All-Star Superman Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, February 25, 2011
Superman has always been a bit of a paradox. He’s the oldest superhero and the most well-known and iconic, yet no comic book character has been the victim of as much poor writing as Superman. DC comics went entire decades not being able to figure out if Superman was supposed to be a Sci-Fi title, a humor title, a romance title…He’s been re-imagined and revamped numerous times…killed, not killed, short hair/long hair, silly costume changes, etc…No one seems to know what to do with the guy. Now along comes All-Star Superman, the latest DC animated film, based on the 12-issue series of the same name written by Grant Morrison. The series is written outside of normal continuity giving Morrison the leeway to do whatever he wanted in what became a critically acclaimed series. But what makes a great comic series doesn’t necessarily make a great animated film.
The film begins with a research spacecraft exploring the sun. The mission is sabotaged by Lex Luthor and the craft is sent hurtling into the Sun. Superman rescues the ship but becomes over saturated with solar radiation. This makes Superman far stronger than he’s ever been, not only physically but mentally as well. But it also means that his cells are breaking down and he discovers he has only one year to live. For his crime Luthor is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Superman uses his last year to basically cement his legacy. He reveals is identity to Lois and gives her a special gift for her birthday…a serum which gives her superpowers for 24 hours.
Taking a 12-issue comic series and chopping it down to a 75 minute film means a lot of the story is going to be left out and unfortunately that really kills the main focus of Morrison’s. Superman essentially had his bucket list of things to do before he passed away and most of that is all lost in the film. What is left out however may not be as bad as what was left in. At the top of the list is the silly plot involving Atlas and Samson challenging Superman for Super Lois’s affections. There’s lots of great layers to Morrison’s story but this was not one of them. It felt more like an old 1980s Super Friends episode.
What the film include…Clark visiting Luthor in Prison and the fight with Parasite; Superman’s final battle with a super-powered Luthor; the fight against Solaris…all come in such rapid-fire succession that it seemed like a series of random events with no cohesion whatsoever. It’s only useful purpose was to wake you up after an interminably slow middle of the film involving Superman and Lois in the Fortress of Solitude.
DC normally does a great job with their voice actors but even in this regard they slipped up…dumping the always-reliable Tim Daly for James Denton as the voice of Clark/Superman…and no Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor? Big mistake. At least we had Ed Asner as Perry White. All-Star Superman was a great comic book series but simply too complex to make a good animated film.
Audio commentary with Bruce Timm and Grant Morrison.
Superman Now (33:00) – Primarily an interview feature with Morrison who talks about developing the original comic book series and eventually turning it into the film. Much was based on classical mythology which is why characters like Samson and Atlas played a role.
Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison (9:36) – Morrison shows off his artistic side as the idea for the series came from his own multitudes of sketches including the concepts for the changes in Superman’s costume.
A Sneak Peek at Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (11:40) – An in depth look at DC’s next animated feature starring the Green Lantern Corps.
A Sneak Peak at Superman/Batman Apocalypse (12:12) - A look at the previous DC animated feature as Batman, Superman, and several other DC heroes battle Darkseid.
Bruce Timm’s picks: Two Episodes of the Superman Animated TV series, Blast from the Past Parts 1 & 2
Mania Grade: C-
Starring the Voices of: James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, Ed Asner
Written by: Grant Morrison, Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by: Sam Liu
Distributer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2011
Extras: See Below