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Despite the overwhelming hatred for Superman III, I gotta say that I think it's an excellent film. One of the two best of the whole Superman saga, actually. The other, of course, is the original film. But Superman III is so much fun, and a great example of how it's possible for Superman to have enemies OTHER than Lex Luthor. The guy's been the main villain in, how many is it, FOUR of the now FIVE Superman films? I liked Gene Hackman's Luthor (far superior to Kevin Spacey's), but you gotta take a break at some point. No, Superman III is a refreshing change of pace, not only in that respect, but in several ways.
Most noticeable, and much to the chagrin of many people, is the slightly more comedic tone of the film, centered mainly around Richard Pryor's character, August 'Gus' Gorman. I thought Prior was great. He plays an over-the-top character in a movie series about an over-the-top character. I hear people complain all the time that they hate the comedy that Prior brought to the film because Superman is supposed to be, and these are actual quotes, "gritty" and "realistic". NO, he's not. Superman is not gritty, and he's not realistic. Never was, never will be. Richard Donner's original doesn't even come CLOSE to playing it straight. Just look at how he portrays Clark Kent. In the comic books and 1950's television series, the "mild-mannered" Clark Kent is treated with respect and professionalism. He basically co-exists amongst his peers at the Daily Planet. In "Superman: The Movie", Richard Donner has taken the character straight out of the old comics and TV series, with all the same mannerisms and morals, and placed him in a very modern 1978. This is a set-up for much of the films adequate amount of comedy relief. "Superman: The Movie" is not a comedy. Neither is "Superman III", but they both have comic relief. The Clark Kent character is slightly more serious in this one, thus, you have Gus. A funny little man, with an interesting power. A savant-like intellect that gives him complete control over any computer system.
I especially like how Clark Kent, Superman's alterego, is fleshed out more as he returns home to Smallville. This is a great follow-up to Richard Donner's brief exploration to Superman's early years in Smallville. The inclusion of Lana Lang as Clark's high school crush was great, even better in that they chose the lovely Annette O'Toole to portray the character. I LOVE Margot Kidder, but I think Lana is a very important character in Superman's backstory.
All the delving into Clark Kent's character and background leads us to one of the greatest scenes in motion picture history... Clark Kent vs. Evil Superman. I could sit here and expound on the scene's metaphoric implications all day long, but simply put, I found it jaw-dropping. Christopher Reeve was always perfect as Superman, but his best work is here in this scene. Evil Superman is a very physical representation of everything Clark/Superman has ever repressed, and obviously we're talking about a lot of repression here. It's great stuff. I still wanna cheer every time the victorious Clark Kent opens his shirt to reveal his famous insignia, which, by the way, is differentiated by Evil Superman's in that it's excessively bright, where as his was really dark and dingy looking. Having been a Superman fan since I was a kid way back in the day, that's one of those scenes I'll remember 'till the day I die. I remember it from my childhood, but it's actually more relateable for me now as an adult.
Superman III is one of the greats. If you haven't seen it yet, I only ask that you watch it with an open mind and not look for grit or realism where it has no place being. Instead, just believe a man can fly... again.
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