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"All-Star Superman" - Movie Review

By Jeffrey Bridges

All-Star Superman A very brief recap of Superman's origin (word for word from the comic) opens the movie as Dr. Quintum's spaceship falls into the sun. One of the people on the ship, biologically engineered by Quintum suddenly mutates and attacks the others, declaring himself a "biological timebomb" courtesy of Lex Luthor.

In the Daily Planet, Lois is working on a story about Superman saving the sun mission even though it hasn't happened yet. Perry White calls a meeting about how tomorrow's edition of the Daily Planet will call out Lex's scheme of buying up water rights for his plan to cause a global water shortage by tampering with the sun.

Lex is visited by a General as he remote-controls the monster on the sun mission ship. The General (not identified as General Lane here) tells him he was let out of prison to help his country, but Lex has realized he's getting older and Superman isn't and something has to be done about it.

Superman arrives to save the sun mission and fights the monster in space. The monster falls into the sun while Superman watches, then he returns to the ship and somehow makes a shield around the ship and tows it to safety.

Later, on the moon in Quintum's lab, Superman is exhibiting more powers and strength than ever before due to being over-irradiated with sunlight, but it's also going to cause him to die. He asks Dr. Quintum to keep it quiet.

After saving a child and dog from being run over, a bumbling Clark Kent finally arrives at the Daily Planet just before Perry is ready to fire him.

Police arrive in Lex's lab and place him under arrest, and Lex goes willingly.

Clark walks Lois home and reveals he's Superman. He then flies her to the Fortress of Solitude and is greeted by his robots.

Lois takes a shower and Superman brings her flowers from Alpha Centauri IV. He shows her around the Fortress, including the armory which contains a Kryptonite laser and a gravity gun. He then shows her his time-telescope, which lets him talk to his descendants in the far future. They see the Superman of the 84th century, who Lois thinks looks a little like her dad.

He also shows her his pet baby sun-eater, and Lois finds a secret room with a robot working on something where pictures of Lois are involved. Superman catches her and tells her that room is off-limits to her.

They have dinner and Lois wants to know if he's lying about being Clark Kent, and if not that means he's been lying to her for years. And then she starts to worry about what's going on in the "secret room" she found. She goes to the armory and gets the Kryptonite laser, thinking he brought her to the Fortress to be mother to a race of super-children.

She destroys Robot 7 (who'd been previously working in the secret room) and then shoots Superman with the laser, but thanks to being overpowered he's unaffected. Superman says when Robot 7 accidentally left the door open (when Lois discovered the room), he was synthesizing some chemicals that can cause visual distortion and paranoia, explaining Lois' behavior.

He then shows her what he's been working on for her birthday present, a serum (with a costume) that will give her all of his powers (and none of his weaknesses) for 24 hours.

On trial, Lex is convicted and sentenced to death.

Superman and Lois are going for a flight over Metropolis when Jimmy Olsen uses his signal watch due to reptilian monsters attacking the city. They're too late, however, as Samson and Atlas have taken care of the beasts and are fighting over Lois.

They return the reptiles to their home in the center of the earth, and Superman accuses Lois of flirting with Samson and Atlas. She says she's teaching him a lesson for impersonating Clark Kent and wants to have fun on her birthday. Samson gives her a radioactive necklace.

Superman wants Samson to keep his hands off of "his girl" Lois, but Samson says he's a time traveler and shows Superman a Daily Planet headline that reads "Superman Dead". Lois' necklace begins glowing and Atlas says they "borrowed" the necklace from the Ultra Sphinx who's been chasing them through time and space, trying to get it back.

Samson tells Superman he will perform many feats before his death, including answering the unanswerable question. Then the Ultra Sphinx arrives, holds Lois between life and death and asks his question of Superman. Superman answers correctly (by remembering an ad on the back of the newspaper Samson was holding) and Lois is released.

Superman then arm wrestles Atlas and Samson simultaneously over who "gets" Lois. He wins and they leave. Superman and Lois then return from a trip to Atlantis and go and kiss on the moon. Lois then falls asleep, still not believing Superman is really Clark.

In prison, Lex has been building a "bibliobot" with a library of books as Clark arrives to interview him and "accidentally" bumbles a plug out of the wall before it electrocutes Lex.

Lex then works out and rants about how Superman has ruined everything for humans, by being so perfect and never having to work for it. They walk past other prison inmates, and Parasite sucks up energy from just being relatively near the overpowered Superman and goes on a brief rampage. As the room fills with tear gas, Clark disappears into the cloud to help out as Superman as much as he can without being seen, and then cracks the floor under Parasite who gets trapped under the rubble.

In Lex's cell, he reveals he's been using the bibliobot to recite books at ultrasonic frequencies to tunnel through solid rock. Clark asks why Lex hasn't escaped, since he could have at any time, and Lex says he's going to the electric chair fulfilled because Superman is dying and that's all he needs.

Lex's niece "Nasty" is waiting for them with a boat, and gets Clark out of the prison.

Superman shows Lois the bottle city of Kandor, and takes them to a planet where they can live. He tells Lois it may take longer than he has left, and reveals to her that he's dying. Lois talks about wanting children and Superman tells her their biologies are too different and they could never have kids.

Superman then crash-lands on Earth, presumably after returning from his Kandor trip (which took two months), to find Metropolis covered in Kryptonian spires. Bar-El and Lilo, Kryptonian astronauts who were lost in space, arrived on Earth and have been trying to reform it into New Krypton.

They also moved into the Fortress and remodeled it, and talk about how their powers make it their right to rule the planet and beat him up. He goes back to the Daily Planet and they find him there, but suddenly grow weak.

Superman says that since they followed the path his ship took in order to find Earth, that means they passed through the Kryptonite debris field and the minerals in their body are slowly turning to Kryptonite.

Superman can't neutralize the Kryptonite in their bodies in time to save them, and Bar-El is impressed that Superman tried to save them anyway after all they've done, which Kal attributes to the Kents. Bar-El and Lilo are sent to the Phantom Zone to prevent their deaths (Superman makes sure it's their decision, however).

Superman then visits Lex and challenges him to actually benefit humanity now that he's dying, because he knows there's good in him. Lex tries to spit in his face.

Kal visits Jonathan's grave, and talks with Martha, who can tell he's sick.

Lex drinks some of a serum before being electrocuted, and of course doesn't die because he's used the same serum Superman made for Lois to give himself Superman's powers for 24 hours.

In the Fortress, Superman is writing his final journal entry.

Lex smashes into his own hideout, because he can, and reveals Superman's Fortress is "less than secure" and that's how he got the serum. Lex uses super-speed to finish building a few robots and gives the remote-control helmet to Nasty. Outside, the sun has turned red thanks to the tyrant sun, Solaris, a living, solar computer that poisons healthy stars. Superman and his robots fly off to Solaris, who notes that Superman's new special suit protects him from the red sunlight. Solaris and Lex were in cahoots, but the question is which will betray the other first.

During the battle, Robot 7 tells Superman that Solaris overwrote his programming and that's how Lex got the super-serum formula. Superman brings the baby sun-eater to defeat Solaris, but Solaris kills it.

Superman attacks Solaris in anger, and then Nasty arrives in Metropolis and starts causing destruction. Solaris crashes into Metropolis and begs for mercy, but Superman destroys it anyway.

Clark runs into the Daily Planet to show them his final big story, which reads "Superman Dead" and he then falls over without a heartbeat just as super-powered Lex arrives.

Lois tries to get Lex to realize there's more to his powers than he thinks, but he heat-visions Jimmy's signal watch. Jimmy and Lois reveal the sun is turning blue due to Solaris' double-crossing.

Clark is suddenly alive and hits Lex with a shot from the gravity gun.

Superman and Lex fight, and Superman says he's been on to Lex since Robot 7 first malfunctioned. Lex destroys the gravity gun and the battle spills into the subway. Lex defeats Superman and tosses him into the street, where he finally realizes all the extra things he can see and hear and discovers that everything in life is connected.

Superman rises and reveals that since everything's connected and gravity warps time, Lex's 24 hours of super powers have now run out. Meanwhile, Superman's face is cracking and light is pouring out from it.

He's turning into pure energy and no one else can repair the sun, so he says goodbye to Lois and flies off. Superman collides with the sun, which turns it back to yellow.

In a park near a Superman statue, Jimmy asks if Lois wants to speak at Superman's memorial service, but Lois declines because Superman's not dead, he's "up there fixing the sun" and she knows he'll be back.

In prison, Lex talks to Dr. Quintum. Though he knows his execution is imminent, he wants to prove he's seen the error of his ways and gives Quintum a copy of Superman's genetic code. Quintum thinks to himself that Superman and Lois did always want children...

4Rating - 3 out of 5: "All-Star Superman" is an interesting situation. I'm going to be terribly forthright and tell you up front that I did not enjoy the comic this animated film was based on.

I largely found it shallow, self-indulgent, meandering and random. It lacked any real narrative or arc, it lacked any real character and it largely treated Lois Lane like she was a piece of meat. This isn't a review of the comic series, though, but considering my strong feelings on the source material here I wanted to get that out there.

"All-Star Superman" is steeped in Silver Age nostalgia, which is fine if you're a big fan of the Silver Age and incredibly annoying if you're not. I don't mind Silver Age stories in the context of the actual Silver Age; I can appreciate them for what they were as a product of their time, even if I prefer more modern storytelling. Although modern comics seem to mostly be a giant Silver Age sequel right now, so perhaps that's poor wording on my part.

This movie version makes several improvements on the original comic version, namely cutting out Krypto, the confusing future-Supermen and all the random Bizarro nonsense.

That being said, there's still plenty of stuff here that doesn't need to be... Kandor serves no purpose in the movie version except to get Superman off Earth for a while so that Lilo and Bar-El can arrive in his absence. And that would be fine except that Lilo and Bar-El serve no purpose in the story other than to illustrate Superman's compassion, which can be done far better in far less screen time.

Steve Lombard and Cat Grant serve no purpose to this story. They didn't need to be in the comic, and they certainly didn't need to be in this movie (neither did Cat's poorly-veiled innuendo about the genital size of the man cleaning the windows, but it's here word for word).

Cutting out all of that nonsense would have left enough time for Superman talking the troubled teen out of suicide, and that's a great scene that does more for Superman's character than was accomplished with Bar-El and Lilo. Not only that, but it would have taken a third of the time (or less), leaving more time for other scenes.

And that's not to say that I think Dwayne McDuffie did a bad job, but he had a very TOUGH job in turning a disjointed, nostalgia-driven mess into something cohesive for the movie version.

To that end, I think the movie version is actually far superior to the comic. Were more of the random nonsense of the comic cut (oh Samson and Atlas, how I wish you didn't exist) I think this could have actually turned a mess of a comic into a good animated movie.

What we've got here isn't bad, but it's far from great. I put the blame for that on the source material, however, which as I said I'm just not a fan of at all. But I think it says something to the quality of this production that, for me, it was able to bring something bad up to something decent if not great.

McDuffie did a good job of tying the different sections together much better than the comic did, which made this feel like much more of a cohesive story (as compared to the comic, which seemed like pieces of story with other large pieces missing). I also very much liked the change/addition at the end of Lex being the one to unlock Superman's DNA as part of his attempts at repentance. It gave Lex an actual character arc, and that makes him the only character in this movie who gets one.

Sadly, I'd guess that Lex has probably all of 15 minutes of screen time total. If only Superman or Lois had been given similar fixes.

Lois, alas, serves no real purpose other than to be lusted over and treated like a prize to be won by everyone, Superman included. I wish she'd had more to do, and been more Lois Lane-like, because I liked Christina Hendricks voicing her. I'd like to see her get another shot, to show what she can really do with the fiery, feisty Lois we all know and love.

James Denton sufficed as Superman, but he wasn't great. He felt like he had no emotion of any kind, and whether that was his choice or the director telling him to play it that way I don't know. But I found it very difficult to empathize or even care about Superman when his voice seemed so... disconnected from everything he was going through.

And while Hendricks as Lois may have been a missed opportunity and Denton as Superman may have possibly been outright miscast, I can't lavish enough praise on Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor or Ed Asner as Perry White.

Both completely nailed their characters, and I think LaPaglia might be the best animated Lex since Clancy Brown. Ed Asner was a delight, and he previously stole the show as Granny Goodness in "Superman/Batman: Apocalypse", so please keep casting him in these because he turns them out like nobody's business.

My only issue with either of them was that LaPaglia's voice never seemed to fit with the image of Lex in the movie. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I never bought his awesome voice coming out of this Lex. The animation didn't live up to LaPaglia's performance, I think.

For those of you who loved Quietly's art on the comic, the animation here is similar enough that you should be pleased. For those of you who hated Quietly's art on the comic, the animation is just different enough that it shouldn't bother you. They walked the line there very well, and with the exception of Luthor's body and voice not seeming to match up right, the animation is serviceable and gets the job done.

Sometimes it gets it done a little too well, perhaps, in that the scene of Lex in the electric chair is somewhat unsettling.

Heed the PG-13 warning, parents, because I wouldn't want my 8 year-old son seeing that.

The bottom line is that the movie is very faithful to the comic, while improving (at least in some ways) on the original. It's not perfect, but it's a step up.

All-Star Superman will be distributed February 22, 2011 by Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray Combo Pack and 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, as well as single disc DVD. The film will also be available On Demand and for Download.