Tony's Movie Review: ALL-STAR SUPERMAN
Published: February 15, 2011 - 11:58am
DC/Warner Bros. Animation has hit another home run. All-Star Superman, the adaptation of Grant Morrison's truly epic -- and actually deserving of the word in this case -- 12-issue comic book series which presented Morrison's version of a possible "Last Superman Story," is one of the strongest animated films in years.
Featuring a powerful cast which includes James Denton (Desperate Housewives) as Superman/Clark Kent, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men, Firefly) as Lois Lane, Anthony LaPaglia (TV's Without A Trace and countless Broadway plays) as Lex Luthor, this film captures all the things that made Morrison's story truly legendary.
Adapted by longtime DC animated writer Dwayne McDuffie and voice-directed by equally longtime casting director Andrea Romano, the story traces Superman's journey as he becomes faced with a shocking truth: one of Lex Luthor's schemes has succeeded, and Superman is dying. Our hero immediately begins working on solving as many problems as he can before his time is up, as well as cleaning up any unfinished business in his life - which means telling the love of his life, Lois Lane - the truth about his dual identity. Morrison zeroed in on many unexpected angles in his story, one of which is the notion that Lois Lane (after countless attempts to prove that Clark is Superman) would be in almost continual denial upon being confronted with the news.
The movie manages to fit in a surprisingly large number of story beats from the comic series, including the tale of misguided Kryptonians Bar-El and Lila (who function here much as General Zod & Ursa did in Superman II). Time and time again, this adaptation showcases Morrison's many innovative applications of Superman's powers. In addition, the story sets up many seemingly impossible challenges for the iconic hero. Morrison always finds a credible way for Superman to overcome each and every one, showing it's the Man of Steel's brains as much as his brawn that save the day. Superman's compassion is always emphasized as he strives to find the good in everyone. Don't be fooled, however, this movie features non-stop action and incredible battles as well. Overall, McDuffie and Executive Producer Bruce Timm handle the balancing act well in adapting such a rich story; however, the one critique may be that in packing so much in -- and of course, they still had to cut several issues' worth of story for time -- the pace can be unrelenting and certain segments may feel a bit dense or extra jam-packed.
Christina Hendricks turns in an excellent vocal performance as Lois Lane (especially notable since this is her first time doing voice-over character work). The mark of great acting is that you sometimes forget that you're seeing/listening to ['FAMOUS ACTOR'] and you simply become immersed in the character and the character's experience; this is frequently the case with All-Star Superman. James Denton's take on Superman is just as beautifully understated as Christopher Reeve's on-camera portrayal, and Anthony LaPaglia often completely disappears into the role of the ego-maniacal, obsessed Luthor. Casting director/voice director Andrea Romano does her usual fine word in guiding the group to great heights.
Director Sam Lui, who handled Planet Hulk and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (among many others) shows a real mastery of tone here. (It's also a source of great excitement to fans to hear that an animated version of Batman: Year One directed by Liu, based on Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli's masterpiece, is already well intro pre-production at DC/Warner Bros. Animation). Many moments in the film are genuinely moving, evoking all the emotions stirred when fans see their favorite character doing the impossible and demonstrating that hope, forgiveness and continually working for the common good can always achieve real results. The orchestral score by Christopher Drake also stands out and enhances the emotions of this intense film experience. All in all it's clear that All-Star Superman is a must-see film, especially for fans of the Last Son of Krypton.
All-Star Superman is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on February 22, 2010, in both regular and extended formats.