Superman & Lois Review: Arrowverse Solves Superman’s Problem

In the first minutes of the new CW series Superman and Lois, Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) tells the story of his life so far. As a baby, his father Jor-El sent him to Earth from the dying planet Krypton. He was raised in Smallville, Kansas by caring farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who helped him understand how to best use his super powers. He became a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis, where he fell in love with superstar journalist Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch). They married and had twin sons: the athletic Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and the socially awkward Jordan (Alexander Garfin).

This roundup is quick, packed with moments meant to remind longtime Superman fans why they love the Man of Steel, from one visual reference to the first. Action comics cover to a callback to Christopher Reeves’ bumbling Clark Kent in the first Superman film. It’s a mini salute to all the artists, writers, editors, actors, directors, and producers who helped shape the mythology of one of the most famous superheroes.

But after the backstory and a brief scene of Superman saving a nuclear power facility, under the guidance of Lois’ senior military officer’s father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh), the tone changes. The hero comes home to find one of his sons too busy video chatting to talk to him, while the other is playing a violent video game in which he plays a supervillain, beating up Superman. When asked why, the teenager shrugs and says, “Superman is boring.”

Photo: Dean Katie Yu / The CW Network

Is Bored Superman? There was a time when that question would have been absurd. In the mid-20th century, Superman comics were so popular that publishers produced hundreds of new superheroes in an attempt to compete. In the 70s, the first Superman The movie proved that the superhero genre could work on the big screen without looking too cheesy. The character is still peppered with pillowcases and children’s pajamas.

But in recent DC Universe movies, Superman has felt like a second interlocutor to people like Batman and Wonder Woman, and heck, even Aquaman. In the CW’s DC Comics-derived superhero programming blocks (aka “Arrowverse”), Superman is getting the star treatment long after Green Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Black Lightning, Batwoman, Stargirl, and the team of heroes. minor league in DC Legends of tomorrow.

And even this Superman show doesn’t necessarily feel like “a Superman show,” inspired by the action and madness of the comics. Based on the two episodes the CW sent out to critics ahead of Tuesday night’s feature film. Superman and Lois At its premiere, the Arrowverse writing and production team of Greg Berlanti and Todd Helbing seem reluctant to tell full Superman stories, with the big scope, big ideas, and gameplay just like classic comics. His Superman has been modified and compressed into the overall mission of the Arrowverse: to tell relevant stories about what is happening in the real world.

In Superman and Lois, that means adjusting the narrative focus. There are still supervillains on this show, and dynamic fight scenes, with lots of special effects. But throughout the first two episodes, the overall vibe is less Action comics and more We are.

The story begins with trouble at the Kent / Lois house. The twins argue because they are so different: handsome and robust Jonathan is the star quarterback of the soccer team; Shaggy-haired Jordan struggles with depression. Meanwhile, Lois is increasingly dissatisfied with the culture at the Daily Planet, where veteran journalists have been laid off as the newspaper’s new billionaire owner, Morgan Edge, pushes for more soft news and clickbait.

Clark Kent's teenage sons Jordan (Alexander Garfin) and Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) stand with their mother Lois (Bitsie Tulloch) and gape at something off-screen on the CW show Superman & amp;  Lois

Photo: Dean Buscher / The CW Network

The family faces one of their greatest crises, and possibly one of their greatest opportunities, when a tragedy drives Clark back to Smallville, where he contemplates a return to simple small-town life. However, in 2021, small cities are far from simple. The farming community is dying and he sees a possible savior in Edge, who has been buying land for unknown reasons, although Lois suspects foul play.

All of these problems are compounded by Clark’s larger mission, which causes General Lane to call him in to deal with a mysterious masked super-being, determined to lead Superman into a fight to the death. These battles keep you away from home at the worst possible time in children’s lives, one or both may be developing superpowers … something incredibly hard to shut up in Smallville, where everyone is scrutinizing newcomers.

Hoechlin and Tulloch have played Superman and Lois before in the Arrowverse, and they both have strong control over their characters. Hoechlin plays Clark and Superman as conscientious and a bit nerdy. He is an alien with many interests, ultimately bound by a sense of obligation towards his loved ones. Lane’s version of Tulloch comes off as the smartest person in any room, but she still tries (and sometimes fails) to be sensitive to anyone who doesn’t share her values.

Berlanti and Hebling’s creative team also have a clear understanding of the Superman lore. Twins’ names matter, Jonathan is named after Clark Kent’s earthly father (reflecting Superman’s sane side), while Jordan is named after Jor-el (reflecting the feeling of … well, alienation from a alien). The show is peppered with separate jokes about Superman’s strange powers (like the super smell); and includes characters like Morgan Edge and Lana Lang, who may be familiar to fans of the comics.

But the general appearance of Superman and Lois may also be familiar to fans of dawson’s stream Y The oc The boys from Kent settle into Smallville by hanging out with local teenagers at a rock quarry or grumpily looking across the seemingly endless plains of Kansas. It’s long been part of Superman’s stunt that Lois flirtatiously (or sometimes sarcastically) calls Clark “Smallville.” Superman and Lois further explores her connection to where she grew up, showing what it’s like to come of age in a place so open that everyone can see you.

Superman and Lois It is not the first television series to try to humanize Superman. Smallville aired on the CW (and its predecessor, the WB) from 2001-11, producing 10 seasons and more than 200 episodes of stories that generally downplayed superheroes in favor of dramatizing the emotions and relationships of a young man from a small town hiding a great secret. Before that, the syndicated action adventure of the late 80s and early 90s Super Boy presented multiple approaches to Clark Kent’s early life, including portraying him as a journalism college student, then sending him to work for a X files-as a paranormal investigation agency. In the mid 90’s, Lois and Clark It was intended to be a workplace drama, peppered with fantastic interludes and a swooning romance.

All these shows, and now Superman and Lois – They have tried to solve what could be called “the Superman problem”. When a hero is essentially all-powerful, vulnerable only to a rare radioactive rock (and occasionally magic), how do you introduce the kinds of narrative obstacles necessary for a good story? The answer: focus on what he hypocrisy control, such as the well-being of your friends and family.

The CW has also walked this path before, first with Smallville (whose producers promised “no mesh, no flights”) and then with Arrow, which in its first episodes avoided the usual superhero adornments of costumes and superpowers. The chain’s wariness towards “things from the comics” began to fade when The flash became a hit, at which point even Arrow I started to feel more comfortable with the extraordinary. The programs that followed, including, most pertinently, Supergirl – have gotten bigger and bigger with comic-inspired plots and images.

Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent holds a truck over his head in Superman & amp;  Lois

Photo: Dean Buscher / The CW Network

Still, the balance of storytelling in any Arrowverse series focuses as much, if not more, on relationships and personal issues as it is on saving the world from terrifying monsters and super chills. Many of these shows tend to start off bright and entertaining, then grow increasingly severe as the heroes and their friends wallow in their woes.

Superman and Lois Really starts in a rather dark place, with subplots about economic anxiety and clinical depression. The first two episodes are very promising, if only because Hoechlin and Tulloch are so good and the Smallville setting is so picturesque. But the parts of the story about Superman handling a dangerous global threat so far are not as cleverly crafted as the parts about his children’s growing pains. Superhero scenes seem like an afterthought, and yes, in those sequences, Superman is a bit boring.

There is a rich streak of imaginative and exciting Superman and Lois comics that Superman and Lois I could touch, and maybe still will. There’s no reason why a Superman show can’t be fun and cool, while still working on the social relevance and teen melodrama that anchors the Arrowverse.

One of the big dilemmas of the first episode is whether Clark should open up to the guys about his secret life as a superhero. We hope the show’s writers had a similar conversation while working on this first season. In the episodes to come, it would be great to see that the people who are doing Superman and Lois Know that one of your main characters is Superman.

Superman and Lois premieres on The CW with a two-hour pilot on February 23 at 8PM ET. The premiere will be available free online on February 24 on the CWTV site.

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