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In THE QUEST FOR PEACE, Superman finds exactly that. Following this box
office bomb, the series would go on to rest in embarrassed peace until
Bryan Singer would come along with a spiked baseball bat to beat this
dead horse back to life in 2006. This movie is bad. Real bad. It's a
miracle we still enjoy comic book movies after SUPERMAN IV did
everything in its power to scare us away from them. It's hard to
believe Tim Burton would come along a mere two years later and amaze
movie crowds with BATMAN. Even Richard Lester, the man who pit Superman
against Richard Pryor and a "computer", would have nothing to do with
this movie and the task of directing was turned over to a man named
Sidney J. Furie, whose only other directing effort I'm familiar with is
that lame soccer movie LADYBUGS with Rodney Dangerfield. SUPERMAN IV is
a terrifying blend of poor special effects, hokey messages, and Jon
Cryer as the most aggravating 80's stereotype to ever poison the big
screen. This all about the nuclear crisis (or as Gene Hackman's Lex
Luthor would call it
"nucular") facing the world during the Cold War
with all the major world superpowers on the brink of nuclear
annihilation. A young boy's heartfelt letter convinces Superman to
break his vow of non- involvement in the fate of Earth by disposing of
all the world's nuclear weapons. Once that's out of the way, we get an
hour of Superman doing battle with Lex Luthor's latest scheme: Nuclear
Man, a walking atomic weapon with a period-appropriate mullet.
There's just so much wrong with this movie. I don't even know where to start. It's just bafflingly stupid. It can't all be bad, though right? There's got to be some good stuff here. Let's start with that: Gene Hackman returns as Lex Luthor and Mariel Hemingway is decently attractive as Clark Kent's new shoehorned-in love interest, Lacy Warfield. Well, now that we've got that out of the way
One thing that really annoyed me here is the same problem I've had with previous Superman movies. We get one plot for the first portion of the movie (in this case, the first 35 minutes is all about Superman ridding the world of nuclear missiles) and then the movie just decides to shift gears for the rest of the show (battling Nuclear Man). The movie has no real flow whatsoever. The whole nuclear disarmament angle, while relevant to the period in which the movie was released, is just too cheesy to be taken seriously. A wide-eyed youngster is asked how he would solve the world's nuclear threat: "Well, gee golly, I'd just ask Superman to do it." If that's not enough cheese for you, we have Jon Cryer (pre-TV fame) as Lex Luthor's nephew Lenny. Luthor has a history of surrounding himself with fools in the movies and Lenny is the most offensively bad of them all. With his bizarre 80's style and his surfer speech, you wish Superman would grab him by the collar, fly him out into space, and leave him on an asteroid somewhere. If that seems harsh, don't worry: you find out near the end of the movie that anyone, not just Superman, can survive the cold, airless, empty vacuum of space. Isn't that right, screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal? I've accepted some pretty far-out concepts from the previous Superman movies, but that was only because they were fun movies (well, not so much with SUPERMAN III). This film doesn't get that liberty because it's nowhere near the level of its predecessors.
There's just so much stupid about this movie that it'd take more than this comment section to go over it all. Thankfully, it's been covered ad nauseum in countless online reviews that tear this movie to shreds. Despite being released almost ten years after the original film, SUPERMAN IV actually has worse special effects than when it started. They're just horrible. The flying effects are the worst of the series. There's also the matter of the rehashed elements from previous films: Lois and Superman go on yet another "romantic" flight over Metropolis (except the background images never quite match the flight movement of the two and it looks terrible) and we get another amnesia kiss to wipe Lois's memory of the event.
The audience isn't nearly as lucky. We're left with the memory of Nuclear Man: a creature mutated by Lex Luthor from a strand of Superman's hair, some fabric, one of those magical computers, and the sun. Nuclear Man generates an internal heat at the temperature of the sun without cooking those around him, goes inert when not in direct sunlight, and has radioactive fingernails. Still, I suppose it's better than Richard Pryor's supercomputer in SUPERMAN III. But not by much. The last 45 minutes or so of the movie are Superman and Nuclear Man battling back and forth a bit while Nuclear Man flies around the world creating messes for Superman to clean up with more arbitrarily created superpowers (i.e. his new Super-Rebuild-Walls-from-Scratch-o-Vision). It's all just embarrassing. And that's coming from me, a viewer. I can't imagine having my name forever seared into the end credits and having to admit I helped create it.
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE is a comedy. It doesn't know it, but it is. It's laughably stupid with a plot the barely holds together and enough cheese to feed an entire third world nation. I enjoyed the first two Christopher Reeve movies, and I even found some high points in the much-maligned third film. But this movie has no real redeeming qualities and, worst of all, ended the Christopher Reeve/Superman saga on it's lowest note ever.
Just as fans argue which is the better film, Part I or II, so fans
equally debate which is the worst, Parts III or IV? Well-intentioned
but poorly produced and shockingly inept plot about Superman ridding
the world of Nuclear missiles, only to be undermined by the return of
Lex Luthor, escaped from prison, and then creating nuclear man to once
again conquer the world. This plot is so silly, with ridiculous science
and visible wires on the actors, that it's a wonder the creators
learned nothing from the lessons of Part III, even if it did make money
(sigh!). This film flopped badly though, ending the series on a sour
note, though again a nice idea at its center.
Christopher Reeve still delivers a sincere performance however; shame he didn't get the chance to redeem things with a properly prepared Part V...
Shall I recap Christopher Reeve's "Superman" franchise and the
roller-coaster ride it was? It began with Superman in 1978, a strong,
faithful adaptation of the comic book hero, bright and colorful, fun to
watch, exciting in its action, and overall, a serviceable, genuinely
entertaining piece of filmmaking. Its sequel was an equally strong film
and, thanks to a refreshing but controversial change in directors,
welcomed in a more satirical, comedic take on the comic-book character.
It was fun and enchanting, if still accentuating the plastic kind-of
qualities its predecessor had. By Superman III is when the character
started taking a nosedive back to earth. The film lacked the great
chemistry that was erected in the first two films, and focused
predominately on a lame villain and an uninteresting character
ironically played by the very interesting Richard Pryor.
And now we have Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a cinematic disgrace to the character in every regard that could've been prevented if something called source-material-respect was implemented. The production history of Superman IV is heavily noted, with a lot of it being revealed in Reeve's post-paralysis autobiography Still Me. Reeve's participation was made possible by a convincing deal, but even in his heart he knew it wasn't right. The film was made by Canon Films who, at the time, had thirty movies in productions. Superman IV wasn't treated any different than other winners the company had set for release at the time like American Ninja 2: The Confrontation and Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. Enormous budget slashing, extreme cutbacks in nearly every film department, and the lack of interest in making a film that would rebound the mediocre response to Superman III all lead to the dismal product that is Superman IV.
You can almost see it in the cast's face that they have little enthusiasm for the material they're currently acting in. Even Reeve, whose face gleamed and personality erupted when he did his first big scene in the original film, has seemingly checked out of this franchise. Gene Hackman's return to the franchise, too, feels forced and looks as if he is totally uninteresting with what is happening, and additional talent from Margot Kidder, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, and the lovely, beautiful Mariel Hemingway is all wasted on a third-rate script.
The plot involves the "Daily Planet" newspaper being bought out by a journalist tycoon who favors sensationalistic titles over real journalism, leading to Clark Kent and Lois Lane's (Margot Kidder) job to be more about catering to the narrow-minded and stretching the truth rather than about honest journalism. Lacy (Mariel Hemingway), the tycoon's daughter, also takes a liking to Clark and his kind ways, as she desperately tries to throw herself onto him at every conceivable opportunity. And if that's not enough, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) has returned, this time with his son Lenny (Jon Cryer). They are planning to create "Nuclear Man," a man to battle Superman since they have failed numerous times on their own to destroy him.
With a larger budget and maybe a studio that took this material seriously and recognized they needed a colossal rebound after Superman III, these ideas could've worked just as well as in the first two films. But under the stiff, clearly rushed direction of Sidney J. Furie (who already had several films under his belt when this was released, so I'm sure circumstances and time constraints were mostly to blame) and the effortless special effects (again, likely caused by budget constraints), this is an incredibly paltry effort to revitalize a franchise.
Not to mention, a trilogy is understandable, but a fourth movie after the third film already seemed that the end was nigh? This seems like an outright joke in itself. Even the subtitle for the film, "The Quest for Peace," leaves a person slightly confused. Wasn't that practically the ultimate goal in the last three films, whether it be peace and silence from Lex Luthor or Ross Webster's exhaustive computer hacking plan? Superman IV: A Quest for Peace is a rather disingenuous ending to a franchise many loved and many adored until lackluster decisions were made in the franchise's latter half. While the series had always maintained sort of this plastic quality I have been talking about, where characters do what is mostly expected of them and there's little deeper, below-the-surface mystery, the first two installments of the series were fun and quite exciting. What it evolved into was something no fan asked for and no fan deserve.
I laugh at how one of the opening scenes in the offices of the "Daily Planet" show the journalistic tycoon implementing controlling policies and budget cuts to make his vision of the newspaper. Something tells me that's how the production of the film went, with the tycoon being Canon Films and the angry staff the cast.
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Margot Kidder, Mariel Hemingway, and Mark Pillow. Directed by: Sidney J. Furie.
The tag-line of this movie should be "You will believe that a man can
hang on wires in front of unconvincing blue screen effects.". The
special effects are the least of this movie's problems though. The
script is awful. It's a provocative premise, having Superman deal with
a real world threat like nuclear proliferation, but here it's merely a
bit of speechifying and a plot device to create our villain. At least
Reeve and Hackman retain their dignity, and lend a little to this
otherwise dreadful film, by giving game performances.
* Note - One of the three stars I awarded solely for Mariel Hemingway's legs
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review contains major spoilers on the deleted scenes so if you
don't want to know before you watch them, stop reading now!
This movie is every bit as terrible as they say. The tiny production budget from a studio that churned out cheap junk in the mid-to-late eighties really shows, especially in the special effects. Christopher Reeve really got cheated in the deal, as has been documented in several places. One of the few bright spots is Gene Hackman, who can't act poorly if he tried.
Having grown up with Superman, I watch this movie every five years or so and enjoy it both for the nostalgia and the extreme awfulness, but tonight I watched the deleted scenes for the first time and they actually would have greatly improved this movie -- although it would still have been pretty bad.
The scenes would fill in some gaping plot holes (for instance when Nuclear Man decides he wants Lacy Warfield, how does Superman know who he wants, versus, "What lady?". Also, how does Superman know the dark will rob him of his power?). They also add a lot of depth to the story, such as Lex Luther meeting with the Russians and telling them peace is a capitalist plot, and banging his shoe on the table, followed by him meeting with the American military, telling them peace is a communist plot. We also get explanations as to why the characters are doing what they're doing. There are still emotional moments with Lacy Warfield's development as a person and even a tender moment and kiss with Clark Kent.
The deleted scenes still have real weaknesses, such as Superman being a painfully obvious stunt double when being thrown by Nuclear Man One. The scenes with Nuclear Man are intended to be humorous, but they're a little over-the-top with silliness.
I think the deleted scenes add the most where they make us give a damn about the characters and events, with some of the more tender cues from the original John Williams score.
This movie is a real shame all the way around. It's a shame that it was a disappointment for fans and Christopher Reeve, and that it absolutely killed the franchise. It's even sadder since this was the last Superman film, followed by Christopher Reeve's awful fate.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
** (out of 4)
The death nail in the series finds Superman (Christopher Reeve) having to once again go up against Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) who has now wants to use Nuclear Man for his wild schemes. SUPERMAN IV turned out to be a huge bomb with critics, fans and the box office and it's really easy to see why. The first three movies were "A" productions and even though the third movie was awful, it at least was a "Superman movie." This film here is in no way, shape or form an "A" production and in fact it's closer to a "C." With that in mind, I think the film can be slightly entertaining as long as you don't take it too serious and are willing to laugh a bit. I say laugh because there's no question that Cannon slashed the budget as there are some pretty laughable effects throughout this thing. The "C" production also meant that this thing really did feel like those silly and campy sci-fi movies from the 1950s that people would be watching at a drive-in. I think on this level the movie can be somewhat entertaining but again, I realize that fans of the series don't want this type of movie and that's why they continue to hate it and probably just pretend that it was never made. The film's story is incredibly sloppy and bounces all over the place but I'm going to guess that this here is mainly due to thirty-plus minutes being cut off the running time. While that certainly hurt the story I must think that most viewers are happy they didn't have to sit through more than 90-minutes. The shorter running time certainly helps because the campy charm would be gone had this been longer. Reeve is still good in the lead roles but there's no question that everyone else seems bored. This includes Hackman who believe it or not was just coming off HOOSIERS. Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure and Margot Kidder are all just collecting paychecks but Mariel Hemingway does come off pretty good. Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man is a real hoot if you know what I mean. SUPERMAN IV will always be remembered as a complete and utter disaster but one really shouldn't take it too serious today.
The first two Superman films were critical successes, then Superman III
disappointed fans, and then came this entry, "Superman IV: The Quest
for Peace" or as I like to call it, "The Quest for Failure"! Amid
infuriated fans, this film killed the franchise and I can see the
There are two things that try to save the movie but couldn't and it's that the cast from the original two films return along with some new additions (which is a good thing since they got rid of Richard Pryor from Superman III) and the music score from Alexander Courage (with the main theme from John Williams) is rousing. Besides, even those two saving graces couldn't save the stupidity that this movie had.
The story is half thrown together by denying the physics of science and has a lot of plot holes. The script is beyond inconsistent, it drags itself in most of the scenes in it's 90 minute, the directing from Sidney J. Furie is not only terrible, but lacks a lot of focus, and the special effects are beyond dated (with the worst blue screen effects and the shots of Superman flying through the camera being repeated in almost the entire film).
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is not the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's so terrible it makes Batman & Robin look like a masterpiece in comparison. To fans who grew up with the franchise, avoid this abomination at all costs if you know what's good for you and watch the first two Superman films.
Even Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve couldn't salvage this disaster. And the sad part it, it didn't have to be this bad. If they could have portrayed Nuclear Man differently, including their use of Gene Hackman to voice him, if the plot holes were sufficiently plugged up, if the flying effects (at times) were not worse than the 50's television show and if the stupidity of having such things as Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway) exist in outer-space without a space suit (and other such nonsense), it might not have been that bad. There were parts that I actually thought were decent. And there were good flying effects at times (although they were few and far between). I actually enjoyed seeing Gene Hackman portray lex Luthor again and he seemed like he was enjoying himself in spite of things. You know the story: Golan-Globus Productions were nearly bankrupt and had too many irons in the fire (at the time Golan and Globus had over 30 films in production, were cash-strapped and they gave Superman IV received no special consideration). They slashed the budget for this movie from $50 million (US) to $17 million, and it managed to gross a meager $15 million at the box office. It killed the franchise for nearly 20 years. On second thought... It did have to be this bad. There was nothing that could salvage this mess.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At one point, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) describes his nephew Lenny (Jon
Cryer) as the Dutch Elm Disease of his family tree. Well folks, you
know where I'm going with this. Although for my money, this wasn't the
worst of the Superman movie franchise. That would have been the third
installment with Richard Pryor creating a new low in the annals of
sequel history. But that's not to say they didn't try here (for a new
low that is). Nuclear Man? Seriously?
As outlandish as some of the concepts introduced by the comic books might have been, at least they maintained a semblance of continuity and consistency. Clark Kent would NEVER reveal his secret identity to anyone back in the day, until it came time to marry Lois Lane, but that was later on in 1995 (in the comics). And that business with Luthor cutting a strand of Superman's hair? You know, the hair that could support a thousand pound weight - very poor.
For all intents and purposes, the franchise would have been well served to deliver the first two films and call it a day. Even "Superman Returns" managed to bother me with it's revisionist history, but at least it scored considerably better with it's story line and special effects. A more fitting send off for this one would have been 'Superman IV - Rest in Peace'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Reeve is back because he wanted to make Street Smart. Hackman is back
for goodness knows why. Pillow is in his only ever big screen
It's not as bad as you would think, if you watch it in the right context.
Luthor steals a strand of Supermans hair, and creates Nuclear Man, a villain with the power of the mullet, and a tan that George Hamilton would be proud of.
In order to do this, we have a sub plot involving Nuclear weapons, a take over at the Daily Planet, and Mariel Hemingways eyebrows.
If you watch it in context with the other movies, it stinks, it's the definition of a franchise killer, and you can literally see where Cannon cut corners and edited out over an hour of footage.
Watch it as a bad film, and you will get a rich insight on just how fun a bad movie can be to watch. Bad effects, used blatantly more than once, sets that are hilariously awful,many a villain so ridiculous, you just can't help but laugh when he gives Reeve that dirty look whenever he gets hit.
Plausibility is thrown out of the window, and at the forefront of all this is Reeve, being really sincere as the titular character, and trying to make the film work.
He fails, and Hackman just stands around basically thinking Kerching!.
It's fun to watch though, despite the lousy narrative, and the most ironic thing about this is one of Supermans last lines 'See you in twenty', almost 20 years after this, we saw Singers bloated 'Superman Returns'.
See this, but see it for all the wrong reasons.
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