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Sunday, March 27, 2011

All Star Superman DVD Review (with a little tribute to the late Dwayne McDuffie)

All-Star Superman (a  DC Universe Animated Original Movie)
Released by Warner Premier and Warner Bros. Animation
Run time: 76 minutes
Directed by: Sam Liu
Distributed by: Warner Home Entertainment
Based on the graphic novels by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

After months of waiting, I have finally watched this original DC animated film based on the Eisner-award winning graphic novels of writer Grant Morisson and artist Frank Quitely. And though there were some disappointments,  it was sheer joy to see this great Superman tale come to life as it truly captured the essence of Morisson's once in a million Superman story.

First thing's first - I'm glad they used and captured the four-panel-eight-word origin masterpiece of Morrison and Quitely right off All Star Superman # 1.  It summarized everything you need to know about Superman, why he does things and how he came to be the hero that we all know. I was literally having small goosebumps when the panels showed up and the God-like voice over echoed these words: "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly Couple. Superman." Brillant. 

Superman's origin story in EIGHT WORDS.

Then we immediately go to the sabotaged manned mission to the sun led by Dr. Leo Quintum, and of course our hero is forced to save the day once again - but not without a price. Superman's body cells becomes overly saturated with radiation and power from the sun and is now killing him. Yes, the same thing that gave him near God-like powers is destroying his whole system. Literally. And the mastermind of all this? Lex Luthor himself. 

Superman, reeling from the revelation that he has only a short time to live, decides to reveal his secret to Lois Lane and even gives her a 24-hour super serum that literally transforms her into a Superwoman as part of a birthday present. Then he goes on to fulfill the greatest feats of his career ... including a last ditch effort to save the world, after Lex Luthor (under the effects of the 24- hour super serum that Superman created) contaminated the sun using the sun-eater Solaris.

But unlike the graphic novel, this film version didn't had it all. A lot of the most emotional and iconic moments from the comic book were not included such as:

  • The part where Superman relives the death of Jonathan Kent with the future Supermen.
  • Superman donating his blood to a hospital filled with cancer-ridden patients.
  • Superman saving the life of a girl diagnosed with cancer who is attempting suicide.
  • An alternate world known as Earth-Q is revealed, showing Superman co-creator and artist Joe Shuster doing his first ever Superman sketch...

...and a whole lot more. If I had to pick two scenes that they should have included in this film, that would be Supes donating his blood and his rescue of that suicide-girl on the rooftop of the hospital, which is probably the single most touching panel in Superman's history. It had everything that you needed to know and understand about Big Blue. Anyway, the studio maybe thought that it wasn't necessary to add those to their version of the story and decided to cut them entirely, whatever their reason is.

Anyway moving on...

I really loved how WB studio's really tried to transfer the absolutely gorgeous art of Frank Quitely into this film. I must say that they really captured his comic book style and it was great to see his pencils moving about with such grace. The animation was pretty cool with some of the scenes, (particularly the one where Clark and Lois flies above the earth then ultimately share a romantic kiss on the moon) feeling a little bit Disney-ish in a good way. The fight scenes as well between a super-powered Lex Luthor and Superman is also fun to watch, as its the first time ever that I have seen Luthor go slug it out with Big Blue on equal footing. I may never see that again in a long time.

The voice acting of James Denton (playing as Clark Kent/ Superman) is perfect and compliments perfectly to the art of Quitely, with emphasis to his Clark Kent role. He kills it. Its like he can be synonymous to the character (at least in animations), like voice actor Kevin Conroy is to Batman. I'm sure that Denton will get more of these Clark Kent/Superman projects in the future and I'm not gonna complain. His soft voice fits very well. 

Christina Hendricks also did a great job giving justice to Lois Lane and her intrepid reporter role. And just like Denton, its almost like she was Lois Lane all along. Her strong voice brings out the best in the character while providing good chemistry with Denton's soft spoken mild-mannered approach. I totally loved her in the scenes where Lois was in a state of paranoia inside Superman's Fortress of Solitude.

And last but not the least, Anthony LaPaglia's confident and sinister Lex Luthor completes the whole shebang, packed with that familiar voice of jealousy and hatred towards Superman. But what truly impressed me with his voice-acting is the seemingly complete understanding of Superman that definitely brings up the tension up a notch, especially in the final face to face confrontation where he literally bullied the powerful Man of Steel. But Paglia's defining moment for me might have been his delivery of the line: "Did you ever think it would end like this?", which to me, is probably one of the most memorable lines I have ever heard and will definitely stay with me for a while.

The soundtrack and all of the background music provided by Christopher Drake is not to shabby either. Every note and hum is exactly timed and well composed to further elevate the emotions of each scene whether its action, drama or romance currently in play. Very well done.

Finally, this film won't be complete without the brilliant effort and passion of the late Dwayne McDuffie who wrote the screenplay. He has worked on many animated films before and is one of the most beloved mentors in the comic-book industry. This was his last project before his untimely death last February 24, 2011. And once again, just like he did many times before - he did not disappoint and gave us a one-of-a-kind Superman animated film that would go down as one of his finest works. God bless you, Dwayne. Thank you for the memories.

May you rest in peace, Dwayne.

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