Longtime readers know I adore Grant Morrison’s “All-Star Superman” graphic novels; I think they’re the best Man of Steel stories since Alan Moore’s final Earth One tales in the mid-1980s.
Yesterday I got three things from the Fed Ex man: the new SNL doc, the two-hour re-launch of “The Event” and the animated version of “All-Star Superman.”
I watched the SNL doc last night so I could append it to the Saturday SNL post. Now that I’ve read Solo4357’s review, I guess I know what I’ll be watching next:
Hey Herc, it’s Solo4357 with another review.
All Star Superman is a new movie from the Bruce Timm DC Factory of Wonders. I’m an avowed fan of the original Batman:TAS, Superman:TAS, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. This is probably the closest thing we’ll ever have to an animated comic book. The series built upon what came before and by the time JLU came, it was a treasure trove of DC cameos and callbacks to previous series. Even one that was set in the future!
Once the series got the axe, Timmco decided to set their sights on various stories and graphic novels in the DC universe and Elseworlds, to varying success. Superman Doomsday was an entertaining affair but lacking the depth (understandably) of the nearly 2 years, four books, 754 thousand characters that the original story had. Wonder Woman worked well but wasn’t superlative. Green Lantern: First Flight was lacking. The less said about the Batman: Gotham Knight.. the better. The two Superman/Batman movies, Public Enemies and Apocalypse, managed to rise above their weaker aspects to be enjoyable. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths was very good and even better if viewed as a bridge between Justice League and JLU as it was originally meant to be. But two movies have really stood out.
Batman: Under the Red Hood was an amazing retelling of the return of Jason Todd (spoiler! He’s alive!) and managed to reach epic proportions due to the emotion involving all the characters involved. It really worked and had me hooked. But like all the others, due to the fact there was the obligatory “everyone lives to fight another day” it doesn’t have quite the finality to it that All Star Superman has. Finally there’s Justice League: New Frontier. This movie surprisingly is the only other movie that is based on a self contained graphic novel. Elseworlds, or whatever you like to call it. Darwin Cooke’s novel was supremely enjoyable and his art and style translated well to the screen. Or Blu-ray as it were. The changes were negligible and remains the finest adaptation Timmco has done.
All-Star Superman, the novel, is probably one of the best Superman stories ever told in any medium. If not the best. Grant Morrison has had his ups and downs (can anyone figure out what the fuck went on in Final Crisis without consulting Wikipedia?) and Frank Quietly’s art has always had a rumpled quality that I generally find messy. But the two of them together created a Superman story that topped nearly everything that came before. They captured the essence of the different ages of Superman and distilled them down to twelve issues of Super-goodness that works in every way. The silliness of silver age. The love between Clark and Lois. The complete change of personality and look of Clark Kent. And Superman’s tireless work to keep us all safe. It all works.
Adapting this is definitely a challenge because the silent, stilted, slow pace of a comic novel is not the same as fluid, quick and noisy pace of a movie. What would change? Now spoilers are a given from here on out but I’m assuming anyone who’s read this far is quite familiar with the original story so… deal with it.
First things first. The underworld is totally missing. No Bizarro. No Zibarro. No Unjustice League. All of it gone. You won’t miss it. Flashback story with the death of Jonathan Kent and the future Supermen is also gone. You might miss it but it didn’t deter from the movie for me. Earth Q is gone.
In fact the whole idea of the 12 labors of Superman is not really there, at least not so upfront like it was in the novel. And there are some dialogue tweaks that make little difference. The story otherwise is spot one with what’s left and thanks to audio and music score helps move this movie to epic. It retains all of the tone and sweeping finality that the original novel has. It works on nearly every level and is the most enjoyable movie Timmco has produced yet. Faithful as much as it can be given its 70 minute runtime. As a movie, it never feels “straight-to-DVD”, it could be released in theaters. The voice work is spot on. Each and every voice works. Using Tim Daly or anyone else who previously voiced Superman (and did it well I might add) would’ve been out of place here. The character designs never veer much from Quietly’s designs however the movie does iron the wrinkles out, so to speak. Again, a necessary sacrifice for animation.
There is however one moment I didn’t like and a major change I found odd. The moment I didn’t like, a small moment: After Superman defeats Solaris in the book, Solaris asks for mercy. Superman tells him he will live, he will change his ways and work with to help earth. He will live! This is a bittersweet moment in the book because Superman knows that he himself won’t live. But yet he still imparts hope. Superman never gives up, no matter what. It’s part of his essence and the twelve labors of Superman demonstrated that in the face of impending death, he never gives up. The last panel in the novel is him still working, still trying. In the movie, when Solaris asks for mercy, Superman simply replies “I don’t think I have any left.” This was so defeatist, so utterly devoid of hope, I found it totally off putting and out of character. Superman without mercy? It’s a change I cannot even begin to explain. It’s a minor moment in the course of the story and had no bearing on the ending, which makes it all the more baffling.
The major change: In the book, Luthor is defeated, cursing Superman’s name and continuing to rail against the unfairness of it all. That’s it. In the movie, Luthor realizes how everything’s connected, how Superman sees the world and how wrong he’s been. He’s visited by Dr. Quintum and Lex gives him Superman’s genetic code. He’ll still be executed but has finally reformed. His last act will create the future Supermen who will undoubtedly save the world. So in turn Lex will have finally saved the world. I honestly don’t know how to feel about this change. So perhaps the talkbackers can refrain from the usual “I’m right, you’re wrong” back and forth and give their opinions.
Still all in all, this is an impressive adaptation and well worth your time. I’d put it at the top of the all movies they’ve put out so far. Well done Timmco. Keep ‘em coming.
"All-Star Superman" hits shelves Feb. 22.