Superman is one of those characters that seldom gets the sort of introspective deep character analysis of characters such as Batman or Spider-Man. He’s unbeatable, he’s all American, he’s apple pie. Apple pie tastes good but it’s generally predictable. For the good and the bad that is All Star Superman it’s definitely not the typical apple pie.
All Star Superman is based on the award winning limited comic book series of the same name. This is a fairly simple story. Superman puts himself in harm’s way to save lives and the result is that he has been exposed to too much of the sun’s yellow rays and he begins to die slowly. So, the Man of Steel basically cracks into his bucket list. That list mostly involves Lois Lane, who just happens to be having a birthday at this same time. Along with seeing Superman take care of unfinished business in his life there’s also a bit of a mystery involving Lex Luthor. As usual things aren’t always what they seem.
The biggest problem is that the story just seems to be looking for ways to make Superman fight. There are random monsters and even some random Kryptonians for him to fight and then save. Seeing Superman fight is definitely something you expect and probably want but those fights should be more important to the main story and not just beat downs as we, and Superman, wait for his coming death. There is a major villain at the end of the film too that overall is just ridiculous looking. That villain does lead to a powerful and surprisingly moving finale. Because so much of the fighting in the movie doesn’t seem to really matter to the overall story the middle of the film feels a little puffy.
The art design of the comic book series was not something I was a fan of but the character designs in the film work quiet well. The designs are a combination of the All Star comic and the classic designs from previous DC Comics movies. Superman The Animated Series featured a solid cast but DC/Warner Brothers has been bringing in different actors for these films lately and All Star Superman continues the trend. James Denton (Face/Off) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) take on the title roles as Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Both actors do a fine job. Hendricks gets the final emotional beat in the film and she delivers those lines particularly well. While it may get the films more attention to feature actors with some sort of fan base to play these characters I’d wager that the fan base for the actors who have filled these roles in various projects for the past several years is a fairly large one.
The drama in the film is really effective and the scenes between Lois and Superman are the best of the film. It would have been nice to have seen a little more depth and complexity in the Superman character during those scenes but what is here works. Superman has never dealt with the possibility of dying in this way before. While we don’t see what’s happening in his mind we do see his emotional response to the end of his life and the time he had wasted keeping his secret from Lois. The end of this film is moving and completely amazing. The score, the animation and the final voice-over from Christina Hendricks is near perfection. All complaints aside this is still one of the best Superman films ever made, even compared to the Donner films from the 80’s.
This 1080p HD presentation looks fantastic. The color pallet for this film is darker and it’s shifted more sepia than previous Superman animated films in order to match the colors in the comic book. -Even darker the colors still have a hi-res vibrancy and the blacks are deep and inky. The quality of the animation and the detail in some of the lesser characters wavers a bit and it stands out in this crisp presentation.
The DTS HD Master sound presentation here is fairly solid for an animated film. Most of the running time is spent in the center channel but there are some nice instances of surround speaker usage during action. Unfortunately the sub woofer sits really quiet most of the time. Dialogue, score, and sound FX are clear and well mixed aside from one line of dialogue at the end of the film that’s really tough to hear for some reason.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
There are some really great bonus features on this blu-ray/DVD. The best stuff is blu-ray exclusive too! There’s a feature commentary with the film’s producer Bruce Timm and the mastermind behind the comics Grant Morrison. These two combined have done some of the best DC Comics work in any medium and hearing them discuss this film is a must for any fan.
There’s solid featurette focused on where the ideas for the story came from and how they evolved to comic then to film. Next is a conversation with Grant Morrison about All Star Superman. The conversation and featurette overlap a bit but together they offer a really good overview on this story and how it has been told. There’s a preview for the next DC movie based on Green Lantern, and there’s a virtual comic book so you can read the story. Finally there are two episodes of Superman the Animated series handpicked by Grant Morrison.
No this blu-ray is busting with bonuses but what is here is all good stuff and will be much appreciated by fans of both the comic and the movie.
All Star Superman, even with its puffy middle act is still the best of the DC animated films yet.
Overall (Not an average) 8.5/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10