I met the man who wrote this adaptation of ‘All-Star Superman’ Dwayne McDuffie at a comic-con here in the Detroit area a year ago, introduced to me by my good friend Arvell Jones, a pioneering legend in his own right as one of the first African American illustrators for Marvel and DC Comics. Mr. McDuffie was kind and polite and a week ago Dwayne McDuffie passed away at the far too young age of 49. His talent will be missed, his talent is a void that will be difficult to fill, our prayers go out to his wife who we also met that day and we hope that he is resting in peace.
When we pick up in ‘All-Star Superman’, to the surprise of no one Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia) is up to his old tricks. There’s a manned trip to the sun helmed by one Dr. Quintum (Alexis Denisof) and Lex has somehow sabotaged this mission causing Superman (Jeff Denton) to virtually fly into the sun to fight off a Luthor beast and rescue these poor people. Lex Luthor’s sinister plan is foiled again. Or was it? We are a little curious why our government would give an imprisoned Lex Luthor access to all kinds of electronic gadgets to allegedly help society, but clearly I have no idea how the government of Metropolis World functions.
When Superman makes it back from his unplanned trip to the sun, he feels different. As powerful and smart and keen as those senses used to be, amp it a thousand times and that’s what Superman is feeling right now. Awesome. Or not. Apparently Superman flying into the sun to save these people was Luthor’s plan all along and now the thing that has given Superman his power all of these years, has now exposed him to too much power causing his cells to burst. Tragically, Superman is dying.
Now what? Superman handles this news remarkably well, truth be told, and like any other dying person, Kal El has decided to get his house in order. First order of business is to stop screwing around and let Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks) know what’s up
with everything. Expose the secret identity, take her to the Fortress of Solitude, tell the woman how he feels about her and give her the best gift she could ever want. No, not that you filthy people… but super powers for a day. About that other thing though, I’ve often suspected that Superman and Lois, or any human woman for that matter would be biologically incompatible with Superman, and he confirms as much in this movie without going to details, thank heaven.
From that moment this movie becomes a bit of blur. Superman and Lois go on a date, they go dancing in Atlantis, Superman arm wrestles some time traveling gods, Superman solves the great riddle, he goes on an extended vacation, he kisses his mother, he plays with some robots, he fights some lizards from the center of the earth, he stops a prison riot, he fights a couple of old-timers from Krypton, he writes the Superman Manifesto, he fights a sun monster, he fights a soon to be executed Lex Luthor who also has super powers and then he saves the world. Again. Maybe for the last time. Lois doubts this and she said that she’s going to wait ‘right here’. Lois was sitting on a park bench feeding some pigeons when she said this so did she mean that she was going to wait ‘right here’ on the planet earth which kind of goes without saying, or did she mean she’s going to wait ‘right here’ on that park bench? That would be silly. Because, you know, it could be a while.
Even though I ultimately enjoyed ‘All-Star Superman’ to say that this was an animated film that was ‘all over the place’ would be a bit of understatement. I imagine most of these animated films adaptations originate from either a comprehensive graphic novel or a series of comics with the challenge being to make a seventy five minute film that keeps enough of the source material without getting bogged down with everything that is included in the novel or the series. For the most part the DC animated films have managed to do this, this one not so much.
There was so much ‘stuff’ in this movie and so many characters and so many elements that Superman has to deal with as he prepares for his final destination as it were, it was dizzying. There’s no true central focus to this story. You might say that Superman dying is the focus, but not really. He might be dying but it’s the most hectic final days of any person ever. Since there’s no focus in the story there’s nothing in particular for the audience to latch onto either, which kind of prevents you from getting swept up into the story and the magnitude of the possibility of Superman actually kicking the bucket.
All that being said ‘All-Star Superman’ is still entertaining. Once Superman and Lois finish their ‘date’ the action is almost non-stop and while this action leaps from one animated set piece to the next with almost nothing connecting them, it’s still fun to watch. The movie also used what little time it had in between action set pieces in furthering the characterization of Lex Luthor. In fact if the movie does focus on anything, and this is debatable, it focuses on Luthor and his obsession with Superman. An obsession that transcends his own well being and his own selfish desires and that was fascinating to watch play out.
It is a cartoon for goodness sakes so it is difficult to be too terribly critical of this, plus it has the misfortune of following ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’ which could very well be the best of the genre. ‘All-Star Superman’ is entertaining, no doubt about that, but a little focus would’ve gone a long way in telling a tighter, more compelling story.