ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Superman III’ (1983), Part One
As we continue our in-depth look at super-hero movies, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri take on the Superman film franchise.
Chris Sims: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to ComicsAlliance’s look at the Superman films! This week, David and I are taking on the much-maligned Superman III, and to help us out, we’ve brought in a special guest.
Matt Wilson: That’s right. I’m here to talk about a movie I watched more than any other during my young times. It was my favorite movie then, and I love it now.
David Uzumeri: I’ve got a lot of emotional attachment to this story, but weirdly it was the comics adaptation, rather than the actual film. I’ve never seen it more than once or twice, but I loved that comic as a kid.Chris: I had actually never seen this movie before. All I knew going into it was that this was the one that people hated, and thanks to an episode of the How Did This Get Made podcast, I knew the plot and some of the weirder stuff that happens — and make no mistake, there are parts of this movie that weird as all hell. But the thing is, I ended up absolutely loving it.
Matt: It is as pure a distillation of silver-age Superman comics as you can get in a film.
David: It is unabashedly, unapologetically, honestly goofy as hell.
Chris: It really is! As much as I was critical of the first two films, I can see why people would like them. There’s definitely stuff in there that’s appealing. But I can’t figure out why anyone who likes Superman wouldn’t love this movie.
Matt: Because it’s not A Serious Film.
David: Even though, technically, I’m pretty sure it’s superior to the first two. There are far more interesting and imaginative shots and setups in this flick.
Chris: Before we get into the breakdown, I guess a little background is in order. It’s going to be pretty clear right from the start that this is definitely a Richard Lester joint, because he definitely ramps up the campiness.
David: The opening credits sequence is not only largely disconnected from the actual film, but an insanely elaborately constucted series of pratfalls. It’s pretty much Metropolis as a Rube Goldberg machine. In a way, I’m sad Lester never stuck around to do villains like Toyman or Prankster; he’d be incredibly well-suited to them.
Chris: It’s also worth noting that Richard Pryor apparently got the job because the Salkinds saw him appearing on the Tonight Show, where he happened to mention that he really liked Superman II. Clearly, David and I are never going to appear in a Superman film.
David: What? You mean YOU didn’t get that invitation from Zack Snyder?
Matt: I mean, this is the guy who directed A Hard Day’s Night. You’ve got to expect some degree of chicanery. And the Pryor we get here is absolutely Movie Pryor, not Groundbreaking, Truth-Telling Stand-Up Richard Pryor.
Chris: “Chicanery” really does sum up about 90% of this movie.
David: Superman III: Shenanigans!
Matt: And what’s wrong with a fun movie? I’d much rather see antics than more Space Dad School.
Chris: No kidding. So let’s jump right in with Superman III!
Chris: Our story opens on one Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), waiting in line at the unemployment office. And honestly, even if we had no other reason to declare Superman III a superior film to I or II, the fact that it doesn’t wait fifteen minutes to start being a movie is a pretty good one.
David: The opening sequence make it clear from the get-go just what a break from the first two flicks this is. Instead of the Majesty of Krypton or Marlon Brando’s hologram face or whatever, we just get … like, man, this is complicated.
Matt: He’s told he’s no longer eligible for unemployment insurance after some verbal sparring, and then he finds an ad on the back of a matchbook to become a computer programmer, which got a big laugh out of me.
David: This movie is so unapologetic about not giving a f*** about how computers actually work that I can’t really hold anything against it.
Chris: From there, we move right into what Uzi called the Rube Goldberg Machine that is Metropolis, and I really, really love this scene. Not just because of the weird interconnected pratfalls, but because it’s this great reminder that everyone in Metropolis is in this bizarre state of constant danger. These are people who can’t even go to work without getting set on fire by robot penguins.
Chris: No wonder they need Superman.
David: Eat it, Batman Returns!
Matt: It really sets a tone. “Hey, get ready for yuks!” It maybe does sway a little too far into madcap zaniness, and the people of the city do prove themselves to just be total rubes (see what I did there). But it gets us to an immediate Superman heroic moment.
David: Superman’s barely in this sequence, with his involvement largely consisting of changing into Superman in a photo booth, giving a kid a picture, and saving a dude from drowning in his car in broad daylight on a city street. The entire sequence of events is utterly improbable, but so much fun, and definitely a chance for Lester to strut his stuff and do what he really enjoys.
Chris: It builds to exactly the same kind of weird premise that you’d see in a Silver Age comic, where a guy is in danger of literally drowning in his car. I can see the “How did this man drown — on the middle of a crowded street?!” as a cover blurb on a Cary Bates comic.
Matt: He probably should have paid a little extra for doors that open, but it was a rough economy.
Chris: I also like that there’s a dude with a gun robbing a bank that Superman does absolutely nothing to stop. The cops can handle that, Superman is there for the weird stuff.
Matt: Also, that guys escape plan is to slide down a bannister and make the biggest scene possible. At least everyone in Metropolis is equally dumb.
Chris: Once the guy in the car is taken care of, the scene moves to the Computer School, where we discover that despite being a complete unemployable wreck in every other job, Gus Gorman is apparently some kind of prodigy. And if I had to guess, I’d say that this was where a lot of viewers get tripped up.
David: I don’t get how it’s any more weird than anything else that goes on in a Superman story.
Matt: I’d bet there was a cut subplot about an old computer programmer who was really jealous of Gorman’s innate talent. “How does he do it? HOW?” screams Computer Salieri.
Chris: I think it’s the fact that not only does it not really make sense, but the movie refuses to even address it. There’s a line where the instructor asks how Gus wrote his awesome new program, and Gus just says “I just did it.” If he’d said something more along the lines of — and I’m lifting this from Charlie playing piano on Always Sunny in Philadelphia — “Computers just make sense to me,” I’d think it would’ve smoothed it over just enough to stay plausible. As it is, the movie’s just telling you this is how it is, deal with it.
Chris: We get one last look at the stone cold ’80s fox that is Lorelei Ambrosia (Dr. Pamela Stephens), and then we move to the Daily Planet for one of exactly two scenes with Lois in the entire film. We talked a while back about how Margot Kidder was upset with a reduced role, and man, she wasn’t kidding. There’s a chemical plant scientist gets more screen time in this thing.
Matt: She’s sent off on vacation like a character leaving a TV show for a couple episodes.
David: It’s astonishing that they even used her in the movie, to be honest.
Chris: As much as it’s kind of a slight to her character, I do like the callback that it leads to later when she shows up at the end of the movie looking like she’s been dipped in spray tan. But we’ll get to that next week. For now, we have Perry White drawing lottery numbers, Jimmy Olsen leering over shots of Lorelei, and Lois waving a bikini around. Clearly: The golden age of news reporting.
David: I’d just like to point out that this movie is actually incredibly tightly plotted. Everything going on in this scene pays off by the end. The lottery leads to the Daily Planet workers who go to Colombia; Lois bails out of the movie and it introduces the mystery of Lorelei, who ends up actually being a genius.
Matt: Every scene so far has just been so busy. It’s almost too much, and very different in tone from the other two movies. I will say it’s a jarring shift. But this feels like a crazy newsroom, even if it makes no sense for the newspaper editor to be the guy who has to draw contest numbers.
David: There are certainly parts of this movie that are gleefully removed from reality, but it’s pretty beholden to its own internal logic.
Chris: There are some really great character moments here, too. Jimmy mouthing along with Perry’s speech about a photographer keeping his camera with him is a nice touch, and everyone’s silent reaction to Clark referring to himself as having become “a Metropolis sophisticate” is pretty close to perfect.
Matt: The “I hate to lose one of my best reporters” slight to Clark is basically textbook. In a good way.
David: The thing is, it’s pretty effective in highlighting just why Clark is so out of place in Metropolis, which sets up his return to Smallville and everything with Lana pretty well.
Chris: A nice side effect of the rapid-fire too-much-going-on pace of this movie is that we get introduced to a lot of stuff very quickly. Clark is heading back to Smallville for a human interest story about small-town high school reunions (because that’ll sell papers), and the rest of the staff is focused on Metropolis Businessman Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), who will be our villain of the piece. And honestly, aside from the fact that I’m a big fan of Vaughn’s to be begin with, I really love the way he’s presented here. He’s totally the prototype of the mid-80s Businessman Lex that would show up in the comics three years later.
David: By all rights he should ham up the role, but he doesn’t. I actually find him, and his entourage, more effective than Hackman’s Luthor and **** ***** **** *** **** ****ing Otis. It’s rushed, but the whirlwind of events helps the humor, I think. “Olsen, this photo’s fuzzy!” “No, that’s… actually just her face.”
Matt: One of many jokes at poor Vera’s expense.
Chris: For real. This movie has a pretty hard-line stance on the male gaze. If you’re not Pamela Stephens or Annette O’Toole, you are basically a monster in Richard Lester’s eyes.
Matt: I guess you could ask why the villain isn’t an established comic character, but I think it’d be tough to get Brainiac or Metallo in one of these.
David: I’ve heard it rumored repeatedly that prior to Pryor’s involvement, this actually was a straight-up Brainiac movie.
Chris: According to the wiki, “Ilya Salkind’s original treatment included Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzptlk and Supergirl.” I’ve heard the theory before that the the computer Gus Gorman builds later in the film actually was supposed to be Movie Brainiac, which makes sense. We also kind of get movie Bizarro, after a fashion. But we’ll get to that.
David: Oh man, I’d love to read that treatment, although that sounds entirely too busy for one movie.
Matt: “Mxy’s Half-Penny Plot!”
Chris: Once Lester is done putting every single piece of this movie in front of us, we move to Gus Gorman working at Webb’s company. He gets his first paycheck, and after he finds out that they’re withholding taxes, he immediately sets up a site in support of Ron Paul and — wait, sorry. He writes a computer program to put all the fractions of cents that the computer rounds off into his expense account.
Chris: Some of you may remember this from Office Space, where they referred to it as “the thing they did in Superman III.”
David: Honestly, that plan blew my mind as a kid.
Matt: It does strain credulity that King Computers wouldn’t understand taxes, but a savant is a savant!
David: Look, man, he “just does it,” okay? It’s not like the dude can prove computational complexity or do induction.
Matt: And I don’t think I ever really understood the plan as a kid. I think my parents just told me he was using the computers to steal money, and I said, “Oh, OK.”
Chris: I love how this is the thing that everybody remembers from this movie, but it totals up to like three minutes of the actual plot. It’s basically just a way for Gorman to get face-to-face with Robert Vaughn so that they can start Weather Dominating and building M.A.S.S. Devices.
Matt: Yeah, it kind of fails miserably, which they don’t really mention in Office Space.
David: Well, his jackass coworker said that the money just disappeared into the ether, which isn’t true. And Gorman would have gotten away with it if he hadn’t decided to buy a brand new sports car like the very next damn day. And I mean, he made what, $83K? That’s a ton more money today. Except that you’re just getting at most a half-penny from every transaction. So that number could never increase with inflation. “Due to inflation, Webscoe Industries will now be rounding all paychecks down to five significant digits.”
Chris: While Gus is waiting on his next paycheck, Clark and Jimmy Olsen are heading off to Smallville. In yet another example of the horrifying existence on the constant edge of death in which the people in this movie live, they just happen across a fire at a chemical plant, which has the potential to DESTROY THE ENTIRE EAST COAST.
David: Yo, I have to admit: My first thought at this chemical plant was “why the hell doesn’t Superman just use his super-breath?” He seems pretty powered down in this flick in comparison to the dude who could teleport and throw cellophane shields at people last movie.
Matt: Because chemicals, David. You never know what chemicals will do.
Chris: Powered down in relation to spinning the Earth backwards to reverse time, creating holographic duplicates and amnesia kissing his special lady, you mean?
Matt: Yeah, that version would have figured out a way to erase the concept of chemical fires from human minds.
Chris: I do really like this scene, though. Jimmy gets to do some stuff (although he fails miserably), but more importantly, we get Lester’s version of Superman in action. I love that, at least at first, he’s far less concerned with putting out the fire than he is with making sure everyone gets out safely. He even makes them a little slide! It looks fun!
Matt: Lois being in Bermuda (I think “in Bermuda” should be a term for a sidelined character from here on) means Jimmy gets to be the distressed here. He really charges in to danger. Classic Olsen!
David: It’s a great scene, and definitely the best action scene of the series so far, to be honest. It’s long, but it features a bunch of cool moments, and more importantly, Superman gets to come up with innovative solutions to problems.
Matt: I was really mesmerized by the bubbling death goop as a kid. I thought it looked like a cool toy.
David: Anything that could blow up the eastern seaboard is a pretty cool toy.
Chris: He pulls off an old-fashioned Superman stunt, too: He freezes the top foot of a lake and then carries it to the chemical plant. The dude literally makes it rain!
Matt: With a power Superman actually has! Praise be!
David: Lester’s direction is clear; despite so much happening, it’s always clear what’s going on.
Chris: Superman leaps right into the action, too. At this point, it actually feels like a movie about Superman, and not Space Jesus, or Superman’s Relationship With Lois. He’s front and center, using his powers to solve problems and save people — and the great thing is, just like the newsroom scene, this isn’t just the movie’s first big showcase of what he can do. It’s all comes back around. This thing is somehow the goofiest movie ever filmed, yet also meticulously plotted from the first shot.
Matt: And maybe it’s silly for Superman to just happen on giant disasters constantly, but that’s well entrenched in the tradition of the character.
Chris: And just to put the icing on the cake, he makes it to his reunion on time. And that’s where we meet Lana Lang. Better known (to me at least) as Superman’s Mom From Smallville, which makes things pretty weird from here on out.
Chris: Before we move on with the rest of the reunion, I’m curious to know whether either of you have any insights on the Steven King looking dude doing a dance and the lingering close-up of his junk. Specifically, how big an impact do you think that had on a young Joel Schumacher’s ideas of what super-hero movies were?
Matt: I’d say the DJ Crotch Window was well ahead of its time.
David: I didn’t even notice the Stephen King resemblance, somehow.
Chris: Really, though, the focus of the scene is on Clark’s reunion with Lana, and they sell it beautifully. I know we’ve been harping on how great Christopher Reeve is for five columns already, but you really can’t overstate how perfect he was in this role, and O’Toole’s reactions to him are great. You immediately get that Lana was Clark’s One-That-Got-Away, in a way that doesn’t even really come through in the comics.
Matt: It’s nice that there isn’t any cheesy musical sting when they lock eyes. “Roll Over Beethoven” just keeps playing. And can I note how nice it must be for the music licensing when your director is a pal of The Beatles?
David: Well, what makes the movie work is that it goes the other way, too. One wonders if Clark would have been so eager to spend twelve years undergoing the longest parental lecture ever if he was with Annette O’Toole back home.
Chris: The less we think about Ghost Dad, the better. As much as the “Metropolis Sophisticate” line was played as a joke, there really is a truth to it for the characters. Clark has gone off and become, you know, Superman, while Lana is still in Smallville with an ex-husband and an alcoholic ex-boyfriend, raising a kid on her own despite the fact that she appears to have no job.
David: Those must be pretty huge alimony and child support payments.
Matt: Brad Wilson clearly went to the Harry Ellis/Walter Peck School of ’80s Movie Jerks.
David: Lana immediately feels like a very real, genuine character, though, in a way that, honestly, Lois never did. Lois was a pretty two-note character: 1) chase after a story at any cost 2) is in love with Superman.
Chris: I totally believe her as a genuine romantic rival for Lois in a way I never did in the comics, where it was so clear cut that Superman and Lois were destined for each other. Admittedly, part of that is the bat-sh** crazy resolution to the Clark and Lois romance that we got in the last movie, but it sets Lana up as a viable alternative.
David: To be fair, that resolution was almost as crazy as the way Lana’s portrayed in the comics.
Matt: The way Lana and Clark fall into goofing with each other feels real. This movie’s campy, but compared to “Can You Read My Mind,” it’s way more mature about romance.
Chris: In the comics, Lana was just Lois for Superboy, you know? But here, she actually represents something, a different part of his life that we don’t really see. God help me, this movie actually makes me understand why they’d want to revisit that dynamic for Smallville.
David: She is also, as far as I can tell, the only character in the entire series who likes Clark Kent. Or considers him as having any worth at all. She is the only character who doesn’t completely write him off as a human being, or disrespect him, or devalue him. Everyone else pretty much treats Clark like s***.
Chris: And unlike Lois, Clark doesn’t feel the need to reveal himself to her. With Lana, he’s pretty much Clark full time, unless someone needs to be saved from the ever-present spectre of death.
David: Lana really likes Clark for Clark. I understand that the mild-mannered reporter is part of the character’s DNA, but I really prefer Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid’s sort of worldly aesthete or Grant Morrison’s moral crusading nerd to a Clark who goes out of his way to be unlikeable. But Reeve — as always in these flicks — really kills it. Like, it’s almost pointless to comment on at this point.
Matt: Reeve plays a version of Clark that’s a little more confident around her. He’s not fully Superman, but he’s comfortable in his own skin. He pulls of the different shades so well.
David: Although we might be less enthused about him in a couple of weeks considering he basically insisted on the didactic idea behind Superman IV.
Chris: Back in Metropolis, Gus gets his $83,000 expense account check, and, even with inflation, that’s not a bad pay for a week’s work of computer programming. But it’s also not the sort of thing that goes unnoticed, and before long, he’s called up to have a chat with Evil Billionaire Robert Vaughn. But then before that goes anywhere, it’s back to Smallville and what, for me anyway, is definitely one of the more ridiculous scenes of the movie.
Chris: Clark’s attempt at providing a male role model for Lana’s son that isn’t a loudmouth drunk is basically hilarious, and crazy as all hell.
David: You know, I just realized the bowling scene is basically the same thing JMS had Superman pull with the basketball game in Grounded. It’s totally immoral for Clark to use his powers for his own personal gain, but apparently it’s totally fine to use them for other peoples’.
Chris: Superman convinces Brad to let Ricky bowl “his way,” and then gives it a super-sneeze so that he not only gets a strike, the pins f***ing explode.
Matt: Man, you know Ricky’s never going to ever take any guff ever again after basically breaking the sound barrier with his roll.
David: At this point, I’m willing to handwave a number of scenes in this movie as intentional Richard Lester overexaggeration. Pretend it’s magical realism. I mean, even this scene isn’t as ridiculous as the skiing incident.
Chris: The thing that gets me is that he’s not even trying to be subtle about it, though. Clark just sneezes, stuff blows up, and nobody goes “hey, is… are you Superman?” It tests even this movie’s suspension of disbelief.
David: But why would it necessarily be Superman who causes it anyway? I presume all kinds of weird s*** goes on in this world totally unrelated to Supes.
Chris: Good point.
David: Maybe he’s a cyborg, or possessed by a ghost, or was bathed in chemicals, or who knows.
Matt: Balls juiced with seabord-destroying chemicals.
David: So yeah, it’s ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the rest of the movie, I think.
Chris: Back in Metropolis, Gus finally gets to talk to Robert Vaughn, and the part where Gus is trying to talk his way out of going to jail is hilarious. Seriously, Richard Pryor saying that he doesn’t want to go to prison because of “robbers and rapists and rapists who rape robbers.” That made it into a movie for children, you guys.
Matt: Considering that this is Richard Pryor, that is for kids.
David: That rapist line absolutely slayed me, especially with Pryor’s delivery. Let’s also not overlook the other fantastic thing about this scene: Webster’s liquor cabinet!
Chris: Fortunately for Gus, Webster — who is so rich that he’s “never worn the same pair of socks twice” — isn’t interested in sending him to prison. He wants to use Gus, who is essentially a Computer Wizard, to help him with his plan to get even more money. And again, I love that about this movie. The motivations are so plain and obviously bad. Webster is just straight-up greedy. Trying to corner the coffee market actually makes way more sense than, you know, blowing up California to make land more valuable.
Matt: Though the plan is just as crazy. They’re going to straight-up control the weather using satellites and computers. It’s Comic-Book Business 101.
Chris: Oh, yeah, that part’s insane. Because, you know, obviously a “weather satellite” would be able to control the weather. I just like their motivations.
David: I love how they just assume — exactly! I’m sure someone involved knew better, they just decided to say to hell with it, if we have Superman we have weather controlling satellites. They should have used it to deliver the Krogan genophage.
Matt: Webster always goes Renegade.
Chris: I like that there is a satellite that CAN control the weather, but for some reason no one is using it for this purpose, presumably because they don’t have Richard Pryor to tell it 10 GOTO WEATHER DOMINATE.
David: Webster is such an enjoyable dick. Once again, there really isn’t a bad performance in this flick. And Marc McClure actually got multiple lines of dialogue!
Chris: Can we pause for a moment to savor how great it is that there is a competition named “JINGO” that sends fat, grumpy Americans to other countries?
Matt: Grumpy and/or devastatingly naive ones, yes.
Chris: Anyway, Gus has the bright idea of suggesting that maybe they don’t hack into the government weather satellite from corporate headquarters, so Webb and Vera decide to send him to one of their smaller subsidiaries instead. No points awarded if you can see where this one’s going.
Matt: Gus’ arrival in Smallville is just this long string of moments where you try to figure out what Richard Pryor himself would say in this scenario.
David: It’s really remarkable how many of this movie’s gags rely on booze. Like Gus’s infiltration of Wheat King.
Matt: Him staring at those suits. You can see the wheels turning in his head.
Chris: I like that Gus decides that the best thing to do is to buy a checkered suit with a Colonel Sanders string tie. How exactly did he think that would help his mission?
David: How do you even get a briefcase that opens and expands into a portable liquor cabinet?
Chris: If you take one thing away from this movie, it should be that Gus Gorman does not make very good purchases. I don’t know, but if you find out, I want one.
Matt: He’s doing what he assumes to be blending in. Gus Gorman is the true Metropolis sophisticate. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is eating dog food.
David: Yeah, Lester’s playing Clark as a little bit TOO clueless with that. Although I do love how he just keeps eating it and proclaims it’s good after being told that it’s dog food.
Chris: My theory on that is that it’s totally Clark testing Lana. He wants to know if she’s going to roll her eyes like Lois does. I will freely admit, however, that that’s probably reading into it way too much.
Matt: Here’s a question: How is Ricky even still alive at this point?
Chris: Is there any reason given for him to pass out in front of a wheat thresher in this scene?
Matt: His head is bleeding. Clearly he hit it. I just don’t think he cares. Back in the bowling scene, he’d just throw it into the gutter and saunter on. Maybe the kid’s really got some stuff going on.
David: He is a remarkably dumb kid, and being socially isolated as much as he apparently is can’t help.
Chris: Needless to say, Superman shows up to stop natural selection from taking its course, and giving Ricky a story of the most exciting thing that could possibly happen to a person in this world, which still doesn’t impress his classmates. What is the deal with these kids?!
Matt: Jaded Gen-Xers, man.
Chris: Like, if you were ten and you saw a kid you know shatter bowling pins one day and then you saw him the next and he was like “oh, I also met Superman,” would that not be enough without him having to add “and he’s coming to my birthday party?” That kid would’ve dethroned the fifth grader with a Game Genie and Super Mario 3 in a heartbeat. Uh… Maybe got a little too personal with those memories there.
David: Ricky should become pen pals with the kid from Niagara Falls.
Chris: If there’s not a fanfic out there where that has happened, I will be sorely disappointed. As I tend to be in fanfics anyway.
Matt: Maybe they grew up and started a grunge band together.
David: That band was 3 Doors Down.
Chris: Or a Morning Zoo Crew. Thresher and the Falls, on WGBS in the AM!
Matt: “It’s time for our SNEEZE PRANK OF THE DAY!”
Chris: Gus, newly outfitted in checks and strings, shows up at Wheat King and bluffs his way in past the security guard — the established alcoholic that is Brad Wilson — with a suitcase full of booze. Because, you know, he had to infiltrate it under false pretenses. He wasn’t just sent there by the guy who owns the company or anything.
Chris: Also he somehow gets a giant foam novelty cowboy hat between shots, which. Is. Amazing.
Matt: Wheat King makes a variety of products. “We need to diversify our markets. We have wheat, sure. But can…can we corner foam hats?”
David: Well, Webster’s looking for a lack of accountability here. If he officially sent Gus, then it’d be pretty easy for the government to figure out who hacked it since they’ll presumably be able to see the point of origin.
Chris: Not if he crashed the Gibson! Either way, he gets his hack on after Brad is sufficiently soused (and we get some physical comedy), and targets Colombia with the kind of weather usually reserved for the Old Testament.
Matt: Richard Pryor being scared of his own reflection is pure-spun gold.
David: Well, to be fair, Gus is pretty damn hosed himself.
Chris: The next few minutes are pure Lester, with all sorts of wacky computer shennanigans erupting from Gus Gorman’s drunken hackery. It goes on for a while, and while I thought most of it was a hoot, I can see how people could get turned off by so many shots of “zany” pratfalls that have nothing to do with Superman. That said, they do fit a lot better here than they did blended in with the drama in Superman II, because it’s how the rest of the movie’s built.
Matt: In a movie where a computer at a place called Wheat King can control weather and ATMs and credit card bills, you kind of just have to accept it.
David: And traffic lights. I have to give a shoutout to that AMAZING sequence where the walk guy on the green light travels up to the stop guy on the red one and starts beating the crap out of him.
Chris: I’m not gonna lie, you guys: I loved the part where the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” symbols got into a fistfight. It is f***ing insane even for this movie and I fully understand if that’s the moment that breaks it for you, but it cracked me up.
Matt: As a kid, I didn’t view that as any less plausible than anything else.
David: It fits in with the “who cares how computers actually work?” approach of this flick, though.
Chris: The one thing that Gus is actually supposed to do, though, is cause havoc with the coffee crop down in Columbia. And while Superman could apparently give a f*** about ATM receipts and dudes smushing grapefruits into their wives’ faces over breakfast, he is 100% down to protect coffee. Colombia escapes unscathed, thanks to the Man of Steel.
Matt: This despite the fact that there are news reports about the destruction. The timeline doesn’t make a ton of sense.
David: Let’s be fair here: I think we know Superman was more concerned about the OTHER cash crop. Clark Kent needs his blow.
Chris: Hey man, it’s the ’80s.
Matt: What do you think Robert Vaughn is skiing on up there?
Chris: The rooftop ski slope: Crazy, awesome, and crazy-awesome.
Matt: Take that, giant mountain of cocaine in Scarface!
David: I can’t describe enough how delighted I was to discover that Webster’s ski hideaway was on the ROOF OF HIS BUILDING.
Matt: Where else is going to put all his white, powdery “Webster Coffee?” Hide it in plain sight, am I right?
David: This leads to the single most utterly ridiculous part of this movie, as Gus Gorman survives a drop from a skyscraper with magic skiing powers. Clearly dude is the Black Racer and he’s controlling the computers with a Mother Box.
Chris: The whole run-up to that part is bizarre, too, with shots of Richard Pryor acting out Superman’s actions, intercut with shots of Reeve doing them. It is weird, but the end result is the same: Webster realizes that if he’s ever going to get anywhere with his evil plans, he needs to kill Superman. Which is what he’s going to try next week, when we’re back with the second part of Superman III!
David: It’s an epiphany in any budding criminal supergenius’s life.
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