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Western Animation / All-Star Superman

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"Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple. Superman."

A film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, based on the comic of the same name. When Lex Luthor manages to poison the Man of Tomorrow with an overdose of solar radiation, a lethal effect that not even Superman can overcome, Superman decides that it is time to look back and wrap up his life. There are villains to overcome, answers for the woman he loves and his legacy to look to. However, Lex is still planning something and there is a villain hiding just out of sight...

Written by Dwayne McDuffie, the film was released to home media on February 22, 2011. Voice actors include James Denton (Desperate Housewives) as Superman, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) as Lois Lane, Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as Jimmy Olsen and Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) as Lex Luthor.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Ed Asner plays Perry White. It wouldn't be the first time he played a sour, crusty newsman.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Follows the plot of the comic, but drops several characters and storylines, such as Doomsday and Bizarro, and Superman's Twelve Challenges.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Luthor inexplicably used a baseball bat while sabotaging Leo Quintum's expedition to the sun. The film explains that he's using it to help control the explosive clone when it rips off a pipe and uses it to smash some consoles.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original story, Lex never went through a shown and impactful Heel–Face Turn. In this rendition, Lex finally admits Superman was right all along and tries to atone at the end of the story by mapping out Superman's genome to allow a human woman to have his child.
  • Arc Words: "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple." is said both in the opening narration and by Luthor in the conclusion.
  • The Atoner: Robot Seven, and Lex Luthor at the end of the film.
  • Big Bad: Lex Luthor is responsible for poisoning Superman, and the plot revolves around his final revenge against the Man of Steel.
  • Big Damn Hero: Invoked:
    Superman: I only have one chance to save the world.
    Lois: That's all you've ever needed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Superman ends up dying. But in the process, he pulled off a lot of heroic deeds, used his solar energy to reinvigorate the Sun and even convinced Lex Luthor to spend his last few days redeeming himself.
  • Boring, but Practical: Luthor believes that Clark Kent is writing in code and claims that he will decipher it in less than a minute, but Clark informs him that he is just using shorthand.
  • Break the Haughty: Luthor of all people, who upon seeing the universe how Superman does finally admits that Superman's right about him having been able to save the world years ago if he really cared.
  • The Cameo: Metallo, absent of the comic story, briefly appears in his prison cell during Clark's interview to Luthor.
  • Cardboard Prison: Luthor. He even Lampshades at the end that if he wanted to escape, he'd have disappeared already.
  • Cassandra Truth: Superman reveals his secret identity to Lois, but she flat-out refuses to believe him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally, with the weapons in Superman's armory.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Superman warns Solaris that Luthor will inevitably betray him, but Solaris says that he will betray Luthor first.
  • Clark Kenting: Of course. In addition to the presence of glasses, when he appears as Clark he slouches, his hair is ruffled, he cannot walk two feet without tripping over something and his voice is markedly different. These features are frequently mentioned within the various Superman comics, and were included in all live-action films, but this is the first animated feature to include them. He's no longer pretending, however, near the end when his sickness is becoming overwhelming.
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: When Clark is interviewing Luthor in prison and Parasite breaks free, he needs to rescue the guards and protect Luthor, all without being seen doing superhuman feats or suspiciously disappearing from view. Foreshadowed when Clark jostling a man prevents him from being seriously injured or killed by a loose block of concrete.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The solar poisoning that is killing Superman has also granted him even greater abilities, tripling his strength at a minimum (There is simply no technology available to test his strength beyond that range). It might be killing him, but at least he can do a lot before he goes. However, about halfway through the film this plot-point is reversed without explanation, as he explains that transporting the bottled city of Kandor to its new planet will take longer due to his condition. This could be because Superman has to plant the city in a system with a red sun, but there's no excuse given.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Lex is her uncle, but Nasthalthia Luthor very much counts.
  • Da Editor: Perry White, as usual.
  • Death by Adaptation: Solaris, The Tyrant Sun.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Perry White tells off a super-impowered Lex Luthor as if he were still an ordinary man.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: As seems to be the norm with DC Universe Animated Original Movies, the movie was available online over a week before its release date.
  • Disguised in Drag: Hilariously subverted when Jimmy Olsen first appears in the movie wearing women's clothing:
    Lombard: You workin' undercover on a story?
    Jimmy: No, why?
  • Dramatic Drop: Lois when Clark Kent unbuttons his shirt.
  • Dressed in Layers: Clark Kent, as in most adaptations, wears the Superman uniform beneath his regular clothing.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Luthor finally defeats Superman and drags him out in front of a waiting crowd of onlookers and police, he falls silent after announcing his plans to move into the White House and blowing up a police car, leading Nasthalthia to wonder what's up. Luthor then marvels at just what he can now perceive now that he has Superman's senses, and in turn, recognizes just why Superman is the way he is.
    "I can see the entire electromagnetic spectrum. And those... must be atoms. Little clouds of possibility. Einstein couldn't connect the gravitational force to the other three, but if he could have seen this! It's so obvious! The fundamental forces are yoked by consciousness! Everything's connected! Every... one. And this is how he sees things all the time, every day. It's a cruel joke. The mechanistic clockwork of reality, hinging on a precious impossible defiance of entropy, on life! And the clockwork doesn't care! It's like- like it's all just us in here, together! We're all we've got."
  • Face Death with Dignity: Luthor is fine with being executed, even though he's in a Cardboard Prison. Superman also faces his fate calmly, doing what he can to continue helping people and leave a positive legacy.
  • First Time Feeling: When Lex Luthor takes a Super Serum and gains all of Superman's powers he begins to see everything, including the very nature of existence and the makeup of the universe. The realization of how things fit together is one of the key factors in the only Heel Realization he has in any adaptation.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: While Luthor is surrendering to the SWAT team that broke into his hideout, the monitor shows Solaris for a moment before Luthor turns it off.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Lois comments that a future Superman looks kind of like her father. You don't say...
    • Superman's answer to Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object ("They surrender") is what happens when Superman (the unstoppable force) finally meets the immovable object (Luthor), though in this case it's the moral, not physical, version. Luthor surrenders, after being so immovable that the previous time Superman meets him, Luthor gave him a Spiteful Spit.
  • Genius Bruiser: Superman possesses advanced Kryptonian scientific knowledge and is able to make a serum that gives Lois Lane superpowers. Lex Luthor also counts after he temporarily gains Superman's powers.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Superman explains to Lois that, even if he survived the solar poisoning, they can not have children because they are of two different species. However, there is a scene where Superman talks to his future descendant and Lois comments how he looks like her father, then the final scene reveals that Lex Luthor has mapped Superman's genome and developed a way to merge it with a human's. All they would need is an ovum from a healthy human woman...
  • Heel Realization: Lex Flippin' Luthor. In one of the only occurrences of the trope in any incarnation of Luthor in all Superman media, Superman points out that Luthor could have saved the world years ago if it had really mattered to him and Luthor admits that he was right. He then goes on to accept impending execution, and finally does something to help the world by giving the blueprints to Superman's DNA.
    Luthor: (wide-eyed sadness) We're all we've got.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: An unusual variation since Lex Luthor's belief system is atheism and science.
    Luthor: (speaking to Dr. Quintum) Consider this my final confession. Forgive me Doctor, for I have sinned.
  • The Hero Dies: Superman flies into the Sun as he dissolves into pure energy, replenishing the star and keeping Earth alive.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Variation. Lex claims that, if his invitation to Dr. Quintum to visit him in prison was part of an escape attempt, he would already be gone.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lois Lane still has impressive reporting skills, but in this film it is Clark Kent that is actually in the dangerous situations and reporting on the life-or-death struggles.
  • Ironic Echo: At the end of the movie, Lex Luthor repeats the opening narration, providing new implications for story's overall themes.
    "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple. Superman."
  • It Has Been an Honor: Bar-El and Lilo tell Superman that Jor-El would have been proud of him, after Superman's kindness leads them to a Heel Realization.
  • It's All About Me: When Parasite attempts to absorb Superman's powers when he was interviewing Luthor under the guise of Clark Kent, Luthor never realizes that he is not the target.
  • Jerkass: Atlas and Samson try to woo Lois when she's on a date with Superman when they know for a fact he's dying. Even if part of it was a Stable Time Loop thing, talk about kicking someone while they're down.
  • Jerk Jock: Lombard. Turns into Jerk with a Heart of Gold when he's worried about Clark during the climax.
  • Key Under the Doormat: Lois lampshades this seemingly lax method of entry to Superman's fortress, until he reveals the key is made of an ultra-dense dwarf star metal and weighs a million tons. This comes back to briefly bite him in the ass when two kryptonians arrive on earth in his absence and take over his fortress of solitude, pointing out it's not very well defended.
  • The Last Dance:
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Luthor says, "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple. Superman," Quintum remarks that everyone's heard that story. Yes, we have.
  • Legacy Character: Superman becomes this with descendants being derived from his DNA.
  • Lighter and Softer: This is the first movie in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line to be rated PG in its home country instead of PG-13. For example, Supes doesn't bend Atlas' elbow the wrong way during the arm wrestling competition.
  • Light Is Not Good: As always, Solaris is mean.
    "I will eat your sun and replace it in the sky. Your people will pray to me or die in the cold dark."
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Superman's answer to the Ultra-Sphinx's question is remembering a car advertisement in the Daily Planet.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: There is no way to cure Superman of the solar poisoning that is killing him, but it will take weeks for him to finally die from its effects.
  • Most Common Superpower: After Lois takes the serum and finds herself floating above the ground, there's a quick low-angle view that looks like her bust has elevated as well.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After his Heel Realization, all Luthor can do is collapse on his knees in despair and sorrowfully admit Superman was right: he really could have saved the world years ago had he actually cared.
  • Mythology Gag: After spending weeks in space following Parasite's rampage on Stryker's Island, Clark is surprised to learn people thought he was dead, he hand waves it by saying he survived after being buried in an old, well stocked bomb shelter. At the end of the Superman Returns arc, during the rebuilding of Metropolis, Superman looks on as a construction crew digs out Clark (actually Supergirl who shape shifted into the form of Clark) who tells everyone he survived Doomsday's rampage by hiding in an old bomb shelter for a month when the building above collapsed.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Lois Lane states that Superman is not going to die, that she and he are going to have a life and children together, but Superman explains that even if he survives the solar poisoning they could never have children because their physiology is too different. Even when Lex manages to find a way, he notes how difficult it was and how much time it took to get the DNA to combine properly, and he's a genius scientist who was working off an existing Super Serum.
  • Noodle Incident: For some reason, Superman crash lands back on Earth after safely immigrating Kandor and its inhabitants to a far-off system. In the comic, he's crashing because he's just escaped from the high-gravity and red sunlight of Bizarro World.
  • Not So Above It All: When the local jerk at the Daily Planet lights Clark Kent's jacket on fire, Clark retaliates by setting his toupee on fire.
  • Pet the Dog: Lex himself at the end, donating the blueprints of Superman's DNA to Dr. Quintum.
  • Pure Energy: Superman claims this is what he is becoming as his disease progresses.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Though Lex has finally seen the errors of his ways, he's still sentenced to death for his crimes. And although he admits he could have easily escape prison again, he accepts his impeding demise believing he deserves it. But he uses his last days to write a Kryptonian genome database that would allow Lois to bear Superman's child, and gives it to Dr. Quintum as his final act of repentance.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Superman, after Solaris killed his pet sun-eater. Solaris's fate is a bit more ambiguous here than in the comic - when he asks for mercy, Supes doesn't say "You'll live". He says "I don't think I have any left." BOOM.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: For a few brief moments, Lex Luthor sees it all and understands everything, the very nature of the universe... and then it all slips away. This, more than anything else, leads to the only Heel Realization that he has had in any incarnation.
  • The Sociopath: Solaris the Tyrant Sun, a computer that goes around converting stars to blue ones in order to power itself (presumably with no thought to the ecosystems of their inhabited planets). Then he decides to make Earth worship it as a god.
  • Stable Time Loop: Clark, not Lois as in the comic, manages to bang out the "SUPERMAN DEAD" headline that Samson had shown him earlier to maintain the loop.
  • Stealth Pun: Lex Luther considers Moby-Dick to be extremely dull, which is why he uses it as a device to bore through rock.
  • Super Serum: Superman develops a serum that will grant a normal human all of his strengths and abilities without any of his weaknesses. However, it only lasts for twenty-four hours, and it needs to be specifically tailored to an individual person's DNA. However, it can make a normal human permanently Superman if used while being conceived.
    Quintum: (smiling) They always said they wanted children.
  • Taking You with Me: Luthor isn't willing to face execution without ensuring Superman's death at his own hands. This is why he engineered a situation where Superman would be overexposed to solar radiation, leading to his impeding demise.
  • Villain Respect: Odd version where the villain doesn't realize it. During his interview with Clark Kent, Luthor several times compliments him, on his writing ability, integrity and other positive traits. Most of all, Clark is a flawed human being.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fight between Bar-El and Lilo and Superman causes a huge tear in the Moon that seems to be widening, thus threatening to destroy it. In the comic book, we see Superman fixing the Moon by using bridges he brought from Earth. In the movie, this isn't shown (probably because it would be rather silly), so the ultimate fate of the Moon is left uncertain. Basic physics says the Moon will simply be fixed by its own gravity.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Lex Luthor drags a seemingly defeated Superman from a subway. Superman really is battered, but he's biding his time. And used it to steal the formula from Luthor in the process.
  • Your Days Are Numbered:
    • The premise of the film is Superman dying from solar poisoning and spending his remaining days doing all that he can to finish his life and leave the universe better for his passing.
    • In a way this is also true of Lex Luthor, who's been sentenced to death. Of course being Lex Luthor, he doesn't exactly intend to go without a fight. After being defeated and humbled, he willingly accepts his demise.