Still, that's the direction the Super-Flicks had been going. In fact, this may be as close to the monster-vision of the Salkinds as we're likely to get! Not that we really asked for it. Kryptonite-Powered producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind famously replaced director Dick Donner with the much less serious, but much more controllable Richard Lester on the set of the half-way complete Superman II. Donner had resisted the Salkinds' directions for a much campier production on Superman and ran into slow-downs as he insisted on making a... Dant-Dant-Daaaaaaaaa... GOOD MOVIE!
While Superman II was still almost half Donner, Superman III is 100% Richard Lester, through and through.
Observe... Superman: The Movie began with an epic sequence of Brando before a council of elders, trying supervillains and warning his planet about the end of their civilization. The Credit Sequence took place over expansive star systems and cosmic sights largely unseen on film over the inspiring musical score of John Williams!
Superman III begins with a vapid sequence of Pryor in an unemployment office trying to get a government check and bumming a light for his cigarette. The Credit Sequence then takes place over ridiculous and insulting slapstick scene with blind guys walking through paintings, flaming penguin toys and annoying silliness over the music of Ken Thorne's Williams-derived themes and formerly inspiring cues that now sound like parodies.
Sadly, it's just plain silly.
Soon we're back to the familiar with the always excellent Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent, settling in nicely for a day at The Daily Planet with pals like Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) and good old Perry White (Jackie Cooper).
What about sweet Lois Lane? Well, because Margot Kidder took Donner's side and criticized the Salkinds about his treatment, her part was reduced to a mere cameo appearance. She shows Clark her Bikini (don't get excited, she's not wearing it at the time) and then runs off for Bermuda. Thus, Clark needs a new love interest.
He's going to need a new Nemesis, too, because Hackman refused to come back to the series in support of Donner as well (at least until someone else took the saga over). Enter Ross Webster (played, for some reason, by Robert Vaughn). He and his mannish sister Vera (Annie Ross) and his (and maybe her) super-hot blonde lover Lorelei (Pamela Stephenson) are doing the same thing they do every night, Pinky... TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!
As for how the bad guys are going to take over the world, that falls to the hands of August "Gus" Gorman (Pryor), who is a surprising computer wiz! Yeah, that's right. Gus goes from unemployed and sarcastic and very, very broke to computer programming school (which he can afford, somehow) to working for Webster's corporation as a programmer to working directly for Ross himself as a commodities rigger.
Uh, let me explain that for the realistic among us... apparently, although the computers were high tech enough only to show black and green, they could also control fleets of ships a la Skynet and also make it rain in Columbia enough to destroy entire crops of coffee beans.
Ugh, I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.
See, this was during that strange, thankfully bygone, era when "Com-Put-Ters" were still as mysterious as Brando in Apocalypse Now and still as enormous as Brando in The Godfather! You know, before your mobile phone could do more than your home computer and before your home computer got to be as small as your math book. They still can't control the weather, though. Maybe in Windows 9 or something... hell!
That's the kind of silliness and machina-ex-deus that goes into almost all of Superman III! It's an overwrought, ridiculous collection of sight-gags, one-liners and slapstick goofiness that has very little to do with Superman. Strangely, some of these things might have made for a good movie or two... just not put together and not in this film series.
The idea of Richard Pryor going from down-on-his-luck unknown genius to embezzling money from his employer and becoming a trusted member of the inner circle, while he cracks wise and experiments with physical comedy might have made for a funny, silly comedy. It's not this film, but it might have been cool elsewhere.
As for Superman's story, the ideas of him reconnecting with Lana Lang, fighting a cyborg controlled by the planet's biggest and most powerful improvisational computer and being forced to face off with and battle his dark side stand as potentially engrossing plot elements that could have soared in a better production. As they are, there are some very cool moments of greatness (the junkyard battle and cyborg fight are both kind of nifty), however, the film as a whole comes off as more farcical than fantastical and the film collapses under its own weight when it should be reaching for the heavens.
This goes to show that Superman III could have been a very fine and memorable film given the right care. Hell, it could have been one of the better sequels out there. Instead it ranks somewhere around Jaws 3-D and Halloween III in the list of let-down sequels! After the critical acid cloud that descended on this film (though, believe it or not, it was a box office hit), Alexander Salkind and his son Ilya decided to move on from making any more Superman films and instead diversified their resumes greatly with Supergirl: The Movie and the Superboy TV series. They let this one sink, pointing the finger for the way the film came out on just about anybody but themselves. The best thing I can say about their decision is that at least this one isn't as bad as Superman IV!
The truth is that, while Pryor might not have really belonged in this film (or, if he did, it shouldn't have been reformed into a vehicle for him), the failure of this film to satisfy isn't really his fault. The producers put his (always funny) comedy ahead of Superman's adventures which made for a poorly blended and disjointed daiquiri of divergent tastes. However, Christopher Reeve is still great in this movie and proves, once again, why he was the right casting choice for this series. Reeve is an excellent Clark Kent and a truly earnest and believable Superman. He gives his all to both sides of the personality and even gives a canny darker performance when the script (by David and Leslie Newman) calls for it. If anything, Reeve manages to save the film from being a disaster and, while he can't super-craft this one into being a good film (even by zipping around the globe a million times in reverse), he does lead fans of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's most famous character to at least say "Well, it wasn't ALL bad!"
As a matter of (sad) fact, it's absolute GENIUS compared to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace! Still, as great as Reeve is and as cool as so very many of the varied elements are, Superman III never lives up to the sum of its cybernetic parts and only manages to earn Two and one half Stars out of Five. Many fans might actually consider that to be too generous... but while the film itself didn't turn out to be all that great, take a look at some of the individual scenes and take a look at Pamela Stephensons' goodies... I'm sure you won't be all THAT disappointed. So until a Supercomputer takes over the world and controls everything from the weather to the information superhighway and decides "I'm going to have to delete that WorldsGreatestCritic.com website right away!", I'll see YOU in the next Super-Reel!
|What's New?||Alphabetical Listing of Reviews!||SearchThisSite:||Advertise With Us!||About...||Lynx Links:||F*A*Q|