Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
|#24: All-Star Superman|
When it comes to DC Comics animation projects, the in-house Warner Brothers Animation group pretty much has a hit-and-miss record, with more misses than hits. This is especially true when it comes to releases based on popular comic stories, and this is one of them.
“All-Star Superman” is a 2011 direct-to-video movie based on the 12-issue miniseries by the same name written by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. It was written by veteran screenwriter Dwayne McDuffie, who sadly passed away one day before the movie was released to video. The movie was released by Warner Premiere and featured the voices of James Denton, Christine Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia, Ed Asner, Linda Cardellini, Frances Conroy, Alexis Denisof, John DiMaggio, Steven Blum, Fiona Hughes, and Arnold Vosloo.
The movie starts with a series of still images being narrated by Lex Luthor (LaPaglia). Each image showed a single segment of Superman’s career, until we finally see him in orbit around the sun, chasing a spaceship containing Dr. Leo Quintum (Denisof) and his staff. One member of that staff is actually being remotely controlled by Luthor, with everything being prepared in advance to account for the time differential. We find, however, that Luthor’s cosmic puppet act was in violation of his parole. Superman (Denton) still manages to toss out Luthor’s puppet and saves Quintum’s ship using a brand new superpower.
Later, Superman and Quintum discover that the Man of Steel’s new powers are a symptom of his cells becoming supercharged from being too close to the sun. Essentially he is suffering from sun-cancer and is slowly dying. They both agree, though, that they need to keep this a secret, lest his enemies try to take advantage of this. But Superman does decide to put his affairs in order.
He first reveals to Lois Lane (Hendricks) that he is, in fact, Clark Kent, but she refuses to believe it. He shows her the Fortress of Solitude and all of its features, including the reconstructed HMS Titanic, the bottled city of Kandor, his army of Super-Robots, and his pet sun-eater, which he supposedly feeds it with newly-forged baby suns. After seeing a distant future version of Superman (the Kal Kent Superman from DC One Million) and his slight resemblance to her father, Lois fears that she’s being prepared for some weird Kryptonian experiment. Stealing a kryptonite gun and inadvertently shooting Superman with it, he discovers that kryptonite no longer has any effect on him either. But it calms Lois down enough for him to give her a special suit and a serum that would give her super-powers for twenty-four hours.
Unfortunately Lois’ newfound powers take a back seat to the time-travelling troublemakers Atlas (Blum) and Samson (DiMaggio), who know about Superman’s final months and challenge him to riddles and feats for Lois’ favor. After besting them in contests and solving the riddle of the Ultra-Sphinx, Superman and Lois spend the remaining time as equals making out on the moon and then she is fascinated by all the things Superman can sense as her powers disappear, and he tucks her into her bed before leaving.
Visiting Luthor behind bars while awaiting his death sentence, Clark’s presence is detected by the Parasite and inadvertently starts a prison riot. Clark manages to contain the damage, though, while still careful to not reveal himself as Superman to any of the inmates or to Luthor, who shows a modicum of respect for the “mild-mannered” Clark Kent after kicking a disabled Parasite to death. He also shows Clark a secret passage, proving that he could escape at any time with the help of his goth-teen niece Nasthalthia (Cardellini). He stays there, though, because he knows that Superman is dying, and he wants to see it happen.
After visiting his adopted mother (Conroy) and leaving an indestructible flower on his adopted father’s grave, Superman tells Lois that he has to leave to take the Kandorians to their new home world, and reveals to her that he may not be able to make it back in his condition. He does, though, only to discover that Metropolis has two new “champions” to marvel over: Bar-El (Vosloo) and Lilo (Hughes), Kryptonian astronauts and his ancestors that see themselves not as heroes, but as the new rulers of “New Krypton”. Eventually, though, they discover that they suffered from Kryptonite poisoning and were slowly dying. The only way they could survive would be through the Phantom Zone, but not before asking for forgiveness to Superman for their arrogance.
As Superman finishes putting his affairs in order, he faces the “Tyrant Sun” Solaris, while at the same time Lex Luthor, having recreated Superman’s super-serum, escaped from the electric chair and prepares to make his move.
At this point I have to stop the summary because it would ruin the ending, which, regrettably, is really the high-point of this movie.
Unfortunately, much like some of the other stories that are turned into movies, there is a lot that is missing in the transition from the original mini-series. Jimmy Olson becoming Doomsday, Bizarro and Bizarro World, a trip to the past with Kal Kent to visit his adopted father on the day of his death, and the discovery of Earth-Q (where Joe Schuster illustrates Action Comics #1) are all scrapped due to time constraints. Instead, what we get is a story that is full of remorse and regret, and an ending that comes off as less-than-triumphant.
Sadly, the movie was working with flawed material. Without the other stories, we have a Daily Planet staff full of people that act like a bunch of over-aged high school rejects, with the exception of Perry White (Asner) who seems to be the only newsperson in the building. (Kudos for Asner for channeling his old “Lou Grant” persona.) Even worse is when Bar-El and Lilo practically reveal that Clark Kent is Superman and the “Breakfast Club” wannabes around him can’t accept it. Even Lois refuses to accept that Clark is Superman, even after seeing him change right in front of her twice. Most of Lois’ time as “Superwoman” was reduced to being a damsel-in-distress-and-cosplay as Atlas and Samson challenge Superman for her affections.
“All-Star Superman” was meant to be Superman’s Ragnarok story. We know from the start that Superman is dying. The problem is that there’s no attempt to fight it. There are no “seven stages of grief” here; there is just acceptance. He’s dying, and he doesn’t try to do anything to change it. He’s essentially given up, surrendering to his own mortality, trying to complete his “Bucket List”, and find some way to end his “hero” career on a positive note. It’s depressing.
Adding to that melancholy was the voice acting. James Denton may do great playing a rugged character in “Desperate Housewives” but his voice did not carry on through as Superman/Clark Kent. Even Adam Baldwin’s version in “Superman: Doomsday” showed more emotion than Denton’s. A far better choice would have been Tim Daly or George Newbern, two people who know how to voice Superman. Even Denton’s occasional “Desperate Housewives” co-star Kyle MacLachlan did a better job when he voiced Superman in the (to be reviewed) “Justice League: The New Frontier” movie, and THAT Superman had a bit part. The only time Denton’s voice shows even the slightest emotion in it is through one point during the Solaris battle.
Anthony LaPaglia’s Luthor was stuffy, arrogant, and a continual know-it-all. And his continual dirge about how everything is Superman’s fault got tired WAY too early.
Christina Hendricks’ Lois was perky and almost out-of-place at times. It’s not the actress’s fault, though. Most of it is how Lois is written. She’s skeptical about Clark being Superman to a fault. When Lois has superpowers, how does she spend a good portion of that time? Standing around while Atlas, Samson, and Superman fight over her affections and going gaga over stolen jewelry. Not exactly the “liberated woman” that she’s supposed to be.
Without getting into spoiling the ending, the battles with Solaris and Lex Luthor were almost after-thoughts. More time was spent on Bar-El and Lilo than on both battles.
In all, the story itself was something of a letdown, a Ragnarok-level story that ends with a whimper instead of a bang. Maybe a part of it could be blamed on the material they had to work with, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be improved, and maybe it would help if they got rid of the artificial time constraints they seem to impose and just let the story develop as it needs to.
|Capes:||Normally I’d have to give Superman all-five capes, but here he’s only getting three, and that’s sad.|
The cheese factor here is Mild Cheddar (2). When your first image of Jimmy Olson is of him in drag, and both Steve Lombard and Cat Grant are there only to play middle-aged high school students, then you know that it’s cheese.
In terms of storyline, I can only give three books out of five. There is SO MUCH that is missing from this.