Perhaps the most beloved Superman story of all time, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman amazed fans as it hit comic racks from 2005 to 2008. Many readers who never considered themselves fans of the character agree that Morrison’s tale of the most powerful hero who ever lived completely changed their view of the Man of Steel. So when it was announced that this instant classic would be the basis for the tenth entry in Warner Premiere and DC Comics’ collection of animated films, many were understandably nervous. The result, however, was something pretty amazing.
The screenplay written by the legendary Dwayne McDuffie stays quite faithful to Morrison’s original story. After a series of events set into motion by Lex Luthor, Superman finds himself more powerful than ever — but there’s a catch. His body is slowly breaking down and his death is imminent. With this in mind, he wastes no time making his remaining time on Earth count for something. His adventures include a romantic birthday celebration for Lois Lane, a special visit to his hometown of Smallville, and run-ins with classic and original villains both on Earth and in space.
The voice cast features James Denton as Superman, Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane, Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor, Ed Asner as Perry White, and Alexis Denisof as Dr. Leo Quintum.
The Good: Just as Morrison captured the essence of Earth’s greatest defender in the original 12-issue series, McDuffie masterfully distilled the spirit of that series into a 75-minute adventure that left me satisfied and impressed. Though some elements were cut for time, their impact was still felt. This is the myth of Superman; in the same way that Homer’s tale of Odysseus has been passed down through the millennia, Morrison and McDuffie relate to us the legend of the Last Son of Krypton and his feats of strength, wisdom, and kindness. The story is timeless. The casting was overall very good. And while the animation clearly reflects producer Bruce Timm’s style, Frank Quitely’s original artwork undoubtedly played a role in the developmental stages of this film. The scenery and characters look as though they leapt off the comic book page and ran through a sort of Timm filter, resulting in something fresh, yet respectful to the source material.
The Bad: While certain cast members sounded as though they were born to play their roles (especially Hendricks as Lois), others just didn’t feel right. For example, LaPaglia delivered a fine performance, but his voice lacked the smooth, calculating tone that many DC Animation fans have come to expect from Lex Luthor. I found it less distracting as the film played out, but Clancy Brown was sorely missed this time around.
The Bottom Line:All-Star Superman delivers in nearly every way that a good adaptation should. It stays faithful to its source without overwhelming viewers with too many plot lines, yet it keeps the heart of the story intact. Looking back on all ten DC animated features to date, they’ve come a long way from Superman: Doomsday which kept almost nothing of its source material aside from the title. With All-Star Superman, fans have a high quality adaptation of a cherished story. I’m proud to say that this is my new favorite among the DC animated films and I would recommend it to anyone, even (perhaps especially) if they don’t care for Superman. Whether you’ve read the graphic novel or not, you will understand the character’s motivations, emotions, and fears like you never thought possible. You will believe a man can fly!
Review is only of the All-Star Superman feature film, which the reviewer screened at the New York City theatrical premiere on February 14, 2011.
All-Star Superman Blu-Ray Combo Pack contains 2 1/2 hours bonus features, including:
– Sneak Peak at Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the next DC Universe Animated Original
– Movie Featurette: “Superman Now”
– Two bonus episodes from animated television 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
– Standard and high definition versions of the feature film
– Digital copy on disc of the feature film