By Malice Intended of Planet Ill
All-Star Superman is an adaptation of the DC Comics title by writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely. It attempts to condense a 12 issue story-arc into a single feature length film. It also attempts to fill out the ever expanding cannon of the DCAU with yet another unique take on an iconic character. It yields respectable results on both fronts, though die hard fans of the comic may have a hard time excepting it on its own merits.
The artwork of Frank Quitely provides the foundation for the character designs and overall visual aesthetic. The animation team does a good job of maintaining a reasonable visual fidelity with the source material. Frank Quitely’s art managed to convey a gentler side of superman without forsaking his awesome power. That duality is evident here as well. As has become the standard for DCAU features, the animation is efficient and streamlined without being flashy or overdone. It moves with ease without flourishes that call attention to the frame rate.
The action is sparing and subdued this time around. Previous DCAU features have included brutal and tightly choreographed fight scenes. All-Star Superman has broader scale action with a less intimate and gritty feel. Superman is the most powerful superhero imaginable, so the threats he faces have to be significantly more substantial than a mere fist fight. He also doesn’t have the luxury of inflicting unnecessary wonton damage to an opponent. Instead of allowing this to impede the action, the animators find ways to include sufficient amounts of destruction while adhering to the “rules” of the character.
The script retains the basic overall concept of the original 12 issue story arc, but the short running time doesn’t allow for the nuances of serialized storytelling. Many events from the comic have been excised. This abridged version of Grant Morrison’s intricate narrative will be seen as an unforgivable sin by many. Still, the central idea of All-Star Superman is compelling enough its own to support an entire film. How would the most powerful man on earth (and possibly the universe) spend his last days? What would his bucket list be? The film ponders this question but doesn’t allow things to get too heavy or philosophical.
James Denton’s measured vocal delivery reveals a more delicate and thoughtful side to the Man of Steel. Superman is perhaps more relatable here than he has ever been. Anthony LaPaglia dials down the more melodramatic elements of Lex Luthor. Here, the character seems irredeemably smug and self-assured even in the most mundane of situations. Christina Hendricks version of Louis Lane is feels more alert than many other iterations of the character.
All-Star Superman is not in the same class with some of the more stellar offerings from the DC Animated Universe, but it’s not a misfire by any stretch of the imagination. It offers humor, serviceable action, and a refreshingly human take on the last son of Krypton. It’s also a welcome change of pace from the unrelenting intensity of Batman: Under The Red Hood and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. With each new addition, the DCAU continues to show itself to be the most varied “animated Universe” ever. 3.5 out of 5.