Superman III Review
Director – Richard Lester
Cast – Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O’Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn, Margot Kidder
– follows Superman II
– followed by Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
And, we’re back to Superman! This article is part of the series Superheroes: Bottom to Top, where I watch all the superhero movies I own, from worst rated to best (according to Rotten Tomatoes).
First, a small bit of background. Superman: The Movie was directed by Richard Donner, and released to critical acclaim. Come Superman II, Donner was fired halfway through filming, and replaced by Richard Lester, who re-shot some scenes, and shoehorned in a lot of awkward humour. While the movie was still received well, many people noticed the clash of styles, and weren’t too happy. And then, Richard Lester was given full control over Superman III. Comedian Richard Pryor was given the lead, the opening credits sequence was full of Marx Bros.-esque slapstick and didn’t even feature Superman… and fans were pissed.
Their Superman was noble and grand. He fought evil interplanetary beings, and vicious madmen, not a tycoon who wants to buy more coffee. Now personaly, and this is where I come into disagreement with most people, I was glad to see some comedy in this movie. Now it does go over the top a bit, and Richard Pryor is in way too much of the movie, but it felt right to me. The main reason is the ridiculousness of Superman’s character. His disguise is a pair of glasses. His co-worker is in love with his alter ego, yet does not notice the similarity between Kent and Superman. It’s absurd, really, and this movie recognizes that. So in that respect, I will defend the comedic aspects of Superman III.
Having said that, it does end up hurting the movie. By the half way point we stop caring about the characters, and we start getting sick off gags. It doesn’t help that the rest of the movie isn’t that great, either. The plot is draggy and unfocused, and as I said before, Richard Pryor’s hacker character drags the whole movie down. While it might have been an interesting idea to see a the typical superhero movie through the eyes of a man sucked up in the villain’s clutches, it doesn’t work here.
What does work? The special effects for one, which are definitely the best of the series. There is a sub plot involving Superman being infected (?) by some faux Kryptonite. He starts behaving erratically, and even turns evil for a bit. This story line doesn’t really work, but Reeves is very convincing as baddie Supes. I think Reeves is a better actor than he is usually given credit for.
Is the movie worth watching? I’ll go out on a limb and say it pretty much is, but just for Superman complete-ists. It’s nothing special, and has a lot of flaws, but I found it curiously watchable. Not a ringing endorsement to be sure, but there it is.
Superman III is not a great movie, it really isn’t. The storyline is unfocused, and Richard Pryor is way too prominent. Having said that, Superman complete-ists may find something to enjoy here. Everyone else should steer clear.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up, Nic Cage and Ghost Rider!
“Superman III” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Batman and Robin Review
Director – Joel Schumacher
Cast – George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough
– follows Batman Forever
As I sat watching the mind-numbing neon nightmare called Batman and Robin, I couldn’t help but think of the previous movie I watched for this series that I’ve called Superheroes: Bottom to Top. But while Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was awful due in large part to its low budget, this movie suffers for having too large a budget. Put simply, it doesn’t know where to stop, from it’s outlandish set pieces (which might have been fun for kids if not repeated so relentlessly), to the overt sexuality of the constantly-narrating Poison Ivy, which went too far for a kids movie.
And I think they thought they were making a kids movie. That’s what everyone wanted apparently, after the slightly dark first two Batman films. Well, parents groups, you got your wish. This movie has the tone of a Looney Tunes short, complete with whistles and bweeps during fight scenes, but unfortunately without the fun. The baddies refer to Batman and Robin as the heroes, and are self-aware enough to know they are the villains. The dialogue is right out of a comic book, full of exposition and plot-pushing. Let’s drop in on Poison Ivy talking to herself… “Mammals, a day of reckoning is coming. The same plants and flowers that saw you crawl from the primordial soup will reclaim the planet, and there will be no-one to protect you!” It seems Schumacher takes the dynamic duo as seriously as the Hasbro execs.
For that matter, so does Clooney.” Sleep walking” would perhaps be the term. Michael Gough seems to give it his all, and in fact his story becomes almost touching. Almost. Meanwhile, Uma and Arnold ham it up. They seem to think they’re in a children’s play. Well, who are we kidding. They are.
Now all this is not to say that a light tone and a tongue-in-cheek spirit can’t work. It just doesn’t here. Bright colours and jokey quips are well and good, but here it feels like being hit over the head with a neon baseball bat.
All-in-all the movie just reeks of corporate desperation. Director Joel Schumchaer himself admitted to being under pressure from toy companies to make a movie that would sell action figures. Ice Skating Batman, Hockey Goon sold separately! I don’t know if they succeeded. Out of pure spite I hope they didn’t.
Batman and Robin deserves its bad reputation and then some. It’s garish, loud, obnoxious, and dull. Enough said.
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up, Superman 3! Not sure why I put an exclamation mark there…
“Batman and Robin” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Review
Review # 153
Director – Sydney J. Furie
Cast – Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway, Margot Kidder
– follows Superman III
Christopher Reeve didn’t want to make a fourth Superman film. After the campy Superman III , released in 1983, there weren’t even any plans for a follow-up. But the rights were sold to the low-budget production company Cannon Films, and Reeve was approached to reprise the role that made him famous. He eventually agreed, but only if Cannon agreed to finance a pet project of his, which became the critically applauded Street Smart. Reeves was even promised story input. But as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace went into production, Cannon reduced the budget multiple times. Apparently Reeve himself said to other cast members that the movie would not be very good. That was an understatement.
It’s a shame too. Apparently Christopher Reeve personally recruited Gene Hackman back to the franchise, and it was his idea to have the movie revolve around the disarmament of nuclear weapons. The movie makes a nice effort to show Superman as a citizen of the world, and the anti-nuclear weapon stance is, of course, commendable. Now while it beats that particular drum a little too heavily by the end (and the X-Men movies did much better with the “superheroes meets politics” theme), I really think it shows the movie’s potential. But “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, and while it may be a stretch to call sitting through the movie to be a hellish experience, it’s not that far away.
The special effects are worse than those int he original film, released 10 years earlier, the story is clumsy and heavy-handed, and the whole thing isn’t even consistent with the mythology set up by the previous movies. The best word for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is, I think, “drab.” The actors appear bored (except for possibly Gene Hackman, who is cut down by an absurd script and even more inappropriate “theme music”), and the villain cooked up by Hackamn’s Lex Luthor looks like a constipated member of a glam rock band. Most rock bands have better pyrotechnics, though…
Poor Christopher Reeve. He wanted it to be so much better.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is an under funded mess of a movie, made all the more infuriating by the (albeit small) glimpses of what could have been. The story is dull, the actors are tired, and the special effects are awful. In a scene taking place on the Moon we can actually see the black curtains at the back of the set.
It really says it all when the stock footage of volcanoes erupting seems out-of-place because it is of better quality than the rest of the movie…
NOTE: This review is part of a series called Superheroes: Bottom to Top, wherein I review every super-hero movie I own, from the lowest rated to the highest (according to Rotten Tomatoes). Next up, Batman and Robin! Shudder…
“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia