THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
All-Star Superman is the latest in a series of direct-to-DVD animated features starring some of DC Comics' most beloved characters. By and large, the titles so far have been generally strong, but this one, while entertaining, is a little less satisfying than normal. Ultimately, a very good idea gets overwhelmed by an apparent need to throw in everything but the kitchen sink.
As the movie opens, Superman (voiced by James Denton) has just returned from a mission on the sun, which has left him ill from radiation. Facing an unexpected mortality, he decides to reveal his secret to Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks) and save the world one last time from the evil Lex Luthor, who, not so coincidentally, sabotaged his sun mission. I love this premise and, at times, All-Star Superman lives up to it. For instance, the Man of Steel takes Lois on a super-date to the Fortress of Solitude that pays off the emotional bond forged by these characters over decades of comic books, movies, and TV adaptations. I also like the way Superman uses his probable pending death to benefit Earth one final time; he engages in a moral/ethical debate with Luthor that really opens up some intriguing possibilities. The ending, which I won't reveal, is surprisingly gutsy for a superhero movie.
There is certainly stuff to enjoy here, but ultimately All-Star Superman gets a bit weighed down by the inclusion of too many peripheral things. The main story thrust is repeatedly interrupted to make way for side characters who show up briefly, do nothing, and then wander off. In addition to what I've already described, in the course of just 75 minutes Superman must deal with two rivals for Lois's affections, two other Kryptonians who may serve as his replacements, a scientist studying the sun, and Luthor's sinister niece, Nasty (Linda Cardellini). Every time the plot starts to gain momentum, it suddenly stops in its tracks to make way for someone or something else. That stop-and-start rhythm eventually becomes a bit grating, as it detracts from an inherently fascinating examination of a superhero getting his ducks in a row before facing his likely end.
Any fan of Superman or the DC Comics animated features will still want to see All-Star Superman and will still get something out of it. But if you've become used to the high level of quality displayed in entries like Batman: Under the Red Hood or Superman/Batman Apocalypse, then this one will come as a slight disappointment.
All-Star Superman is available on single- and double-disc DVDs and in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on February 22. Special features on the single-disc DVD (the format in which I previewed it) are trailers for other DC Comics pictures, as well as an 11-minute sneak peek for the upcoming Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. The Blu-Ray is scheduled to include featurettes, audio commentary, bonus episodes from the animated Superman TV series, and more.
( 1/2 out of four)
All-Star Superman is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language including brief innuendo, and some sensuality. The running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes.