Earlier this evening I attended the All-Star Superman movie premiere hosted at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, presented by Warner Home Video. The film is obviously based on the Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely comic of the same name, the latest in a string of direct to video animated films set in the ever-expanding DC Universe. It will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray and multiple media formats on February 22nd.
The source material for the film is one of the most highly acclaimed and well-regarded comic books in recent history. A crossover hit into the mainstream media if ever there was one. Unfortunately, as well-versed as I try to be in comic-books and chic sub-cultures in general, I had overlooked this title. Afraid of buying into the hype, I avoided reading it. But, being a man that always judges a book by its cover, I was always highly intrigued by the cover art of the now hard to find first issue.
Knowing that I was going to attend the premiere I thought it only be fair to read the comic book first. I wanted to like it, and went in with high expectations and ended up loving it. I was quite blown away, going so far as to being moved nearly to tears by several emotional points of the comic. I’m not somebody that likes to reread things, be they books or comics but All-Star Superman would be considered an exception. I’d go so far to say that it makes me wish I had children in order to read it to them, it’s that good and trust me I’m no where near being ready to have kids or even think about it!
So, what did I think of the movie? Well in liking the book so much it only makes watching the movie that much more difficult. Now I can only have high expectations. In my opinion, the movie would have to be Pixar quality film-making in order to be near the source material. And while that may be a difficult standard to aspire to, the filmmakers came pretty damn close.
The script by Dwayn McDuffie, which seems to have been written with a tremendous amount of respect and love for the comic, tells the story in a fluid manner, bordering on the episodic, in order to get as much of the meat and more importantly heart of the story onto the screen. No easy task to do under 75 minutes, and he pulled it off. One can’t help but think the enormity of the book deserves to be given more than just the DTV treatment. Considering the restraints and limitations, the film is executed to the best of everybody’s abilities and allows you to fall in love all over again.
Writer Dwayne McDuffie
Voice-Director extraordianaire Andrea Romano returns to give another stellar performance. No matter how many times it has to be told to me, it’s always hard to believe that the principle cast was never in the same room at the same time in order to record their lines. Truly that’s a testament to her ability. An actor like James Denton (Superman/Clark Kent) may never normally fall into my radar, but gives a fitting and very credible performance in the film, that masters the vulnerable strength in the character and the duality with a subtlety that was fun to watch and hear!
Director Andrea Romano
Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" fame plays Lois Lane with a flirtatious air, making Lois sexy and strong at the same time. In one scene, Lois is having a chemical-induced panic attack that causes extreme fear and paranoia which forces Lois to make a move that would normally seem uncharacterstic. Basically something that you would never see her doing, but Hendricks’ performance shows the duress of the situation making it all seem possible.
Christina Hendricks (Lois Lane)
Lex Luthor is played masterfully by Anthony LaPaglia. His rendition of Superman’s bald-genius of an archfoe is all encompassing of Luthor’s past incarnations as well as a creation of his own. I loved the fact that Luthor is full of himself, if nobody else loves him, it’s okay because he loves himself almost as much as he hates Superman. And Anthony LaPaglia plays that to the hilt. I mean the guy is so self-obsessed and has such an inferiority complex brought on by Superman that he can spend an afternoon with Clark Kent and with all his genius be oblivious to Kent’s true identity.
Hendricks with husband Geoffrey Arend
There’s a great supporting cast as well, but I should highlight Ed Asner, whom I’ve loved since watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns and then Freakazoid and of course UP! While he is not really used much and isn’t that big a character in the comic book either, just having his voice around adds almost a certain reality to the character, as if somehow, Perry White was playing himself in the movie.
I think that of all the direct to video DC films that I’ve watched, this is by far the best. And while the cast and directors all play their part in adding to the quality of the experience I think the script makes the movie. McDuffie’s script manages to encapsulate the beauty of the story into such a small package that I would love to see what he could do with a full-length film.
I would only complain that my favorite issue of the comic (Superboy helps the Superman Squad fight the Chronovore in Smallville) wasn’t in the film and instead would have gladly swapped it with one sequence that did make the cut (Bar-El and Lilo, wandering astronauts from Krypton that end up on Earth in Superman’s absence), I understand that running length and the fact that it’s a great showcase of Superman’s humanity probably made it the easier choice but we all have our favorite parts. Sidebar: Arnold Vosloo is credited with the role of Bar-El according to IMDB and his voice is unrecognizable, a solid performance and I loved the flourish of Terrence Stamp in it.
While the animation wasn’t as great as it could be, due to it’s modest budget, it was the best I’ve seen for this type of film and was very true to Quitely’s retro-modern style. All in all, a great movie and great purchase for fans of the comic and Superman alike. I got choked up in the movie in the same parts as I did in the comic. And much like the comic, it made me want to have children so I could share it with them, just like every Pixar movie that I watch. Coincidence, I think not.
Before the film there I briefly interviewed Dwayne McDuffie and Andrea Romano, and stayed for the Q & A session after the film, with McDuffie, Romano & Christina Hendricks, moderated by Gary Miereanu, Director of Publicity for Warner Bros. Animation, here are a few interesting tidbits:
When I asked about the emotional arc of the comic compared to the film, Dwayne McDuffie admitted that the comic book and the film made him tear up, thanks to the entire creative team coming together to bring the comic to life. And bringing that emotional core of the book was Dwayne’s most important goal for the film.
Last year Dwayne had hinted at a project that would blow fans away and admits that All-Star Superman is that project and I couldn’t agree more.
Also, I informed him that it had recently been revealed at Toy Fair that his character Static would finally be given an action figure via the Justice League Unlimited toy line, he was delighted and joked, "I appreciate the news, it only took 20 years, they had to make sure they got Aquaman’s horse first."
I asked Andrea Romano if she’d be interested in directing any live action projects, considering the amount of super-hero related shows she’s worked on and the amount of live-action super-hero content in development, she said, "You never know." But, loves the freedom and fun she has working in animation.
I asked about the fan-favorite and curiously hard to find show "Batman: Brave and the Bold", she said it should be coming back soon. There should be 13 episodes left, sadly. She also mentioned that she is currently working on the new "Thundercats" show.
During the Q & A Gary Miereanu mentioned that Grant Morrison had seen the All-Star Superman film and had enjoyed it very much and especially enjoyed a change Dwayne had made toward the end, regarding Luthor’s "realization of the truth".
In answering an audience member’s question about voice-direction, Andrea Romano explained how fun it can be to direct "walla" and proceeded to direct the entire audience in performing background sound-effects like grunts and coughs. Even Christina Hendricks joined in the fun.
Christian Hendricks mentioned her first introduction to Superman being watching Superman 2 at a drive-in movie theater and when it was mentioned later on, admitted to having watched the 1950′s George Reeves show on Nickelodeon.
One story Andrea told about directing All-Star Superman was one instance in which Anthony LaPaglia couldn’t understand how to read it or how Luthor should be feeling in the scene. Bruce Timm happened to be on hand at the time and quickly drew a sketch showing how Luthor would look and instantly Anthony understood and played the scene that way. Gary kept the sketch by the way…
Although a lot had to be cut from the comic in order to make the film, the most difficult scene to cut from the script for Dwayne was when Superman saves a teenage girl from committing suicide, a very touching and poignant scene that shows Superman doesn’t need his powers to save a life.
When somebody asked if All-Star Batman was in the works Gary Miereanu answered, "Anything can happen." He also announced that after Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Batman: Year One would be the next animated film and the cast would be announced soon.
Don’t forget to pick up All-Star Superman, it comes out Feb. 22nd on DVD/Blu-Ray, it’s a must buy for any fan of the Superman mythos! Thanks for reading, that is all!