Fanboy Comics Creative Director Sam Rhodes reviews one of the latest DCU animated movies.
Another quality direct-to-DVD animated film from DC, All-Star Superman, is based on the twelve issue comic series of the same name by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Designed to be a self-contained Superman story, the comic follows a dying Superman and neither affects nor is restricted by the DC universe continuity. In this sense the story and characters are comfortingly familiar, yet with exciting new stakes. The recently deceased Dwayne McDuffie wrote the film script based on the comic. It was directed by Sam Liu [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0515005/] and boasts an excellent voice cast including James Denton as Superman, Anthony LaPaglia as The Double L, and the incredibly cool Christina Hendricks as . . . uh… The Other Double L, Lois Lane. [Editor’s note: Sam is fired from the company and should be fired from life as well.] It has a few problems, most notably the fact the the film feels less like a coherent story and more like a compiled group of distinct episodes chronicling Superman’s last days. To say nothing of the comic (I haven’t yet read it), the film version of All-Star Superman is a solid offering with thrilling new adventures and twists with an old familiar cast of characters.
The basic plot is Superman, while attempting to counter Lex Luthor’s sabotage attempt of the first manned mission to the sun [Editor’s note: What? Why?] [Author’s note: Because he’s evil! Stay out of my blog.] [Editor’s note: No, why are humans attempting a manned mission to the sun. That just seems doomed to begin with.] [Author’s note: oh . . . yeah . . . that is weird . . . they don’t really explain that. Hm.] is exposed to an effective overdose of yellow sun radiation and his cells begin “bursting with power.” So much so that it will eventually kill him. Sad face. We then see a series of stories: Superman reveals his identity to Lois, Superman confronts Lex Luthor and Parasite as Clark Kent, Superman battles Bar-El and Lilo, two Krypton survivors who want to rule Earth with an iron fist, and lastly Superman goes up against Solaris and Luthor together. This really is my biggest complaint with this film. It comes across as a series of events rather than one story with many elements. The stakes manage to get pretty high as Superman becomes weaker and weaker, but each villain he encounters seems even weaker and not a threat. By the time we encounter the third and fourth adversary of the film, it’s hard to take them seriously. Ultimately, it seems to me like this needs to be more than just one 76-minute film. You just lose something when you try to pack in that much story.
Though I do have that one major gripe, the film, otherwise, was very well done. Superman and Lois have some incredibly powerful moments that are just magic to watch. Luthor is extremely devious and cunning and also, in a strange way, very likable. There’s a whole segment where Luthor and Clark Kent team up to fight Parasite in a prison, and it’s supremely enjoyable to watch the two interact. Luthor expresses at one point how fond he is of Kent, and, in the next breath, he is cursing Superman’s existence. It’s funny.
To conclude, there’s a lot going on in this film. Often characters, plot points, or props are introduced that are just flat-out bizarre, and as a viewer you wonder, “Where the “H” are they going with this?” You might even exclaim that out loud, alone in your living room to your left over mac-and-cheese. And, the answer might seem to be, “Nowhere.” But then, when you least expect it, there is a massive payoff. It’s not the most direct or traditional DC animated movie (if you know Grant Morrison, you will expect this) and perhaps not the best constructed, but is it bad? No. It is actually one of the most interesting of the DC straight-to-DVD flicks I’ve seen. The fact that it is not beholden to the DCU continuity makes it instantly more powerful. You know that they can actually kill Superman if they want to. But, they wouldn’t do that . . . or would they?
Sam Rhodes is the Creative Director of Fanboy Comics, an independent comic book publishing company based in Los Angeles, Calif. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Sam and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at FanboyComics.net or sign up for the e-newsletter, The Fanboy Scoop, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.