Sunday, June 9, 2013

Superman-a-thon Part 5: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

[Author's Note - These links will become active as the blogs are written: Superman and the Mole Men (1951)Superman (1978)Superman II (1980) / Richard Donner Cut (2006), Superman III (1983), Superman Returns (2006)]

I've discovered a parallel between my Superman-a-thon and the old Batman-a-thon from last year. I had an older film based on a TV series, followed by a four-film series. And in both, the fourth film is so bad that I almost don't need to put myself through a review because Channel Awesome already beat it to death.

Heck, this one is so bad that Linkara AND the Nostalgia Critic had to team up to attack the stupid thing. But I am reviewing ALL the Superman movies and as bad as it is, I will go through Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

This series is now on its third director, as Sidney J. Furie took over for Richard Lester after the critical failure of the last film. Additionally, this film has the disadvantage of having a studio that gave out an outrageously low budget. Jon Cryer, who plays Lex Luthor's nephew (Lenny) in this one, has actually said that the producers effectively sent out an unfinished film.

In any case, this film opens with Superman rescuing some Russian cosmonauts and apparently having knowledge of every language on Earth. I'm still not sure how he accomplished that, but hey, let's not question what is just a pebble in the rock slide of confusion that is this film.

He goes to visit the Kent farm in Smallville, which is now uninhabited because Martha Kent died off screen. Instead of showing him really coping with the loss of his adopted mother, though, he's come to retrieve yet another crystal he didn't take with him when he left home the first time. A recording of his mother says the power it has can only be used once, but it doesn't explain what it is.

I have no idea why Clark wouldn't have taken all the Kryptonian stuff when he first left, but asking too many legitimate questions here would be unwelcome to the people who put no effort into the movie they were producing.

This is known as a downgrade in the love triangle world.
Meanwhile, the Daily Planet has been bought out by a tabloid company who wants less-than-scrupulous journalism, and the new publisher's daughter begins to seduce Clark Kent. The acting here is way too overzealous and it feels like the scenes are being forced.

Thankfully, this madness is quickly sobered by the knowledge that an arms reduction summit failed, and I guess in Superman's world, summits are only a last resort because everyone worries doom is imminent. Superman even consults with the Kryptonian elders, who somehow have provided him wisdom despite their obvious disbelief in their planet's destruction, about what to do.

But it isn't until a child sends a letter to Lois Lane (to give to Clark to give to Supes) asking him to do something, that he decides to do something. And that something is... to forcibly remove the governments' nuclear arms. Because screw you! He's Superman and his will is law.

Her thoughts: "Holy sh** that green screen is terrible!"
And never is that more clear than when he re-enacts the best scene of Superman I and the worst scene of Superman II in one shot. He walks Lois off a balcony just so he can save her as Superman, does a shot-for-shot redo of their first flying scene (only with a significantly worse budget) and then wipes her memory with his mind-kiss.

So... if I can make an inference based on this, my guess is that Clark still has some of that evil from the last movie. Why? Because he has to be doing this a lot. Screwing with your not-girlfriend so you can make out with her and then wipe her memory is really messed up, but at least we can't say they never showed Clark abusing his powers now.

But yeah, the governments seem to have no qualms about relinquishing the only non-Kryptonite weapons that might do a little damage to Superman and letting him throw them into the sun.

Unfortunately for him, Lex Luthor has a plan. Using his REALLY irritating nephew to escape from prison, he finds some corporate sponsors, steals a strand of Superman's hair and attaches some really questionable technology to a missile. When Supes throws it into the sun, it gives birth to the Nuclear Man, played by Mark Pillow.

Ok there are so many things wrong with this. First off, Luthor's prison sucks. Second, Jon Cryer's character is so annoying it makes the old Luthor henchmen look dignified. Third, how did he develop any of these ideas this quickly. Fourth, how does Superman's hair have his super strength (able to hold 1,000 pounds) but lack enough invulnerability to hold up against a hedge clipper? Fifth, did no one really notice that something was on that missile? Sixth, why does Nuclear Man actually go through a birth cycle? Seventh, I don't care what explanation you give, Nuclear Man should not talk like Luthor. And finally, eighth, what kind of technology allows what is basically a He-Man costume to grow alongside Nuclear Man as he goes through his 'solar fetus' stage?

I'm already starting to make my head hurt so I'm going to go in big jumps here. Superman fights Nuclear Man and is damaged by the radiation his body absorbs when NM scratches him. While he recovers, NM decides he also wants Lacy Warfield (the publisher's daughter, who is played by Mariel Hemmingway).

At this point I feel I need to ask: Where the hell is Lana Lang in this? She's like, the only character who could have been a breakout star from Superman III. Why is this Warfield woman taking over the triangle role? I have no investment in her.

Clark is still poisoned, but heals himself using the green crystal he grabbed earlier. So was that crystal for that specific purpose or is it basically a cure-all? It doesn't count as establishing the solution if you don't say what the stupid thing is for!

Superman fights NM a second time, this go-around on the moon (because Superman locked NM in an elevator that he threw there, but NM got free because of the minimal sunlight he left), and much like Superman III, the fight scene that ensues is just so slow-motion-ridden that it's impossible to get invested.


Actually, at least with Superman III, I gave a crap about the feud at hand. This had no emotional investment AND it sucked ass. Truly a failed fight.

And as an aside, did anyone research what nuclear power is before this? Everything described in this movie is basically solar power. Why is the sun affecting NM at all?

Superman loses AGAIN, and NM kidnaps Lacy and takes her into space where she can BREATHE WITHOUT ANY ISSUE.

Superman solves this fight once and for all by pushing the moon out of orbit (most likely killing everyone on the coastlines in the process) and casting an eclipse to take away NM's powers.

He destroys NM by putting him into the core of a nuclear power plant and later sends Lenny to a juvenile facility and Lex back to his prison of ass-dumb security. Perry White buys back the Daily Planet, but Warfield stays in a minority role, thereby allowing a much, much worse love triangle to be teased for the next movie.

Thankfully, there was no subsequent film in this timeline because NO ONE wanted to see this crap in theaters.

The performances by the main actors are par for the course, but the material they worked with was significantly worse. I appreciate that they tried to make it work, but nothing was saving this thing.

All I can say is that this right on the level as Batman and Robin, but I'm willing to say this is worse simply because it makes no effort to have logic in itself at all. I'm going 1 star out of 4 and 3.0 out of 10.

Next up, I tackle the attempt at fixing what Superman III and IV tried to destroy, as I look at Superman Returns.

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