Wednesday, November 25, 2009

“If you will not tell me, I will hurt people!”

Oh God, no. Oh God why? Ohhhhhh God in Heaven, forgive me for what I have done. Forgive me for watching 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, for I knew not what I did.

We start with Superman doing heroic things, like saving a Russkie space capsule from a rogue satellite (that Pinko bastard) and then he watches the news reports saying that the Americans and the Russians are heating up the Cold War and he feels kind of bad about it. Then all of a sudden we go to a random classroom where the teacher was letting the students watch that press conference during class, and then she’s all like “so do you kids have any ideas on how we can stop this?” and the odd little antisocial kid in the back of the room who’s been staring out the window the whole time says “Why can’t Superman do it?” And so the kid gets the media spotlight and calls Superman out on it, and so Supes finally decides that he’s going to embark upon on a quest for peace (dun, dun, DUN!) and fly around the world to collect all the nukes and put them in a big net and throw them into the Sun. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor gets out of jail, makes deals with the recently unemployed nuclear arms dealers of the world and one thing leads to another and some really shady SCIENCE happens and we’ve got a villain, Nuclear Man, for Superman to fight on and off throughout the movie. Then there’s a subplot about a muckraking publisher taking over control of the Daily Planet and turning it into a sensationalist rag and his daughter develops a crush for Clark Kent and turns away from her wicked, yellow journalism ways.

So the lesson we can all learn from this is: If you ever get a chance to let Superman get rid of all the nukes in the world, it will only make things worse because somehow it’ll create an amoral, solar powered evil superhuman with bad 80’s hair that really likes destroying things.

Superman/Clark Kent: Christopher Reeve for the last time in a Superman movie. He’s still a very fine superman, but these movies still leave in the dickish implications of the character. How does naively throwing all the nukes into the Sun really help anything? Wouldn’t that lead to more/bigger solar flares and a huge power vacuum on Earth? And besides, this was 1987. It wasn’t like Gorbachev and Reagan were actually sitting in their war rooms with their fingers hovering over the red buttons at this point. Besides, that’s not even the worst of his dickery. He’s feeling down, and Lois visits Clark Kent and tries to cheer him up, then Clark reveals himself as Superman to her (again), takes her on a flight across the city (again) they share what might actually be a lasting moment and then he kisses her and makes her forget her identity (AGAIN). What an asshole he is for jerking that poor woman around. Then, when Lacy starts going out with Clark, Clark and Lacy decide to do a double date kind of thing with Lois and Superman. It gets…odd, and not in a good way.

Lois Lane: Margot Kidder is back, and this time for the whole movie. Nothing really majorly bad about her character, but Superman just keeps yanking her around like a negligent boyfriend. Still, its nice seeing the character back in action in full. The worst is when they re-shoot the flying scene and Super-Amnesia kiss near the beginning of the movie for no valid reason. Padding the running time does not count as a reason.

Jimmy Olsen: Marc McLure again, he had quite a bit of stuff in the Daily Planet subplot, so hooray.

Perry White: Jackie Cooper finally gets a character arc in these movies. Perry really doesn’t like the new sheriff in town, eventually resigning his post when he can’t take it anymore (don’t worry, he comes back by the end). That was actually a pleasant surprise.

David Warfield: Sam Wanamaker is the muckracker who takes over the Daily Planet. He’s a jerk because he actually wants the newspaper to turn a profit. Because its absolutely villainous to want to run a business as a success so that you can keep your building full of employees employed. Truly, a scourge on our way of life, he is.

Lacy Warfield: Mariel Hemmingway is Warfield’s daughter, a young woman who is following in daddy’s sludgy footsteps. Until she meets Clark and starts to warm up to actual, honest journalism. Or something. Also, she can apparently scream and not die in Space. No. Really.

Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind of our generation: Yaaay!! Gene Hackman’s back to chew scenery as Lex Luthor. And chew it he does. He breaks out of jail and proceeds to develop a really crazy scheme to clone Superman and he creates one. Honestly, it’s a pretty bad plot, but its so damn fun watching Hackman’s Luthor that those scenes were the best in the movie. For that reason (and for actually being able to cut a piece of Superman’s hair with some bolt cutters...., don't look at me for an explanation, I didn't write this crap) he’s the movie’s badass. Also, this Lex is really the kind of guy who would take forty cakes when nobody was looking. Forty cakes. That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible.

Lenny Luthor: John Cryer (hey, wait a second. He was Washout in Hot Shots) is Lex’s heretofore unrevealed nephew, and the guy who gets him out of prison. Lenny’s not really a good character, but at least he’s someone for Lex to constantly berate in amusing ways.

Nuclear Man: The comfortably named Mark Pillow had the unenviable job of being the garishly costumed, poorly executed super villain that’s able to beat up Superman. At first appearance, he’s just not a very good actor in a silly costume, but then its revealed that he literally shuts down when not in sunlight and he also has really long metallic fingernails that can grow (menacingly, that’s exactly the opposite of the word I’m going for) and you’ve got a character that’s just laughably badly executed. I’ve read that he was supposed to be Bizarro (like they tried in Superman III and that actually would’ve explained a lot of his “opposite powers”) but the end result is not Bizarre (and not even Firestorm, the Nuclear Man who is a superhero that maybe five of you out there will have heard of), and I just really feel bad for Mr. Pillow. Not so bad that I stopped laughing at the movie, but still…

Sidney J. Furie directed this film, and there’s no doubt about it that he was working with a miniscule budget that was looking to cut costs everywhere. The result is very much a B movie feel, but you know what? The pacing at least moves fairly well (aside from the flying with Lois scene that is completely meaningless to both character development AND plot) and it does deliver a large amount of Superman action. Sure, its cheesy and bad, but at least there’s quite a bit of it, and it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than the snooze fest that is Superman III.

Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal wrote the screenplay and Christopher Reeve himself also contributed to the story. The story is a bit silly, but how much of that is the penny pinching studio’s fault I don’t know. There were some really interesting ideas thrown around, like an independent arc about the Daily Planet, the hints that Nuclear Man was actually supposed to be Bizarro, and the fact that it was a movie about Superman eventually having to deal with the fallout (oh yes, I went there) of his rather dickish “heroics.” Nuclear Man comes about solely because of his obsessive desire to rid the world of all nukes launched. There’s also a lot that’s bad too, particularly the dangling plot thread of whatever happened to Lana Lang from the third movie? Is she buried out back of Clark’s Smallville farmstead?

I can’t believe they got Alexander Courage (they guy who did the original TV theme for Star Trek) for the score. But again, its all built on what John Williams did.

I may have dreaded Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, but the end result was surprising. It’s a terrible, terrible movie, but at least its hilariously bad, which immediately puts it over Superman III, which was bad at being hilarious. If you want to laugh at a foolish failure of a movie, then yes, this one might actually be relevant to your interest. Sort of recommended in that regard.

And that’s terrible.

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