Reviews - Film Review
All-Star Superman
Original Release Date - February 22nd, 2011 (DTV Only)
Fueled by hatred and jealousy, Lex Luthor masterminds an elaborate plot to kill the Man of Steel – and it works. Poisoned by solar radiation, Superman is dying. With weeks to live, he fulfills his life’s dreams – especially revealing his true identity to Lois Lane – until Luthor proclaims his ultimate plan to control the world with no alien hero to stop him. Powers fading, Superman engages in a spectacular deadly battle with Luthor that could truly trigger the end of Earth’s Greatest Protector. This startling and gripping DC Universe Animated Original Movie stars the voice talents of James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, Christina Hendricks and Ed Asner.

Voice Direction by: Andrea Romano
Editor: Margaret Hou
Music by: Christopher Drake
Executive Producer: Sam Register
Producer: Bruce Timm
Co-Producer: Alan Burnett
Based on the DC Comics Graphic Novel by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly
Written by: Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by: Sam Liu

Reviews by Zach Demeter, James Harvey
James Denton as Superman / Clark Kent
Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane
Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor
Edward Asner as Perry White
Obba Babatunde as Judge
Steve Blum as Atlas
Linda Cardellini as Nasthathia
Catherine Cavadini as Floral
Frances Conroy as Ma Kent
Chris Cox as Lead Agent
Alexis Denisof as Dr. Quintum
John DiMaggio as Samson
Robin Atkin Downes as Solaris
Michael Gough as Parasite
Matthew Gray Gubler as Jimmy Olsen
Finola Hughes as Lilo
Kevin Michael Richardson as Steve Lombard
Fred Tatasciore as Krull
Arnold Vosloo as Bar-El
Review (Zach Demeter)
Another year and another volley of DC Universe titles. We start this year off with All-Star Superman, the 2006 (yeah, it’s really been five years) critically acclaimed comic book that fired a jolt of silver age through the Superman mythos. While it was definitely a lot goofier than the modern day dead-serious comic books, it mixed in so much of the old with the new that it felt simultaneously fresh as it did familiar. Occasionally hokey dialogue or laughable scenarios, by modern-day comic book standards, just worked with the way writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quietly presented this world where Superman was dying. It’s a depressing story to be sure, but also one that sends chills and a myriad of goose bumps around your body.

My exposure to the comic was limited at first; I remember reading the first couple of issues, but around that same time I got busy with school and my interest in comic books waned significantly. I never cared to catch up on it and it wasn’t until after I watched the movie I opted to go back and read the series. I did definitely enjoy reading it, as it was a kind of return to calm for Superman, but he also let his anger get the better of him in a few situations, which made him feel like the modern day Supes as well. That’s all translated over the film as well, although that’s sadly one of only few things that really worked in this film.

I will again emphasize that I hadn’t read the entire series before watching the film, so I was going in kind of half and half (though not even that, as I’d only read the first couple issues). This allowed me to experience the film as more of an outsider than past films, because I didn’t know everything about it going in (only the basic gist which was that Superman was dying). However on the flip side it made things all the more awkward and irksome as the film progressed into a seemingly random series of stories—but it dawned on me by the time the Kryptonian space explorers showed up that this film is more like a series of episodes in a season long story arc of a TV series. The problem is it was paired down to be a movie with a loose thread that was woven throughout it—a thread we’re occasionally made aware of but nothing that really comes into play expect for the beginning and end points of the film.

At first I thought the awkward transitions in the film were just a case of sloppy editing, but after I read the comic book and watched the film a second time it dawned on me that it was really just the issues ending and a new one beginning. This wasn’t so distracting at first, but moments like Superman leaving for two months and then reappearing mere seconds later lacked any kind of emotional resonance because we didn’t have the gap between issues that the original comic book permitted. They could have easily focused on a film that was just Luthor and Superman duking it out once again, but there’s no fun in that—but there's also no reason for Lois Lane to be Superwoman for a day or Superman arm wrestling with two super strong dudes for her affection. So the alternative would be to either allow these quirks in and work a real story around them or basically rehash Superman/Doomsday but with different animation and different start and end points.

After the last DC Universe effort (Superman/Batman: Apocalypse) I didn’t really have any interest in this series to be honest. I don’t think I even watched a trailer for All-Star Superman--all I knew of it was from the “sneak preview” we got. So my excitement for this film wasn't high already, but once it arrived in all of its shiny glory I did get a little bit excited—even if it was a generic Superman story, it still had to be an entertaining effort regardless. But I sat there for an hour, trying to understand what haphazard story this film was trying to assemble before the last act of the film partially redeemed it. The fight between "Super Luthor" and Superman wasn’t particularly amazing, but the subject matter was intense. I mean the film was rated PG, yet we get to see Luthor put in the electric chair and the switch flipped? It was a crazy start and the resulting speeches from Luthor and Superman right before Superman went all Captain Atom in the sun were both poetic and confusing, but it really was probably the best part of the entire film (which is sad because I spent the prior hour yawning and repeatedly checking my phone for no reason).

Really I think All-Star Superman was quite frankly a comic book that worked better as only a comic book. The basic story definitely could’ve been adapted into a feature length film, but too much of the excess and fluff was kept in. Lois going bananas in the Fortress of Solitude was just weird as hell in the film, but in the comics it felt natural. A time traveling Egyptian statue that demanded answers to riddles forced me to question what I was watching, but in the comic it felt like the natural progression for the story. Even watching the film after I read and could fully appreciate the comic book didn’t help, simply because this film shouldn’t have been animated. If anything it should’ve been a series of DC Showcase shorts, because that’s how the comic books read themselves—loosely connected stories that harkened back to the Silver Age of Superman. Stringing them together in a very loosely assembled movie just didn’t work for me. At all.

The film wasn’t a total bust. The voice actors were nice (Hendricks as Lois was especially good) and really weren’t distracting for me to hear in the least—they all fit their characters perfectly. No one felt out of place and it all worked with the animation style provided here, which was of the minimalist variety (an attribute to Quietly’s art). In the same fashion though the animation was strangely stiff at times; I thought maybe it was the animation studio but considering the absolutely gorgeous animation Moi Animation has done in the past it definitely wasn’t that—this film just had a lot of fluidity sucked out of it which made for choppy leg movements (the long shot of Lois and Samson walking around the Earth’s core was especially strange to me as their leg movements were very…horse-like to me. That and they were in perfect sync which was even stranger. Hazards of Blu-ray resolution, I suppose…) and just an overall lack of neatness. There were definitely some beautiful visuals however, most of which accompanied the later part of Lois’s Superwoman journey (the ocean, the moon, the cityscapes).

In the end All-Star Superman isn’t on the mediocrity scale that Superman/Batman: Apocalypse was by any means—that whole film was just a really bad production (to me at least, I’m sure many enjoyed it). Instead All-Star Superman is just a film that could have been good, but they left to many of the random story points in and that just brutally disrupted the flow of the film. If you look at it as an entire season of a TV show in 76 minutes I suppose it’s not bad, but there isn’t any real middle portion to the film. There’s a clear start and end (obviously) but it really just flat lines during the rest of it so we’re left with a lot of dull and mundane story to fill up the majority of the film.

I definitely get what they were going for with this film and I really wished it succeeded. However, they kept way too much of the episodic nature of the series which makes this “film” feel uneven and thrown together. In the past they’ve been willing to chop, delete, and restructure as needed for other films…I’m not sure why that wasn’t the case with All-Star Superman. Sure there were story arcs or mini-segments left out (Jimmy Olsen’s stuff, the near suicide), but leaving those in might’ve helped alleviate the half-and-half feeling this film has (in that it’s half a bunch of mini-stories and that it’s half an actual movie).

I’d be less harsh on these films if they were just episodes in a season, but considering their bigger nature because of the DTV format I just naturally expect stories that are tight and focused. All-Star Superman just isn’t and even if you loved the comic book series, chances are you won’t enjoy this film—it doesn’t disrespect, mutilate, or change the source material in any way…and that’s really the film's biggest problem. Give this one a Rental.

Review (James Harvey)
Breathe a sigh of relief, fans of writer Grant Morrison's epic All-Star Superman graphic novel. They've done it justice with this new animated adaptation. Managing to shorten a 12-issue series into a 75-minute movie is by no means an easy task, but the creative team behind this film has managed to pull it off here. By no means does it recreate the original story beat for beat, but instead kind-of pays homage to it by focusing on only specific aspects of the original and framing a surprisingly cohesive (albeit jumpy) little jaunt. While the never-ending battle between Superman and Lex Luthor is undeniably front and center, serving as the film's main story, we do get touches on why the source material is so beloved. So, after getting beyond that pesky synopsis, let's see what the animated All-Star Superman feature has in store...

I enjoyed All-Star Superman. Let me say that now. By no means was I underwhelmed by it, but I also wasn't overwhelmed by it either. I guess, to take a cue from Robin as featured in Young Justice, I guess I was just...whelmed by it. I liked it, despite some issues I had with it. Those expecting a full-blown action-fest should turn away now. While there is action, including an impressively handled climactic battle, by now means does it drive the show. Instead, what drives this show are the simple emotions that come with dealing with death and how one tries to handle their final days. It's pretty powerful stuff, and it does lead to quite a few very moving moments littered throughout the movie. It's a very different kind of Superman movie, but fans of the Man of Steel should find it no less engaging.

However, fans of the source material will be understandably torn. Some will agree that writer Dwayne McDuffie was able to successfully streamline a complex 12-issue series into a mere 75 minutes. Others, however, will disagree and find the movie a jumpy, somewhat colder take on the source material. The film's jumpy narrative does cause a couple problems along the way, but it does seem to somewhat portray how chaotic things can get as one tries to settle final affairs.

To judge the film on its own merits, as it should, it's definitely an oddly paced movie as compared to the previous DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles. All-Star Superman attempts to pack so much into its running time that, yes, it can feel like it's just speeding through things, zooming to get from one scene to the next. The episodic nature of the film makes it easier to forget what came before, allowing characters to pop in and out of the blue and be forgotten just as quickly. It can get a bit distracting, honestly, but as I said earlier, the jumpy narrative can somewhat help what this movie is trying to set out and do. Superman is trying to accomplish so much before his end, and it shows. No matter how jumpy the movie can feel at times, the underlying theme of Superman's inevitable demise, among others, is what ties all these little stories together, making it feel pretty coherent...though occasionally disorienting.

Some moments, disappointingly, don't feel as important or as powerful as they should. Superman's visit to the grave of his father is powerful stuff and leaves a resounding impact on the film, but Superman coming across two other Kryptonians feels more like a distraction in the film. I understand the intent behind the scene, how these two Kryptonians deal with power as opposed to Superman, but it zips by too fast to leave any real impact. And while Superman dealing with two kooky time-travelers also provides for a couple great moments (including a hilarious arm-wrestling match that too feels somewhat out of place), and while I understand why McDuffie chose these moments, as they all tend to share similar themes, sometimes the execution just doesn't come off as strong as it should. Still, what he chose to put in the movie does work in its own way and certainly highlights important moments in Superman's final days, emphasizing specific aspects of his character as well as dealing with some pretty heavy themes. And while the film does pack an emotional punch here and there, it doesn't quite hit the high notes it should from time to time.

Still, McDuffie leaves in some of my personal favorite ideas from the source material, too. The idea that even as Clark Kent, Superman is still working to save people is just brilliant and the execution perfect. Whether through his act as a bumbling oaf or disguising his actions, he is still using his abilities to help people, it's such a smart idea that I'm glad to see used here. So many of Morrison's more off-kilter ideas remain in here, as well, like Superman's pet Sun-Eater, or the great bit with his special key to unlock his Fortress of Solitude. So many small touches here and there that are unmistakably Morrison which give the film a little extra bit of (for lack of a better term) kookiness, definitely painting this film (and its source material) as something special.

What I love is how All-Star Superman nails the iconic status of the hero. He shows nobility, selflessness, and courage, even in the face of his impending death. He puts all others before himself, and this movie shows that perfectly. His gift to Lois, to be "Superwoman" for a day, is a perfect example of these qualities.

McDuffie does an admirable job bringing this story to life, as do the other members of the film's cast and crew. Director Sam Liu follows the book almost to a 'T,' recreating some of the film's iconic images. That shot of Lois and Superman kissing on the moon? Absolutely stunning. The recreation of the Parasite's prison breakout? Simply harrowing. That classic final shot from the book (which I won't spoil)? Absolutely gorgeous in every possible way. Liu nails everything McDuffie gives him here, effortlessly bringing to life this epic, epic tale.

Thankfully, the cast is able to bring the required magic to this small screen adaptation, for the most part. James Denton is perfectly cast as the noble Superman, every word dripping with the honest integrity the character needs for a story such as this. Anthony LaPaglia gives an absolutely command performance as Lex Luthor, perfectly demonstrating the character's insane genius. We can almost see his thought process with every word. Christina Hendricks does a fine job as Lois Lane, but I find her performance can be lacking at time. For example, I just don't think she nails the scene when Lane starts to lose her grip on reality in the Fortress of Solitude. There just seems to be something missing in her performance there. Still, there are plenty of other actors who bring this movie to life, and I can't think of a real weak link in the chain. It's just an excellent cast from top to bottom, with Hendricks being the only one who falters, and she only slightly. All-Star Superman Voice Director Andrea Romano continues to show she knows how to cast a movie from top to bottom, time and time again.

I gotta add, it is absolutely criminal that Christopher Drake's score to All-Star Superman is currently unavailable to own as a soundtrack release. Absolutely criminal. I think he's really surpassed his work on Wonder Woman to create some of his best work yet. I would love to hear his complete score.

Overall, it can be a difficult movie to get in to, so I'd suggest watching the movie at least twice before making a final judgment call on it. It definitely is a different kind of Superman movie, but it's a good one nonetheless. The film's jumpy narrative, reminiscent of the earlier effort Justice League: The New Frontier, can definitely feel like a bit of an issue, but the film's underlying themes does manage to keep things on the same track. Yes, characters appear and disappear quickly at times, but it makes sense given we're moving through the final days of Superman, experiencing the highlights of those moments as it builds to Superman's climactic battle. Plus, like I said, the characters that do appear all share similar traits and their (usually) brief stories that tend to fall in the same general approach or character arc. There are some deep underlying themes littered throughout the movie, and it does work, even if the film does feel a bit jumpy. With that in mind, I'm going to stamp All-Star Superman as Recommended, but it is worth noting that this isn't your typical Superman flick. It is a different approach to the Man of Steel, one that will definitely have fans talking.

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