Superman III (1983)
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
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