Most of the DC Universe Original Animated films are based on celebrated graphic novels. Indeed, these graphic novel adaptations seem to come at far more of an adult pitch in terms of their writing than the childrenís films they end up being sold or perceived as. In this case, All-Star Superman is adapted from a graphic novel series that DC began with the intention of allowing writers to interpret the characters and canon in ways that stood outside of regular DC continuity. All-Star Superman, written by Grant Morrison, was the second of these, appearing in a twelve-issue run between 2006 and 2008. Unfortunately the All-Star series was killed off by All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, the first of the series published in nine issues between 2005 and 2008, which was the target of overwhelmingly negative criticism due to Frank Millerís turning Batman into a murderous killer and showing him abusing Robin. By contrast, All-Star Superman gained a great deal of critical acclaim however, DC discontinued the All-Star series in 2008.
The film remains faithful to the original Grant Morrison graphic novel. Morrison (and resultingly the film) takes a number of liberties with established DC Superman canon the death of Superman, he revealing his secret identity to Lois Lane and they engaged in a relationship. The main problem with the film is that it is condensing a twelve-issue comic-book into a 73-minute film. The original comic-book had a number of different plots happening throughout these and in remaining faithful to them the film often feels like it is quickly jumping from one story to another adventures involving Lois being granted superpowers and then being wooed by two time-travelling superheroes Samson and Atlas and they fighting the Ultra-Sphinx and lizard men from the centre of the Earth; The Parasite getting free and going amok as Clark visits Lex Luthor in prison; the two Kryptonian survivors arriving on Earth and using their superpowers to subjugate humanity; the super-computer Solaris devouring the sun; Lex emerging from the executionerís chair with superpowers and he and Superman going head to head in combat. There is less the feeling that All-Star Superman is telling one giant-sized plot than it is trying to cram in different episodes that each filled one issue of the comic-book. As a result, it frequently seems too hurried and sprawling. (The other complaint that one might make of these DC Universe Animated Films is that they seem to have a major aversion to filling up a full 90 minutes of running time and seem to constrict themselves to either 75 or just over 60 minute timeframes).
The plus side of the film is that it contains some excellent writing, especially when it comes to the familiar characters. The script comes from Dwayne McDuffie, an African-American comic-book writer known for his drive to credibly represent racial minority characters in comic-books. He also created the tv series Static Shock (2000-4) and Ben 10: Alien Force (2008-10). McDuffie does a fine job of getting inside Loisís reaction and feelings of betrayal over how Superman/Clark has been fooling her for years. Especially good are the scenes where Clark goes to interview Lex Luthor in prison with Luthor comparing Clark to Superman and talking about his superiority. There is also a fine climactic scene where Superman demonstrates to Luthor the inter-connectedness of all things and departs leaving Lois with the possibility of children.
I have never been a huge fan of Sam Liuís work on the DC animated films, his previous solo outing Superman/Batman: Public Enemies being one of the weaker films in the series. That said, he does an extremely good job on All-Star Superman. He has a good deal of fun on the tour of the Fortress of Solitude, demonstrating its wonders, including a rebuilt space shuttle, a reconstructed deck of the Titanic, which Superman and Lois dine on, technological marvels like a Time Telescope that allows communication with one of Supermanís descendants and a pet Sun Eater, as well as Superman having his key for the door of the Fortress (hidden under the doormat naturally) made of dwarf star material, which no other human is able to lift.