When watching Superman III we came up with an idea for a Superman movie where Clark Kent is dating one woman and Superman another, and he keeps walking through the wrong portal in the wrong costume with hilarious results. Imagine our surprise when Superman IV pretty much did that, albeit without the hilarious results.
The fourth Man of Steel steals the equivalent Rocky movie‘s plot of having its hero fighting to end the Cold War – and if you think Superman doing it makes more sense than Rocky, you obviously haven’t seen Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. The nuclear disarmament story was Christopher Reeve’s idea; he should probably have demanded a coherent narrative instead, if only Superman had the power of foresight.
Superman IV was bought by the notorious schlock jocks at Cannon Films and its budget halved to $17m (and it still lost money), using Milton Keynes for New York and (by the looks of it) a Pritt Stick instead of a blue screen. For a series’ special effects to deteriorate with each instalment is virtually unheard of today (The Equalizer 2 notwithstanding), but this film’s numerous flying sequences fly only in the face of comprehension.
Our hero also continues Superman III’s habit of flaunting his flirtations with other women right in Lois Lane’s (Margot Kidder) face, whose knowledge/ignorance of his secret identity fluctuates even more extremely than Adrian’s zeal for Rocky to fight again. At least Lois Lane is actually in this movie, which is more than can be said for its predecessor – ditto getting to hear the John Williams theme and having the vaguest idea of what’s going on.
It’s also nice to see Gene Hackman’s return as Lex Luthor, even if his plan to create Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow) by firing protoplasm grown from Superman’s hair into the sun isn’t exactly rocket science. But for every welcome Hackman scene there are another 10 hacked-up scenes, with a reported 45 minutes cut from the film that Jon Cryer (who plays Luthor’s nephew) described as being released without being finished.
That a film in which Superman unilaterally declares nuclear disarmament in a speech to the UN then flies around putting all the missiles in a big net (ultimately moving the moon out of its orbit, though not before posing heroically next to its American flag) is a mild improvement says more about Superman III than it does IV. It may not have saved the series, but at least it put it out of its misery.