Released: July 1987
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Run Time: 90 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Christopher Reeve: Clark Kent/Superman
Gene Hackman: Lex Luther
Jackie Cooper: Perry White
Margot Kidder: Lois Lane
Mark McClure: Jimmy Olsen
Mark Pillow: Nuclear Man
Sam Wanamaker: David Warfield
Mariel Hemingway: Lacy Warfield
We come to it at last: The great failure of our time. Superman III, for all its faults, was still a relatively entertaining film. It had some pretty strong performances and some pretty good visual effects. Superman has been a symbol for truth and justice for decades. He’s the big blue boy scout. Over the years, the character has been adapted from comics into graphic novels, novels, video games and ultimately, movies. In fact, the movie started the whole comic book film craze was Superman: The Movie. That was a movie that surprised everybody and convinced the world that a man could fly. Superman II gave the Man of Steel three super-villains to contend with and was epic and spectacular. Superman IV could have been something truly special, but the moment the Salkinds left the franchise to the Cannon Film Group, everything went to Hell.
The story, which was co-written by Christopher Reeve himself, involves Superman responding to a child’s desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons. During all this, Lex Luthor breaks out of prison with the help of his nephew, Jon Cryer, I mean, Lenny. He devises a plan to destroy Superman using a strand of his hair in a museum. He creates a new super-villain powered by the sun, Nuclear Man. Where, oh where do I begin with this? The concept is interesting, considering that the movie takes place and was made during the Cold War. Christopher Reeve’s desire to address the issue of nuclear weapons is a noble and admirable goal. Unfortunately, he was sabotaged by Golan and Globus’ incompetence and complete lack of understanding of the character. The Cannon Film Group was having some very severe financial issues, which forced them to make drastic cuts to Superman IV. Oh, yeah, and there’s this bullshit subplot involving the hostile takeover of The Daily Planet. You can tell right from the get-go that there are some serious problems with the movie. The story is just the tip of the bullshit iceberg.
From what I understand, and according to Mark Rosenthal on the commentary on the DVD, the initial cut of the film was supposed to be 134 minutes. There’s clearly a lot of stuff that was cut out. There’s a lot of story elements which don’t fit together and are suspiciously absent. As a result, the editing is fucked all to hell. Because of budgetary cuts, the special effects team for the film was pretty much annihilated leaving us with repeated visual effects shots like this:
I kid you not, this flying sequence was repeated twice in one scene at the beginning of the movie when Superman was saving the Russians. You see this over and over again throughout the entire film, with only the background changing. You can see the wires that are supporting the actors and the matte effects are absolutely atrocious. You can see that in the screenshot above. Not all of the visual effects are awful. There’s a sequence involving a volcano that was pretty cool, but overall the visual effects of the film are disastrous. That’s not the only thing that went wrong here. The audio is all sorts of screwy. The guy who plays Nuclear Man, Mark Pillow, had his voice dubbed over by Gene Hackman. There is an absolutely gobsmackingly awful amount of bad dubbing throughout the entire film. The kid that wanted Superman to rid the world of nukes, is poorly dubbed, as was the teacher.
Even for a superhero movie, there needs to be a basic understanding of physics and Superman IV shows absolutely NO willingness to abide by ANY laws of physics. I get it, Superman flies, but most people don’t. The complete disregard for physics in this movie, makes for an extremely laughable experience. The most egregious offenses happen towards the end of the film. One, when Nuclear Man kidnaps Lacy and flies her into space, she’s clearly breathing, even though there is no air in space, and she’s not freezing to death. Also when the lava flows down the streets and you have people standing on the sidewalk, they should have been incinerated by standing so close to the lava without protection. Going to back to space, if Superman actually moved the moon, there would be massive environmental catastrophes happening around the world.
The acting is terrible all around. Christoper Reeve, bless his soul, gave it his all, but it simply wasn’t enough. Everybody involved with the production of Superman IV, including the Man of Steel himself, came out against the picture. The absolute disrespect for Superman is apparent in nearly every frame of the film. There is a scene in which the Great Wall of China is blown up by Nuclear Man, but Superman puts it back using his Super Vision. Last time I checked, Superman did not have that ability. The entire film is a fucking train-wreck. I’m sorry, there really is nothing that’s redeemable about this film. Mark Pillow’s film career began and ended with Superman IV. This was, sadly, the final time that Christopher Reeve would wear the red cape. The character would be revisited in film form until 2013 when Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel. People often refer to Batman and Robin as the worst comic book movie ever. Well….I hate to disagree with that, but Superman IV is an absolute abomination. I can enjoy watching it, because I can point and laugh at the awfulness that’s before my eyes. If you were to step up to me and say that Superman IV was a good movie, I literally would slap you in the face.
My Final Recommendation: Fuck this movie. Fuck this movie. Fuck this movie. 1/10