Sunday, June 16, 2013

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

After the box office and critical drubbing that Superman III received back in 1983, as well as the financial fiasco that Supergirl ended up being (it made just over $14m on a budget of $35m), the Salkinds finally decided to sell off the rights to the Man of Steel. Unfortunately the studio that purchased it was The Cannon Group, owned by Manahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who were known primarily for making ultra low budget trash like Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, the American Ninja series, Death Wish 2-4, Alien from L.A. and American Cyborg: Steel Warrior. Their style of filmmaking proved to be the wrong fit for this property, and when Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released in 1987 it sounded a death knell that would last for nearly twenty years.

A schoolboy pleads for Superman (Christopher Reeve) to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and he agrees to do so. Unfortunately Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) has escaped from prison, and with the help of his bumbling nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer) has created Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), a super powered villain engineered to kill Superman.
I’ve seen some cheap ass movies in my day, but goddamn does this epic shit stain of a flick take the cake. I give the filmmakers credit for trying to be ambitious, but when you don’t have the resources to sell something convincingly, like a character flying, then don’t even bother. Corners were cut everywhere and it’s plainly obvious. Flying shots are constantly reused, sets and costumes look like they were constructed in a basement, and the special effects are absolutely horrendous. This is the equivalent of a Troma movie, that’s how bad it looks.

Christopher Reeve came up with the somewhat topical story along with writers Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. Unfortunately he seemed to think he had written Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and that he had a winner with this turd, because I read that he was super arrogant on the set due his story credit. Sorry dude, but the script is all kinds of stupid and is filled to the brim with the kind of ridiculous cheese that ruined Superman III.  Pretty much anything that comes out of Lex and Lenny Luthor’s mouth is something dumb, Superman takes Lois on a flight around the world for no reason and she gets another amnesia kiss for her trouble, normal non-superhero characters are taken into outer space in their street clothes and don’t suffocate, Superman developed the power to rebuild damaged property by looking at it and after all the bluster in Superman II about the last Kryptonian energy source (the green crystal) being used up to make Clark invulnerable again he just so happens to find another one in his old escape pod. Derp. I did so much eye rolling while watching this that I think I gave myself a cataract. There’s only so much suspension of disbelief one person is willing to allow.
I never thought I would ever type this out, but here we go – Gene Hackman absolutely sucks ass here. His Lex Luthor has always been played for laughs and I’m surprised that he actually signed on to star in this garbage. Did he not read the script beforehand, or was the mortgage due? Christopher Reeve looks completely disinterested in the part for the first time in any of these films. I’m sure he realized that the script he helped to author was a real stinker all too late and had to stick it out for better or worse. Morgot Kidder looks like she aged thirty years since Superman II and her performance, while still as honest as ever, is comprised of nothing but a bunch of overly sentimental speeches. The less said about the other members of the cast the better. If the core players can’t even sell their parts…

If there is one thing this flick gets right it’s the superhero vs. supervillain action, and holy hell is there a lot of it. While it is hokey and reeks of penny pinching it is fun to see Superman and Nuclear Man beating the everloving crap out of each other for the last thirty minutes. I could have done without the breakdancing vans and horribly goofy reversed footage, but this stuff is a pure comic book oh-face. When I was a kid I used to watch these scenes over and over regardless of the fact that I hated the rest of the movie. That’s more that can be said for part 3. Nowadays it looks like shit compared to what can be seen in modern day superhero cinema, but back in the day this was the tits.
Director Sidney J. Furie, who went from directing respectable films like Lady Sings the Blues, The Entity and The Ipcress File to making schlock like the Iron Eagle films, The Taking of Beverly Hills and Ladybugs, shows absolutely zero talent for filmmaking here. Everything has a slapdash feel to it; rushed and printed not unlike an Ed Wood movie. After he helmed this disaster his career never recovered and he went from making big Hollywood films to direct-to-video trash. I’m not surprised that he’s still doing it to this very day.

The length of the film is something that always bugged me. All the other films had clocked in around two hours, but this entry is barely 90 minutes. Turns out this entry would have been over two hours, but a large portion was cut out for various reasons; some for time, others for quality. There was a subplot about another Nuclear Man – a prototype made before the one featured in the film. It was more of a Bizarro un-Superman that acted like Sloth from The Goonies and is killed when Superman gives him a right hook into a junction box that is so powerful it makes him explode. Like everything that remained in the final cut of the film, all of the excised material was shit.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is a shameful excuse of a film, but I will say that it is slightly better than its predecessor. Outside of some insane superhero shenanigans this flick is a complete bust. You should do your best to avoid it and pretend you live in a world where it was never aborted into the mainstream.

1.5 out of 5

You can read my review of the next film in the series, Superman Returns, by clicking here.

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