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Reviews - Blu-ray Review
 
Street Date: February 22nd, 2011
Languages: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 76
Rating: PG
Media Quantity: 1 (BD25), 1 (DVD9)
Packaging Type: Elite Blue
Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78 Widescreen [16:9 Transfer] 1080p

Sound Quality:
DTS-HD MA 5.1
Dolby Digital French 5.1
Dolby Digital Espanol 2.0
Special Features
- Superman Now (33:48, 1080p)
- The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison (9:36, 1080p)
- Commentary with Producer Bruce Timm and Writer Grant Morrison
- Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Sneak Peek (11:40, 1080p)
- Bruce Timm Presents 2 Bonus Cartoons: "Blast from the Past" Pt. 1 and 2
- Virtual Comic: All-Star Superman #1
- Explore the recent DC Universe Animated Original Movie Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Review (Zach Demeter)
Another year and another volley of DC Universe titles. We start this year off with All-Star Superman, the 2006 (yeah, it's really been five years) critically acclaimed comic book that fired a jolt of silver age through the Superman mythos. While it was definitely a lot goofier than the modern day dead-serious comic books, it mixed in so much of the old with the new that it felt simultaneously fresh as it did familiar. Occasionally hokey dialogue or laughable scenarios, by modern-day comic book standards, just worked with the way writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quietly presented this world where Superman was dying. It's a depressing story to be sure, but also one that sends chills and a myriad of goose bumps around your body.

My exposure to the comic was limited at first; I remember reading the first couple of issues, but around that same time I got busy with school and my interest in comic books waned significantly. I never cared to catch up on it and it wasn't until after I watched the movie I opted to go back and read the series. I did definitely enjoy reading it, as it was a kind of return to calm for Superman, but he also let his anger get the better of him in a few situations, which made him feel like the modern day Supes as well. That's all translated over the film as well, although that's sadly one of only few things that really worked in this film.

I will again emphasize that I hadn't read the entire series before watching the film, so I was going in kind of half and half (though not even that, as I'd only read the first couple issues). This allowed me to experience the film as more of an outsider than past films, because I didn't know everything about it going in (only the basic gist which was that Superman was dying). However on the flip side it made things all the more awkward and irksome as the film progressed into a seemingly random series of stories-but it dawned on me by the time the Kryptonian space explorers showed up that this film is more like a series of episodes in a season long story arc of a TV series. The problem is it was paired down to be a movie with a loose thread that was woven throughout it-a thread we're occasionally made aware of but nothing that really comes into play expect for the beginning and end points of the film.

At first I thought the awkward transitions in the film were just a case of sloppy editing, but after I read the comic book and watched the film a second time it dawned on me that it was really just the issues ending and a new one beginning. This wasn't so distracting at first, but moments like Superman leaving for two months and then reappearing mere seconds later lacked any kind of emotional resonance because we didn't have the gap between issues that the original comic book permitted. They could have easily focused on a film that was just Luthor and Superman duking it out once again, but there's no fun in that-but there's also no reason for Lois Lane to be Superwoman for a day or Superman arm wrestling with two super strong dudes for her affection. So the alternative would be to either allow these quirks in and work a real story around them or basically rehash Superman/Doomsday but with different animation and different start and end points.

After the last DC Universe effort (Superman/Batman: Apocalypse) I didn't really have any interest in this series to be honest. I don't think I even watched a trailer for All-Star Superman--all I knew of it was from the "sneak preview" we got. So my excitement for this film wasn't high already, but once it arrived in all of its shiny glory I did get a little bit excited-even if it was a generic Superman story, it still had to be an entertaining effort regardless. But I sat there for an hour, trying to understand what haphazard story this film was trying to assemble before the last act of the film partially redeemed it. The fight between "Super Luthor" and Superman wasn't particularly amazing, but the subject matter was intense. I mean the film was rated PG, yet we get to see Luthor put in the electric chair and the switch flipped? It was a crazy start and the resulting speeches from Luthor and Superman right before Superman went all Captain Atom in the sun were both poetic and confusing, but it really was probably the best part of the entire film (which is sad because I spent the prior hour yawning and repeatedly checking my phone for no reason).

Really I think All-Star Superman was quite frankly a comic book that worked better as only a comic book. The basic story definitely could've been adapted into a feature length film, but too much of the excess and fluff was kept in. Lois going bananas in the Fortress of Solitude was just weird as hell in the film, but in the comics it felt natural. A time traveling Egyptian statue that demanded answers to riddles forced me to question what I was watching, but in the comic it felt like the natural progression for the story. Even watching the film after I read and could fully appreciate the comic book didn't help, simply because this film shouldn't have been animated. If anything it should've been a series of DC Showcase shorts, because that's how the comic books read themselves-loosely connected stories that harkened back to the Silver Age of Superman. Stringing them together in a very loosely assembled movie just didn't work for me. At all.

The film wasn't a total bust. The voice actors were nice (Hendricks as Lois was especially good) and really weren't distracting for me to hear in the least-they all fit their characters perfectly. No one felt out of place and it all worked with the animation style provided here, which was of the minimalist variety (an attribute to Quietly's art). In the same fashion though the animation was strangely stiff at times; I thought maybe it was the animation studio but considering the absolutely gorgeous animation Moi Animation has done in the past it definitely wasn't that-this film just had a lot of fluidity sucked out of it which made for choppy leg movements (the long shot of Lois and Samson walking around the Earth's core was especially strange to me as their leg movements were very...horse-like to me. That and they were in perfect sync which was even stranger. Hazards of Blu-ray resolution, I suppose...) and just an overall lack of neatness. There were definitely some beautiful visuals however, most of which accompanied the later part of Lois's Superwoman journey (the ocean, the moon, the cityscapes).

In the end All-Star Superman isn't on the mediocrity scale that Superman/Batman: Apocalypse was by any means-that whole film was just a really bad production (to me at least, I'm sure many enjoyed it). Instead All-Star Superman is just a film that could have been good, but they left to many of the random story points in and that just brutally disrupted the flow of the film. If you look at it as an entire season of a TV show in 76 minutes I suppose it's not bad, but there isn't any real middle portion to the film. There's a clear start and end (obviously) but it really just flat lines during the rest of it so we're left with a lot of dull and mundane story to fill up the majority of the film.

I definitely get what they were going for with this film and I really wished it succeeded. However, they kept way too much of the episodic nature of the series which makes this "film" feel uneven and thrown together. In the past they've been willing to chop, delete, and restructure as needed for other films...I'm not sure why that wasn't the case with All-Star Superman. Sure there were story arcs or mini-segments left out (Jimmy Olsen's stuff, the near suicide), but leaving those in might've helped alleviate the half-and-half feeling this film has (in that it's half a bunch of mini-stories and that it's half an actual movie).

I'd be less harsh on these films if they were just episodes in a season, but considering their bigger nature because of the DTV format I just naturally expect stories that are tight and focused. All-Star Superman just isn't and even if you loved the comic book series, chances are you won't enjoy this film-it doesn't disrespect, mutilate, or change the source material in any way...and that's really the film's biggest problem. Give this one a Rental.

The Blu-ray
Warner tosses All-Star Superman onto Blu-ray with a standard Elite Blu-ray case housed underneath a reflective foil/embossed slipcover. Inside the case is the usual assortment: a Blu-ray for the film and an insert containing the digital copy activation code…for which they included a physical disc this time (and on that disc is also a DVD copy of the film as well…bonus!). The movie even has a main menu you get to choose from before it auto starts, which is nice as there are actually genuine extras this time around to check out. I know, I know-it was shocking to me too.

Before we get into the disappointing extras, let's first take a gander at the technical presentation. The VC-1 encoded transfer is as close to flawless as you can get, sans a few moments of gradient issues but that's to be expected from an animated production. There's a lot of very simple animation in this film with very drab or monotone backgrounds but the flat colors really just made the majority of the production looked fantastic, particularly the aforementioned Superwoman/Lois (whatever you want to call it) sequence. Overall there's an excellent amount of clarity to be found throughout the production. If there was anything hindering my enjoyment of the film it had nothing to do with the video transfer.

And nor the audio either. Warner follows up from the previous two DTVs with another DTS-HD MA 5.1 track this time around. After years of DD5.1 mixes on these films, we're finally given a proper lossless mix and it sounds fantastic, although this film is admittedly much more subdued that others. There's a fair amount of LFE mixed in throughout, but there was only a few times I actually noticed the surrounds (a directional bit where cars go flying into the surround speakers as they go off-camera…very cool, but the film needed more of that) kick in to any real extent. However the audio mix did push out the films magnificent score, once again done by Christopher Drake, with exceptional clarity. It's a very Superman sounding track-like the Reeves films but also a bit like Superman Returns...it's just a really solid mix all around. If anything I hope we get a soundtrack release for this film as I'd love to hear some of these pieces isolated.

Extras this time around do not include a DC Showcase short (are we out of those? I really enjoyed that Superman/Shazam one-hell that whole disc of extended shorts with commentaries was a pretty nice package), but we do get the return of the audio commentary. Huzzah! Seriously, huzzah, because these films are so entrenched in comic book goodness it's a crime to not have their creators talk about it. The commentary this time around is with Producer Bruce Timm and Writer Grant Morrison and it is really a must-listen for fans of the comic book. Timm is as much a fan of the comic as everyone else is (probably moreso) and it seems all he can do to hold back showering Morrison in constant praise (though there is quite a bit of that [and it's all deserved] as well). There were very, very few periods of silence on the track and they are rarely hurting for something to say-although there are times when Morrison would go on long strings of things to talk about and Timm would agree every few seconds with an "mm hmm," "sure," or some other concurring sentiment. I thought about making a drinking game out of the whole thing, but I'm pretty sure I would've ended up with alcohol poisoning by the four minute mark if I'd gone through with it. Overall though it's definitely a strong track – probably one of the strongest to come out of a DC Universe title – and well worth watching even if you perceived the movie to be as dull as I did.

The full list of extras includes:

Superman Now (33:48, 1080p)
The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison (9:36, 1080p)
Commentary with Producer Bruce Timm and Writer Grant Morrison
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Sneak Peek (11:40, 1080p)
Bruce Timm Presents 2 Bonus Cartoons: "Blast from the Past" Pt. 1 and 2
Virtual Comic: All-Star Superman #1

The first two featurettes are heavy on Morrison and really tear down the entire process of All-Star Superman to a great degree. While we once again don't have a making-of for the film itself these featurettes do get deep into what it was sourced from so I guess that was a decent trade off (especially with the commentary taken into account). The Emerald Knights sneak peek shows us that it's going to be like Gotham Knight with different animation studios handling different mini-stories...it's going to cover a lot of different areas of the Lantern Corp, so it should be fun though I'm wary they're focusing so much on Arisia being the newcomer to the group to be the audiences "tour guide," considering we got that already with Hal in First Flight.

Overall this disc is Recommended for fans of the comic book, but truth be told I doubt I will ever watch this movie again as there just isn't enough to keep your attention focused for the hour and sixteen minutes that it runs.




Review (James Harvey)
Breathe a sigh of relief, fans of writer Grant Morrison's epic All-Star Superman graphic novel. They've done it justice with this new animated adaptation. Managing to shorten a 12-issue series into a 75-minute movie is by no means an easy task, but the creative team behind this film has managed to pull it off here. By no means does it recreate the original story beat for beat, but instead kind-of pays homage to it by focusing on only specific aspects of the original and framing a surprisingly cohesive (albeit jumpy) little jaunt. While the never-ending battle between Superman and Lex Luthor is undeniably front and center, serving as the film's main story, we do get touches on why the source material is so beloved. So, after getting beyond that pesky synopsis, let's see what the animated All-Star Superman feature has in store...

I enjoyed All-Star Superman. Let me say that now. By no means was I underwhelmed by it, but I also wasn't overwhelmed by it either. I guess, to take a cue from Robin as featured in Young Justice, I guess I was just...whelmed by it. I liked it, despite some issues I had with it. Those expecting a full-blown action-fest should turn away now. While there is action, including an impressively handled climactic battle, by now means does it drive the show. Instead, what drives this show are the simple emotions that come with dealing with death and how one tries to handle their final days. It's pretty powerful stuff, and it does lead to quite a few very moving moments littered throughout the movie. It's a very different kind of Superman movie, but fans of the Man of Steel should find it no less engaging.

However, fans of the source material will be understandably torn. Some will agree that writer Dwayne McDuffie was able to successfully streamline a complex 12-issue series into a mere 75 minutes. Others, however, will disagree and find the movie a jumpy, somewhat colder take on the source material. The film's jumpy narrative does cause a couple problems along the way, but it does seem to somewhat portray how chaotic things can get as one tries to settle final affairs.

To judge the film on its own merits, as it should, it's definitely an oddly paced movie as compared to the previous DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles. All-Star Superman attempts to pack so much into its running time that, yes, it can feel like it's just speeding through things, zooming to get from one scene to the next. The episodic nature of the film makes it easier to forget what came before, allowing characters to pop in and out of the blue and be forgotten just as quickly. It can get a bit distracting, honestly, but as I said earlier, the jumpy narrative can somewhat help what this movie is trying to set out and do. Superman is trying to accomplish so much before his end, and it shows. No matter how jumpy the movie can feel at times, the underlying theme of Superman's inevitable demise, among others, is what ties all these little stories together, making it feel pretty coherent...though occasionally disorienting.

Some moments, disappointingly, don't feel as important or as powerful as they should. Superman's visit to the grave of his father is powerful stuff and leaves a resounding impact on the film, but Superman coming across two other Kryptonians feels more like a distraction in the film. I understand the intent behind the scene, how these two Kryptonians deal with power as opposed to Superman, but it zips by too fast to leave any real impact. And while Superman dealing with two kooky time-travelers also provides for a couple great moments (including a hilarious arm-wrestling match that too feels somewhat out of place), and while I understand why McDuffie chose these moments, as they all tend to share similar themes, sometimes the execution just doesn't come off as strong as it should. Still, what he chose to put in the movie does work in its own way and certainly highlights important moments in Superman's final days, emphasizing specific aspects of his character as well as dealing with some pretty heavy themes. And while the film does pack an emotional punch here and there, it doesn't quite hit the high notes it should from time to time.

Still, McDuffie leaves in some of my personal favorite ideas from the source material, too. The idea that even as Clark Kent, Superman is still working to save people is just brilliant and the execution perfect. Whether through his act as a bumbling oaf or disguising his actions, he is still using his abilities to help people, it's such a smart idea that I'm glad to see used here. So many of Morrison's more off-kilter ideas remain in here, as well, like Superman's pet Sun-Eater, or the great bit with his special key to unlock his Fortress of Solitude. So many small touches here and there that are unmistakably Morrison which give the film a little extra bit of (for lack of a better term) kookiness, definitely painting this film (and its source material) as something special.

What I love is how All-Star Superman nails the iconic status of the hero. He shows nobility, selflessness, and courage, even in the face of his impending death. He puts all others before himself, and this movie shows that perfectly. His gift to Lois, to be "Superwoman" for a day, is a perfect example of these qualities.

McDuffie does an admirable job bringing this story to life, as do the other members of the film's cast and crew. Director Sam Liu follows the book almost to a 'T,' recreating some of the film's iconic images. That shot of Lois and Superman kissing on the moon? Absolutely stunning. The recreation of the Parasite's prison breakout? Simply harrowing. That classic final shot from the book (which I won't spoil)? Absolutely gorgeous in every possible way. Liu nails everything McDuffie gives him here, effortlessly bringing to life this epic, epic tale.

Thankfully, the cast is able to bring the required magic to this small screen adaptation, for the most part. James Denton is perfectly cast as the noble Superman, every word dripping with the honest integrity the character needs for a story such as this. Anthony LaPaglia gives an absolutely command performance as Lex Luthor, perfectly demonstrating the character's insane genius. We can almost see his thought process with every word. Christina Hendricks does a fine job as Lois Lane, but I find her performance can be lacking at time. For example, I just don't think she nails the scene when Lane starts to lose her grip on reality in the Fortress of Solitude. There just seems to be something missing in her performance there. Still, there are plenty of other actors who bring this movie to life, and I can't think of a real weak link in the chain. It's just an excellent cast from top to bottom, with Hendricks being the only one who falters, and she only slightly. All-Star Superman Voice Director Andrea Romano continues to show she knows how to cast a movie from top to bottom, time and time again.

I gotta add, it is absolutely criminal that Christopher Drake's score to All-Star Superman is currently unavailable to own as a soundtrack release. Absolutely criminal. I think he's really surpassed his work on Wonder Woman to create some of his best work yet. I would love to hear his complete score.

Overall, it can be a difficult movie to get in to, so I'd suggest watching the movie at least twice before making a final judgment call on it. It definitely is a different kind of Superman movie, but it's a good one nonetheless. The film's jumpy narrative, reminiscent of the earlier effort Justice League: The New Frontier, can definitely feel like a bit of an issue, but the film's underlying themes does manage to keep things on the same track. Yes, characters appear and disappear quickly at times, but it makes sense given we're moving through the final days of Superman, experiencing the highlights of those moments as it builds to Superman's climactic battle. Plus, like I said, the characters that do appear all share similar traits and their (usually) brief stories that tend to fall in the same general approach or character arc. There are some deep underlying themes littered throughout the movie, and it does work, even if the film does feel a bit jumpy. With that in mind, I'm going to stamp All-Star Superman as Recommended, but it is worth noting that this isn't your typical Superman flick. It is a different approach to the Man of Steel, one that will definitely have fans talking.

The Blu-ray
Once you get past the standard embossed cardboard slipcover (very snazzy) and crack open this case, you'll notice something immediately - there's no DC Showcase animated short. And as disappointing as that is, Warner Home Video makes up for it with a nice selection of bonus content, most exclusive to the All-Star Superman Blu-ray release.

The first major extra is the audio commentary featuring both Grant Morrison and Bruce Timm. Running for the duration of the feature with nary a wasted moment, Morrison and Timm discuss the intricacies of the source material and just how the DC Universe Animated Original Movie team was able to adapt it into a 75-minute feature. While the majority of the commentary is focused on the original graphic novel, it does reflect heavily on the animated feature. The two also bat around other topics, such as their favorite super-hero films and the art of crafting a Superman tale. Very interesting stuff. Morrison takes the reins for the most part, though Timm does chime in on occasion. Worth listening to.

Following the commentary are two Grant Morrison-centric featurettes, the roughly 34-minute "Superman Now" explore the creation of the All-Star Superman comic. It looks at how abandoned story ideas for a planned 2000 relaunch of the Superman titles eventually led to the utterly fantastic All-Star Superman comic series, and provided essential background details indirectly related to the main feature. Afterward, the 10-minute "The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison" looks at Morrison's sketches and different design ideas, ideas that would eventually morph into All-Star Superman. Again, good background information. Wrapping up the All-Star Superman-centric bonus content is the All-Star Superman #1 Virtual Comic, a reproduction of the first issue of the series. While the resolution is a tad small, it may spark interest for those who don't already own this groundbreaking comic to go snatch it up.

Wrapping up the disc are two bonus Superman: The Animated Series episodes, "Blasts from the Past," and a selection of trailers and "first look." The disc includes the trailer for the stellar Batman: Under the Red Hood and "first look" featurettes for the 2010 release Superman/Batman: Apocalypse and the forthcoming Green Lantern: Emerald Knights animated feature, set for a June 2011 release.

Additionally, a second disc includes a DVD and Digital Copy of All-Star Superman.

In terms of audio and video presentation, it is a bit of a mixed bag. The video quality is really high, with a nice VC-1 encoded transfer that looks pretty remarkable from time to time. However, as with previous releases, we do see some color banding and pixilation. There's the odd moments here or there when Superman's cape or even Lois Lane's hair will feature some nasty looking blocking and color issues. It's not overly distracting, but it is noticeable. Moving on to the audio, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is pretty subdued as compared to previous efforts in the line, though that's understandable given the context of the film. The sound mix doesn't push as hard as it should, but it never falls short. It's good, yes, but not great. I suppose the somewhat subdued audio mix does work, but I feel that it could have been made fuller, more dynamic, and made better use of the speaker channels.

Overall, when considering the entire package, I have to give All-Star Superman the Recommended stamp. The main feature is definitely an interesting take on Superman, one I'm sure will divide fans whether or not they've read the source material, and the package itself contains a nice helping of bonus content. Additionally, which I meant to point out earlier, the movie is also a very family-friendly take on the Man of the Steel. It doesn't speak down to the audience in any regard, even allowing for an intelligent and easy access point for new potential Superman fans to test out. It's a good ride that is fairly straightforward in its execution, hitting most of the right marks, resulting in a satisfying experience overall. Fans will be split on All-Star Superman, no question, but I urge viewers to give the film at least two spins before passing judgment. All-Star Superman is a unique take on the Man of Steel, and definitely deserves to be given a proper chance.

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