ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Superman IV: The Quest For Peace’ (1987), Part Two
As we continue our in-depth look at super-hero movies, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri take on the Superman film franchise.
David Uzumeri: Hello, and welcome to our discussion of the most overlong, interminable second half of a superhero movie ever!
Chris Sims: That’s right everyone, we’re here with the second (and thankfully final) installment of our look at Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. And for a movie that’s ostensibly built around giving Superman a villain with whom he can actually have a big throwdown, and how absolutely weird it gets before it finally grinds to a halt, it’s hard to believe how boring this movie gets.David: Seriously, this is going to be a very short review section, because like 40 minutes of this second half can be boiled down to “Superman fights Nuclear Man.” I’m not even kidding. Except it’s the most low-budget, boring superfight ever. I don’t even know how to start with that. And the most interesting character in the movie completely disappears with zero denoument. Lacey at least is kind of interesting in being converted by Clark and Lois’s journalistic integrity enough to say “screw you, dad.” She’s actually the only character in this entire movie with any sort of character arc.
Chris: Well, we’ll get to all of that in due time. When we last left off, Nuclear Man was merely a space fetus, but in no time at all, he’s grown into a full-sized pro wrestler, complete with mullet and fake fingernails. But before he can get into action, it’s time to watch Superman pretend to suck at aerobics!
David: I actually enjoyed the aerobics scene; I could watch Clark Kent just hanging around Metropolis being awkward forever, as opposed to Superman in really cheap B-movie fight scenes. And I thought this scene did a way less douchey version of the trucker beat-up from the end of Superman II.
Chris: I realize that this is probably just because we’ve been mainlining these movies over the last two months instead of watching them over the course of ten years, but this one really grated on me. It’s definitely the weakest of the “Bumbling Clark Kent” scenes in the series. It does the job of showing that Lacey has an actual nice side that cares for Clark even when he’s trying to as awkward as possible to throw her off, but the whole thing where he’s trying to put one over on the dude in tiny silken shorts is such an eye-roller for me.
David: I guess – man, I dunno. After like six weeks of people crapping all over Clark, it’s just kind of nice to see someone who likes him for him. Who isn’t Lana Lang, I guess. Why isn’t Lana in this movie? Oh right, because Annette O’Toole had a real movie career when this movie came out.
Chris: That’s one of the frustrating things about this: Lester sets up a really nice dynamic at the end of Superman III with Lana at the Daily Planet and totally smitten with Clark, and this movie goes out of its way to ignore that entire movie, but still introduce Lacey to try to accomplish the exact same thing.
David: And then completely, utterly ignore her as soon as things are getting interesting, even if that scene is painful as hell to watch. But we’ll get to that.
Chris: Once Clark’s done working on his fitness, it’s back to Lex Luthor, who is inexplicably practicing ballroom dancing with a woman dressed as Marie Antoinette in what is unquestionably the single best shot of the movie. I just love that Luthor has weird habits to goof off with whenever he has downtime from his Kill Superman plans.
Chris: It’s also worth noting that he’s wearing a golden dollar sign medallion for the duration of this scene.
David: As far as Lex is concerned, he’s absolutely king s*** of f*** mountain right now, and with good reason. He thinks he just won war profiteering forever.
Chris: And sealed Superman’s fate in the process! He is thoroughly delighted when “Nucular” Man shows up at his doorstep, but unfortunately, he’s the only one, because this scene is interminable. The only thing that makes it even watchable is that when Nuclear Man speaks, it’s Gene Hackman’s voice, all overdubbed and growly. Why? Because Lex is his “father.” That’s how cloning works, right?
David: Except… did Lex even insert his own DNA at all? Like, is this the earliest version of Conner Kent? Because I don’t remember that being mentioned at all. He just said he created a “protoplasm” from a strand of hair. Whatever the hell that means.
Chris: I’m going to go ahead and guarantee you that beyond justifying that scene with Superman’s hair, the idea of Nuclear Man’s actual genetic makeup was of very little concern to the people who wrote this movie. Which, you know, that’s fine. We can’t in all honesty nitpick on Lex’s complete insane “nucular” cloning process if we were okay with Gus Gorman’s “I just… did it!” computer expertise.
David: It’s true; if this were a Silver Age Superman comic, we’d be gladly handwaving this. The main problem is that even within the fake-ass nuclear science framework this movie establishes, it still doesn’t make any damn sense. But, again, we’ll get to that.
Chris: Afte a quick demonstration of Nuclear Man’s powers – by which I mean “lighting Lex’s cigarette with his fingernails” – Lex introduces himself as Nuclear Man’s father, and Nuclear Man announces that he is the father now, because after all he’s the one with nuclear fingernails. But all this Who’s-Your-Daddying is rendered moot when N-Man steps into a slightly darker section of Lex’s hotel room and immediately powers down.
David: Showing us, but notably not Superman, his weakness. Which is kind of awesome, since shouldn’t this be Superman’s weakness too? Like, are Nuclear Man’s solar cells the Wal-Mart brand to Superman’s Duracells?
Chris: To be fair, Superman’s had like 30 years of soaking up the sun to charge him up, and Nuclear Man’s only been around for five minutes. But at the same time, it does kind of seem like a pretty awful move to kick off a master plan that can be foiled by Venetian blinds.
David: And yet pretty in keeping with Lex’s prior master plans. Arrogance has always been his downfall, but I’m giving this movie entirely too much credit.
Chris: Yes you are. I mean, I spent about 45 minutes wondering why Superman didn’t just chuck a throw rug at him and go back to his dinner party / potential menage-a-trois with Lois and Lacey.
David: This is the first of two incredibly, uncomfortably extended scenes in the second half of this movie. Like, this is the entire “Superman bails to be Clark Kent bails to be Superman bails to be…” thing ad infinitum. The tension wears thin maybe five minutes in, and I’m being generous. But Lacey invites Clark to hang out with Lois and Superman for a Warfield-initiated interview filled with slam questions, and the result makes me wish it was an SNL sketch. From the late ’90s. I’d rather watch Jimmy Fallon blow ten punchlines than sit through that painful piece of situation comedy again. And the worst part is that this probably would have been really funny under Lester. Like, the dude’s directorial style is perfect for this sort of halfbaked situation comedy, but instead it’s just… shoot me.
Chris: The complications of a double date with Superman and Clark Kent are obvious, I’m more interested in the fact that Lois – wearing a full-on pastel pink Grandma Pantsuit – says that Lacey looks “illegal” because she’s wearing a strapless dress. Scandal!
David: She’s showing her boobs, Chris. Boobs are the sign of moral infirmity.
Chris: That does seem to be her logic. And for Lois Lane, who was so stoked about breaking a South American cartel in her bikini the last time we saw her, to be a) so weirdly judgmental of Lacey’s slatternly ways, and b) so protective of Clark from this girl who actually seems to like him a lot, makes zero sense.
David: That’s the thing about Lacey: she seems to genuinely dig Clark. Like, no joke, no subterfuge, for what I’m guessing is the first time in her life. And he actually changes her, not by being Superman, but just by being Clark.
Chris: It’s this really weird, kind of nice story that ends up going absolutely nowhere. But yeah, the rest of this sequence is just Clark-to-Superman change-ups, and while I do think a few of them are pretty clever, they are also go on for about three days.
David: It’s the definition of a joke gone on too long. Eventually, all narrative tension evaporates, and all we’re left with is frustration. It stops being “can Superman pull this off?” and starts being “can Furie and Reeve get enough special effects budget to fill up the rest of this movie so this scene can stop?”
Chris: It does have the part where Superman totally drops his eyes to Lacey’s cleavage and tells her “That’s a very attractive outfit you’re wearing” and Lois looks like he just ran over her dog.
Chris: That’s pretty great.
David: That’s the thing about this entire movie: kind of acceptable ideas, with hints of competence, buried under mountains of detritus. Like, take Lenny Luthor: You know what isn’t a terrible idea? Lex Luthor’s own Jimmy Olsen. You know what IS a terrible idea? Making him an inveterate air drummer with a terrible haircut and casting him as Jon Cryer and making him a dumbass.
Chris: And having him get spun around by “nucular” telekinesis and going “whoa man I’m breakdancin’ far out!”
David: I’d love it if Lex Luthor in the comics surrounded himself with his equally s***ty niece and nephew, Nasty and Lenny Luthor.
Chris: Eventually, the dinner party hijinx end in a way that makes it difficult — even in a movie where we’re willing to accept an overdubbed nuclear clone — to believe that Lacey and Lois wouldn’t immediately go “hey, those two guys are definitely the same person, right?” Luthor puts out the call to Superman using his special high-frequency broadcasting equipment in yet another example of this movie autoplagiarizing from Superman: The Movie, and the Man of Steel flies off to go deal with all that.
David: Hey, just a second. Let’s look at this scene.
Chris: Do we have to?
David: So Lex Luthor uses the high-frequency device to find Superman, right? And call out to his super-hearing? Except he upgrades it to have a visual component. So he knows where Superman is. Because he can target the TV he sees it on. And he tells Superman to look “to the left.” So… why doesn’t he just send Nuclear Man there? And how does he know where Superman is?
Chris: I’m going to go ahead and go with “because nobody thought about this script for more than about five minutes.”
David: I know, just… wow.
Chris: It’s also worth noting that in this scene, they don’t even make an attempt to cover up signs idenfitying the setting as New York, rather than Metropolis.
David: Well, New York is A metropolis. Maybe it’s just a nickname!
Chris: Except that they actually do it in other scenes, like the subway. What I’m getting at here is that it’s very obvious where the budget ran out, and – to me anyway – where Reeve and Furie just cold stopped caring.
David: In the Wikipedia article, there’s a great bit where Reeve warns a young, excited Jon Cryer that this movie is going to totally suck and everybody is going to hate it.
According to Jon Cryer, who played Lex Luthor’s nephew Lenny, Reeve had taken him aside just before the release and told him it was going to be “terrible”. Although Cryer enjoyed working with Reeve and Gene Hackman, Cryer claimed that Cannon ran out of money five months ahead of time and ultimately released an unfinished movie.
Chris: Well, it’s nice that Cryer got used to being on stuff that sucked and that everyone hated so early in his career. It’s paid off for him.
David: Oh, and Nuclear Man was originally supposed to be Reeve. Which makes a hell of a lot of sense considering he is a clone of Superman.
Chris: The exchange between Luthor and Superman is actually one of the high points of the movie. Even with as weary as Reeve seems compared to his earlier performances (seriously, you can tell he’s fed up with this movie), he and Hackman have a really nice chemistry on screen, and they play off each other really well.
David: It’s almost like the energy of Superman I (which we had a lot of problems with but was undoubtedly anchored by a number of exceptional performances) leaking through in some sort of alchemical accident. But, I mean, you could probably just stick those two characters by those actors in a bare room and ask them to ad-lib for 90 minutes and it would have been an insanely better film than this.
Chris: Hackman playing Luthor as charming and genuinely gleeful about the fact that he’s about to kill Superman is great, and I love that when he’s confronted with Nuclear Man, Superman immediately just goes “oh, you hid a device on one of those missiles I threw into the sun.” These two dudes are completely on their own level that’s just beyond anyone else in the movie, which makes then a really great pair. There’s a grandness to them and their adversarial relationship – as well as their familiarity with each other – that this movie does pull off pretty well despite all its other flaws.
David: Well, Luthor even says it: he’ll miss Superman, the only man who can keep up with him. He’s also, notably, the only man who’s ever outsmarted Luthor, with his great gambit at the end of Superman II. He not only outsmarted Luthor, he used Luthor as a pawn to outsmart someone bigger. Luthor respects the Hell out of that.
Chris: Exactly, which is why as far as Luthor’s concerned, Superman has to die. There’s a really good narrative there about these two characters, but unfortunately it runs through “quantum super-positioning” and Superman booting Zod off a cliff and “nucular” clones and all that.
David: And also, I think one thing Superman IV kind of implies is that Superman and Luthor butted heads way more than we saw in just the first two movies. We didn’t see this familiarity in those first two. Here, they’re old enemies who’ve almost become old friends. It’s almost a Batman/Joker Killing Joke opening scene vibe. We didn’t see this familiarity in those first two. Here, they’re old enemies who’ve almost become old friends. It’s almost a Batman/Joker Killing Joke opening scene vibe.
Chris: One more thing before we move on: Lex telling Superman to chill out and get a puppy being met with the response “It’s common knowledge that you hate children and animals, Luthor,” and Hackman’s cheery little shrug? Pretty great. Pretty, pretty great.
David: “It’s common knowledge that you hate children and animals, Luthor” is… honestly, that could be a line from All Star Superman. I dunno what happened so that that line was in this movie, but well done.
Chris: And of course, then the whole thing turns to crap as we watch. Superman and Nuclear Man fight, and it goes on for. Ever.
David: This entire scene is just a blur in my memory. The whole thing is super low-budget, it’s all just wirework and terrible fire effects including the inexplicable nuclear fire-lightning that surrounds Nuclear Man, he extends his claws like goddamn Sabretooth at one point… like, this is a fight that takes place in numerous cities on Earth and in space, and it put me to sleep.
Chris: It’s not even really a fight scene; it’s structured as mostly just Nuclear Man screwing up landmarks and then Superman fixing them with super-feats, and it’s just so boring. The only thing worth noting is that at one point, Nuclear Man wrecks the Great Wall of China, and then Superman somehow fixes it with TIME-REVERSAL VISION. That’s a new one!
David: The time-reversal-vision is fantastic; I figured it could also be a sort of expansion of the telekinetic powers Zod exhibited in Superman II. Like, maybe he just moved the bricks back into place with his mind? And put the bricks back together? And mortarted them?
Chris: Yeah, when I was reading up on the movie, that’s what they said it was, as evidenced by the fact that Superman uses it later to stop some guys that are floating around because who the f*** knows anymore. It’s still stupid and comes out of nowhere.
David: That whole Great Wall of China scene is also great because they never show people ON the Great Wall when damage happens, because all they did was do 8th grade baking soda science project volcanoes near a cardboard Great Wall of China bought at Big Dave’s Hobby Shop.
Chris: I also like that there appear to be no actual Chinese people at the Great Wall of China. Like, I get that it’s a tourist spot, but you’d think there would be ONE.
David: So yeah, basically Superman fights Ric Flair all around the Epcot Center…
Chris: I wish. If this movie was the Man of Steel against the Dirtiest Player in the Game, we’d have to invent a new number for how many stars I’d give it. Eventually, Nuclear Man scratches up Superman and puts some nuclear juice up in him, and Superman gets poisoned. Because that makes sense, right? Superman getting poisoned by three scratches worth of solar power?
David: Dogg, he gets SPACE CANCER.
Chris: I can see how you got to that conclusion, I just can’t see how this movie got there.
David: I kind of guessed from all his hair falling out and turning white later! But yeah. And keep in mind this happens at the Statue of Liberty, man. After Nuclear Man picked it up and was going to throw it like a spear at the middle of Metropohattan, which was kind of awesome. And when Superman gets poisoned by Nuclear Man’s nuclear claws, he loses his cape, for a picture which gets run by Warfield Publications, I mean, the Daily Planet.
Chris: The Daily Planet (A Warfield Publication) reports that Superman is done for, and Lacey’s dad whose name I can’t remember even buys Superman’s cape as a souvenir, because now he’s suddenly J. Jonah Jameson, I guess? This upsets Lois, who thinks it’s Lacey’s doing, and all of this drama is apparently more important than Superman literally f***ing dying, because all of that happens off-screen until Lois finally goes over to give Clark some soup.
David: The sad thing is, this actually is more interesting than that.
Chris: Lois and Clark have a talk and she pours her heart out to him, and sort of implies that she knows he’s Superman. This actually does make some kind of sense, both because as we mentioned earlier, she’d be an idiot not to realize it at this point, and because with his impending demise, maybe his Roofie Kisses are finally wearing off.
David: I guess they didn’t think this would be the last movie, since I’m guessing they would have provided some closure with Superman and Lois actually admitting stuff at this point. Somehow, enough people involved were delusional enough to think this would be some sort of commercial success, so they left this open to future stories.
Chris: Lois gives Clark Superman’s clothes, Lex Luthor declares himself to be the boss of the nuclear weapons cartel that he’s been fleecing, and when we cut back to Clark, he’s on the edge of death until he remembers that dumb crystal McGuffin his space mom gave him way back when this movie started.
David: I do love how Lex declares himself the King of Nuclear behind a wall of money.
Chris: It’s probably the single best image in this movie. But yeah, Clark revitalizes himself with the crystal, but look out, kids! It’s a special extra life that can only be used once, so now it’s a for-really-really-real fight!
David: I love how, apparently, Clark apparently gets a 1-up from… the entire memorybank of his civilization. Like, he straight-up destroys everything left of Krypton to do this. And from all the terrible advice he’s gotten from his homeland, this is probably a pretty good call.
Chris: These movies have a tendency to do thi, where everything that would’ve mattered is immediately rendered irrelevant by some stupid plot contrivance. Lois getting nuked in Superman: The Movie and then time getting reversed, Superman losing his powers FOR EVER in Superman II and then, I dunno, deciding he wants them back and that’s all it takes, and now this. I mean, I guess you could say the same for the comics, but the movies go the extra mile in weaseling out of their own stupid plot points by making their excuses as dumb as possible. Compared to those, a Kryptonian crystal 1-Up Mushroom is actually the most believable.
David: With the notable exception of Superman III, which places Chekhov’s Gun on the mantle in the first act and sets it off in the third! It’s conventional storytelling, but in the Superman franchise, conventional is an improvement over nonsensical.
Chris: They said it was a power source. That’s it.
David: When I saw that, I honestly thought Superman would use THAT to solve the energy crisis. And not… what he eventually uses. Like, I thought it’d go “not only did I get rid of nuclear missiles, I’m giving you this dope-ass Kryptonian energy source to replace nuclear power! F*** YOU, DAD!”
Chris: I’m going to go ahead and let it slide because I think we’ve established how little thought went into this movie. So Nuclear Man suddenly decides he has a boner for Lacey Warfield, and also that he has telekinesis and fire blasts, because f*** it, why not. And just to show how little budget they have left, this entire fight scene involves Nuclear Man pointing at stuff, and then Superman standing around going “Stop it! THE PEOPLE!“
David: Oh. My. God. There are so many nonsensical leaps of logic here. First off, we don’t actually see Superman use the crystal to recharge himself, or what it costs. Secondly, there is literally zero explanation given for why Nuclear Man suddenly wants to bang Lacey Warfield, other than “he sees her picture in the paper.” He’s established as a simpleton, so he can’t read, right? And she isn’t even in the building, so he couldn’t use his super-senses. How did he even know to go to the Daily Planet? Thirdly, even if Nuclear Man was going after Lacey for some obnoxious King Kong s***, how would Superman expect Nuclear Man to come after Lacey? Did he sit there and go “well, if I had a dumb clone, he’d want to bang Lacey Warfield after seeing her picture on a newspaper, so I’m gonna just stand out here until he shows up?” He’s a clone of Clark – and the deleted footage makes the Bizarro inspiration practically explicit – so wouldn’t he go after Lois with screwed-up clone memories or something? Why Lacey? Other than that it’s convenient for the plot?
Chris: It’s really bad. It’s basically a fan-film at this point, except that a fan-film would probably try to show Superman flying. So after they stand around looking and pointing at stuff in this movie’s attempt at doing an action scene, Superman tricks Nuclear Man into getting in an elevator. This causes him to lose his powers and you’d think that’d be that, but for some reason Superman decides to take it out into space and put it on the moon. Directly in some sunlight. Because Superman is an idiot.
David: ELEVATORS: Hermetically sealed environments perfect for growing fungi
Chris: Does Superman think that there’s no sunlight on the moon because you can only see it at night? I’m pretty sure that is the implication here. Why wouldn’t he drop the elevator into a concrete foundation and cover it up, or throw it in a cave, or toss it into the Marianas Trench? That’s three solutions to this problem right off the top of my head.
David: All of them way more logical than his eventual solution, as well.
Chris: Instead, he goes to the Moon, straightens up the American flag, and we get a fight scene that simulates low gravity by being shot in slow motion, because otherwise this movie would end at 76 minutes that still felt like four hours.
David: My buddy Matt pointed out that from the angle he was approaching the flag, he was actually stepping all over Neil Armstrong’s footprints. Way to avoid interfering in human history, dick.
David: Superman, having just left Nuclear Man in the Totally Opaque, Really, We Swear Elevator of Doom, decides to just hang out on the Moon for a while with his buddy Flaggy the American Moon Flag.
Chris: So of course, Nuclear Man busts out and… Look, if you haven’t seen this movie, you will not believe how boring this sequence is: N-Man buries Superman on the moon by bashing his head with a rock and then pounding him into the ground, then flies back and kidnaps Lacey. Superman digs himself out, straightens the flag, and then pushes the moon in front of the sun to create an eclipse and rob Nuclear Man of his powers. You would think this is a bad idea since Nuclear Man is currently flying through outer space with a completely unprotected Lacey (?!) but she ends up being fine when Superman rescues her somewhere out past Mars.
David: I can vouch for this, guys: despite the fact that Chris’s description sounds pretty damn great, including the Silver Age wackiness of Lacey just hanging out in space somehow worried about FALLING despite being, I’m pretty sure, well past Earth’s gravity well for an object of her mass… this isn’t even exciting-dumb. It’s just boring.
Chris: And it’s really easy to go “oh, you’re just nitpicking the outer space stuff, this is a movie for kids,” but THE VERY FIRST THING IN THIS MOVIE is a rescue in space! Of a guy in an actual spacesuit! The first thing we see is that being in outer space is dangerous!
David: This is also a movie where two dudes jump a car down into a like 40-foot chasm and climb out five minutes later.
Chris: All we want is a tiny bit of internal consistency. That’s really all it takes. But instead, Superman drops Nuclear Man into a nuclear reactor and apparently he gets the wrong end of an atom-smasher and powers Metropolis for the next week. Hooray?
David: I’d like to mention that we have now seen Lacey for the last time in this movie. We glossed over her promotion to Publisher earlier, but that presumably gets written out by a later plot point. Despite being the only character in this movie with anything even remotely resembling an arc, unless you consider Superman’s “maybe I won’t blow up nukes? Maybe I will! Maybe that won’t work” as a ‘character arc,’ she completely disappears mid-climax, like a $100 clockwatcher.
Chris: Perry White buys the Daily Planet back from Mr. Warfield, and then Superman gives a speech about how he can’t stop Earth from blowing it up unless they want to, which is nice. Then he throws Luthor in jail and Lenny into juvie, roll credits.
David: Once again, Reeve. And I bet the final part of this movie would be great if Reeve had played Nuclear Man and they had a decent budget, as they planned. The Superman vs. Evil Superman fight was the best part of Superman III, and like twenty minutes of that would have ruled. And Superman III was pretty damn good to begin with.
Chris: Honestly, there’s not a whole hell of a lot here to like. Reeve and Hackman do a great job, but when you compare it to their previous work, they’re obviously not giving it their all. Reeve especially seems to be weary of the whole experience, and I don’t blame him.
David: Superman IV is a graveyard to lost promise of competence.
Chris: Lacey’s actually a pretty decent character – surprisingly so, given how she’s set up – but like you said, her arc fizzles right out so that the movie can wrap up.
David: It’s depressing. She goes nowhere. She’s completely absent after the fight with Nuclear Man.
Chris: And really, that’s it. A few nice lines, a couple of interesting scenes, and the rest is pretty much garbage. Which brings us to…
Chris: Where do we even begin?
David: I can’t imagine who involved in this movie actually liked it.
Chris: The biggest one is probably the return of the Roofie Kiss, which manages to be worse than the first time. It’s not just bad, it’s actually reprehensible.
David: The first time, it’s almost forgivable as Superman correcting what he perceived as a mistake.
Chris: Right. It’s just bad writing with dubious morality sent in to fix more bad writing.
David: But like, this time it’s on purpose. Not just for the writers, but also the character. Superman, and the writers, go into this knowing they are going to have Superman reveal himself, open his heart, selfishly use her for self-validation, and then remove her memories. It’s an abhorrent act.
Chris: Yeah, it’s… it’s just gross, on a level that goes beyond the rest of the movie, which is just incompetent and poorly done. There’s no logic to anything, the plot has no consistency, characters drop in and out at random – remember that little kid who wanted Superman to take care of all the nukes? Where’d he go? – and nothing actually gets accomplished. What did Superman do in this movie? He beat up a bad guy that wouldn’t exist without him doing something else, which he also didn’t actually end up doing.
David: He learned a valuable lesson, I guess! Except there were no more Superman movies, so it never got followed up on. And the valuable lesson was “go with your status quo.”
Chris: And speaking of things not getting followed up on, where’s Lana? Like I said before, even if you don’t like Superman III, it does set up a dynamic that could be interesting, and we know that because the most interesting pieces of this movie work on that same structure.
David: Yeah, Lana was a clear casualty of the switch from the Salkinds to Cannon – I wonder if they even asked her to come back at all? I know Superman III left a bad taste in the public’s collective mouth, despite it being so damn great, what is wrong with you early ’80s American public, why did you vote for Ronald Reagan, arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.
Chris: This movie is the first time that someone wanted to disregard stuff so that they could get back to the “wonder” and “majesty” and “s***tiness” of Superman I and II, and unfortunately for us, it wasn’t the last. But we’ll get to that next week. For now, if you want low points, just go read everything we wrote above about the bad writing, the obvious budgetary restraints, and the truly awful structure.
Chris: The more we write about this movie, the more I hate it.
David: Honestly, I think my main thing about these movies is this: I can see Superman beating people up anywhere, anytime. That’s easy to find. Seeing Christopher Reeve inhabit this character is, by far, the best part of these four films. When you’re watching Reeve acting, as opposed to jumping around like Peter Pan on wirework in a Metropolis High School production, these movies are eminently watchable. When Gene Hackman is just being a hilarious dick, it’s fun. When Lois is running around getting into messes and being scrappy and chain-smoking like a fiend, it’s enjoyable. When basically anything else is going on, it’s painful. And I think it says something that I used Reeve and Hackman’s actor names but not Margot Kidder’s there – I can’t imagine her as anyone other than Lois Lane.
Chris: I think it’s fair to say that this is the worst of the four Reeve movies. Even with as much as I hate Superman II, there’s good stuff in there. Here, even the good stuff is sort of dragged down.
David: This movie is a disaster. If given the full production budget, it at least would have been well-made pap, you know?
Chris: Right. You can even sympathize with the parts of the script that obviously don’t care, because I have to imagine that there were a ton of rewrites happening at the last minute because they couldn’t afford to do what was there originally. But sympathy doesn’t make it good.
David: This whole movie stinks of broken dreams.
Chris: Very poetic of you. But now, good news / bad news time!
David: Oh no! Please, Sims, don’t hurt ‘em.
Chris: The good news is that we’re done with Superman IV! The bad news is that since we couldn’t find a copy of Steel on DVD, it looks like next week, we’re going right into Bryan Singer’s 2006 atrocity, Superman Returns. PLUS! Since we’re coming to the end of the Superman franchise, we’re going to let you, the reader play editor. Next week, we’ll have a poll of four different series we can tackle next, and whatever you decide is what we’ll watch. Don’t miss it!
ComicsAlliance Reviews the Superman Films: