I ask you to kill Superman, and you’re telling me you couldn’t even do that one, simple thing. – Ross Webster
So here we are in what a lot of people class is the down turn in quality of Superman films, do I agree? I guess to a certain point sure, there is definitely a shift in tone to a more comedic one to accommodate the inclusion of Richard Pryor. I have great memories of this film as a kid due to it being a little less serious.
But does this make it a bad film? Personally I don’t think so, it’s not as good as the first two obviously but it’s still a serviceable film, with some good elements in it. With Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor gone and Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane reduced to almost a cameo that does open the film up for new people to take their place. Enter Robert Vaughan as Ross Webster owner of Webscoe Industries and just a hellbent on World Domination as Lex, with his sister Vera and ‘psychic nutritionist’ Lorelei by his side his penchant is for coffee and oil! And he needs help from Richard Pryor’s Gus Gorman, but we’ll come back to him.
And in place of Lois we have Lana Lang played by Annette O’Toole who would go on to play Ma Kent in Smallville, I think Lana is an excellent addition to the movie, we saw a little of her and Smallville in the first film but here Clark’s early life is really fleshed out and I for one love Lana as a character, the difference between her and Lois is really shown here, Lois has her obsession with Superman but Lana always cares for Clark first and foremost, this is no more evident than the scene where Lana asks Clark if he can get Superman to come to her son Ricky’s birthday and when he says he can she replies ‘Superman is wonderful… but Clark… you‘re the best’. Clark deserves some attention bless him.
On to Gus Gorman, Richard Pryor is amazing, let’s start there, was it right to try and write a Superman film around him, probably not but his performance as Gus a jobless down on his luck nice guy turned super hacker is awesome, he’s earnest as down to earth and makes you really warm to him, especially the scene in Smallville with Brad getting drunk and trying to insert both keys at the same time into the computer terminal is one of the best scenes in the whole film! Even though he’s part of the bad guy team you know he’s in over his head which keeps you pulling for him through the whole film, also he’s really funny, sure it’s not you’re standard Pryor affair but he does well with the material he’s given!
So the biggest thing about this film is the whole Superman Vs Superman, after given a variation of Kryptonite with an unknown element in it, Superman slowly turns bad and apathetic, it’s closer to a version of Red Kryptonite but I guess that would’ve taken too much explaining! So after him flying around causing mischief like straightening the leaning tower of Pisa and flicking peanuts into bottles of booze and generally being a scamp, Superman has a crisis of character and goes and splits in two like any good hero turned villain and fights himself! This scene is epic I don’t know what more to say! its Clark fighting the worse version of Superman and winning, giving us one of the best moments of any Superman films of him pulling open his shirt revealing the S underneath, incredible! I even own an amazing painting of that exact scene!
As a whole could this film have been better, of course, there a few films that can’t be improved but is it a bad movie? I don’t think so, just because it’s different from the first two doesn’t make it bad its just something else, it adds to the lore of the first two by putting in more Smallville and Lana, it gives you a new villain that’s not just Lex again, well not completely more like Lex Light haha and a robot woman, who lets be honest was super scary but defeated very easily! And who didn’t want to play that Superman game from the super computer!
I like Superman III a lot, some of it is nostalgia of course but its not a terrible movie, its just more lighthearted than the other two. Now lets see if the same can be said next time with Superman IV The Quest for Peace………somehow I doubt it!