All Star Superman (US - BD)
Marcus watches the animated version of All Star Supes and still ain't fussed...
Back in 2005 Grant Morrison tackled Superman and gave us the tale of the Man of Steel pumped up with too much sun and living with the secret that his life is coming to an end, revealing his secret identity to Lois, interviewing Lex Luthor on death row (as Clark of course), and doing his best to stop the sun from turning blue. Supes is shown off as the calmest hero the world has ever known in the face of crisis and plays with the kookier sci-fi aspects of his long history. Now Bruce Timm and the DC Universe boys get their animated adaptation skills back into full swing and bring us the fan favourite All Star Superman.
I’m gonna get straight to the point with this one—the comic run of All Star Superman did nothing for me. I found it awkward and cold and not at all the ground-breaking piece of work it’s been applauded as. This animated movie didn’t spark all that different a response from me and while it was full of little moments I quite liked (Lex talking to Clark about how different Mr. Kent is from Superman is great stuff), the story as a whole left me underwhelmed and not feeling entirely sure why a section of the audience went so ga-ga for Grant Morrison’s work.
While we’re on Grant Morrison, I’m in the group that are a little mystified by his approach to comics of late, despite loving some of his earlier work ( Arkham Asylum is one of my faves). His run on New X-men was the beginning of my falling out of love with the mutants (not that I’d pin their fall from grace on his shoulders entirely) and his ‘killing’ of Batman left me scratching my head (as it did a number of comic book readers). It’s not that I don’t like his writing—I think he approaches his work with a genuine intelligence—it’s more that his tactics seems to be to rip everything apart in the wildest way possible, willingly disregarding the audience and then cobble everything back together in ways he fully understands but isn’t too fussed if no one else does.
Now none of this is a bad thing. In fact there’s a whole host of comics out there that need this sort of kick up the ass but on a personal note I just don’t go for his approach with All Star Superman. I just don’t see ‘my’ Superman in there anywhere, which I know is a bit single-minded, but this Superman (voiced not too well James Denton) just seems too distant, too cold and his decision making just doesn’t tie into my feelings on Superman as a character.
Morrison discusses on many of the features (more on that later) that his approach harks back to Superman of thirty years ago and his more off-beat/sci-fi/goofy elements that writers tend to forget/avoid in the modern arena and again there’s nothing wrong with this, especially considering his approach is handled well, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow. I just don’t buy Superman feeding star eaters in his free time (especially considering how heavy a plot device it turns out to be) and treating the fortress of solitude like a mini Krypton or a Batcave. I know, I know, this again comes down to personal feelings on the Superman mythology, but in this story's case I just don’t feel it and this flavour of Superman just don’t feed my view of the man that Clark Kent/Kal-El is. Oh and this is probably the weakest depiction of Lois Lane in years, even with Christina Hendricks seeming like a great idea when the project was announced.
I love, love, love the look of these DC Universe animated movies and they are moving ever closer to the Japanese high end projects the makers are obviously trying to replicate. At this stage watching these projects has become as much about my interest in the on-going development of the animation styles as it is about my love of the characters and the animation here is really reaching for great things.
The animation is slick with a lot of attention to detail. Clark Kent's clumsy trips and falls look fantastic within the movie's style and those striking Superman images look fantastic in HD. As for the transfer itself, the colours here pop like fireworks. Superman’s costume looks great and Lois’s matches the impressive visuals when she gets her powers on. There's some great visual effects like smoke, shadowing and dust that all look fantastic and really I didn’t notice a damn thing wrong with the transfer overall. It's a clean, sharp and generally awesome looking image full of bright HD visuals a great art style captured well and a whole array of varying visuals to give your tech a good run.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t too bad, but it’s missing the oomph I think. Dialogue is strong and well placed in the front speakers and the forgettable score sits well in the rears. I wouldn’t say the atmospherics or sound effects were quite as effective as some of the previous DC Universe releases but in All Star Superman’s defence it’s not exactly a slug fest so it isn’t really that fair a comparison.
The disc opens with trailers for Harry Potter and the
Lifting off with one of the biggest pulls for the release is the commentary with Bruce Timm and Grant Morrison. It’s a cracking track for any comic book fan, with Bruce Timm calling All Star Superman the ‘Quintessential Superman story of the last fifty years’. Grant Morrison provides a massive amount of insight into the project and how much he loved the adaptation and he really delves into his feelings on writing and who he believes Superman to be.
‘Superman Now’ (33:38 HD) is a fantastic documentary with Grant Morrison going into loads of details about the project. His angle, what he didn’t want to do and the themes the story delves into. In fact Grant Morrison and Dan Didio talk up the elements of the story so well with the rousing music that it was more moving than the movie itself. However countering that, Morrison talks about getting his inspiration from Joseph Campbell, Egyptian and sun god mythologies and all kinds of great stuff, there was all of sense of this in the story, shame I didn’t really feel Superman though.
As a bit of an add-on to the ‘Superman Now’ documentary, there’s ‘The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison’ (09:36 HD), which focuses more on Morrison’s work process and once again it’s all great stuff (though they do seem to show an awful lot of the same sketches in the short runtime).
Getting into the fluffier stuff, there’s a ‘Virtual Comic’ of All Star Superman which you can’t even zoom in on, a ‘Sneak Peak at Superman/Batman Apocalypse’ (12:12 SD), two episodes of the Superman Animated Series (Blast from the Past Parts 1 & 2) (21:26 SD) and a trailer for ‘Under Red Hood’ (01:19 SD).
Next up is the ‘Sneak Peak of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights’ (11:40 HD) the next DC Universe project, which rather than the usual sketches shows off some actual animation. Looks pretty good and I feel more confident about this animated project than I do the live action one at this stage.
All Star Superman is a pretty good adaptation of the comics, but as this reviewer didn’t like the comics I wasn’t that taken with the animated movie either. The DC Universe animation is great as per usual and keeps getting and looking better in HD. The extras are some of the best the DC titles have knocked out so far and Grant Morrison really provides the goods, so all in all All Star Supes fans are in for a treat. Non fans however shouldn’t expect a change in opinion after this.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 22nd February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Dgital 5.1 French, Dolbry Stereo 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Featurettes, Trailers, Sneak Peaks, Virtual Comic, Commentary, DVD/Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Sam Liu
Cast: James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia
Genre: Action, Animation and Drama
Length: 76 minutes
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