Thursday, March 17, 2011

Episode #170: A Superman Fan Review: All-Star Superman - The Movie!

All-Star Superman, the animated DVD movie which adapted the 12 issue comic book mini-series of the same name by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, was released on February 22, 2011. I know I'm a little late to the party, but, better late than never.

I finally got the DVD about two weeks ago. I had told my wife how I had eyed the movie while I was grocery shopping earlier that day, but had resisted the temptation to pick it up. (We're on a tight budget in order to pay off our debt and help our daughter in college.) She had to get a few things at the store herself later that day, and when she came home she gave me the DVD. Yes, I know I'm spoiled.

Comic book writer Dwayne McDuffie wrote the script for the animated adaption, having previously wrote the script to the earlier DC animated movie, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths. It was sad news indeed when it was announced that Dwayne had passed away the day before the DVD's release, because of complications from a surgical procedure. Some later blogs paying tribute to McDuffie suggested he may have had some heart issues.

Voice Director Andrea Romano did a great job of finding a great cast to voice the characters in this movie. James Denton was more than adequate as Clark Kent/Superman. He almost ranks up there with Tim Daly, of Superman: The Animated Series, as one of the top Superman voice actors. Christina Hendricks was able to catch the spunk and drive of Lois Lane. Anthony LePaglia made Lex Luthor seem very menacing. I prefer his performance over Gene Hackman's campy portrayal in Superman: The Movie. (That was one of the few weak points of that movie, for me.) Having played Lou Grant in two TV series, Ed Asner was a natural to portray Perry White. It's one of those things where you wonder why no one thought of it earlier. Matthew Grey Gubler perfectly caught Jimmy Olsen's youthful energy as the Daily Planet's photographer, and Alexis Denisof made a perfect genius Dr. Leo Quintum.

Dwayne McDuffie crafted an excellent adaption of the original miniseries. Some scenes from the comic book title were left out because of the movie's time limit. Most of those scenes that were left out were touched on in small ways, which was nice to see. I'll leave it to you to discover what they are. While the animators didn't copy Frank Quitely's art style exactly, the animation certainly was similar to the art of the comic book, down to the short Superman cape. That was similar to many silver age Superman stories, which wasn't my favorite. I prefer the long Superman cape, as in Christopher Reeve's Superman costume from the movies.

The first part of the movie was very similar to the comic book mini-series, down to the four panel, eight word summary of Superman's origin. Towards the middle of the movie, the story begins to diverge from the comic book, while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original story. A few plot points were completely different from the comic book plot, but the movie still felt like an All-Star Superman story.

Overall, I'd say that this animated movie ranks up there with Superman: The Movie and Superman II as the best Superman films. All-Star Superman, both the comic book and movie, debunk the idea of Superman being outdated and too old fashioned for today. Some people feel that the Man of Steel is too bright and shiny for a dark and cynical modern world. My answer is: and the problem with that is what, exactly? All-Star Superman was a dark movie, without violating Superman's status as a symbol of hope.

The Man of Steel is faced with putting his affairs in order, and accomplishing his final missions, in whatever time he has left. Superman isn't sure he will be able to do it, but will keep trying until his dying breath. It was very easy to get drawn into the emotion of the movie as Superman battles his slowly weakening body.

One of the things I think people miss about Superman as "the big blue boy scout" is his toughness. He isn't the over the top dark vigilante that is all to common in today's comic books. Part of his mid-western farm boy upbringing was the attitude of get the job done, no matter what. Crops and cattle didn't wait for anyone. They needed to be take n care of. As Superman, Clark Kent brought a tenacity that, as long as he breathes, he won't give up the fight. All-Star Superman was a perfect example. "Brains beat brawn every time."

The comic book and movie do what the best Superman stories always do, find a way to challenge Superman both physically and emotionally, and still win the day in the end. While I haven't seen Batman: Under The Hood, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse or Justice League: Crisis On Two Worlds, I would rank All Star Superman equal to Justice League: New Frontier as the best DC animated DVD movies, and give it 5 Superman Capes out of 5.

Next Week: MegaCon 2011 Preview!

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