On All-Star Superman

On All-Star Superman

Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Commentary |

AllStarSupermanI’m writing this with a lot of hesitation because first, this is a gaming blog so films don’t belong here. Second, this isn’t a review per se. At least, I don’t intend it to be.

All-Star Superman is a direct-to-video film adaptation of the comic book that ran from 2005-2008. It’s part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, a series that I’ve kept an eye on since it started with its first title, Superman: Doomsday. Unlike Doomsday, I haven’t read All-Star Superman’s comic book counterpart. I had no idea what it was about nor, more importantly, how it was going to end.

The film starts with Superman saving the first manned mission to the sun, developing a new power along the way. He finds out later on that this event has a consequence, one that even he won’t be able to fight.

You guys have to understand that I watch these films for the action first and the characters second. Green Lantern: First Flight is an excellent example of this. It’s about how Hal Jordan becomes a Green Lantern and grows accustomed to the role. It follows the formula of a typical blockbuster action flick: light and funny and full of fights. I liked it. I like it to the point that I’m actually worried that the upcoming live action movie is going to disappoint. Those were the expectations I had with All-Star Superman.

I could not have been more wrong.

Given the consequences of the mission, the movie proceeds to show how Superman deals with his own mortality. Take what you know about the character, the Man of Steel, the last Son of Krypton, one living in a world made of cardboard, and think about what you would do if you found out that your time was nearing its end.

How do you showcase the legacy of the character without turning the film into a series of flashbacks and quiet, reflective scenes? I think the movie does a good job of maintaining that balancing act. I admit that some of its moments were boring to me but that was before I realized what it was trying to do. This wasn’t just about Superman saving the day. This was about Superman being Superman, showing how he’s both Kal-El and Clark Kent, how he’s both Kryptonian and human, how he’s the infallible hero and the vulnerable man. His heroism and his humanity shine in the movie.

Compared to the rest of the films in DC Universe Animated line there’s an air of heaviness in All-Star Superman. It’s similar to the weight that I felt when I saw Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. It’s as if you know that things aren’t going to end well, like a sense of dread that won’t go away. By the time it was over the heaviness was still there. Yeah, he saved the day, but did he win? I found myself thinking about that question. Regardless of my answer, the fact that I’m even asking that should tell you why I felt that this was a different kind of superhero movie.

Ultimately, All-Star Superman is akin to a love story. It’s about Superman’s love for Lois Lane. It’s about his love for humanity. It’s about the creators’ love for the character and his legacy. I don’t recommend it if you want a straightforward superhero action film, but if you’re looking for something with more substance, you should definitely see it.