Superman Returns, his life flashes before his eyes – Lois, his sons, Martha. It’s this love that is Clark’s strength as he manages to pull the piece of deadly rock out.
While Superman is fighting it out, Jordan and Jon end up in a fight of their own at a party being held in the woods. Jordan is attracted to Sarah as they share a special moment and he moves in for the kiss. That is a big no-no as Sarah has a bully for a boyfriend.
Jon goes to defend Jordan, but is beaten down by the football team. In a moment of rage, Jordan releases his heat vision causing the bonfire to explode. Aha! That’s how the boys survived steel pipes cascading down on them. Jordan has inherited his dad’s gifts.
After the family decides to stay in Smallville, Clark and Jordan have a touching father and son moment. Clark will help the boys with their maturing.
Lois decides to investigate the reverse mortgages more which it turns out is owned by DC villain Morgan Edge. It seems like this will be a season-long story arc.
We also learn the mysterious villain’s identity. As he boards his ship, a computer greets him as “Captain Luthor.” He clearly is a result of the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, his world having been destroyed. But the real puzzle here is, is Luthor actually a villain?
Superman & Lois does not look like the other Arrowverse shows. Its look owes more to Zack Snyder and Christoper Nolan (Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises) than the other shows. Its effects are top notch and there are no goofy sidekicks ala The Flash’s Cisco or Supergirl’s “Brainy.”
The series has the right blend of family drama and Superman action to make each week worth coming back for. The Kents are a family to visit for sometime.
Bottom Line: Superman and Lois (if you’re a Superman fan) is a Reel See.
Runtime: 60 Minutes Rating: TV-14 Watch: The CW
Did you watch Superman & Lois’ premiere? What did you think?