Sunday, June 9, 2013

Superman: The Retrospective-Part V: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Mariel Hemingway, Jon Cryer, Marc McClure, Jackie Cooper, Mark Pillow
Rated: PG

The Dude of Steel! Boy are you gonna get it!

With the Salkinds removed from the equation, as rights were transferred to Canon Films, it was a much easier task to get everyone back for Superman IV.  Christopher Reeve, who claimed he was hanging up the cape after III, was allowed to help create the story.  With him fully on board other players like Hackman and Kidder (in full capacity this time) were easy to coax back.  I’m guessing they wanted to wash away memories of III or possibly too many cooks in the kitchen with Superman’s love interests being the reason Lana Lang is nowhere to be found.

Superman IV has some problems, but the biggest one is budgetary restraints.  The film went into production expecting a $36 million budget, only to get a $17 million one instead.  However, I must applaud them, they still went all in with it and tried not to let the budget prevent them from telling the story they wanted to tell.  The movie’s effects look very cheap and pretty crummy throughout the film, but considering what the filmmakers are going for and the amount of ambition that seeps through the entire runtime, I’m able to respect it more.  This is the case for me, I’m guessing not for most.

The Quest For Peace, unlike the previous film, has something to say here.  Whether it’s clumsily handled or doesn’t quite work like it should, its there and the story sticks to it.  Throughout the film we’re treated to a “What if” story about Superman interfering with global affairs.  Would it do anything?  Should he really keep his nose out of it?  Superman does interfere, believing he will rid the Earth humanity’s evil.  He’s far off, for he learns that those up to no good will always find away and it’s up to the people of the planet to handle it, not him.  Meanwhile, there’s also an interesting plot going on at the Daily Planet.  A new majority shareholder comes in and is keen on selling papers as opposed to reporting the truth.  It brings about a debate about journalistic integrity, being old fashioned, staying current and trying to keep the paper industry alive.  This plot actually gives Perry White an active role in something for the first time in the entire series.  The issue is hitting him right close to home and he takes major stance against and actually is present throughout.  Its nice to see the character live up to what has only been stereotyped and built on reputation.

Now, the issues above sound grand, but please remember, this is a PG film and the troubles are handled in a very family-kid friendly fashion.  If you’re looking for something rather deep it’s not there.  But it’s admirable that the filmmakers are thoughtful and trying to bring something to the table here and attempting to build more of a story than a super strength alien from outer space punching and lifting things.

Some crappy flying effects aside, the film sails on pretty good for the first half.  It isn’t until Neutron Man appears that things dip a little south to the credits.  Mark Pillow is quite terrible, but they have the bizarre choice of having Hackman dub his lines.  He’s just quite awful himself.  It’s cool to have Superman vs. another type of Superman man, but really we saw this in Superman II.  And the fact that he’s kinda cloned from Superman, is just like Superman III.  Neutron Man’s appearance also makes the film more effects heavy, showing its hand with its budget even more.  But really, he’s just the film’s “Goon”, just a poor one.

There was a feeling and thought I had throughout this viewing of Superman IV.  I hadn’t seen the film in probably 7 years.  This is the perfect representation of a Superman from the 1940s.  It’s got Superman involved in world events, a big goofy sci fi villain and a very screwball comedy aspect present in the entire picture.  It starts off in Smallville as a very different film, but once we’re back in Metropolis, it just starts right off.  I kind of really liked this feeling and was able to appreciate the film more and overlook a lot of issues this film has because of this feeling.

Okay okay.  I’ve probably caught you off guard as I’ve said nothing really bad about this despised film that bombed at the box office, causing Superman 5 not to happen as well as a live action Spiderman film.  Well, Superman flies humans into space and they don’t die or burn up in the atmosphere.  That’s beyond dumb.  Lenny is a bit ridiculous, but we did accept Otis before.  There’s plenty.  The movie could’ve been worse though.  This movie was trimmed to a tight 90 minutes.  They don’t ask you to stick around for 2+ hours.  It’s a story that never drops your attention and is over quickly.  They cut over 30 minutes from the film.  All of it pretty stupid.  There was a whole Proto-Neutron Man created before Neutron Man and he’s a bumbling mistake.  Something akin to Superman III quality and it brings nothing to the table.  Everything they cut was deservedly so.  So instead we get a tighter more watchable film.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is the end run of the original cannon of Superman films.  And it feels complete at the end.  Christopher Reeve would be involved in a devastating horse riding accident in the 90s, rendering him fully paralyzed, thus sealing any hopes of continuing this franchise with him as Superman.  And he was Superman.  When I and many others think of Superman whether it be comics, tv, movies, he’s the image that comes to our mind.  It was a big and sad day when new broke of Reeve’s accident.  It was such big news that a special ticker ran across television shows nationwide reporting the incident.  Nobody could believe what had happened.  And it was because it happened to Superman that made its impact such a tragedy.  Every time I think of what happened to Christopher Reeve, I swell up with some sadness.  I was young, a kid and he was such a big figure to a lot of us.

Sorry to end this one on a downer of sorts, but its definitely part of the Superman story (and the Superman Curse).  Superman himself would leave a big hiatus on the big screen.  In the meantime we were treated to a short lived Superboy series and in the 90s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  The Moonlighting-esque Lois & Clark featured my all time favorite Lois Lane, played by Teri Hatcher.  And, then finally another Superman film came…do you know what that was? 

You’ll find out next time!

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