I know I said I’d be reviewing Doctor Strange this week, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see it, yet. So, if possible, I’ll do a Monday review.
In the meantime, we’ve got this less than stellar superhero movie to look at. Superman IV is toeing the line between “So Bad It’s Good” and “Just Make It Stop.”
The Salkinds sold the rights to Cannon Films (and the reason you’ve never heard of Cannon Films is probably the result of this film’s devastating failure) because they didn’t think they could do anything else with the franchise, especially after the meh reaction to Superman III. Cannon films was horribly overreaching themselves at the moment and thus didn’t give this film the big budget blockbuster attention it deserved.
Superhero movies were still not really a thing. The first two films were huge successes, but the Supergirl spin-off film in 1984 was a dud, and a planned Spiderman film was shelved around the same time. Superheroes, at this stage, were still mainly confined to comic books (and, in the mid to late 80’s, comics were getting REALLY good) and nostalgia-laden TV shows from the 50’s and 60’s. Action movies, of course, were hitting their gleaming-muscles-and-huge-hair-and-leaping-off-exploding buildings-peak around this time, but no one could really figure how to fit superheroes into that world since they were primarily considered children’s movies (even though comics were reaching out to more mature audiences more and more). Remember that the theatrical cut of Superman II (the timeline of which this film connects to) was more or less an action comedy.
Add into that whole uncertain mix a radically slashed budget and a whole host of writers (including Reeve himself), and you get a movie that obviously has no idea what it wants to do tonally. It’s got a heavy-handed message, but its lack of an emotional core leaves it feeling like a Captain Planet after school special. (Disclaimer: I adored Captain Planet and all its preachy gooeyness). It is more action-focused and less of a comedy than its predecessor, but the special effects are atrocious and the attention to detail is clumsy at best.
I do like that we get Margot Kidder back at Lois Lane. She’s one of the film’s high points, even though it’s clear the filmmakers are doing their best to make Lois seem one the Old Guard, dressing her in as matronly a wardrobe as they could and leaving her to be the Stern Mom of the bunch (even though Kidder was only in her late 30’s at the time, that’s Basically a Grandma in Hollywood years, which is awful because Kidder is lovely and radiant and could have shined just as brightly as she did a decade earlier if given as much attention as her younger female costars). But Lois still has great chemistry with Clark (even though they allegedly didn’t get along very well behind the scenes because Reeve’s ego got a bit out of hand as he was one of the writers). I just wish the writing had been better…
Gene Hackman is pretty dependable, but not all that memorable. His nephew, played by John Cryer (of Hot Shots and Two and a Half Men fame) is the very picture of a stereotypical 80’s teenager (but more a stereotype of a stereotype since he’s one step away from being a cartoon character), complete with an exaggerated “Eau Neaaaau!” sort of accent.
The villain, Nuclear Man (whose name everyone pronounces as Nukular Man), is a wonderfully hilarious paragon of the 80’s action villain. he’s got big hair, muscly arms and a gold and black spandex outfit that screams “Down and Out Wrestler.” Add to that the fact that he says things like “If you wil not tell me, I will hurt people,” and has a King Kong-esque crush on the leading lady, and makes weird dinosaur sounds when fighting Superman (on the moon), he’s just impossible to take seriously. Cool idea; awful execution.
This movie’s only saving grace (aside from Lois, of course) is that it’s so short.
But I just really want to move on from this one and forget it exists (and, remember, I’m one of the the weirdos who liked Batman and Robin).
And with that, we TIME TRAVEL a decade in the future for next week’s entry when we welcome a new Superman! See you then!