Monday, March 7, 2011

All-Star Superman DVD Review

If you are a fan of Grant Morrison's work, you will have some mixed feelings about this adaptation, admiring much of it, but seeing the limitations of a 74-75 minute film.

(Of course you will "want more", "it's not as good", "they should have included 'X'", etc. Go find a LOTR fansite and read THEIR lamentations for awhile, OK?)

I read Morrison's existentialist work. It's good for those who read a lot of poetry and bemoan human existence, while HOPING that myth and beauty will somehow redeem all of our human suffering.

No, it just makes so much of the crud we encounter worth bearing - as if a GREATER Story is being worked out. As if somewhere, somehow, if someone is good enough, some jerk will see he's wrong and repent. That's why fanboys have dropped real religion for myth so often. They still enjoy the story and their heart is all for it - but let's face it, when was the LAST time you saw a man fly through the air, really love his parents and love his enemies and was willing to give his life to save all of humanity - even the nasty ones - while forsaking his OWN heritage?

THIS is why All Star Superman is SO good: it is a soft echo of Christ and His charity before his impending death.

I bought this movie to honor Dwayne McDuffie's memory, I kid you not. I had very little interest in seeing Morrison's work 'come to life' - it was too jazzy and weird and eclectic, with no solid plot. But McDuffie, in adapting it, covered over some of the flaws, and tightened it, and when I realized that this REALLY WAS going to be the 'last days' of Superman and one of the payoffs NOT found in Morrison's work was the late redemption of Lex Luthor - by a GIFT from Superman? Me and my landlady - who leads a Tuesday night Bible study alongside me - sat in awe as the credits rolled.

I know Dwayne McDuffie was an atheist, but he nonetheless used a lot of good Christian imagery and characterizations we could identify with [cf. Amanda Waller's speech to Terry McGuinness]. I suspect he was raised in the faith but left for personal reasons, like so many do.

But that self-sacrificial heart found in the Man of Steel? Again it is shown, it is not from Krypton, but from a loving couple in Kansas, named Ma and Pa Kent.

I think what makes All Star Superman so wonderful at times is how many times Superman's humanity and compassion come through - even to Luthor - who even admits at one point he LIKES Kent because he's a 'normal guy' and even been (sadly) pushed aside in Lois Lane's affections for Superman.

Yeah. Luthor sees THAT, thinking he KNOWS Kent's suffering before the "alien." "In a world without Superman," declares Luthor, "the unobtainable Lois Lane might have noticed good ol' Clark, pining away in a corner. A strapping farmboy with brains, integrity and no discernable style of his own. You're a prize catch for a cynical city girl."

"But with HIM around, you're a parody of man, a dullard, a cripple!"

"Next to Superman even Lex Luthor's greatness is overshadowed!" That jealousy, that rage that HE is inferior to Superman is what has driven his hatred all these years.

And when he is given a dose of Superman's powers? He finally sees what it is like to see the universe as the Man of Steel does. As the powers fade, Superman even destroys the formula that would have continued them - "Wait!" screams Luthor. "With that, I could have saved the world!"

"Lex," answers Superman quietly, "If you had wanted to do that, you would have done it long ago."

"...you're right..." admits Lex.

And in saying that, I could not help but hear an echo of our repentance before Christ.

You see, I think we are all ANGRY we need a Savior. I think we are ANGRY Someone did what we could not. I think we believe Jesus was sent to condemn us for being failures as human beings, and frankly, whenever we talk about sins, humanity has plenty to talk about.

But we understand Luthor, not Superman. We understand fear and anger and 'putting up with idiots' but not self-sacrifice, tenderness and humility.

We don't work hard to make ourselves look stupid or incompetent - just the other way round, in fact.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."

I never understood this verse until I was an adult and felt that I was never going to be good enough in anything. I felt condemned - before God, before Man.

But Saviors do NOT exist to show off how bad you are. Saviors are necessary to DO what we CANNOT do - and we should not be ashamed that we need one, only that we do not listen to the one sent.

In All Star Superman, Lex finally listens and - according to this adaptation - insures Superman's legacy as an act of repentance.

I loved it.

Because, in the end, Superman, with love and respect, saves Lex Luthor AND the world.

In my opinion, that's a film worth watching.

Amen.

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