Sunday, March 27, 2011

DVD Review: All-Star Superman

All-Star Superman is simultaneously too faithful to its source, not faithful enough, and just perfect.

Ultimately, the DVD captures the core of the story. The issue, of course, lies with the details, too many of which were cut for time. Bizarro World is entirely gone, the Supermen of the future are reduced to a single cameo, Jimmy Olsen's role is significantly reduced, and - worst of all - Earth Q is missing entirely.

In essence, the story is pared down to Superman's relationships with Lois and Luthor. If anything, Lex Luthor is actually given more closure and Lois Lane's story resonates a bit better than in the original issues.

Taken on its own, it's a good movie, possibly even a great one. However, those details were what made the comics stand out, and their exclusion is more than a little disappointing. Ideally Warner Bros. could have released this in two parts, though it's not hard to understand why they might have hesitated to attempt such a thing.

We also feel like we should address the art. Like the cuts to the plot, we're of two minds about this, as well. It stays surprisingly true to Quitely's drawings, a choice we'd be less ambivalent about if we actually liked Quitely's artwork.

This is a good movie, and the end is genuinely touching. It approaches the level of the best of the DC direct-to-DVD animated movies, but it falls just short.

As most geeks are aware, All-Star Superman's release was overshadowed by the death of Duane McDuffie, who wrote the screenplay. The fact that All-Star Superman delves into issues of mortality only fueled such a comparison.

However, as a close adaptation of a comic miniseries, All-Star Superman isn't exactly the best reflection of McDuffie's contributions to comics or animation. This isn't meant to diminish his contribution to All-Star Superman: we have little doubt his knowledge of the characters and love of the medium made him the ideal choice for the project.

But in the scheme of things, adapting this was a small accomplishment for a man who's done so much more. Duane McDuffie's work on Justice League Unlimited resulted in some of the best superhero stories ever told: if you're looking for his legacy, that series is a better place to start.

On the other hand, if (like us) you've seen all of those episodes multiple times, All-Star Superman is another solid addition to DC's line of direct-to-DVD films.

If it's a rating you're looking for, against the relative 5 stars of the best JLU episodes, we'll give this a respectable four.

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