All Star Superman (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

All Star Superman (2011)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTAll Star Superman is one of the triumphs of literature produced in the last ten years.  Grant Morrison's take on Superman stripped him of the overloaded continuity and darkness that permeates far too much in modern comics and produced a humanistic tale of mortality and duty while retaining a sense of whimsy and hope.  This week came the inevitable direct-to-DVD adaptation of the comic and the best and worst thing I can say about it is that it tastefully reproduces the comic along with creating hideous pacing issue when four issues of a comic are stretched out to a seventy five minute film.

The Man of Steel faces his certain death in All Star Superman.  In the opening moments Superman (voiced by James Denton) saves a science vessel from colliding with the sun.  Unfortunately for Superman, his close proximity to the yellow waves of the sun caused his body to become overloaded with energy.  He begins to develop new powers and infinite strength that dwarfs his previous capabilities, but has left his body wracked with cancer.  Left with very little time, Superman goes about creating the perfect evening for Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks) and trying to prevent Lex Luthor's (Anthony LaPaglia) latest scheme from reaching full bloom.

The animation in the fight scenes are well done if lacking a sense of weight and urgency.

Of the original twelve issues that comprised All Star's run, only the plot lines of about four made it into the film.  The issues that were converted mostly have to do with Clark trying to figure out what his role as Superman really means to those he loves and those that could have been his friend, meaning mostly issues dealing with Lois and Luthor.  While this means that some material I love was left out (Jimmy's Doomsday mutation for one) it was the best decision as it gave the narrative a nice swoop throughout the film.

All Star Superman jumps headlong into the story assuming that the audience is going to be familiar with all the characters and motivations of Superman.  That's fine for the most part, we didn't need an origin story for the other animated superhero films and this isn't really made for the people that need it.  But it was clear from the get-go that a little clarity on a few of the characters might have been nice.  For example, Jimmy Olsen dresses in drag and crazy Kryptonian fashions but in the film it just comes off as him being absurd for no good reason (there's a good reason in the comic).

More frustrating are the people that DC bothered to animate but could barely be bothered to produce name's or personalities for.  There's a blonde girl who works at The Daily Planet and makes grand contributions like commenting on of a man's *ahem* tool belt.  Then there's a mustached man who goes around playing tricks on Clark and that's it.  Oh, there's also about six or seven super powered heroes and villains that enter and exit with nary an explanation as to who they are.

Hearing lines like "'re lifting 200 quintillion tons" are why I'm glad the DC animation team is at least trying hard.

Now the beauty of Morrison's characterization is that, for the purposes of the plot, not much of that information is needed because he can take the essence of a character and make it shine.  There are two issues with that here.  First, there's not much "essence" to blonde girl or moustace man.  Second, if they were planning on stripping All Star Superman down to the elements of Clark/Superman, Lois and Luthor then why didn't they just build on that instead of making a greatest hits cameo edition of the comic?

The faithfulness to the original work is clearly evident in the admittedly beautiful art style (modeled after Frank Quitely's pencils) and dialogue (there are many delightful tidbits I'm glad they left in).  But it creates a really disengaged experience when everything is left completely intact for only four issues, since it's clear that what's told is part of a larger tale.

There's really not too much else to the film version of All Star.  As a movie it's still too immersed in needed knowledge for a neophyte, too earnest to be entertaining, and needed more focus to attain the comics impact.  I did feel a twinge of sadness as Superman contemplated the end of his life, but those moments were few and amounted to little in the long run.

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All Star Superman (2011)

Directed by Sam Liu.
Screenplay by Dwayne McDuffie.
Featuring the vocal talents of James Denton, Christina Hendricks and Anthony LaPaglia.

Posted by Andrew

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