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    All-Star Superman (Blu-Ray Review)

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    Paeter
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    All-Star Superman (Blu-Ray Review)

    Post  Paeter on February 23rd 2011, 9:35 pm

    Lizard Men from the center of the earth? Jimmy Olsen a transvestite? Superman can make suns on his work bench?

    I haven't read the comic series that the animated "All-Star Superman" movie is based on, but if I would have noticed that it was written by Grant Morrison, I would have gone with a rental instead of a purchase. In the last five years, Morrison has become known for absurd, postmodern blending of the silly 1950's comics continuity into modern stories.

    With the exception of a few hiccups along the way (especially near the beginning) DC has developed a number of solid animated films featuring their iconic characters. This pattern was established enough that I developed a personal policy of "buy, then try" when it came to these movies. But alas, that time may have come to an end.

    "All-Star Superman" aims to be a distillation of the core essence of what Superman is all about. Usually when this goal is set for any Superman story, the creators pull inspiration from multiple eras of the Superman mythos. Unfortunately, Grant Morrison chose to pull almost exclusively from the 1950's, one of the strangest and goofiest periods in comics history.

    At the beginning of this story, we learn that Superman has absorbed too much energy from the sun, and although his powers are greater than ever before, his cells are breaking down and he is dying. The rest of the movie follows a series of mini-adventures in which Superman is every bit the hero, despite facing his own death. Superman's optimism and moral character shine very strongly and this version of Clark Kent, clearly inspired by Christopher Reeves, is fun to watch. The voice casting and acting is great and hits all the right notes. The visual design is beautiful and grand, with the exception of some wonderfully creepy looking monsters. (The re-imagining of The Parasite is fantastic!)

    But the script has more holes than than a cheese grater. And they all seem to be there on purpose! The "science" in this science fiction story, is as believable as the 1950's comics it's based on. Which is to say, not believable at all. Morrison admits in one documentary and the commentary of the video that he is a big fan of the 1950's era of comics. He also talks about some of the more subtle and symbolic elements of the story, but these elements are so buried under weirdness that the average fan will totally miss them. As usual, Morrison's writing strikes me as very self-indulgent.

    Postmodern sensibilities can be cool now and then in art and fiction, encouraging a blending of elements that are normally at odds with each other. But philosophical postmodernism, which throws logic to the wind, results in ideas that are meant to seem deep and profound, but are actually just absurd. Unfortunately, as he says in the commentary, Grant Morrison thinks people are "postmodern enough" these days to appreciate what he's doing in comics. Clearly he hasn't been reading his customers' thoughts on "Final Crisis".

    Grant Morrison's desire to tackle philosophical issues surfaces twice very clearly. First, Superman is asked to answer "the unanswerable question": What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Superman's answer is a cute dodge of the "question", which as normally posed, is not actually a question but an irrational statement. An unstoppable force and an immovable object cannot both exist AND meet in opposition. Much like the question "can an all-powerful being (God) make a rock so heavy he can't lift it", this is a use of words that breaks apart before forming a logically coherent question.

    Secondly, Lex Luthor, in an obvious reference to Pontious Pilate, asks "What is Truth? It can't be measured or examined." This view is a reflection of someone who uses science as a smokescreen rather than deal with the big questions about humans and the universe. Some atheists may brush off the existence of God because it cannot be tested scientifically, but the assumption that science is the only source of truth cannot itself be tested by the scientific method. It is a philosophical assumption. So Lex Luthor dodges moral responsibility with a smokescreen of science that sounds sophisticated on the surface but pulls the rug out from under itself.

    Unfortunately, two potentially interesting conversation starters aren't enough to save this movie from an odd and sometimes ridiculous script. And the special features (which include a rare and welcome commentary track!) provide no insight that explains the weirdness. In fact, near the end of the commentary, both Bruce Timm and Grant Morrison express a fondness for both the 60's Adam West and Joel Schumacher versions of the Batman mythos, claiming that they are equally valuable to the character as Chris Nolan's take on Batman. Yikes.

    If you have a lot of nostalgia for the 1950's, far-fetched, silly style of comic books, you'll find this movie to be a refreshing update of those elements that attempts to be both silly and serious simultaneously. But for my tastes, I can't help but want to pull out my DVDs of the Superman Animated Series to get my "Essential Superman" fix, or read my copy of "A Superman For All Seasons", which would have been much better material to animate.


    Quality: 6.5/10

    Relevance: 6.0/10


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