Marvel vs. DC:
Superman IV: the Quest for Peace, 1987
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway, Margot Kidder
It’s not the only example of this from DC, but this was the first example of them not being able to sustain a superhero franchise for four films. Christopher Reeve (Superman III) once again dons the red cape as Gene Hackman (Superman II) once again returns to be the villain but for all the acting decisions they may have gotten right, nothing else can be praised. Superman IV sees Superman/Clark Kent (Reeve) have to battle against Lex Luthor’s (Hackman) newly created Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), playing off the country’s fear of nuclear weapons, a man literally sprouted from the sun, with sharp claws and an unfortunate weakness in which he cannot fight without sunlight (thanks for informing of us that, Lex, I wonder how Superman will ever stop someone who powers down outside of sunlight).
This film is diabolically bad (although not as bad as Supergirl), and the special effects, poorly created plot and its inconsistencies as well as terrible dialogue (‘that’s Nuclear Man’s weakness, he powers down without the sun’) all come together miserably to create a very short Superman film, but a welcomed shortness. From Lex Luthor being easily sprung out of prison by his nephew (played by Jon Cryer, the star of Two and a Half Men who doesn’t have tiger blood) by plunging two cops off a cliff in an obvious toy car and no explosion, we soon learn about the new owners of The Daily Planet who want to turn it into a tabloid, and a new owner who fancies Clark Kent, and soon get introduced to Lex’s plan to have this Nuclear Man kill Superman by scratching him. Once Superman powers down, he’s ill with the flu (or something) until he picks up a green crystal and is well again. Hooray. It’s little things like Superman’s illness being a major factor despite him knowing the solution that really show us how much is missing from this film, and what we’ve been given as a result is an obviously broken mess.
Another thing that bugged me is the first time Nuclear Man’s weakness comes into play he steps inside a building from outside and then the sun is shaded and he flops down, but later on Superman traps him in an elevator, flies him to the moon and drops him. Surely Nuclear Man is dead, right? Nope. Somehow the sun shines on the elevator and he’s back to full strength. Why does he power down inside a building, without direct sunlight, but not an elevator, without any direct sunlight? And why does Nuclear Man and Superman fight from Metropolis to the Great Wall of China? (Completely forgetting that time difference is a thing as they both are shot in the exact same sunlight). And why does Superman now have wall-building vision, or spaceship deleting vision? And if you move the moon to block the sun that’ll cause more problems than it solves, surely? And if you launch every nuclear weapon on this planet at the sun that can’t be a good thing, surely? And why does nobody care that Superman has just stolen their nuclear weapons? And why is Jim Broadbent’s character French when he says like two things in the film? And why is Lois Lane (Margot Kidder, Superman III) practically flying as Superman takes her to the sky? And why can Lacy (Mariel Hemingway) breathe in outer space? Who wrote this film?
I feel I’ve thought more about this film in this review alone than the writers did when creating this film. It’s a sad end to what started off as a promising franchise, but, as we’ll see within the next decade of DC films, it’s not the only time a popular franchise starts off well, but dies a horrible death by the fourth instalment.
Plot: * Acting: * * Writing: * Presentation: *