Back when it was first released, Superman III was regarded as a bad movie. It has one fantastic scene. Superman, drunk and turned evil by synthetic Kryptonite, battles his alter-ego, Clark Kent, in a junkyard (okay, maybe the bit where one villain gets turned into a robot is also pretty cool). On the whole, critics and audiences were in agreement. It's a bad movie.
But... prepare yourself, hitch up your red underpants and suck in that belly. Because worse was to come, in the shape of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
Back in 1986, superhero movies weren't the spandex juggernaut that they are now. As good as the original Superman was, it didn't kick off a new trend. I suspect because technology wasn't where it is now, where some tech nerd in an SFX company can just press a button on his keyboard and the computer spits out a beautifully rendered CGI superhero battle in three seconds flat!! Yes, I have it on good authority that it really is that simple! Until Batman in 1989, Superman was the only major player in town.
Give peace a chance
Superman IV is basically a perfect storm of Cold War paranoia and a movie star with too much say in the script. Although it's more of an imperfect storm, or maybe just a shitstorm. Back then, everyone thought we were one button press away from total nuclear annihilation. What was the answer? How could we stop governments being bellends and killing us all in the never ending battle of good vs evil or capitalism vs communism (I'm not sure who the good guys are these days)?
Well, supposes Christopher Reeve as he sips his morning OJ whilst spreading jam on a fresh croissant in his Malibu condo, what if Superman existed in this world for real and could bring about world peace by putting all the nukes in a massive fucking net in outer space and then hurling them into the sun? It could work!!
Unfortunately, no-one was on hand to say, "Chris, that's the dumbest fucking idea I ever heard!" and so Superman IV was born.
Super Quote #01
And there will be peace. There will be peace when the people of the world, want it so badly, that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them. I just wish you could all see the Earth the way that I see it. Because when you really look at it, it's just one world.
Make love, not war
The movie's take on creating world peace is unfortunately a rather simplistic one. Someone at the top level of any government would quickly work out that a few missiles would be held back by competing world powers, just to be on the safe side. To be fair, the film does realise this up to a point, so enter stage left, Lex Luthor, to capitalise on the lucrative market that is known as war.
During all this, Luthor hatches a plan to create a new super powered hero to destroy Superman. It's an endless source of amusement hearing Gene Hackman utter those words, "Destroy Superman." It never seems to get old, even in a film as poor as this one. I feel that Luthor simply enjoys the challenge of trying to kill the big blue guy, and somewhere deep down inside, he is actually relieved when Superman manages to foil his nefarious plans.
Super Quote #02
I'd like all the people back there to know that our subway system is still the safest and most reliable means of public transportation. Thank you.
Nuclear Man v2.0
Lex's plan involves strapping to a nuclear missile, some of Superman's DNA and also some other DNA gunk from a failed version of his experiments to create a super-powered villain. Then, when Superman chucks the missile into the sun, Nuclear Man v2.0 is born. But what of Nuclear Man v1.0? Well, that's the confusing part. Mainly because all of his scenes were famously deleted from the theatrical cut.
The confusion doesn't end there. In the quest to get the running time down to lean 90 minutes, most of the bits and pieces that you need for a plot to make sense, got chopped out. Character motivations become baffling, with characters jumping around all over the place with no regard for logic. Imagine a beginning, a middle, and an end for each scene, or series of scenes. And then cut out the middle for each of them. The deleted scenes on the Blu-ray fill in all the little gaps and small details that would have made the movie less nonsensical. But, I hasten to add, not necessarily a better movie. Putting the scenes back in would be like stirring a bucket of shit. You'd still have a bucket of shit at the end of it.
Part of the problem was budget. A serious lack of it.
Reeve Quote #01
We were also hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration. For example, Konner and Rosenthal wrote a scene in which Superman lands on 42nd Street and walks down the double yellow lines to the United Nations, where he gives a speech. If that had been a scene in "Superman I", we would actually have shot it on 42nd Street. Dick Donner would have choreographed hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles and cut to people gawking out of office windows at the sight of Superman walking down the street like the Pied Piper. Instead, we had to shoot at an industrial park in England in the rain with about a hundred extras, not a car in sight, and a dozen pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. Even if the story had been brilliant, I don't think that we could ever have lived up to the audience's expectations with this approach.
A bad movie better than an average movie?
The fights between Superman and Nuclear Man occasionally show a glimmer of imagination, their battle even reaching the moon. But the plot holes and inconsistencies pile up so high and so fast, that it's hard to maintain much interest in their super powered slug fest.
The nonsense reaches its absolute peak when Nuclear Man kidnaps Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway) and flies her into outer space and she survives! That's right. Survives! It can't even be waved away with her being in a low orbit around the earth or something. She gets taken probably a thousand miles from the planet. And she can breathe, there's wind blowing through her hair, and when Nuclear Man drops her, she falls as if there's gravity. She even survives re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere when Superman rescues her. You'll be slapping your forehead so hard, you'll have a migraine for the next three weeks.
I think that scene really encapsulates just how bad Superman IV is.
However, it's strange that even though I rated, for example, Man of Steel higher (although not much higher), I would still rather watch this. Which proves that sometimes there's more to enjoy in a terrible movie than there is in just an average one. A terrible movie becomes an unintentional comedy. During the 90 minutes run time, I laughed out loud, shook my head in bewilderment, and grimaced with the pain of watching such crap. A real rollercoaster of emotions that some films would kill for.
One thing's for sure, Superman IV is an unforgettable movie. Which is a shame, as I would dearly love to forget it.