Superman does a lot in his newest adventure. Archvillain Lex Luthor, determined to make the world safe for nuclear arms merchants, creates a new being to challenge the Man of Steel: the radiation-charged Nuclear Man. The two super-powered foes clash in an explosive screen extranvaganza that sees Superman save the Statue of Liberty, repulse a volcanic eruption of Mount Etna, rebuild the demolished Great Wall of China and perform many more spetactular feats.Written by
Robert Lynch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Despite its reputation as the worst of the Superman movies, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is not. Despite the horrendous special effects and rushed ending, the film manages to still present itself with some respect.
Christopher Reeves had proved in the three previous films his ability to convincingly play the role of Superman. With this film, he not only proves his abilities but this is, in many respects, his best performance in the role. His speeches during the film are a sign of this and his chemistry with all the other actors helps also. Reeves also does his best to sell the special effects sequences it is a shame he couldn't. Reeves is the films biggest saving grace and it's a shame this would be his last time in the role.
Gene Hackman also returns in the role of Lex Luthor and with brings him that character's with, charm, and silent menace. But somehow he seems to be out of place most of the time and serves as a drawback in many of his scenes. Mark McClure, Jackie Cooper and Margot Kidder all return in their roles. But unfortunately they are all under used and their appearances might as well be cameos.
The rest of the cast does a decent job. Mark Pillow does excellent in the role of Nuclear Man, Luthor's super powered creation. Pillow does the role so well that one wonders how much better eh might have been in the special effects had been better. Mariel Hemingway is a welcomed addition to the cast as a heiress who serves as an additional love interest for Clark Kent. The only major addition that doesn't fit is Jon Cryer who could easily be the single most annoying character to ever appear in a Superman movie.
The film's real drawback is its low budget values. While this doesn't affect the majority of sets, the Fortress of Solitude set in particular looks cheap when compared to the one found in previous films. The same can also be said of the Daily Planet set. The low budget would also hurt the film in the area a budget was needed most: special effects.
The previous films, for all their flaws, at least had decent special effects and mostly convincing flying sequences and this film has neither. The special effects are sub-par by virtually any standard and despite being made nearly a decade after the first movie the effects from the first movie are still more convincing. The truly horrific nature of this films effect sequences can be seen during the climactic battles between Superman and Nuclear Man. The added addition of new powers with bad special effects doesn't help either.
The other major problem is the pacing of the film. The first 50 minutes or so is sheer entertainment that's the set up the story of both Superman riding the world of nukes and Luthor's evil plan. The set up, however, is better then the execution of the ending, which is both rushed and disjointed. The subplots of Mariel Hemingway's character and the boy who inspired Superman's quest are both left unfinished for example. Whole scenes feel incomplete and the final battle is over far too quickly to be effective.
But the film does have a saving grace in its concept. The idea of taking Superman, the ultimate hero of America, and placing him into the timely situation of Cold War disarmament is a stroke of utter brilliance. The concept of Luthor and Nuclear Man added to it also serve as an interesting addition to the story and it makes for good entertainment when viewed in this context. But this concept is ruined by the rushed feeling of the ending. But one still has to give high marks to Christopher Reeves and the screenwriters for their concept.
The films does have another saving grace: its musical score. Like the Ken Thorne scores for II and III, Alexander Courage's score makes heavy use of the John Williams themes composed for the first film and is highly effective. The Courage adaptation never fails to use the Williams music to maximum effect and it's a shame that, at Courage's own request, it has yet to see release.
Despite its flaws in special effects and editing, Superman IV has saving graces in Christopher Reeves, the rest of the cast, the music, and the timely nature of the story. While nowhere near as good as Superman The Movie or Superman II and while not as bad as Superman III, the film still serves its purpose and is your average Superman adventure.
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