All-Star Superman is the tenth entry in the DC Universe Animated Features. It may also be their greatest achievement in the series. Last week Warner Brothers premiered All-Star Superman in both New York and Los Angeles to packed houses. Over 12,000 people tried to attend and witness Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quitely’s comic book series brought to life. If you don’t travel in geek circles or read comic books here is the low down on All-Star Superman. “In All-Star Superman, the Man of Steel (James Denton) rescues an ill-fated mission to the Sun (sabotaged by Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia)) and, in the process, is oversaturated by radiation – which accelerates his cell degeneration. Sensing even he will be unable to cheat death, Superman ventures into new realms – finally revealing his secret to Lois (Christina Hendricks), confronting Lex Luthor’s perspective of humanity, and attempting to ensure Earth’s safety before his own impending end with one final, selfless act.” (Warner Brothers)
The hardest thing with translating any medium from one (comic book) to another (animated film) is time. Anything from a few minutes to the change of an entire century can happen from one panel to the next in a comic. In a film there needs to be a transition as to not lose the viewer. Another time peril is that 12 issues in a comic book stretch out the story for an entire year. Here, in this new animated film, director Sam Liu (Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths) and writer Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League) have to translate all that into 75 minutes. When it was all over I honestly believed I saw the best Superman film since Superman 2. Whatever Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder have brewing for the next live action Superman they should take note of this animated story.
In a mere 75 minutes Liu and McDuffie did right by Morrison’s work. McDuffie, who did a Q&A afterward, said the hardest part was picking and choosing what baby to kill. Thankfully, he said, they weren’t his babies. It isn’t the complete “All-Star Superman” story. They found a vein in Morrison’s work and continued that thread to tell their own interpretation of the written work. Noticeable differences are a scene with Ma Kent (Frances Conroy) and an ending in which McDuffie thought was more fitting for Lex. Sadly the Bizzaro part of the story is not present. Though it had been such a long time since I read it I had completely forgotten about it.
With all Superman stories we have to face the fact that nothing is going to hurt the man of steel. He’ll always rise to the occasion and save the day. With All-Star Superman Morrison took us to a very different place and not only made the man of steel vulnerable but made us care about him again. Much like Christopher Reeve did and continues to do whenever we see him on screen. That emotional tie was felt all the more sitting in a theater in New York City with an audience. The scene with Ma Kent should choke up anyone with half a heart and Christopher Drake’s score really brings it all home. The bar has been set really high by All-Star Superman. Not only does Warner Home Video have to deliver other DCU projects of this caliber, but their live action Superman film can only hope to be half this good. Let us not forget that other comic book company out there, Marvel. Perhaps something other than origin stories and tales that happen in some distant future. How about something a little more recent? All-Star Superman is your template, now deliver.
Check out Robert’s interview with Lois Lane, Christine Hendricks, about All-Star Supermanhere on Mania.com.
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