Finally got my hands on a copy of All-Star Superman and it’s magnificent! Superman’s last adventure is truly an epic, thrilling tale, just like you’d hope it to be. I must admit I have not read Grant Morrison‘s and Frank Quitely‘s 12-issue series this film is based on. Blasphemy, I know. Don’t worry, that will be quickly remedied, but it does give me a chance to review this film from the outside, approaching this material for the first time.
Note, spoilers are contained in this review.
We’re all familiar with Superman. The Man of Steel, the Big Blue Boy Scout, the champion of Earth. All-Star Superman is the story of Superman. It encompasses so much of what is true to the character; selfless acts, incredible battles, the bumbling reporter who crushes on Lois Lane and finally, sacrifice. We begin the story with Superman saving the day, per usual, this time it’s the first manned mission to the Sun. As a side effect of the rescue Superman’s cells have been over-saturated with yellow solar radiation, this leaves him unbelievably strong (even for him) but it’s also killing him. The Man of Steel is facing death and he has a few important things he wants to do before he leaves.
Superman reveals his identity to Lois and the two share one hell of date. They visit his Fortress of Solitude where Superman shows of some of his stranger possessions, a pet sun-eater which he feeds suns he makes on his cosmic anvil for instance. After a little paranoia-induced runabout, Lois stumbles upon Superman’s birthday present to her, a super-elixir that grants the powers of Superman to one for 24 hours. He also knitted Lois her own super suit, seriously can we say best boyfriend ever? Okay, there is that whole lying to her for years about his true identity, but we all know why he did it. The two share a day in his world saving Metropolis, dealing with Atlas and Samson (time-traveling, super-powered men with eyes for Lois), thwarting the Ultra-Sphinx and finally sharing a kiss on the moon. Ms. Lane enjoys one phenomenal birthday as Superwoman for day. These scenes are tender and show how much Superman cares for Lois. Christina Hendricks is the voice of Lois and she is spot on. One scene she can be the tough reporter and the next she’s completely swept of her feet. James Denton as Superman is a little harder to believe. His Clark Kent is exactly what you’d want, the mix of bumbling reporter and small town farm boy. But his Superman is bland, and at times kind of boring. But, it’s a hard act to do, this Man of Steel.
Lex Luthor is portrayed as achieving his ultimate goal, killing Superman. See, he was the one attacking that space shuttle so it was him who set Superman up to be poisoned by the Sun. Luthor, currently imprisoned, is sentenced to death for his crimes against humanity. There’s a particularly funny scene with Clark Kent interviewing Luthor at the prison and while there Parasite escapes. Hungering for Clark’s super energy, Parasite runs amuck all over the prison and Superman keeps saving Luthor while masking it under Clark’s utter clumsiness. Anthony LaPalgia is an adequate Luthor. He’s really not bad, but at times he comes off as too angry, too vicious. Not the calculating, reserved Luthor I think fans are more familiar with.
A final inter-stellar mission takes Superman away from Earth for some time. Before he goes he tells Lois he’s dying, to which Lois responds, ” You won’t die. You’ll find a way out of this.” Which of course we know he will, he’s Superman. And besides, no one is ever truly dead in comics. Upon his return Earth things have changed. Two Kryptonian astronauts who miraculously survived have landed on Earth and realizing their superior intellect and strength decide to take over. Superman confronts them and eventually learns they are suffering from some sort of Kryptonite poisoning, most likely contracted on their voyages in space. In order to spare their lives he sends them into the Phantom Zone. Why is this included in the film? I’m not sure since it doesn’t really tie in to the final battle. Again, I haven’t read the comic so I’m unable to do a comparison about what was included and what was left out but I can only assume the two Kryptonians are included to up the film’s action. The same can be said for the Parasite sequence because without it we’ve had a film all about Superman treating Lois to the best of his lifestyle, which isn’t going to interest boys aged 7-13. Apparently some of the scenes not included were of Superman visiting Smallville. He does have a sweet scene with Ma Kent at the tombstone of Pa Kent. It’s short, but it’s nice to see Superman being the good son he always was.
Finally we reach the film’s climax. Luthor has created his own super-elixir and plans to, wait for it, take over the world. He’s teamed up with Solaris, a evil star computer (really weird, I know), whose made our Sun red in order to de-power Superman. Of course Superman has a suit which blocks out red sunlight and battles Solaris. It’s a big, epic battle worthy of a climactic ending. Solaris is defeated and Superman has one more battle ahead of him. He needs to defeat Luthor who in his super-powered state has been trashing Metropolis looking for him. Luthor is the apparant victor of their fight and hope seems lost, but Luthor, finally able to see the world as Superman does realizes why he must do good. The people Superman saves are all we have and they’re worth saving. Luthor’s final realization is fantastic and it’s so rare to see a super-villain coming to terms with the errors of his ways in such a poignant way. So Luthor’s on the path of the rightous but not all is well, Solaris has poisoned the Sun and it’s turning blue. (Which is bad for some reason I can’t remember. I think a blue Sun would be pretty cool.) It’s up to Superman to save us, as his body is breaking down into pure energy he says goodbye to the woman he loves and flies into the sun changing it back to it’s natural state. The ultimate sacrifice to save the Earth. Most believe Superman to be dead. All except Lois, who says while sitting in front of a larger than life Superman memorial, ” He’s not dead, he’s up there fixing the sun. And when he’s done he’ll be back, and I’ll be here waiting for him.” A lovely, hopeful ending for the film.
And the animation? It’s beautiful. They did a marvelous job translating Quitely’s artwork to the screen. The colors in this movie are particularly worth noting. As someone who considers herself more of a Batman fan it took me by surprise just how colorful this adventure is. The script by Dwayne McDuffie flows very well between each section and it’s perfectly timed at just under 80 minutes. It never feels like it’s dragging or too rushed. Again, it’s my understanding that large chunks of Morrison’s original story weren’t included but if so, it’s not noticeable to a noob. Each part is presented in a way to show us the true essence of Superman. Something I found interesting was how alien this version of Superman is, something I often forget. At one point when the topic of children comes up Superman comments that his and Lois’ biology is too different, they could never have children.
The Blu-Ray/DVD combo is full of the extras you’ve come to expect from all DC Animated films,
- Sneak Peek at “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights”
- Featurette: “Superman Now” – In a moment of inspiration, Grant Morrison was provided an opportunity to revamp the Man of Steel into something modern, something more relevant for today’s audience. This is the story of All-Star Superman – where it all started, and what it came to be
- Two bonus episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series” handpicked by Bruce Timm
- Featurette: “Incubating the Idea” – A conversation with Grant Morrison
- Audio Commentary: Bruce Timm and Grant Morrison
- All-Star Superman Digital Comic Book
It’s the digital version of the original comic that really sold me. After this film I’m dying to read Morrison’s original story.
All-Star Superman is an epic and all-encompassing story about the man Superman is. We see his relationship with Lois, we see his interactions will all-time foe Lex Luthor and in the end Superman sacrifices himself to save all of humanity. This is the tale proving why Superman is king above all other super heroes.