Superman IV goes out with a whimper
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is guilty not just of being an awful movie, but the fourth installment of the once-beloved franchise tramples any remaining audience goodwill after the uneven third edition.
At least you could see some connection to the superior initial two films, but everything about Superman IV is more reminiscent of a low-budget TV movie fortunate enough to have the movie cast intact.
Things get off to a rocky start right from the beginning with an opening credit sequence that looks like it was done in the 1950s instead of 1987.
Just like the third film attempted to be topical by addressing technology gone wild, this one wants to tackle another hot topic — the threat of a nuclear war. It’s a well-meaning plot, one Reeve conceived with screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, but it’s even sillier than the campy Superman III.
After receiving a letter from a child questioning why he won’t prevent the arms race, Superman (Christopher Reeve) takes the proactive approach and removes the world’s nuclear weapon supply.
This provides his old enemy Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, who I’m amazed returned to the series for this) with the perfect opportunity for revenge. With his 80s-fabulous nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer is so totally a poor eye candy substitute for Valerie Perrine’s Ms. Teschmacher), Lex creates a nuclear powered super villain — the very creatively named Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow).
Meanwhile in his alter ego of Clark Kent, he has to deal with changes at The Daily Planet as a new owner and his daughter, Lacey (a miscast Mariel Hemingway), think a more sensational approach will bring in readers and more money.
Besides providing Clark with the worst possible love-interest, Lacey is introduced to be a non-costume foil for Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). The lowlight of this subplot has a smitten Lacey set up a double date with her and Clark and Lois and Superman. Amazingly it’s worse than it sounds.
Konner and Rosenthal play real loose with some long-established continuity from the other three films and outright ignore it when convenient.
Of the film’s numerous issues, the biggest is its ridiculously small-scale budget of only $17 million. By comparison, the 1978 original Superman had a budget of $55 million. The tiny budget is good for about two flying Superman sequences, which are repeated throughout and would make for a hangover-worthy drinking game.
While on paper the thought of Superman fighting it out with a physical equal sounds intriguing, it comes across so poorly that it’s not even worth the effort. Plus, as far as villains go, Nuclear Man is perfectly awful (Pillow was wisely never cast in another movie).
I actually felt sorry for Director Sidney J. Furie (Iron Eagle), who had nothing budget-or story-wise to work with to make the film successful.
For sentimentality’s sake, it’s great watching Reeve and the old gang reprise their roles even if it’s in the bastard child edition of the series, but Superman IV: The Quest for Peace isn’t just one of the worst comic book films, it’s one of the worst films ever made.
Rating: 1 out of 10