All-Star Superman comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition video representation in the movie’s original aspect ratio of widescreen 1.78:1. I’m familiar with the majority of the DC-Universe Animated releases, and they are almost universally flawed – in much the same way across the board. Unfortunately this latest addition (which I’m trying to avoid abbreviating to A-S-S) is no different – it has all of the positives, but all of the negatives too. Detail is generally very good, the image offering keen delineation throughout, but we still get banding, aliasing and a general smattering of digital artefacts that don’t do the production justice. These are frustrating aspects that appear to plague all of the DCU-Animated releases, and it’s a shame that they haven’t gotten rid of them yet, despite being several titles into the series. Still, it is a genuinely beautiful-looking production, with brilliant colours (as you would only expect from a Superman release), decent shadowing and solid blacks. It may not show what the HD format is truly capable of, and may not actually be all that discernable from its SD-DVD counterpart, but it is nonetheless a visually enjoyable presentation of the feature.
On the aural front we get a much better accompaniment in the form of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is intricate and immersive. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely dominating the frontal array. The effects are what you would only expect from an all-out curtain-call for The Man of Steel, with explosions causing the most chaos in your living room, the sheer power of the sun reaching out to sizzle at your ears. You can feel the power of the blows landed during the fights; buildings collapsing as foes battle it out across the Metropolis skyline; bodies strewn across the room as giant monsters go on the rampage. We even get some rear action, enhancing the immersive qualities of the release, as well as some solid LFE accompaniment to boot. It may not compare to big budget live-action counterparts, it may not quite make for demo-quality material to show off your equipment with, but it is surprisingly good, particularly for a DCU-Animated release.
Most of the DCU-Animated releases have come with an assortment of quality extras – and this is no exception. But they all also come with an Animated Showcase feature – an animated short about one of the less well-known characters in the DC Universe, so it’s a real disappointment that we get no such extra here. Despite the presence of the other extra material, the short movies were arguably the best bits, and fans will be more than a little miffed at the omission.
First up we get a full-length Audio Commentary with Producer Bruce Timm and Writer Grant Morrison, which is of particular interest because, for once, we get to hear what the original comic writer thinks of the adapted version of his creation. An informative offering, with some nice reflections on the production.
Superman Now is a 34 minute Making-of Documentary, which charts the inception of this production, from comic book to final feature; looking at what Morrison did to reboot Superman, what changes he made and how they largely exist within the strictures of the frachise, but seek to push the limits. We get to look at the artwork, the grander ideas, and what they decided to bring to the animated incarnation.
The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea is a 10 minute Interview-based Featurette with Writer Grant Morrison who takes a closer look at the specific concept art and sketches used to create Superman, the other characters and the Metropolis setting. Not quite as engaging as the overview Featurette, it is still a nice accompanying work.
Blast from the Past (Parts 1 & 2) are Producer Bruce Timm’s choice of bonus cartoons, a couple of related episodes where Superman is forced to confront two surviving Kryptonians, who find it hard to live a quiet life on earth (these two are also similar in theme to the ongoing Smallville Season 10 story arc featuring Zod).
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights get an extended Preview, complete with interview snippets from the crew, sketches and concept art, clips from the last Green Lantern (First Flight) outing, and a glimpse of the upcoming title itself.
Superman/Batman Apocalypse gets similar treatment, only in a retrospective form, complete with sketches, concept art, crew feedback and lots of clips from the final product.
We also get the first issue of the original All-Star Superman Comic, presented in digital form. I was really disappointed with this because it doesn’t specify that it is just the first issue on the back cover, and I was looking forward to comparing the comic and feature more extensively. A tiny teaser.
Finally there are a bunch of Trailers.
I think it would be unrealistic to expect the Studio behind the DCU-Animated productions to breathe animated life into the short-lived All-Star Batman & Robin comic run, but they’ve done the next best thing by adapting the Superman equivalent, and, more importantly, adapting it well. Packed with all of the action and ‘super’ events that you would expect from any decent Superman adventure, this one has the superior storytelling and character development to back it all up, making for arguably one of the most moving and tragic of all the Superman tales. I’ve always found it hard to relate to this particular superhero because of his invincibility, his invulnerability; and this stand-out story takes all that away, as he faces his toughest opponent: his own mortality.
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get the same pretty but pretty flawed video presentation that fans will be used to now with all of the DCU-Animated releases, as well as a decent audio track, and a solid selection of extras. Fans should regards this as one of the best entries in the series, and newcomers may well find themselves drawn to what is a daring and original new interpretation of the world-famous Superman, finally given some very real and human dilemmas to deal with. Recommended.
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