Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure Movie Review of ‘All-Star Superman’ (2011)

Movie Review of ‘All-Star Superman’ (2011)

The tenth instalment in Warner Premiere’s series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies, All-Star Superman is based on the twelve-issue comic book series of the same name by Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison. The comics were fundamentally a discontinuity reboot of Superman, telling a new story arc which doesn’t explicitly link with anything that came before it. For this animated adaptation, writer Dwayne McDuffie had the difficult task of creating a relatively brief 75-minute feature distilled from over 320 pages of comic content. As a consequence, All-Star Superman does feel episodic and underdone, facing the same issues which have plagued several other movies from the animated DC canon. Nevertheless, the picture does come together in an effective enough way, thanks to the competent animation and voice work, and the emotional power of this remarkable story which brilliantly humanises the Man of Steel.

When the first manned mission to the sun goes awry, Superman (James Denton) arrives to save the ship and crew, but becomes exposed to a lethal dose of solar radiation. Unbeknownst to the Man of Steel, it was all part of a plan concocted by Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia), and now Superman is left with only a few months to live. Keeping the crisis a secret, Superman seeks to put his affairs in order, revealing his true identity to Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks) and preparing his final will and testament, all the while continuing to protect the world from threats old and new.

The story of All-Star Superman is surprisingly powerful, as the borderline invincible Man of Steel is forced to confront his own mortality and consider his life and legacy. Although the movie is full of colourful action scenes, there are some effective thematic undercurrents here, focusing on ideas such as forgiveness, empathy and love. However, the big problem with All-Star Superman is its episodic structure. Since the screenplay is based on a twelve-issue miniseries, such a structure was practically inevitable, but it feels like too many side plots and detours are crammed in, and as a result barely any of them amount to much in the end. McDuffie’s script should’ve focused on the main story threads involving Lois and Lex, as these are easily the most interesting constituents of the movie. Other random detours – including two guys trying to woo Lois, and a pair of Kryptonian survivors who disappear as abruptly as they appear – simply feel unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. And with its 75-minute runtime not permitting any of the additional story threads to take flight, it feels like The Flash edited the picture.

Fortunately, the visual treatment of the material is for the most part solid, making for another very entertaining animated superhero extravaganza. Being a budget production, All-Star Superman does not feature the most lavish animation, but it looks fine nevertheless, with bright, fluid visuals that imitate the look and feel of the comics. Director Sam Liu is somewhat of an animation veteran, having also helmed the likes of Planet Hulk and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Composer Christopher Drake has also become the go-to guy for DC Universe Animated Original Movies, and his efforts here remain outstanding, providing a sweeping score that bestows All-Star Superman with a sense of grandeur, belying its straight-to-video origins. This is a well-made movie in spite of its flaws.

Carrying on tradition, All-Star Superman features a strong voice cast packed with talent.Desperate Housewives actor James Denton makes for a fairly charismatic Superman, though he’s not the best Man of Steel we’ve seen. Without a doubt, the star of the show is Anthony LaPaglia, who’s a gruff and arrogant Lex Luthor. He brilliantly embodies the evil genius, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job.

Of all his motion picture appearances, Superman has never been as vulnerable, human or heroic as he is in the final act of All-Star Superman. It’s downright affecting at times, something which can’t be said for many of the other DC Universe Animated Original movies. Nevertheless, the finished product remains a tad underwhelming. It was too ambitious to attempt to cover so much ground in a single 75-minute movie – the source material would be better suited for a miniseries.

6.8/10

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