When Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) leaves Metropolis to attend his high school reunion in Smallville, corporate magnate Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) recruits down on his luck computer genius Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) to help him take control of the world’s resources. As payment for his services Ross builds Gorman a gigantic computer that has the potential to kill Superman.
I don’t know what the meetings were like when Superman III was being brainstormed, but I’m sure so many ideas were tossed around that the film ended up feeling completely episodic. There is no focus because the movie is all over the map. We have the plot of Clark going back to Smallville and rekindling his love with childhood sweetheart Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole), Gus helping Ross take control of the coffee and oil supplies, Superman turning into Bizarro, and finally the out of nowhere super computer subplot. It’s tiring actually. With no through line, except maybe the Smallville subplot, it’s hard to get into this entry and stick with it for its completely overlong run time.
There’s just stupidity on display everywhere. No one says anything in regards to Clark sneezing in a bowling alley, firing a ball into the pins so hard it causes them to explode. The “Go” and “Stop” figures on a crosswalk light get into a fistfight. Richard Pryor drops off a sixty story building and lives. In a gravity and physics defying feat, Superman blows oil back into a tanker. One character gets randomly turned into a robot. It’s almost like the writers were told to do whatever they wanted no matter how dumb or ridiculous their ideas may be. As far as I’m concerned it was a conscious choice by the Salkinds to further give the raspberry to Richard Donner who wanted the movies to be serious and cheese free.
The acting is pretty terrible all around with only Christopher Reeve and Annette O’Toole giving honest performances amidst all the crap going on around them. The villains are non-threatening, Richard Pryor is just there to be a jester, and Gavan O’Herlihy yet again makes a complete ass of himself on screen (ever see his craptastic performance in Death Wish 3?). Pryor’s involvement, brought about when he proclaimed on late night television that he loved the previous movies, was a huge mistake since he basically tries to steal the movie out from under the title character. It’s as if you took his performance in The Toy and spliced it into Superman. He’s out of place and I didn’t believe for one second that he knew dick about computers. Robert Vaughn, obviously standing in for Gene Hackman who refused to return due to the Salkind’s sketchy business practices, plays an even worse version of Lex Luthor as Ross Webster. At least they got the fact that he runs a multimillion dollar company right. Annie Ross, who plays his nutty sister Vera just chews the scenery, and not in a good way. At least Pamela Stephenson looks like she’s having fun playing the faux bimbo Lorelei. I felt bad for Margot Kidder being kicked to the curb in favor of Annette O’Toole. I read that her cameo as Lois Lane was a result of how vocal she was when Donner was fired.
Out of all the nonsensical happenings and ridiculously cheesy humor, there is one aspect and one aspect alone that I will admit is pulled of extremely well – The Bizarro subplot. In order to stop Superman from messing with their plans for world domination, Ross orders Gus to create a piece of Kryptonite with which to kill the Man of Steel. When Gus realizes that there is an unknown element in Kryptonite he substitutes it with tar (after looking at a pack of cigarettes he’s holding). This Kryptonite makes Superman turn into an evil version of himself that drinks heavily, doesn’t care about anyone and is easily convinced to do dastardly deeds by the busty Lorelei. This leads to a fight scene where his good side, in the form of Clark Kent, literally battles his bad side, in the form of the Bizarro Superman, for control. The result is the best part of the entire movie. It’s dark in tone, involving and somewhat brutal. Seeing Reeve play both sides of the character is a blast and it’s sad that once this segment is over it goes right back into shitsville again.
The entire finale feels as if it were made up on the fly (sorry, bad pun), with the villains playing deadly video games complete with Pac-Man sound effects, robot automatons, self-aware computers choking people out with their own wiring and more people flying around than you can shake a stick at. It’s just so over the top in the cheese department that the movie explodes from lactose intolerance. The acid solution is dumb and convenient, with Superman flying across the country and back in less than a minute (something he can only do when the script requires) to save the day.
This flick is borderline unwatchable. There are a few moments that are reminiscent of the earlier films in the series, but Lester’s unnatural dependence on unnecessary comedy and silliness ruins the film completely. This flick ruined the franchise, and I was surprised that the following year the Salkinds actually went through with releasing a spin-off, Supergirl (an abomination that I will not be reviewing). The Superman films were officially dead after this fiasco, and rightfully so. This movie is complete ass.
1 out of 5
And what the fuck was up with Superman’s hair? It looked like he had it streaked in blonde. Dumb.