All-Star Superman (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: May 16, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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All-Star Superman (4K UHD Review)


Sam Liu

Release Date(s)

2011 (April 18, 2023)


DC Entertainment/Warner Bros Animation (Warner Home Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B+

All-Star Superman (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


All-Star Superman was a 2011 entry into the DC Animated Universe, boldly tackling Grant Morrison’s 12-issue series that originally ran from 2005 through 2008. While Morrison’s work on the books was widely acclaimed, the episodic nature of his storytelling didn’t necessarily lend itself to the narrative needs of a relatively brief feature film. Fortunately, DC Animation producer Bruce Timm had an ace up his sleeve in the form of writer Dwayne McDuffie, who was more than up to the challenges of distilling the essential elements out of Morrison’s intentionally disjointed tale, while still retaining its inherent heart and soul. Sadly, McDuffie passed away one day before All-Star Superman was released, due to complications after having emergency heart surgery. While McDuffie’s legacy was already secure thanks to his consistently fine work on series like Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, the nature of Morrison’s take on the Man of Steel ended up providing the perfect epitaph for him, since it’s all about making full use of the time that we have.

All-Star Superman is essentially a standalone reboot for the character that takes place more or less within its own continuity. Yet if it’s a reboot, it’s one that fits comfortably within the existing history of Superman, especially in terms of the Silver Age conception of the character. Like Morrison’s books, McDuffie’s adaptation opens with Superman (James Denton) saving a group of scientists on a solar mission, but thanks to sabotage from Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia), he receives a massive dose of solar radiation in the process. That radiation ends up tripling Superman’s strength and adding new abilities, but at a high cost: the very sun that gave originally gave Superman his power is now slowly killing him. With only limited time left, Superman sets out to resolve as much as he can with both his friends and his enemies, and that includes finally revealing himself fully to Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks). Yet Luthor’s machinations against Superman also threaten the entire world, so Superman must find a way to restore the life-giving power of the sun to save all of humanity. All-Star Superman also stars the voice talents of Ed Asner, Matthew Gray Gubler, John DiMaggio, and Steve Blum.

Just like McDuffie, Director Sam Liu has had a long history within the DC Animated Universe, and he was equally adept at adapting the unusual visual style that artist Frank Quitely had created for Morrison’s books. Taking no chances, he freely borrowed the artwork and layouts from the opening pages of the first issue, including the iconic splash page, in order to set the tone for the rest of the film. The animation throughout does a good job of respecting the unique look of Quitely’s character designs and compositions, while still finding a way to make all of it work well in motion. Yet one of the single most important contribution to the success of All-Star Superman is arguably something that doesn’t even come from the books: namely, the superb score by composer Christopher Drake. The DCAU has a long history of great music going all the way back to Shirley Walker’s incredible work on Batman: The Animated Series during the Nineties, but Drake’s score here doesn’t merely support or enhance the imagery; instead, it makes the imagery transcendental. It’s impossible to imagine the finale working as well as it does without having Drake’s remarkably effective music to sell it.

Ultimately, All-Star Superman is indeed about making the best use of the time that we all have left in this world. Part of the appeal of comic books lies in the wish-fulfillment that they provide, but that works better if the characters are ones with whom readers can easily identify. That’s one reason why Peter Parker has remained popular for so many decades. Yet aside from the relatable element of being an orphaned immigrant, Superman has generally provided the wish fulfillment without the identification, because it’s difficult to express vulnerability in character who’s so physically invulnerable. Morrison’s genius was in seeing Superman as more of an everyman, and building a story around him that was truly universal. Far too many of us will face the point in our lives where we discover that our life on earth is going to be cut short, and no matter what we may have done in our pasts, it’s what we do with the time that we have left that really counts. That’s how we reveal our true selves, as Morrison told Zack Smith from Newsarama back in 2008:

“In the end, I saw Superman not as a superhero or even a science fiction character, but as a story of Everyman. We’re all Superman in our own adventures. We have our own Fortresses of Solitude we retreat to, with our own special collections of valued stuff, our own super–pets, our own ‘Bottle Cities’ that we feel guilty for neglecting. We have our own peers and rivals and bizarre emotional or moral tangles to deal with... That ‘S’ is the radiant emblem of divinity we reveal when we rip off our stuffy shirts, our social masks, our neuroses, our constructed selves, and become who we truly are.”

All-Star Superman was rendered digitally at 2K resolution at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. For this Ultra HD release, the 2K Digital Intermediate was upscaled to 4K and graded for High Dynamic Range (only HDR10 is included on the disc). All-Star Superman was originally released on Blu-ray back in 2011, and like many early DCAU titles, it suffered from compression-related artifacts such as banding. Thankfully, the greater breathing room on the UHD format has eliminated most of those issues, even though the average bitrate is still nowhere near as high as it could have been. Typically for these upscales, there’s no real increase in fine detail to be had here, but there’s still an argument to be made that some of the fine line work looks a bit crisper on UHD—once again, likely thanks to less aggressive compression that what the Blu-ray uses. There’s a hazy, almost glowing look to much of the animation, somewhat akin to the diffusion effect that Geoffrey Unsworth used for Superman: The Movie. That tends to make some scenes look softer, but it’s an intentional effect. Otherwise, the improved contrast range from the HDR grade does deepen the black levels, and these contrast improvements also aid in making the image appear sharper and crisper than it does on Blu-ray. The highlights seem just a bit bolder as well, especially during Superman’s journeys toward the sun, like during his battle with Solaris. Now, to be fair, the differences would probably be far less dramatic if Warner Bros. had provided a remastered Blu-ray with improved compression, but as it stands, this 4K presentation of All-Star Superman is a significant upgrade over the previous one.

Primary audio is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s the same mix as before, and like other early DCAU titles, it’s not a particularly impressive one. Everything is focused on the front soundstage, with fairly limited use of ambient and reverberant effects in the surrounds. There’s a bit of deep bass at times, but not much sense of dynamic impact. That said, the voices, effects, and music all do exhibit excellent clarity; it’s just not an adventurous mix. Additional audio options include French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional English SDH, French, Dutch, and Spanish subtitles.

The Warner Bros. 4K Ultra HD release of All-Star Superman is a 2-Disc set that includes a Blu-ray copy of the film in 1080p, a slipcover, and a Digital Code on a paper insert. Note that the Blu-ray is just a repressing of the original 2011 disc, and not a remastered version. The extras include two new featurettes, as well as all the original content from the 2011 Blu-ray—the new ones are on the UHD only, while the rest of the extras are spread between the two discs:


  • Audio Commentary by Bruce Timm and Grant Morrison
  • An All-Star Adaptation (HD – 7:57)
  • An All-Star Salute to the Silver Age (HD – 7:16)
  • The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison (HD – 9:35)
  • All-Star Superman Digital Comic (HD, 21 pages in all)
  • Superman Now (HD – 33:45)


  • Audio Commentary by Bruce Timm and Grant Morrison
  • The Creative Flow: Incubating the Idea with Grant Morrison (HD – 9:35)
  • Superman Now (HD – 33:45)
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Sneak Peak (HD – 11:40)
  • Virtual Comic – All-Star Superman (HD, 13 pages in all)
  • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Sneak Peak (SD – 12:12)
  • Bruce Timm’s Picks: Blast from the Past, Part 1 (SD – 19:53)
  • Bruce Timm’s Picks: Blast from the Past, Part 2 (SD – 21:26)
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood Trailer (SD – 1:19)

The two new featurettes are An All-Star Adaptation and An All-Star Salute to the Silver Age, both of which include interviews with Bruce Timm, Sam Liu, Christopher Drake, and character designer Christopher Abell. An All-Star Adaptation addresses the challenges of adapting Morrison’s 12-book arc into a 77-minute feature—Liu openly admits that he feels that the story works better in its original arc than it does in the film. They also discuss honoring Frank Quitely’s distinctive art style; since he drew Superman differently every time, they had to pick one design and stick with it. An All-Star Salute to the Silver Age gives a brief history of the oddball nature of the Silver Age version of Superman, and how Morrison happily embraced all of that weirdness for his own story.

The commentary featuring Bruce Timm along with Grant Morrison was originally recorded in 2011, and they both acknowledge up front that they’re going to be something of a mutual appreciation society. Timm says that he considers All-Star Superman to be the quintessential Superman comic of the last fifty years, and Morrison is a huge fan of DC animation. Timm also says that he was happy to embrace the somewhat corny version of the Superman character from Morrison’s books, and it was a relief not to go gritty and modern for a change. Morrison has nothing but praise for the way that McDuffie condensed his work, explaining that the books were intended to be like a TV series, with individual episodes that finally paid off in a grand season finale. They both also express their appreciation for what Christopher Drake achieved with his score; Timm says that when the animation came back from the overseas studios, it didn’t have the epic look that they were hoping for, but Drake’s music made it work. It’s a fine track that should please both fans of DC Animation and Grant Morrison alike.

The rest of the extras also date back to 2011. The Creative Flow is a visual essay where Morrison shows off some of his own original design artwork while explaining how he evolved the concepts for All-Star Superman. Superman Now is an extended look at the birth of All-Star Superman, featuring interviews with Morrison and DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio. Their interviews were recorded separately, but the whole featurette still functions as something of a dialogue between the pair, since it cross-cuts back and forth between them as they offer their own perspectives on the same subjects. The Sneak Peaks are for two DCAU titles that would have been current in 2011. The Virtual Comic is a digital version of issue #1 of All-Star Superman. Note that the page count is different between the UHD and the Blu-ray, but that’s only because they’re split up differently—the content is otherwise the same.

Finally, two episodes from Superman: The Animated Series have been included: Blast from the Past Part 1 & 2. This was the opener from season 2, and it offered a different storyline involving Superman dealing with other Kryptonian nemeses. There was also a Target-exclusive edition of the 2011 Blu-ray that included a separate DVD with two more episodes, Absolute Power and Feeding Time, but those haven’t been included here. In any event, these episodes are still the old Standard Definition versions, and they’ve been superseded in High definition by the excellent Warner Bros. Blu-ray release of Superman: The Animated Series in 2021. At this point, that’s the only way to fly, so skip these poor-quality versions and pick up that Blu-ray instead. While it would have been nice if HD versions of the television episodes had been included here on a remastered Blu-ray, at least all of the original extras are still offered in the set, and it’s the new 4K presentation of All-Star Superman that’s the real selling point anyway. It’s one of the best entries into the DCAU line of feature films to date, and it’s been given new life in 4K.

- Stephen Bjork

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