Thursday, November 22, 2007

Superman III (1983)

Superman III (1983)

Superman III is a bad movie. It's a shame too, because it has some really standout elements, but the overall impression is one of overwhelming negativity. Director Richard Lester takes over the franchise fully, and shows us where the weaker elements in the original cut of Superman II came from (as opposed to Donner's much better but flawed Director's Cut). Even the first two movie had a goofiness to them, but this Superman is way too comical and the fact that Richard Pryor is the star is testament to that fact.

The story begins with Pryor's character Gus Gorman teaching himself to become an Über-computer programmer and subsequently getting employed by the villainous Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) to manipulate computer systems to wreak havoc and make money. Superman (Christopher Reeve) intervenes, so the villains hatch a plan to get rid of him by 'creating' kryptonite. Their kryptonite isn't quite right and it winds up making Superman evil instead of killing him; he then goes around the world causing trouble and making himself hated in the eyes of the world. A sub-story involves Clark Kent reuniting with his high school crush Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole, who went on to play Martha Kent in the TV series Smallville).

As a comedy it just isn't that funny to be honest, although there are some hilarious moments. Pryor is clearly the focus of the movie instead of Superman, which is unfortunate seeing as how it's a Superman movie. The plot meanders in near random fashion and is about as absurd as it gets (an impressive feat given some of the stuff that happened in the first two films). The Superman stuff in the film, it must be said, isn't half bad, and Reeve's turn as the evil Superman is fantastic and culminates in a pretty terrific fight sequence in a junkyard. He evidently relished doing a new take on the beloved character, and his performance here once again solidifies his status as the perennial Superman. Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is hardly in the film, but Annette O'Toole is a more than satisfactory replacement and her 'poor single mother trying to get by' storyline is fairly tolerable.

The production has a cheap look and continued the gradual degradation in quality of the series that began with Superman II and that culminated in the spectacularly awful Superman IV. The effects work is fairly mediocre overall. And as for the music, the renditions of John William's original themes are downright awful.

Superman III is enjoyable at some levels, both as a comedy and as a superhero adventure, but is never fully satisfying as either. It's one for Superman completists only, and isn't really something I'd recommend to anyone, though if it's on TV and there's nothing better to watch one could do far worse.

No comments: