Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

(Second viewing, On DVD, June 2017) I remembered very little of Superman IV (basically: Luthor getting ahold of Superman’s hair, and him throwing nuclear weapons in the sun, both of whom happen early in the film), and so spent much of the first half-hour wondering why the film had such a bad reputation. Sure, it wasn’t up to the standards of the first film, and yes the credit sequence was obviously done on the cheap … but getting back to the Superman universe (even if perceptibly updated to the late eighties) isn’t bad, the “day in the life” Superman episodes are enjoyable, Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor are back, Christophe Reeves is still a capable Clark Kent/Superman and the whole “getting rid of nuclear weapons” subplot feels far less egregious now than during the cold war. Then the atrocities began. If the first half-hour of Superman IV is tolerable, the film very quickly sinks to newer and newer lows as it tilts in its second half. Despite some good images here and there (most notably in the street-level fight that begins near the Daily Planet offices), the film devolves in a series of increasingly ridiculous set-pieces. The chase sequence over Manhattan with Lady Liberty is just … wow. The lunar fistfight is also … wow. Superman going full-shmuck and using Lois Lane for his own gratification before wiping her memory (as he probably did many times before) … yuck. The rest is either dull or ridiculous, and that’s not even getting into the limits of the film’s budget. I’ve used the analogy before with the Jaws series, but the same also goes for the Superman quartet: The first one is at the upper half of good movies; the second one at the lower end of good movies, the third one at the upper end of bad movies and the fourth one at the lower end of bad movies. Thankfully, they stopped right there.

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