Stephen reviews: All Star Superman (2011)

1699114Starring James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony Lapaglia, Edward Asner, Alexis Denisof, Steve Blum, John DiMaggio, Robin Atkin Downes, Michael Gough, Matthew Gray Gubler

Directed by Sam Liu


Another comic book adaptation, All Star Superman also carries over the visual style of its original artists, this time Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant. The look isn’t as striking as Public Enemies, but it’s still noticeable. They improved the animation a bit, but not so much the CG. This give and take makes it balance out about the same.

The film is a throwback to the olden days of comic books. All the crazy plot devices from comic’s Golden Age are brought back without shame, and that’s exactly how you’ll need to take this film. It’s full of harebrained events like an army of reptile monsters from the center of the Earth, Superman’s house key which was carved from a dwarf star and weighs half a million tons, or the audio book reader that Lex Luthor uses to dig a tunnel out of prison by reciting literature at incredibly high-pitched frequencies. Anyone who loves the good ol’ days of comic books will find tons to love about this film.

If this kind of implausible campy fun makes your eyes roll, however, then you aren’t going to enjoy this much. But I say to those people: Superman is an alien who conveniently looks exactly like a human and gains incredible superpowers from sunbathing. How can you whine about having a serious storyline when his entire concept is absurd? This film imagines the wild excesses of the Golden Age as half homage, half modernization, half philosophical musing, and a hefty dollop of parody. Nowhere outside of an anthology of old comic books will you find so many improbable plot devices in one spot than here.

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The Avengers (2012)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof

Directed by Joss Whedon

Expectations: High. All of my childhood superhero fantasies are riding on this film.


As I noted above, I had huge expectations for The Avengers. Not because of a trailer; I didn’t watch any of them. Not because of the director, Joss Whedon; I’ve never seen a single thing he’s worked on. No, it’s all based on childhood comic reading, the combined strengths of the preceding films (even if some of them were less than stellar), and good ole gut instinct. The crazy amount of good buzz led me to believe that I wouldn’t be let down, but I’ve been burned so many times by buying into popular opinions and hype that I did my best to wall myself off from these types of influences. I know I’m late to the party with this review, but if you care about comic books in film then you simply must get out and see this sumbitch. Through the entire film I felt like a kid unleashed in a comic book store with a hundred-dollar bill; this was literally everything I could have ever wanted in an Avengers movie. The Avengers is the superhero film turned to eleven and freed of the cursed “origin story” shackles, and so for fans, this is exactly what you’re looking for.

The Avengers has a story, but it’s nothing more than a simple framework to allow the heroes to come together and kick ass. Because this is essentially the sixth film in a long-running series, the characters are all set up and ready to go; we only need to know the simple whys and hows of their current situations. I feel sorry for anyone that didn’t watch the previous films or read any Marvel comics in their youth, because The Avengers just drops you in mid-story and hopes you’re up to speed. This “assemble the team” section goes on a bit too long, but it perfectly sets up the characters as they will relate to one another in this film, as well as setting the stage for the action to come. But realistically, the story is just this: Loki has stolen the Cosmic Cube (here called the Tesseract, but I refuse to call it that!) and seeks to open a portal with it to unleash his space army. There’s not much else in the way of plot, besides the action and some good, if obvious, character development.

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