Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Review

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is considered by many to be the worst Superman film ever. I would disagree. Is this film, "good?" Maybe not, but there's a lot of good in it and it is certainly better than the series oddball, Superman III.

First, the good:
This film shares a lot in common with its predecessors, particularly Superman and Superman II.. Some may call this a negative but if you liked it the first time, why wouldn't you like it this time? This film fits very nicely with the first two films, returning Lois Lane as a central character and Gene Hackman as Lex (his "parting is.... inevitable" line is brilliant!). Superman reveals his identity to Lois (again), flies with Lois (again), does the Super-kiss (again), the plot of the film involves missiles (again), Lex summons Superman using ultrasonics (again)... I could go on. I liked how this movie addressed the worldwide geopolitical repercussions of Superman's existence. It's easy to show Superman rescuing cats out of trees but why doesn't Superman end all war? The nuclear issue was THE hot button topic in the 80's and I think this movie expressed what a lot of Americans were feeling: We wished the nukes would just go away. Superman's speech to the UN is awesome. It was also good to see Superman fighting an actual super villain in this film. The Nuclear Man proved to be a real threat to Superman. In fact, my wife watched this film for the first time recently and midway through the film she wondered out loud if they would really kill Superman. The whole plotline with the Warfields buying and ruining the Daily Planet brought out the best in Perry, Clark, and Lois. The characterization of Clark was dead on: "He's the oldest living Boyscout. He's trustworthy, helpful, loyal, obedient..."

And then, the weird, the bad, and the weirdly bad. Superman films NEVER get the rules of space and/or time correct. So here we see Superman speaking in space, a normal human being carried into space, and Superman can apparently hear radio waves (he responds to a Russian singing inside his space suit). Anyway, that runaway satellite would have killed that astronaut in an instant. Superman flies Lois across the country in a very brief period of time... 3,000 MPH would have killed her!

In this film it is also implied that Superman hates the earth. He cuts the top off of a mountain to stop a volcano. Really? This is going to work? Ever heard of corking a volcano? He also moves the moon for the sole purpose of blocking the sun. Why not just fly into the moon's shadow? You really had to cause worldwide tsunamis for a small, brief tactical advantage? Then Supes risks a full-fledges Chernobyl event by dropping the Nuclear Man into a nuclear reactor. Wait... isn't that murder? Since the Nuclear Man had Superman's genes does this mean that this method could also kill Superman? "High school physics?" Huh?

I never understood the whole, "Disarm the world" thing. It says that the governments aren't willing to disarm themselves, but then they fire their missiles into the sky where Superman collects them one by one. Why the change of heart? Or were the countries actually trying to destroy one another, hoping that Superman would miss a few missiles? And how does Superman know he got all of the missiles?

Powers are, as always, wacky in Superman films. I guess I accept the whole telekineses thing but Superman rebuilding a destroyed Great Wall of China in mere seconds with some kind of weird vision is too much. Superman also cooks a duck through a wall and the oven with his heat vision. Since when can heat vision pass through walls? Mind explaining how the Nuclear Man's scratches turned Superman into a sickly 80 year old? Wait, I thought if the Nuclear Man lost contact with the sun for even a few minutes he'd shut down... so why didn't he shut down when he flew into the volcano's core?

Oh, and it's always nice to see a vindictive Clark use his powers to nearly kill a civilian like when he drops a 200 pound weight on a jerk in the gym. Way to teach him, Clark! I could go on, talking about cops wearing headphones to listen to a car speaker system, Superman understanding just who Nuclear Man means when he randomly asks the question, "Where is woman?", how easy it was to cut Superman's hair in the museum, and the irresponsibility of hitting baseballs into space where, you know, the astronauts Superman just got done rescuing are. And don't even get me STARTED on the Nuclear Man clothing issue.

Nitpicking aside, at the end of the day I like this movie. It may be pure nostalgia, but I feel it does a great job of capturing the zeitgeist of the 80's. Both Superman and Clark Kent are spot on and, at the end of the day, that's what you bought the ticket for. Not a great film, but not the worst in the series either.

1LR Review: 14 out of 20 - It's a Hit!


  1. (It says anonymous, but it's me, there's something wrong with either my computer or this site when using Google Chrome)

    What can I say. I usually find myself defending a movie, not tearing it down. But to say that this film is BETTER than Superman Returns is preposterous.

    Did you know this movie only had a $17 mil budget? Small pottoes for a superhero movie. It's almost as though the backers of this film had little confidence in the film and regarded it more as a tax write-off than a successful edition to the franchise. And they were right. It made only $15mil domestic.

    Fanboy nit-pickery aside, this film was plagued with failure from the get-go. The vast majority of the external scenes in this film such as the U.N. building in Metropolis were filmed in and around the new town of Milton Keynes, Bucks, England. This was due to the Cannon producers Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus refusing to budget a shoot in New York City. This accounts for the many English liscence plates seen on cars supposedly in Metropolis.

    Platforms, wires, and harnesses were seen throughout all the action sequences due to budget constraints. Footage from previous films were re-used in this film. In fact, the special effects in this film were so bad, I'm surprised we didn't see a tinfoil UFO with a sparkler for afuel exhaust gingerly dangle across the screen.

    Even Christopher Reeve only agreed to this film in order to get his project "Street Smart" financed. Even established characters like Louis Lane were extremely under-utilized. Once again she is turned on and off like a lightswitch with the old super-kiss. Really, isn't this pratfall getting old?

    Superman IV was directed by Sidney J. Furie, a director below-par when compared to the formidable talents of Richard Donner and Richard Lester. His resume includes Iron Eagle 1 & 2.

  2. Maybe I'll tip my hat to the notion that Superman Returns is a more "disappointing" film. Considering the production value, directors and actors involved, etc, it failed where it should not have. However, Superman IV was destined to fail, and fail miserably. All things being equal, a side-by-side comparison clearly shows Superman IV is the WORST in the franchise.

  3. Sounds like you should check out: Just covered this movie.