Blu-ray Review: ALL-STAR SUPERMAN

Warner Home Video
MSRP: $24.98
Release date: February 22, 2011
Runtime: 75 minutes
Rated: PG
Starring the voices of James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Based on the comics graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Directed by Sam Liu

The latest direct-to-video DC Universe animated movie is based on Morrison and Quitely’s twelve-issue comics series from 2006-2008. Unlike many who have tried to update and darken Superman, Morrison embraced the fantasy and myth-driven Superman stories of the 1950s and ’60s. At the same time, he attempted to make Superman more relatable by making him mortal.

The movie tries to fashion the comics, which were episodic in nature, into a single plot. As in the comics, an aging Lex Luthor exposes Superman to massive amounts of solar radiation during the first manned mission to the Sun. This increases Superman’s powers, but also begins destroying his cells like cancer.

Superman makes a “bucket list” of things to do before he dies, most notably telling Lois Lane that he is Clark Kent. As often as Lois has tried to prove this in the past, she doesn’t believe it now, because Superman’s disguise goes beyond glasses to attitude and posture.

I can’t compare the movie to the comics as I haven’t read them, but I can say Superman seemed closer to death than in any cartoon or movie to date. Reminding me of Jimmy Stewart, James Denton brings out Superman’s core decency. This Superman possesses both awesome power and thinking enlightened by his perceiving the world in ways no one else can. Meanwhile, Anthony LaPaglia plays a hard-edged Luthor, confident he can outsmart anyone. Finally, Christina Hendricks plays a younger Lois Lane, trying to match Lois’s image in the source material, but her personality doesn’t come through as well as the others’.

The Blu-ray has three exclusive features: “The Creative Flow”, a look at how Morrison conceived and fleshed out the idea for the comic series; commentary on the movie with Morrison and Bruce Timm; and an All-Star Superman digital comic.

Included on both the Blu-ray and two-disc DVD edition are “Superman Now”, some of Morrison’s thinking on how to update Superman; a preview of DCU’s next direct-to-video release, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, a preview of the previous Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, and a two-part episode of Superman: The Animated Series (1996).

–Gerald So