Ror Reviews: All-Star Superman
DC seem incapable of releasing a bad animated feature. Will this latest Supes adventure break that trend?
All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison ran for 12 issues back in 2005 and is generally considered to be among the best Superman stories written. I would have to agree with that. It was originally conceived as a way to reinvent the character without having to rely too much on the baggage carried over from previous takes by different writers. Something like Marvel's Ultimate series I guess, but the changes were not so drastic. When I began reading the series I was brought back to the things that I had always loved about the character in the first place. Sure Supes is a great read for smash n crash action fans but it's how Superman/Clark Kent reacts to and interacts with the people around him, a far inferior race which he has chosen to protect, that always interested me the most. This story did a great job of going back to basics and forcing Superman to put things into perspective as we are told at the beginning that he is dying. The comic run takes us on sort of a final gauntlet of challenges for Superman, both physical and emotional, as he tries to tie up all of his many loose ends. But at the heart of the story there is of course his relationship with Lois Lane.
This cartoon does a great job as an adaptation. In fact, it might do TOO great a job. This story features a lot of characters and situations. Each issue of the comic pretty much reads as a self contained story, even though they remain a part of the main narrative. Here the film makers have tried to cram as much as they can from all of these chapters into one 70 odd minute movie and it doesn't always work. At times it seems like new characters are just literally showing up and are then gone again before a non Superman fan can ask "Who the Hell is that guy?" This won't be as apparent to anyone who has read the comics, but anyone who hasn't might be left feeling a bit disorientated. And the flip side to this is, as much as they attempted to cram a lot of stuff in, they also chose to leave quite a lot out. Of course that's understandable, but I really though some of the things they excluded would have made more sense to the overall story than certain elements they used.
But really, so much is done right here that ultimately that won't matter. If you love the comic, chances are you will love this movie. All of the great incarnations of these iconic characters are translated perfectly into their animated forms. And those forms are brought to life through fantastic animation. Homaging Frank Quitely's original work in the comic very nicely. The voice cast are also terrific. First time Superman James Denton(Desperate Housewives) actually sounds a little like Tim Daly but put's enough of his own spin on the character to stand out on his own. Christina Hendricks is also on top form as Lois Lane but the stand out is definitely Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor. Although really, a voice actor is always going to have the opportunity to have the most fun with a villain. The numerous supporting characters are also voiced very well. You will want to see/hear a lot more of Linda Cardellini as Nasthalthia "Nasty" Luthor! The script is a mixture of dialog lifted straight from the page and new stuff to aid the adaptation. Mostly it works, at times it doesn't. You might be left a bit cold by some exchanges that should have come across much more emotional.
But one thing these animated features never drop the ball on is the action, and here is no different. The many set pieces from the comic are translated brilliantly. A highlight is definitely a prison siege by supervillain Parasite, with Lex and Clark Kent(remaining in disguise as he fights) trying to outrun/outwit the creature. And the most important thing to get right here was always going to be the ending. If you haven't read the comic I won't spoil it, but lets just say if the drama and emotion wasn't spot on then it would never have worked. Thankfully it is. There are a few little tweaks to how things pan out, but I don't think it will be enough to annoy anyone when so much is done so well.
Not the very best from DC animation(for me that honor goes to Batman: Under The Red Hood) but not too far off. I was delighted that, a few minor niggles aside, one of my favorite Superman stories was handled so well. Bring on Batman: Year One!
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