Superman IV - Movie Synopsis/Review/CritiqueThe following is a Synopsis, Review and Critique of the 1987 movie "Superman IV".
Warner Brothers 1987
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
|Superman-Clark Kent...||Christopher Reeve|
|Lex Luthor...||Gene Hackman|
|Perry White...||Jackie Cooper|
|Jimmy Olsen...||Marc McClure|
|Lenny Luthor...||Jon Cryor|
|Nuclear Man...||Mark Pillow|
|David Warfield...||Sam Wanamaker|
|Lacy Warfield...||Mariel Hemmingway|
|Lois Lane...||Margot Kidder|
|Voice of Lara...||Susannah York|
by Wallace Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bellowing out the song My Way in Russian for the listening pleasure of his fellow space travelers, a cosmonaut performs a space-walk to repair antenna on their space station, orbiting high above the earth. He is so absorbed in his work that he does not notice a drifting American satellite hurtling toward him. The collision is brief, but devastating, knocking the cosmonaut into space and sending the station into a tumble. Out of the darkness comes Superman. First returning the station to a stable orbit, then grabbing the drifting cosmonaut, Superman returns the spaceman to the safety of an airlock. With a polite, "Dos vedonia", he is gone.
Back on earth, Clark Kent has returned to the family farm in Smallville, Kansas. With the passing of his mother, there is no one to look after the property, and Kent has made the decision to sell the family homeplace. Still, there are many memories, and ghosts, remaining there. Opening the door to the barn, Kent lifts up part of the floor. In the darkness glows the tiny ship Jonathan Kent had hidden there many years before, the capsule that first carried the young Kal-El to earth. Crawling into the capsule, he lifts up a glowing, green crystal. The voice of his mother, Lara, fills Kent's head.
"The yellow sun of your new home will give you great physical powers, but it cannot console your spirit. Placed aboard this vessel is an energy module, all that remains of a once powerful civilization, Krypton, your mother planet. It is my last gift to you. Once removed, the ship will grow cold and silent and you will be finally alone. The power of the module can be used but once. Use it wisely, my son."
In the distance, Clark hears something. Using his x-ray vision, he looks through the walls of the barn and sees a car coming up the driveway. Kent removes the crystal from the small capsule, and as Lara had foreseen, the ship turns cold, and vanishes from sight. Putting on his glasses, he goes outside to greet the real estate agent handling the sale of the farm. "I won't sell to a developer. The last thing we need is another shopping center. I'll only sell to someone that wants to farm." The agent is very upset by this turn of events. "I know someone that'll buy this sight unseen. No one wants to buy a real farm these days." But, Clark will have none of it.
Nostalgically, the two stop to look at a small crib in front of the barn. "Your father told me that you kicked the back out of the crib when you were a baby. Some story, huh, son?" laughs the agent. Still Clark is having none of his pleasantries and again insists that the agent sell only to a real farmer. "Be careful when you get back to Metropolis, Clark. It's a long way from where you were born", says the agent. "I never forget that," says Kent.
At the prison rock pile, Superman's perennial nemesis, Lex Luthor, whistles a Mozart tune while swinging his sledgehammer to break the prison rocks. Suddenly, everyone gawks at a strange car racing through the quarry. The guards are interested in the amazing car and when the driver offers to let them listen to the stereo, they jump at the opportunity. Unfortunately for them, the driver is Luthor's nephew, Lenny, and the car is really a means for his escape. Once in the car, the seat belts tighten, the seats drop back, the windows enclose the guards, and the engine races sending the car flying into the rock quarry. As a confused pair of guards emerge from the wreckage, Luthor and Lenny make good their escape.
Clark Kent bolts across traffic trying to make the subway and get to work. A distracted Lois Lane is also heading to work, practicing French for an upcoming trip to cover Paris peace talks. The doors of the subway open, then close leaving Lois on the car, and Clark standing on the other side of the door. Normally, the subway trip is uneventful. Today is different. The engineer has a heart attack and collapses onto the controls sending the car speeding down the tracks.
Among all the noise in the subway, Kent hears only the scream of Lois Lane. Looking quickly around, Kent rushes into a telephone booth and emerges as Superman. [In the four films, this was the only time that Kent actually changed to Superman in a telephone booth, although homage was paid to the classic motif in Superman: The Movie.] Accelerating down the subway tunnel, Superman flies past the car, lands on the track, shorting out the third rail, and braces to stop the onrushing train. With the train safely brought to a halt, Superman makes a point of telling the passengers that travelling by subway is still the safest way to commute. [This is reminiscent of Superman's telling Lois that air travel is the safest way to travel in Superman: The Movie.]
There is much commotion in the offices of the Daily Planet, and as usual, Clark Kent is late. "You're late Kent." "Sorry Mr. White, it won't happen again." Perry dismisses Kent with a curt, "Hah!" and they follow the other reporters into a conference room to hear news they never thought possible. The tycoon David Warfield had bought the Planet, and planned to turn it into a profitable paper. To Warfield that meant tabloid sleaze, tactical cutbacks and the opportunity to place his daughter, Lacy, in a position of power. Kent resents the moves for profit alone. He goes to Lacy Warfield and says that while he will cooperate, his responsibility is to the truth. "Is he for real?" asks Lacy. "The oldest living boyscout," says Lois. "Honest, trustworthy and obedient, that's Clark".
Disappointments abound as the Warfields make one fiscal cut after another. Lacy announces that all travel is cancelled until further notice; so Lois will have no trip to France. With a tone of surprise, David Warfield looks at the ledger and asks, "How come there is never any air travel for you, Mr. Kent?"
In the newsroom of the Planet, all eyes and ears are tuned on the television and a speech about to be delivered by the President. "I hope it's not bad news," says Kent. "Oh, but I hope it is. There's nothing like a disaster that'll raise the circulation," Says Warfield. And this announcement is not a disappointment. Due to a failure at the disarmament talks, the US has no other option than to escalate the nuclear arms race. The speech scares most every sane being. In schools across the country, students and teachers hear the news. In a small midwest town, one teacher suggests that one way to help is write their congressman. Jeremy (Damien McLaughlin), stands up and says that what he wants to do is write Superman. "He'll put a stop to this."
Back in Metropolis, Luthor begins hatching his newest plan - artificial life, and the DNA source for this new life is to be found in the Metropolis museum. Superman has donated a strand of his hair for an exhibit, and it is in a display case suspending a 1000 lb. wrecking ball. Lex and Lenny go to the museum and boldly break through the case, cut the metal clips holding the hair in place and walk out the front door. [Curiously, as strong as Superman's hair was, simple wire cutters could cut it.]
Back at the Planet, Lacy Warfield summons Kent into her office. Knowing that he is on his way, she primps, then hops up on the desk placing herself in a very provocative pose. As he sees her on the desk, Clark Kent nearly trips over his feet as he enters the office. Sharing the editor spot with Perry White, Lacy wants Kent to begin writing a series of columns called "Metropolis After Dark". When Kent insists that is not up his alley, Lacy coyly suggests Kent that he should give it a try, and they make a date to attend the Metro Club that evening. As Kent is searching for the perfect excuse to avoid this assignment, Lois barges into the office with a letter addressed to Superman. Handing it to Clark, he reads the letter. "Superman can rid the world of nuclear arms. Superman can make sure that we don't blow each other up. Your friend, Jeremy."
While the letter disturbs Kent, Lois is disgusted when Lacy suggests that this could be the perfect angle for a story. Even more upsetting to the reporters is the fact that David Warfield sees this as a way to make a name for the Daily Planet, and to sell some newspapers. He invites Jeremy to Metropolis, and plans a press conference when the boy arrives. At the press conference, Jeremy says that he wished Superman had just responded to him. When no word comes from Superman, The headline of the Planet reads "SUPERMAN SAYS DROP DEAD TO KID". With one look at the headline, Perry becomes enraged and storms out of the office. "He looks like my father did when he went to the bank for a loan," says Lois. When Jimmy hands Clark a copy, he can only stare at it, dumbfounded. Walking out into the lobby, he takes off his glasses and stares out into the distance.
Superman searches for clarity by flying to the Fortress of Solitude, where the voice of Lara again fills his head, and the Elders of Krypton appear to him. Superman asks if it is right for him to interfere with world events even to prevent a nuclear war. "If you teach them to put their fate in any one man, even yourself, you are teaching them to be betrayed."
Returning to Metropolis, the television news is full of reports of desperation and angry escalation. Sitting quietly in his apartment, Kent is startled by a knock at the door. He opens the door to find Lois standing there in a cocktail dress. "You told me to meet you in the lobby at 6. The Press Awards Dinner." "I can't go, Lois. I have a lot of thinking to do," says Kent. "Is there anything I can do?" asks Lois. "Would you like to get some air?" asks Kent. "Air, sure," says Lois looking at Kent strangely. They walk out onto the balcony, but Kent doesn't stop there. He steps on a chair, then up on the ledge. "Clark. Clark!" screams Lois. "Things aren't that bad." But they leap into the air. They fall together for a moment, then Clark accelerates reappearing as Superman, wearing Clark's glasses. Lois looks startled but unsurprised, removing the glasses from his face and placing them in her belt.
To the theme, "If You Could Read My Mind", Superman and Lois begin to fly around the world much the same way they did in the first film. The couple flies over Metropolis, pass the Golden Gate Bridge, chase wild horses and skim the treetops. Soaring higher, Superman lets go of Lois' hand and lets her fly on her own for an instant, before catching her and heading back to Metropolis to land at Clark's apartment. Holding Lois closely, he looks longingly into her eyes. "You don't even know my name," he says regretfully. "It's Kal-El," says Lois softly. "You remember don't you?" says Superman amazed. "I remember everything," says Lois.
"I need to be with you," says Superman. "You're the only one I can talk to Lois. Sometimes, I don't know what to do." "You'll do the right thing. You always have," encourages Lois. Turning his head, Superman sighs. "Never set one of them above the rest. Love all humanity in the same way. It's not fair," says Superman. Taking Lois into his arms, he gives her a long, lingering kiss. As before, the kiss erases the memory of the last few hours, leaving Lois dazed. Superman quickly removes his glasses from Lois' belt, walks into the bedroom and returns as Kent, now dressed in a tux. "Lois, it's time to go. We'll be late."
"What am I doing out here freezing my butt off?" she asks looking quizzically at Kent. "Oh, You wanted some fresh air. I feel like jet lag or something." "Jeepers," squeaks Clark. "How about you? Are you still down?" Lois asks sympathetically. Standing erect, Clark says with a clear voice, "No, things are pretty clear, really." "Good," says Lois. "Too much thinking wears down your batteries. Clark, you gotta' just go with your gut."
In front of the United Nations Building, Jimmy Olsen is photographing Jeremy for the next edition of the Daily Planet. As Jimmy is looking through the viewfinder to focus Jeremy, the lens fills with Superman. "Jeremy, would you like to take a walk with me," asks Superman. Jeremy and Superman start across the pavilion and slowly a crowd starts to gather around the two, which gets larger as they approach the building. Lois and Lacy catch up with Superman as he enters the building. Turning to Jeremy, Superman tells him to wait for him in the press booth with Lois and Lacy until he has finished what he has to do. [Strangely, this is the last time we see Jeremy.]
Superman enters the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations to a thundering applause. Walking to the front of the hall, Superman speaks. "Madam Secretary, I don't represent any country, but I'd like to address the delegates." "In that case, you will need a sponsor," says the secretary, and every hand on the floor rises to sponsor him. "What's he going to say," asks Lacy. "Something wonderful," says Lois tearfully.
"Madam Secretary, honorable delegates, ladies and gentlemen. For many years, now, I've lived among you as a... a visitor. I've seen the beauty of your many cultures. I've felt great joy in your magnificent achievements. I've also seen the folly of your wars. As of today, I am not a visitor any more, because the earth is my home, too. We can't live in fear, and I can't stand by and watch as we stumble toward the madness of possible nuclear destruction. So, I've come to a decision. I'm going to do what our governments have been unwilling or unable to do. Effective immediately, I am going to rid our planet of all nuclear weapons."
In the North Atlantic, an American Polaris submarine begins a missile test. The missile is launched, but once it clears the ocean's surface, Superman intercepts it. In Siberia, the Russian Army is also completing a missile drill with the same result. Superman flies each missile into space, places them in a gigantic net, and flings them into the sun, where they explode harmlessly.
With the news that Superman is eliminating the nuclear stockpiles of the world powers, Luthor hatches his plan. First, he meets with three black market arms brokers. With their help, Luthor arranges to get access to get an Air Force missile. That is his short-range plan. His long range plan is to place the genetic material he has "cloned" from Superman's hair on the side of the missile so that it can be flung into the sun. Posing as Army and Air Force Generals, Luthor and his cohort sneak into a missile test and enter the launch bunker. The security officer, Sgt. York, does not even question them. When it appears that the weather may postpone the test, Luthor starts barking orders and pushes the launch button himself. The missile had not been in "launch position" and just clears the bunker on its way into the stratosphere. "Missed us," jokes Luthor.
As he had done with all of the other tests. Superman catches the missile and throws it into the sun. However, this time a fireball erupts from the sun's surface. The fireball metamorphoses into a new superhuman, Nuclear Man, born of Superman's DNA and powered by the sun. Once oriented, Nuclear Man blazes a trail to the earth.
In Metropolis, Lacy has convinced Kent to go to a fitness spa and begin working out. True to Clark's image, he is out of time and out of step trying to do aerobics, looking like a clumsy, uncoordinated buffoon. In the weight room, the weight machine lifts Clark, not the other way around, and Paul, the fitness trainer, comes over to help Lacy and Kent. He quickly sizes Kent up to be a klutz and purposely makes Kent stumble, throwing a barbell at him. "No pain no gain," says Paul snidely. Gazing at Paul with disgust, Lacy sees Paul for the jerk he is, perhaps for the first time. Lacy decides to leave, but invites Clark to her apartment for high tea. "Lois is interviewing Superman," she says. "It'll be very chic. And come early. The view is very romantic." With a smile, she leaves and Paul asks Clark for help with a barbell. Kent picks up a heavy set and flips it at Paul who falls over the bench. "No pain no gain," says Kent.
With a rush of solar wind, Nuclear Man arrives at Luthor's penthouse, standing on the balcony aglow with the power of the sun. Luthor walks to the massive figure, who holds out his hand and lights Luthor's cigar with his finger. "The power of the sun has given him internally generated heat," says Luthor.
But Nuclear Man has other ideas rather than simply to do Luthor's bidding. "I am your father," says Luthor. "You are nothing," says Nuclear Man who speaks with Luthor's own voice. "I am the father now." "Youíre just an experiment, freak..." babbles Lenny. Nuclear Man sends a beam from his finger which lifts Lenny and spins him around. As he lands, Lenny utters, "Look, I'm break dancin'." "I made you," says Luthor. "I can destroy you." "Destroy Superman now!" screams Nuclear Man. "Yes, in due time," says Luthor trying to calm the excited Nuclear Man. Following Luthor, Nuclear Man moves into the shade and when he does his powers fade. "Oh, like he's cold," whimpers Lenny. "Of course. He gets his power from the sun," reminds Luthor.
Lois literally dances into Lacy's hotel room, carrying flowers that she arranges in a simple vase on a table looking out over the city. "I've never had a double date," says Lacy. "How do I look?" "Illegal... Like the last six dresses you've tried on," sneers Lois. The dress is low in front and high at the hemline. "Clark's not going to notice, no matter what you're wearing," says Lois. The doorbell rings. "Oh, its Clark," says Lacy expectantly. "Or maybe it's just Superman." "No," says Lois, "Superman makes a different kind of entrance." After Lacy opens the door, Clark sticks his head into the room telling Lacy that he needs change for a twenty to pay the taxi driver. As Lacy fishes through her purse, Lois pulls Kent aside. "She really likes you, so notice the dress." Kent nods, and Lois shows him the horrible questions that Warfield has given her to ask Superman. "Does your stand pose a threat to national security. How am I going to ask Superman this," asks Lois. "Politely," whines Kent.
When Lacy returns, Clark looks at her over the rim of his glasses and says, "Hey, neat dress," then whisks out the front door to pay the taxi driver. As the door closes, Superman arrives on the balcony and now it is Lois' turn to turn on the charm. Lois introduces Superman to Lacy. Ever the gentleman, Superman comments, "That's a very attractive outfit you're wearing." Lois looks at Superman curiously, quickly scurrying him into the living room. Lacy, disturbed that Clark hasn't returned, decides to go look for him. "Clark is probably helping the cab driver change his tire," she says as she heads out the door.
Lois begins the interview, but realizing that he must reach the lobby before Lacy, Superman uses his heat vision to heat the duck Lois has in the oven. When she runs off to see if it is burning, Superman flies down to the street and quickly enters the lobby. "It's so boring with Lois and Superman," Lacy tells Clark. When Kent makes excused for Superman, Lacy asks, "How can one man be so square and so delicious." They start toward the elevator, but a bellman's cart catches Clark and he is whisked out the door again. Quickly changing to Superman in the back of a parked car, he flies back to Lacy's penthouse.
When Superman lands and nonchalantly sits at the table by the pool, Lois emerges with the duck. "It turned out perfectly," says Lois. When Lacy returns, she is still disturbed that Clark has not arrived. Quickly, Superman causes the doorbell to ring. As Lacy and Lois turn to answer the doorbell, Superman flies away and Clark appears at the door. "Where did Superman go," asks Lois. Bumbling through the living room, Clark proceeds to knock over vases, dishes and telephones. Moving to the kitchen to clean his jacket, Kent's hearing is blasted by a high-pitched squeal. "Hello Dolly, this is Lex, Dolly," sings Luthor. Using a super-high frequency, which only Superman can hear, Luthor tells Superman that he has planted a number of bombs and plans to blow twenty floors off of a nearby building. Changing to Superman on his way from the kitchen, he makes his excuses and flies off. "That's Superman," says Lois. "But where's Clark," asks Lacy.
Landing on the balcony of Luthor's penthouse, Superman strides confidently in. "Luthor, if I suspected you'd actually planted bombs, you'd be miles away by now. Why are you back in Metropolis?" With his typical bravado Luthor says, "I wanted to be the first to introduce you to the new kid on the block." Pulling back curtains, Luthor reveals Nuclear Man. Luthor explains how Nuclear Man was created. "Luthor, you've already broken all of the laws of man, now you've broken all of the laws of nature, too. Do you want to start a war?" "Nobody wants war," says Luthor. "I just want to keep the threat alive." Pointing at Superman, Luthor commands Nuclear Man. "Destroy Superman," says Luthor. "Destroy Superman," screams Nuclear Man.
Nuclear Man grabs Superman and the two smash through the penthouse railing, battling in the air on the fall to the street. Since both have equivalent powers, neither man ever really gets an advantage, and all they can do is wrestle each other. Nuclear Man speeds off with Superman following him high above earth. Superman hits Nuclear Man from behind knocking him back toward earth. Nuclear Man flies to the Great Wall of China [curiously, it is daylight in both Metropolis and China], and smashes large holes in the landmark as tourists watch in alarm. Using another unknown power, Superman replaces the blocks and rebuilds the wall with a form of power vision. Superman chases Nuclear Man back into space where they exchange blows. Nuclear Man blows Superman away, freezing him in a block of ice and then flies away. Returning to earth, Nuclear Man drills into a volcano causing an eruption. Superman breaks the icy bonds and speeds after Nuclear Man. Seeing the eruption, Superman uses his heat vision to slice through the peak of a mountain. He lifts the peak and places it into the volcano like a stopper in a bottle. Then, flying over the city, he uses his super-breath to cool the lava.
Again, Superman speeds into space after Nuclear Man where they battle. Nuclear Man extends his nails which begin to glow. Superman knocks him away and again, Nuclear Man flies to earth. This time he sees the Statue of Liberty, and lifting it, heads across the bay to the city where he lets the statue fall. Realizing the damage the statue could do if it fell into the streets, Superman speeds to catch the statue and begins to return it back to Riker's Island. However, Nuclear Man flies up behind Superman and slashes him on the neck. Nuclear Man's nails tear through Superman's flesh, injuring him. Weakened, Superman struggles to place the statue on its base, then falls heavily to the ground. In a savage attack, Nuclear Man kicks Superman into the distance. As he disappears into the sky, Superman's cape floats on the wind, coming to rest on the light of the statue.
David Warfield surprises his daughter by making her publisher of the Daily Planet, and giving her Perry White's office. Entering the office, Warfield points to a piece of red cloth, "Superman's cape. We bought it cheap," he says. Lois runs into the office holding the now tabloid shaped Daily Planet with the headline "Superman Dead." "Isn't this a bit irresponsible. This time, you've gone too far. You can print your stupid rag without Lois Lane," she screams as she storms out. "And you certainly have no right to this," Lois says, grabbing the cape and hurrying from the office.
David Warfield watches Lois leave and turns to Lacy. "Let her go. And while you're at it, fire Kent. He hasn't been around or even telephoned." When Lacy complains, her father lectures her. "Haven't we had our little lesson in dealing with the hired help?" he asks. But, infuriated, Lacy catches up with Lois as she is leaving. "I swear that I had nothing to do with it," she pleads. "And, please, have you heard from Clark?"
At Kent's apartment, the lights are dim and it is obvious that he is sick. Knocking on the door, Lois enters as Clark tries to hurriedly put his glasses on and stumble to the door. He tells Lois that he has the flu. "I knew that you had to be sick," she says. "You haven't been to work at the office. You didn't return my calls. How could you not call me back?"
"But, I knew you were here, you know. Somehow, something pulled me here. I always know when Superman's in trouble." "Su... Sup... Superman," stammers Kent. "Something's happened to him?" "Well, everyone saying he's dead," continues Lois, "but it can't be true. I just know it. I feel it in my heart. I think he just needs help." "Well, wherever he is, Lois, he'll manage," says Kent, weakly. "Well, if he can't manage, and he really is in trouble, there are a few things I'd like to tell him. I'd tell him that I will always cherish the time we spent together, and I never expected anything in return. And, no matter how few minutes I saw him for, it always made me happy. And I would tell him that I love him, and that I'll always love him. And that whatever happens to the world, I know that he's doing his best to make sure that it will be alright for the rest of us." "Wherever he is, Lois, I know he'd want to thank you," says Kent tenderly. "If you do see him, or hear from him, he might need this." Lois hands Clark Superman's cape. He can only watch as she closes the door and leaves.
With Superman out of the way, Luthor feels free to meet with his arms merchant comrades. They are so pleased with the turn of events, and the increase in their profits, that they tell Luthor that they want to increase his commission. Funny thing. Luthor has decided on another tact. "Gentlemen, I've decided to assume control of the company. You're fired," he screams. At first they just stare at Luthor, but within seconds the ruthless Luthor has Nuclear Man scare them off. Luthor tells Nuclear Man, "With my brains and your brawn, I could be king." "What do you fear?" asks Nuclear Man. "With Superman dead, nothing!"
Haggard and weak, Kent appears near death. Literally crawling to his pack, he opens the pouch and removes the glowing green crystal. For the last time, Lara's voice fills the room. "All that remains of Krypton's energy is yours. After it is gone, you will belong solely to your new home. If our dying planet can save your life, my son, we have not died in vain."
Pacing, alone, at Luthor lair, Nuclear Man sees Lacy Warfield's photo on the front page of the Planet, and a strong current of passion courses through him. Speeding to the Planet building, Nuclear Man stands in the street screaming "Where is the woman!" Police and S.W.A.T. teams move in to stop him, but they stand no chance against his powers. Suddenly, a healed Superman arrives. Telling Nuclear Man that he is there to protect Lacy [although it is not explained how he knows Nuclear Man is there to get her], Superman lures Nuclear Man into the building. In a fit of rage, Nuclear Man tears directly through several floors of the building until he again finds Superman standing defiantly before an ornate door. Nuclear Man pushes his way past Superman and forces the door open. Before he can realize what is happening, Superman pushes Nuclear Man into the elevator, and quickly shuts the door. With no light, Nuclear Man loses his powers and sinks quietly to the floor. Flying to the top of the Daily Planet Building, Superman pulls the elevator through the roof and heads to the moon where he drops the elevator in a crater. Perhaps he should have sealed the doors with his heat vision because a few rays of the sun eventually slip through a crack in the door, newly re-energizing Nuclear Man.
Superman has patriotically gone to visit Tranquility Bay, where the first Apollo astronauts landed, and is straightening the flag left by them when Nuclear Man strikes, blasting him backwards into the flag with energy bolts from his hands. Superman flies swiftly around the moon, hitting Nuclear Man from the back, but Nuclear Man quickly gets the advantage and pounds Superman into the dirt of the moon's surface.
With his nemesis eliminated, Nuclear Man heads back to earth to get Lacy. Emerging from the hole in the moon's surface, Superman replaces the flag and speeds off to earth. Nuclear Man has kidnapped Lacy and is flying with her in space. [There is no explanation as to why he is doing this or how Lacy can breathe there.] To stop Nuclear Man this time, Superman causes an eclipse of the sun by moving the moon out of orbit and placing it in front of the sun. [Although, we never see him return the moon to its correct orbit.] Nuclear Man immediately goes powerless, and Lacy struggles to hold onto him, looking as if she were falling. [Again, Lacy should not be falling in the weightlessness of space.] Superman grabs Lacy and heads back to earth [which is, strangely, the last time we see Lacy Warfield]. Returning to the powerless Nuclear Man, Superman takes the advantage, guiding him to earth then throwing him into the core of a nuclear reactor. Once there, the power scales on the plant go off the charts, lighting up the whole eastern seaboard.
Back at the Planet, Lois and Jimmy are watching Perry direct workers to remove Warfield's sign from the Planet Building. "He's not going to like this," says Lois. And when David Warfield comes down to fire Perry, Perry informs him that while Warfield was busy playing with the Planet, Perry had convinced a number of people to back him financially to buy majority shares of the Planet. Now Perry owns the newspaper, and he tells Warfield, "Get out!" The old-style Planet has just come off the presses. Jimmy grabs a copy and hands it to Warfield. "Complements of a real newspaper," he says.
Back at the United Nations, Lois, and Jimmy are there to report on a new speech by Superman. Clark shows up, and tells everyone that he is feeling much better. "See," says Lois, "all you need is some loving attention from the right person." Lois reminds Clark that she is there to report on the speech, and he is to get the crowd response. "Golly," he says. "I forgot my tape recorder." And he heads off Jimmy says, "Same old Mr. Kent. He'll never change." "I hope not," says Lois.
With a flurry of wind, Superman arrives and takes his place behind the podium.
"Once more, we survived the threat of war and found a fragile peace. I thought that I could give you all the gift of the freedom from wars. But I was wrong. It's not mine to give. We're still a young planet. There are galaxies... out there. Other civilizations for us to meet; learn from. What a brilliant future we will have. And there will be peace. When the people of the world demand it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them. I just wish that you all could see the earth the way that I see, because when you really look at it, it's just one world."
In an attempt to quickly get out of town, Luthor and Lenny are trying to escape in Lenny's car. "We'll lay low for a couple of years," says Luthor, "and I'll come up with a new plan. Then..." Suddenly, the car rises. Beneath the car is Superman, flying them away.
Superman drops Lenny off at the Boy's Reformatory and proceeds to return Luthor to the penitentiary rock pile. As Superman descends to land, all of the convicts start whistling Mozart. "Just tell me how you beat him," says Luthor. "Is the world going to be vaporized?" "No," says Superman smiling humbly, "It's as it always was, on the brink, with good fighting evil." Lifting off, Superman looks back at Luthor staring at him dumbly. "See you in twenty."
Above the clouds, Superman flies over the earth keeping watch. In a graceful sweep, he flies into our line of sight. He is no longer a visitor, and must now be ever vigilant, always watching. He will always be there, because the fight for good never ends. [For those who watch closely, this ending scene is exactly the same in all four films.]
After the failure of Supergirl at the box office in 1985, the Salkinds tried to sell their options on the Superman family in the movies (they did retain their television rights and later produced the Superboy series which ran for four seasons). They eventually sold out, lock, stock and barrel to the Golem-Globus group. Golem-Globus was successful in negotiations with all of the major stars and was able to lure Reeve, Hackman, Cooper, Kidder and McClure back to do one more film.
Christopher Reeve had been concerned since the beginning of the series that he would become typecast as Superman, much as George Reeves had been when playing Superman in the television series. (As Sean Connery told Reeve when he had asked Connery about being type-cast as James Bond, "First you have to be good enough that the audience will want to see you in the role again and again."). Displeased with Superman III, Reeves was not sure that he wanted to reprise his role, especially if they were going to make the film a farce. So, the negotiation with Reeve hinged on his approving the script. Reeve wanted to make a film where Superman would make a difference in the nuclear arms race and a film that would not be perceived as a comedy. Because of his contribution for this part of the storyline, Reeve received a credit for writing the script.
The original preview version ran 2 hrs. 14 min. However a test audience in Los Angles told reviewers that the movie dragged so long that the director cut 45 minutes of the film to speed up the action leaving this film as the shortest in the series (1 hr 29 min). Unfortunately, the 45 minutes that were cut tied up many loose plot ends and explained a lot of action so, as a result, the film appears uneven and falls very flat towards the end. The TV version was approximately 15 minutes longer when shown, adding a scene in the Soviet Union where Superman saves Moscow from a nuclear bomb which Nuclear Man ignites during the May Day parade, and a scene in which Superman saves a girl from a tornado created by Nuclear Man. Neither of these scenes, however, did much to pull the film together. An urban legend has circulated regarding the full 2 hr 14 min version of Superman IV and an alleged 1989 airing on the now-defunct SFM Holiday Network. According to a representitive from SFM Entertainment LLC, the show's distributor, another Christopher Reeve movie was aired in 1989, which was how the rumor started.
As usual, Reeve's portrayal of Superman was quite good. Unfortunately, Hackman's Luthor had little to work with script-wise, and the US-Russian conflict/cold war theme were not especially apropos in today's spirit of co-operation. That however, did not stop the production of STAR TREK VI or HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, both of which dealt with the cold war.
Considering all of the criticisms that have been levied against this film, Superman IV, of the whole series, perhaps comes closer to the philosophy of the comics and the 1950's television shows than any other member of the series. In my mind, I would like a Superman that would make the stand the Superman in this film made toward nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this film, like all of the Superman movies, had numerous plot holes, not to mention the fact that Superman was given several unexpected "new" powers by directors and screen writers which severely disturbed Superman fans, if not the average filmgoer. In addition, the special effects that made Superman I and II so good dramatically held this film back. Where the visuals in Superman I made you believe that a man could fly, it looked like the Superman and Nuclear Man figures were simply pasted over a black matte space background in Superman IV. All of these factors contributed to this film being a major disaster.
Wallace Harrington (email@example.com)
Rating: 2 out of 5
Unfortunately, once again John Williams' famous soundtrack has been performed terribly, turned into little more than background music with terrible synchronizing. In the beginning when the credits come forward, I was disgusted to listen to the soundtrack and be witness to music that wasn't loud and triumphant. It sounded as if it had been recorded for Superman II, then thrown around, had some of the properties torn apart, set on fire, and then they decided to play it during the credits, anyway. It was the same case as III, where they just wouldn't go to the trouble to bring us something really powerful and show their pride in the movie. A soundtrack should show the pride of the people who made it, but perhaps they had none.
Rating: 2 out of 5
These were by far the worst of the series. This stuff could almost compare to the early serials of Superman in which animated flying saucers would attack real people. This movie had no excuse not to have good special effects. The previous Superman movies showed this. Plus, this had an advantage over the first movie in that it was filmed many years after. As years go by, special effects should improve, not deteriorate. The space scenes were the worse. It looked like they had taken a picture of Reeve, in his Superman outfit, and cut out that from the picture. Then it looked like they pasted it on to a space backdrop with Elmer's Glue. It was terrible! The flying scenes were pretty weak and the scene where Supes flies Lois around the world, for the second time, looks nowhere near as realistic as it did in Superman: The Movie.
Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man
Rating: 1 out of 5
Maybe I'm wrong, but it doesn't take much to be a grunting idiot who fights Superman. Nuclear Man was an incredibly stupid idea. He has the power of Superman, yet as soon as he walks into darkness, he's finished. Pillow didn't even play this role well. Other grunting idiots, like Non from Superman II, were at least comical and showed their characters fairly well by the reactions of them. Nuclear Man just did what any person could have done if they had the correct build... fight Superman and lose at the end.
Mariel Hemmingway as Lacy Warfield
Rating: 3 out of 5
Here's a rather controversial role. The part of Lacy Warfield was played pretty well. I can't argue with that. However, the role of Lacy was unimportant and incredibly stupid. Just like the Richard Pryor review I gave in Superman III, if this is what the character was supposed to act like, than Ms. Hemmingway accomplished it very well. But the character was pointless and just another reincarnation of Lois Lane, only this time she liked Clark. Although, I must say that she must have incredible lungs to be able to hold her breath for as long as she did in space (at the end), where she didn't even have a space suit.
Jon Cryor as Lenny Luthor
Rating: 0 out of 5
Okay, look. I was having trouble thinking of a third character that I could review and when I couldn't think of any decent ones, and I ruled out Perry and Jimmy because this wasn't their first appearance, I had to choose Lenny. The whole idea of him was incredibly lame. It's like the writers couldn't figure a way for Lex to get out of jail, so they just decided to bring his cousin in. It sounds like something out of the old Superman comics, in which a new unknown part of the family of either Superman or one of his enemies just shows up without rhyme or reason. Then the thing that infuriated me was that the great criminal mastermind, Lex Luthor, would never work with an idiot cousin, even if he did save him. They should have had Lex kill him, that would have been so much more interesting. And, Lenny dead would have gotten a better rating than him alive!
Rating: 1 out of 5
There were two things I could say about Superman III: it had a flowing story and it had a plot. The plot wasn't great, but at least it worked and the story also flowed. There weren't bits and pieces. This, however, is different. WHAT PLOT???? It was terrible. You start off with a kid that wants to end nuclear threats. You have a big deal between him and Superman, then all of a sudden, he disappears and doesn't show up anymore. Next, you have Supes throwing all the nuclear missiles into the sun, where Nuclear Man is created. Meanwhile, you have a stupid subplot with Clark and Lacy that leads nowhere. The Planet is taken over. Supes fights Nuclear Man, gets hurt, fights him again defeats him. Lacy is out in open space and you don't see her again for the whole movie. The Planet gets back on its feet and Superman stops destroying nuclear weapons. Then there's that infuriating thing that they keep doing throughout the entire movie... doing the same thing over again. Supes flies with Lois, just like in Superman, then he gives her the "kiss," just like in Superman II. I could keep going. It's almost like they took parts from I and II and just cut and pasted them in here. Then they introduced a bunch of characters and then got rid of them for no apparent reason. At the end, everything is as it was before and the only great thing about the entire movie is probably this quote: "Is the world going to be vaporized?" "No, Luthor, it's as it always was... on the brink with good fighting evil. See you in twenty." Well, guess what Supes? This story wasn't on the brink... it fell over!
Closeness to the Comics
Rating: 3 out of 5
The one thing they got right in both Superman III and IV were comic book plots. They were the terribly stereotyped comic book plots, but nevertheless, there they were. I can't think of a more obvious comic plot than this: mad scientist creates monster, monster fights hero, hero defeats monster, puts mad scientist in jail. There you go. That's what this whole sad movie was. The parts with the Planet going belly under, Clark dating Lacy and even the nuclear war possibility were all subplots. They were simply setting up this plot. Not doing it very well and some of the subplots were pointless, but that's what they were trying to do. Of course Supes also got a few new powers in this installment. He seems to have finally mastered the Kryptonian powers of the "Force" that the Phantom Zoners in Superman II had. He uses his mind to put the Great Wall of China back together and when Superman is in the room with Lacy and Lois, he uses the Force to ring the doorbell, when he's inside the room. Then when they open the door, there's Clark.
The Whole Experience/Superman III
Rating: 1 out of 5
When I watched Superman, by the end of the movie I said to myself, "What a great movie! It was fun, adventurous and it showed Superman as he was meant to be. Where the plot failed, I was still satisfied because of the amazing special effects and triumphant musical score." When I watched Superman IV: the Quest for Peace, by the end of the movie I said to myself, "Why did they even make this movie?" It was an amazing disaster. I do realize that about 45 minutes was cut out of this movie, making many of the scenes very difficult to understand. For instance, Superman immediately knows who Nuclear Man wants when Nuclear Man searches for Lacy even though there's no way Superman could have known. If the 45 minutes had remained, it probably would have been as good as Superman III. It would have at least had a flowing story and if they had done a better job on special effects and the musical score, it might have been all right. When I was younger, I always wondered why they didn't have any more Superman movies. Then I saw Superman IV, and I was glad they didn't.