We discussed the surprisingly solid “Superman: The Movie” and it’s inferior sequel, Richard Lester’s “Superman 2” (and it’s much, much better alternate Richard Donner cut) here in Part One. I suggest reading that before diving into hell here, if for no other reason than to remind yourself that Superman movies can be fun, if not outright good, because these two train wrecks will do everything they can to prove that statement wrong…
Superman III (1983)
Directed by: Richard Lester
Starring: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman / Evil Superman?), Richard Pryor?! (Gus Gorman / low-budget Brainiac?), Annette O’Toole (Lana Lang), Robert Vaughn (
Lex Luthor Ross Webster), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), and Margot Kidder (Lois Lane – cameo).
Plot: Webscoe (really?) CEO, Ross “I’m not Lex Luthor!” Webster, blackmails Gus “I’m Richard Pryor!” Gorman to help him use his computer to take over the world or some stupid shit that’s not worth mentioning, and to use a “weather satellite” to somehow (?) decimate the coffee crops in Colombia so he can monopolize the coffee market… I promise, I’m not making this up. Superman reunites with his ex-girlfriend Lana Lang while on a trip home to Smallville, and while there is exposed to a weird off-brand form of Kryptonite that makes him a huge asshole, going around straightening the leaning tower of Pisa and blowing out the Olympic flame (what a dick) before going on a drinking binge (what?). Superman splits into two personas: Dickhead Superman and Morally Righteous Superman. Mr. Moral beats Mr. Dick, the regular Superman is back, and beats the bad guys. Audiences wiped away the blood coming from their noses.
Comic Zombie: Oh, God. What a fucking shit show this is. If you thought the Lester cut of Superman 2 was bad, buckle the fuck up, kiddies, because that was basically the kiss on the forehead before the prison rape (wow, I’m already sorry for that).
This movie sucks so bad it’s almost impressive. Literally every single decision they made was wrong. Rumors say that Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman clashed very loudly with the producers after their treatment of Richard Donner, and that Hackman refused to be a part of this installment, and Kidder was essentially written out after a brief few minutes of screen time. While no Lois and Luthor isn’t necessarily a bad thing, replacing them with Lana Lang and Lex Luthor Lite (now with Richard Pryor henchman action!) is just… so much no.
Richard Lester is a hack of a director. The inclusion of Richard Pryor made him want to lean more towards the comedy angle (why Richard Pryor was tapped for this film, which is so NOT his wheelhouse, I will never understand). Of course, if you’re Richard Lester, ‘comedy’ means ‘incredibly unfunny things happening while set to goofy music’. Audiences didn’t like it, Warner Bros. didn’t like it, DC didn’t like it, and audiences sure as shit didn’t like it. Hell, even Christopher Reeve didn’t like it. Check out this quote:
“[He] (CZ: Lester) was always looking for a gag- sometimes to the point where the gags involving Richard Pryor went over the top. I mean, I didn’t think that his going off the top of a building, on skis with a pink tablecloth around his shoulders, was particularly funny.”
I think that says it all.
There are so many things that just don’t belong here. Superman drinking, being a total dick, splitting into two personas, Richard Pryor, the whole ‘computers will take over the world if you want them to! Look, I’ll destroy coffee to prove it!’ angle, all of it just does. Not. Work.
Why this movie was made like this boggles the mind. Boggles, I tell you!
Erik Smash: This sequel may be the steepest drop in quality in any series ever… except for maybe Batman and Robin. Seriously, what happened?!
So I somehow convinced myself that I had to sit down and re watch this thing, just to make sure it sucked as hard as I remember. And guess what? It was worse than I could possibly imagine. I fully regret this decision and am seriously considering starting a Go Fund Me account to help pay the therapy bills.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), and Mark Pillow (‘the Nuclear Man’ aka stupid Bizarro knock-off)
Plot: Concerned with the threat of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States, Superman goes to the United Nations and announces he will rid the planet of nuclear weapons. So, naturally, they mostly all cooperate and shoot their warheads into space, where Superman collects them in a net and throws them into the sun (because of course he does). One of the nukes contains a genetic matrix created by Lex Luthor from a strand of Superman’s hair, and when the missile detonates it creates the Nuclear Man, a solar powered douche nozzle. Under the command of his ‘father’, Lex Luthor, the Nuclear Man beats on Superman a few times until ol’ Supes can save the day by putting him into a nuclear reactor core and converting him into an energy source for the electrical grid.
Comic Zombie: Oh, boy. Where to begin? This is one of the most universally panned movies ever. I don’t know ANYONE that likes it, much like Batman & Robin. That said, I think it’s more entertaining than part 3. It’s definitely just as stupid, maybe even more so, but it’s so bad that’s it good.
The Nuclear Man has a ridiculous origin, and a horrible look. He looks like an 80’s American Gladiator dressed up like a made-up super hero for Halloween, complete with the feathered 80’s hair. And while his power set is very similar to Superman’s, he depends on solar energy to maintain his strength. Conceivably, he could be beaten by being locked in a dark room, if you could restrain him.
The whole “I’m going to disarm the world’s nuclear weapon supplies” thing just doesn’t fly with me. I can’t imagine that Superman showing up to the United Nations and being like “Here’s how it’s going to be – I, the strongest, most dangerous individual on the planet, that also answers to none of you, want you to disarm your most powerful and threatening weapons so that I will dispose of them.” would go over well. At all.
In fact, it would have worked much better if their response was to work together to try to get rid of Superman. Actually, that might have been pretty cool. A team of freaks created by different governments all working together under some crazy coalition to try to kill the man of steel would have been much better than what we got.
The major problem with this movie, other than its campy, tongue-in-cheek tone and ridiculous bad guys (Lex Luthor again! With another asinine plot!), is that it fails at nearly everything. It tries to up the stakes from Superman 2 and fails, it tries to bring Luthor back with a new agenda and fails, it tries to play around with the Daily Planet dynamic and fails, and it tries to up the action from the first two movies and (take a guess!) fails. It’s just made of fail.
It pretty much killed the careers of everyone involved, except for Gene Hackman, whose career even survived the Birdcage, and Jon Cryer, somehow, who went on to suck ass on Two and a Half Men and make more money than this movie grossed.
It’s a damn shame that Christopher Reeve was saddled with such shit for his last two outings as Superman. He deserved so much better.
Erik Smash: There’s really not much more to say about this crap fest, except that it was so bad that it was the last Superman movie made for almost 20 years. TWENTY YEARS! They REALLY dropped the ball this time around…
It shouldn’t be this hard to make a decent Superman movie. For real.