First thing first, I am not a fan of the Big Blue as I am of Batman & Wolverine. It is not his fault really. The creators & writers of Superman have made him so powerful & loaded him with so many powers; there is not much that he cannot do. Most of the time (especially when working with other superheroes), Superman is pretty much negated by random events or sent on a different quest, to amplify the sense of danger. Despite all the indifference & general boring-ness of Superman, there is no sight as gratifying in comic books to watch Superman flying in at the last minute to save the day. Superman represents Hope (Sorry, Barry Allen) stronger than any other comic book character. He is truly iconic
Some of the best Superman stories are the ones which normally take place in an elseworld scenario or an out of continuity storyline. Mark Millar’s Red Son is one such storyline which involves Superman’s spacecraft crashlanding in Soviet & changing the face of the Cold War. Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman is another book that is an all time Superman classic because it is unashamedly a love letter to Superman, detailing all those qualities of Superman that make him really special & in a sense, the ideal characteristics that any human being should strive for.
DC Entertainment & Warner Bros Animation take the comic to the next level & make All Star Superman as a movie & How does the movie fare? First things first, you know the cliché, the movie is never as good as the book. It holds true. However, comparing the movie to the comic & saying it does not do a good job is like comparing the Sun to the star Sirius & saying that the Sun is not bright enough. What the movie accomplishes is capturing the key ideas that Morrison has and bringing it to life on the big screen, while maintaining the spirit of Superman all throughout, in some cases, by using the exact same panels from Quitely’s outstanding art work & panels.
Lex Luthor poisoning & condemning Superman to a slow death & The Man of Steel spending his remaining time on Earth doing good, saving the planet, making peace with himself & trying to advance the world forms the tent of the storyline. Grant Morrison has 12 issues to chart out the 12 impossible tasks (ala 12 labours of Hercules) that Superman achieves in his remaining time on Earth. This being a brisk 76 min movie, some of the tasks are retained, some condensed & some dropped.
With time running short, Superman confides to Lois Lane that he is Clark Kent & tried to forge a much more meaningful relationship with her. Lois Lane’s reaction & her subsequent refusal to believe the same are well shot. Similarly, her birthday gift & Superman’s impossible task has been captured beautifully. Plus there is the iconic panel shot at the end of Lois’ birthday that is beautifully brought to life.
At the other end, one has Lex Luthor on the death row, still supremely haughty & arrogant & suffused with megalomania. His interview with Clark Kent & subsequent comparison he makes of Clark Kent & Superman is amazing. In fact, the entire prison sequence where Superman in the guise of Clark Kent tried to save Luthor from a prison riot while keeping Luthor unaware of Superman’s action has been awesomely shot.
The last act which involves Luthor escaping from jail, armed with Superman serum that lasts for 24 hours, while Solaris the tyrant star, approaches to extinguish earth’s sun & the Man of Steel close to death culminates in a fantastic finale.
While most of the threads from Morrison’s work has been captured, there were a few that really should have made it to the movie at the expense of the others. The plot line involving the 2 missing Kryptonians taking up residence on Earth, & remodeling Earth after Krypton, while insulting Superman was probably needless. Superman talking to a suicidal girl & encouraging her to embrace life should have really made it to the screen as is the plotline involving Superman’s dad’s death. That was particularly poignant. Both the sequences help us understand who Superman really is.
As always, the voice casting is phenomenal. James Denton as Superman was brilliant. He was able to easily differentiate his voice when playing Clark Kent & Superman. Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane was a revelation. She got into the skin of Lois fantastically well. At times playful, at times purposeful, at time paranoid, always hopeful, Christina nailed it. Ultimately though, it was Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor who was the scene-stealer. Haughty, arrogant, contemptuous, mocking & with a hint of madness, Anthony plays Lex Luthor perfectly. His conversation with Clark Kent in prison conveys all of that & more.
Kudos to Dwayne McDuffie. Adapting a 12 issue, packed with details story to a 75 min movie is no mean task. Sam Liu, Bruce Timm & Andrea Romano continue their stellar work in the DC Universe. Considering DC’s success adapting epic & iconical storylines to the animated screen, one can say that this team is behind all of it.
Next, Batman: Year One anyone?
Rating: 9 out of 10
PS: The initial few seconds when the voice-over starts with “Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple” and then, depicting Quitely’s panels as they are on the comic, is total goose bump raising. I think I fell in love with the movie at that point itself