SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN II are two of the best films ever made. There is no way to figure out which one is better. I lean toward to part two, but lean back to the first one, cuz I love a good origins story. Christopher Reeve IS Superman. He always will be. The re-launch a couple of years ago failed so miserably that all us Superman fans cried crocodile tears and it looks like our beloved Supes will not fly again for awhile. But it hasn't always been love and praise for the Superman series. Part 3 was good when I was a kid, but even then I thought it was a little loooong in the tooth. Then there was the nasty business of SUPERMAN 4: THE QUEST FOR PEACE.
Right off the bat, we have problems. I am all for peace. I campaign for it. Peace is great, but to be the center of a Superman movie? BORING. And the poor director found his budget slashed from 36 million dollars to 17 million about halfway through making the movie. It ain't looking good. What you have is a mixture of special effects not completely fleshed out and very cheap looking costumes. Also, the director had to cut about an hours worth of footage, including two battles between Superman and his nemesis. The film has this "we don't care, why should you" feel to it. Too bad, because it could have been something mildly interesting.
Co-written by Reeve, it really tries to pound the message of disarming nuclear warheads and calling for sanctions among the countries of the world. All things that little boys care about. There is lots of talking and Superman holds TWO press conferences. FLY! BITCH! FLY!! We don't want to watch this. Where is Lois Lane? Oops. Lois Lane went crazy! Margot Kidder is back, somehow, and she is a full on mess. She looks really harsh and seems to really hate being on the set. She goes through the motions and snatches her paycheck, but that is about it. The filmmakers had to call in Mariel Hemingway to liven things up a bit, but she is about as lively as disarmed warhead. She wears lots of beige and seems to just melt right into the background.
Reeve, on the other hand always looks good! He is getting a touch older, but still kicking it. The biggest debate between Superman fans (the gays ones at least) is Reeve hunkier as Superman or Clark Kent? This has been a question that has troubled our community for three films. Part 4 takes all the sexiness out of Reeve. As Superman, the suit is a little ill-fitting and frayed around the lettering. As Clark Kent, he wears monster size glasses and Mom jeans. But he still pulls off the hunk bit though. His hair is weird in this movie. It doesn't have that hot scoop in the front like normal, but it is rather a do that resembles The Great Gatsby era, for girls. Not a good look on Superman.
What sort of resembles the plot is as follows. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman reprising his role) bust out of the chain gang with the aid of his punk-esque nephew played by Jon Cryer. For some reason two hottie girls are along for the ride and never utter a word. Cryer talks like a Valley Girl and wears skinny leather pants with high tops. I think his character is suppose to bring in the kids. It didn't work. He seems like he is high on coke the whole movie, which I totally understand. Saddled with this film, one looks for an escape. Tons of his scenes were sacrificed in the editing room and we don't ever understand what he is doing in the film or even why he is in the film. Together they one up the UN and Superman's plan to disarm all the nuclear warheads and toss them into the sun. They steal a piece of Superman's head, mix in some potions that turns into silly putty and then they launch it into the sun. Once heated up, they create NUCLEAR MAN!!! Yes, they just create him. It's easy!
Nuclear Man wasn't the first model though. Lex and nephew created a punkish Frankenstein monster at first, that was kinda out of control. You have to watch about five deleted scenes on the dvd to get the whole story. So another good 25 minutes slashed out of the film. It is almost like part 3 1/2 or something. Here is the first model of Nuclear Man. Not really something you could make an action figure out of.
The movie jumps from the Nuclear Man storyline to a weird double date storyline with Mariel Hemingway with Clark Kent and Lois Lane with Superman. See, Clark and Superman are the same person, so he can't be in the same place at the same time and hilarity ensues. The entire segment proves just how dumb both women are and it is kind of masochistic. I can't vouch for Mariel character, since the filmmakers decided to cut all of her development, but Lois Lane is no dummy. I really hated that they reduced her to that. Very Typical Male if you ask me. It is suppose to be madcap, but it is just maddening.
So many things drove me bat shit while I watched Supes 4, but one of the things that made me bonkers was all the extras that kept looking at the camera. Directly into it. I kept waiting for someone to wave or hold up a "HI MOM!" sign. No luck. This compounded on top of all the strings on the cast as they flew away and flew around the city and landed was too much for me to handle. I finally just gave in and pretended that I was watching a rehearsal version of Superman 4: Quest for Peace.
The flight scenes are really long and drawn out, but you can get through them easily, if you sit on the couch and lift your feet up in the air and pretend you are in the SOARIN' ride at Disney! FUN!
By the end, Nuclear Man has ripped The statue of liberty out of the ground and tosses her into the city, but Superman catches the statue and everything is okay. Then Nuclear Man, in an all of a sudden finale, kidnaps Mariel Hemingway and flys up into space with her. Now, wait a goddamn minute!! Even the animators of the Super Friends cartoon knew to draw an invisible space helmet around Wonder Woman or Aquaman's head when the traveled to space. Then he drops her, but Supes snatches her up. Lucky for him, she didn't burn up going through the atmosphere.
Superman 4: Quest for Peace suffers from being too comic bookish, but trying desperately to be serious and have a message. It comes off as a preachy message. Maybe with a bigger budget to touch up all the special effects and a better screenplay, we could have had an interesting movie. Sadly, Supes 4 is as my mom says, "plum pitiful".
Christopher Reeve's legacy will live on forever as audience discover the first two films in every generation. Christopher you will always be in our hearts and forever a part of everyone who ever dreamed of soarin'.