Here Comes the Sun King

All-Star Superman, based on the graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and the characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, written by Dwayne McDuffie, directed by Sam Liu, starring the voices of James Denton (Superman/Clark Kent), Christina Hendricks (Lois Lane) and Anthony LaPaglia (Lex Luthor) (2011): In a perfect world, a new Superman movie would be based on the same graphic novel this animated movie is. And it’s amazing — and a testament to late screenwriter Dwayne McDuffie, who died one day before All-Star Superman was released — how much of that graphic novel makes it into this 75-minute-long adaptation.

Something disastrous happens to Superman in the first few minutes, leaving him with a year to live. The movie then follows the course of that year as Superman tries to accomplish all the tasks he’d failed to accomplish previously. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor plots and preens in jail as he awaits execution. New menaces arise. And Solaris the Sun-Tyrant, a computerized sun-destroyer with a hate on for organic lifeforms, lurks somewhere out there, waiting.

Freed from the constraints of any one particular Superman continuity, Morrison threw in tons of things that either hadn’t been seen for decades (Silver-Age time-travelling, pain-in-the-ass heroes Atlas and Samson; the original cloud-like Sun Eater) or hadn’t been seen at all (the chronovore, alas, doesn’t make it into the movie while the League of Supermen makes only a cameo appearance). This adaptation wisely keeps a lot of the dialogue from the comic while also mimicking to a surprising extent the style of artist Frank Quitely.

The ultimate enemy is Luthor, presented here closer to his super-scientist version of the 1960’s and 1970’s rather than the super-businessman of the 1980’s and 1990’s. By the time a frustrated and regretful Superman says, “Luthor, you could have saved the world a long time ago,” you’ll pretty much agree. And a dying, increasingly depowered Superman will need both brains and brawn to save the world that Luthor has spent decades trying to conquer. Highly recommended.

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