Jason Isaacs and Bruce Timm on Bringing SUPERMAN: RED SON to Life

Joe McCabe

Joe McCabe

June 16, 2020


It’s a good week for truth and justice here on DC Universe. Because the latest Superman animated movie at long last flies onto DCU this Wednesday, June 17th. Superman: Red Son, based on the fan-favorite 2003 limited series written by Mark Millar, offers an epic take on what might have happened if baby Kal-El’s rocket landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas. The film features Jason Isaacs as the Man of Steel, Amy Acker as Lois Lane, and Diedrich Bader as Lex Luthor. We recently chatted with Isaacs and executive producer/DC animation guru Bruce Timm about bringing the bestselling tale to animated life… 



On why SUPERMAN: RED SON still resonates…


TIMM: Personally, I just think it’s just a really cool idea. Everybody loves these what-if stories. What if Superman was raised by somebody other than the Kents? This is a really extreme example of that, and I think the original graphic novel, they took that down very interesting paths. It’s also beautifully drawn. I know [artist] Dave Johnson. He’s a good friend of mind. I just think the comic is beautiful to look at. That’s a big part of it. The story is really awesome too. So… I don’t know. I don’t want to say, “Oh, it’s especially timely right now.” Because I don’t really think it is. It kind of is, but kind of not. 


ISAACS: It absolutely resonates because we have these increasingly divisive times where many people have found themselves dug into a position that they might find impossible to get out of. Even though some voices in their head are saying, “We are not sure of this. We are not a hundred percent convinced that any of your positions are true.” Certainly when it comes to politics in this country. And this is not a political film with a big “P,” it’s a political film with a small “p.” But I do think that's why it resonates still -- because these issues are very much alive in today’s world.



On RED SON’s version of Superman…


ISAACS: This character, who landed in Russia, is a very individual version of Superman. He's not like any other version of Superman that I've ever read in the comic books before. But what he has in common with every version of Superman is he’s an incredibly ethical, moral, human being. He wants only to do the right thing. And it's not clear what the right thing is at any point in this film for many of the characters. It's not a film about capitalism and communism… Could we argue that maybe we don't have ideal candidates to run either the world or America at the moment? Yet when you do have the ideal person, who is a Superman in every sense – morally as well as physically -- even he isn't quite sure how we should administer ourselves on this kind of thing. What system we should use and how we should deal with each other in order to bring the maximum happiness to the maximum number of people. So one of the things I love about this story is, he's got a bunch of interesting twists and turns and adventures and surprises as any good comic book should have. But there is also tons to talk about. It leaves you with a lot of food for thought.






On how the film compares to its source material…


TIMM: It’s a really good adaptation, I think, of the comic. I think any of the changes we made were just to make it a little bit more emotional and a little less theoretical. And this is a friggin’ brilliant cast. I think they all brought their A-game. There are scenes in this film that make me cry.



On what continues to make Superman work in the twenty-first century…


ISAACS: I always worried about Superman as a superhero when he was just invulnerable. And apart from this strange MacGuffin of a piece of green rock, you couldn't take him down. One of the reasons I like this story so much, and the way it’s translated to film, is that you can attack him, but since you can't beat him physically, you have to attack his conscience. He is the only person that can take himself down and the best Superman stories deal with that.



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