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All-Star Superman

A DC Universe Animated Original Movie directed by Sam Liu.

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Not Up to DCAU's Standards

  • Aug 29, 2011
Rating:
+3

Allow me, for the sake of justifying my complaints about this piece from the onset, to say that I am a subscriber to the theory that the DCAU crew is responsible for the absolute best incarnations of the DC comic characters of all time.  Whenever I begin to burn out on the whole animated comic hero industry, a trip to my Batman the Animated Series collection or through a few Justice League Unlimited episodes are all it takes to remind me of everything that is right about the concept of turning static comic panels into animated life.

That said, I’ve noticed many of the crew responsible for the aforementioned properties (Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, the late Dwayne McDuffie and company) have since shifted gears from weekly serial production to animated feature film work exclusively.  While a few of these features have been pretty darn impressive (I enjoyed Batman: Under the Red Hood, Superman/ Batman Public Enemies and Justice League Crisis on Two Earths to mention a few) but All Star Superman is one of the oddest animated films I’ve encountered, DCAU or otherwise, in quite some time.

All-Star Superman, on which this picture is based, is a twelve-issue comic book series featuring Superman that ran from November 2005 to October 2008. The series was written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely, digitally inked by Jamie Grant and published by DC Comics.

The film incarnation is actually the tenth in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line released by Warner Premiere and the first in the line that is rated PG (as opposed to the usual PG-13 rating).

The plot goes like this: Dr. Leo Quintum and his P.R.O.J.E.C.T. Team are exploring the Sun when they are sabotaged by a booby-trapped, genetically enhanced Lex Luthor clone. Superman saves the doomed crew, but it turns out that in the process has been overdosed with radiation that, while responsible for increasing his power initially, is actually slowly killing him. Luthor, having orchestrated the death of Superman while under the employment of General Sam Lane, is arrested thanks to Clark Kent's article and sentenced to death.

Playing off the unique angle of the arch nemeses responsible for the inevitable death of the other, there is a lot of potential in this plot structure.  Sadly, I felt as though the delivery of these ideals never manages to live up to the possibilities.

For starters, this 76-minute film suffers from the undeniable feeling of trying to fit entirely too many key moments from the 12-issue book run into a little over an hour’s worth of narrative.  As expected, this mash of plot threads often comes off as completely disconnected from one another.  Characters appear frequently, do something completely contrived, then vanish for the duration of the film.  Detours like Superman’s encounter with Samson and Atlas and even the Kryptonian scientists will leave even the most diehard fans of the franchise scratching their heads in “what in the world was that?” theatrics.

These threads work out in the books on which this film is based simply because they are given due time to develop.  Perhaps had they been integrated here more subtly earlier on and allowed to play out in the background to the seriousness of the larger issues at hand, they may have worked out here as well.  Instead they come off as unnecessary plot devices.

However, in all fairness there are a few qualities here that prevent this one from sinking like a cinder block.  Among these are the opportunity to witness Frank Quitely’s bright crisp art work come to animated life and a modern take on the Lois Lane character.

In all though the end result here is quite a muddled mess.  The story itself is interesting and arguably tragic enough to warrant looking into the mini-series but the film will most certainly under-whelm both fans of the books and of past DCAU efforts alike.

Not Up to DCAU's Standards Not Up to DCAU's Standards Not Up to DCAU's Standards Not Up to DCAU's Standards Not Up to DCAU's Standards Not Up to DCAU's Standards

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September 07, 2011
I actually really liked this one
September 07, 2011
Yea, this one had some merit. A few of the threads were beautifully captured from the pages of the book series in my opinion. Some of those other threads they shoved in there were questionable but it's possible my expectations for these guys have been becoming steadily more unrealistic as time goes on.
 
August 31, 2011
I've heard very mixed things about this particular film. One the one hand a lot of fans and critics praised the animation. On the other hand, most people were unimpressed by the lack of characterization and the attempt to stuff a whole graphic novel into the confines of a fairly short film. I wish that someone would give these films a longer running time... at least 90 to 100 minutes. 75 minutes or less just doesn't allow for the film makers to establish very deep or meaningful characters or to explore their motivations.
September 01, 2011
Totally agreed! Potential deluxe as usual here, but 75-minutes was far too short to attempt as much of the 12-books as they opted to here. Most of these recent DCAU films would have made for fantastic series-long story threads in my opinion.
September 01, 2011
I just hope that they can do justice to "Batman: Year One". Its running time is only 64 minutes according to Amazon and that makes me a little nervous.
September 02, 2011
Oh no! They're going in the wrong direction with this stuff!
September 02, 2011
The advance reviews from Comic-Con have been pretty positive, but I'd still like to see them do 2 hour films instead of these ones that barely come in at over an hour.
October 10, 2011
Just re-read "Year One" for the first time in about fifteen years and it occurs to me that they might be able to fit the entire book into that run time. After all, it was only a four issue miniseries and it read pretty quickly... a lot more quickly then when I read it when I was ten or eleven. LOL!
 
August 30, 2011
I liked this more than you did, but I have to admit, it did have some rough spots in pacing. I thought it was a little rushed and lost some of the cleverness of the source material. I did like the animation though, reflective of Quitely's original art.
August 30, 2011
Totally agreed and I just went back and read your review again. I liked what they retained of the core of the tale, I was just a bit baffled by the decision to slip some of those side threads into this one. What did you think of Anthony LaPaglia's trademarked gruff voice work for Luthor?
 
August 29, 2011
I love Bruce Timm's take on pretty much any DC Universe animation. Sorry this didn't thrill, but I liked it myself. Good review.
August 29, 2011
Thanks James- Yea I think I just went in with too high of expectations and I can only imagine those who never read the books looking at the little side tangents like "what in the world was that about"? Plus those serums that could turn anyone into superman for 24-hours, not feeling that. But you're right, new Lois was great. Thanks for the read buddy.
August 29, 2011
Yep! I pre ordered Batman Year One!
August 29, 2011
Review the graphic novel and you'll get a badge from For the Love of Comics! Just sayin'.
August 30, 2011
Looking greatly forward to Batman Year One! The idea of Batman's origin from Gordon's perspective is just tantalizing. Preordered it myself. Can't wait.
August 30, 2011
Yep! I have a badge that can be earned by reading the graphic novel AND by watching the new film, then reviewing both. Are you up for the challenge JR? LOL.
 
1
More All-Star Superman (2011 film) reviews
review by . February 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Morrison and Quitely's
I have always expressed some dissatisfaction whenever Bruce Timm produces (in this case, co-produces with Alan Burnett) an animated film adapted from a comic book story. I had mixed feelings with “Batman: Under the Red Hood“ and I didn‘t exactly like the “Superman/Batman Public Enemies” movie (granted, I never liked the original story arc), but “Superman/Batman Apocalypse” did leave some hope that perhaps Timm and company were finally getting their footing; …
Quick Tip by . February 27, 2011
Caption
The comic book series was filled with Golden Age and Silver Age tributes to the adventures of the man of steel. There’re time-traveling Samson and Atlas (Supes arm-wrestles both of them), a Lois Lane who has Superman’s powers, a dwarfed star key, kryptonite death rays, a Superman from a future, a baby sun-eater, a sphinx, Kandor, Signal watches, Bar-El and many more.      I have to say, it was one of the most engaging stories ever told in the Superman mythos; it was …
Quick Tip by . April 04, 2011
A complete and utter disappointment only given a few props due to the fact that it's a Superman film, and I'm arguably the world's biggest Superman fan.  The chief problem with ALL-STAR SUPERMAN is that it's tied to the source material -- also named ALL-STAR SUPERMAN -- is which the trend to makeover the Man of Steel as a contemporary metrosexual -- much like the oft-maligned SUPERMAN RETURNS film did -- is continued.  I won't trouble you with any spoilers other than …
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Ranked #12
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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Wiki



This week, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All Star Superman became the latest DC Comics storyline to be made into an animated feature, and for many fans, myself included, this felt like something that was going a step beyond the stories they've adapted in the past.

All Star Superman isn't just a story that has that great hook -- Superman's last adventure before he dies -- it's also one of the best Superman stories of all time,

When you get right down to it, most of DC's previous animated releases, Crisis on Two Earths, Under the Red Hood, Public Enemies and Apocalypse, have all fallen into the same broad category. They're stories with great hooks -- the Justice League fights their evil opposites, Batman's sidekick comes back from the dead with a chip on his shoulder, Superman and Batman punch some dudes, Superman and Batman punch some other dudes and also Supergirl's there -- but they're also stories that, for obvious reasons, felt like they were the easiest to pitch to the mass market, but not necessarily the best.

As a comic, All-Star Superman is an incredible testament to the craft of comic book storytelling, and also something that synthesizes itself out of decades of comics in a way that's still fairly accessible to unfamiliar readers. Tthat simultaneously makes it an obvious choice to see adapted, and also something that's incredibly difficult to pull off without losing what makes it special. And now, having seen ...
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Details

Director: Sam Liu
Genre: Action, Animation
Release Date: February 22, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
DVD Release Date: February 22, 2011
Runtime: 76 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Premiere, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Animation
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