Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) — Superman gets really preachy

“You can make a toupee that flies!”

Justin’s rating: You WILL believe a man can FLOP!

Justin’s review: To be honest, I’m just not a Super-fan. Superman, to me, is the vanilla of superheroes. He might be the original, he might be the essential, but there have been flavors since his time that have far eclipsed his glory. To give one character pretty much every power in the books, including complete invincibility EXCEPT for one small Achilles’ heel (bad, bad writers!), is to make a guy who’s just too perfect to be interesting. Plus, Superman’s got the worst costume in the world and came from a planet that’s really into New Age-y crystals. Bleh.

Superman 1 through 4 might’ve been the premiere superhero movie series of the ’80s (Batman ’89 aside), but they failed to capture my imagination as a kid and are fully laughable now that I’m an adult and blatantly notice the wires holding Christopher Reeves in the air. With the exception of Superman II’s trio of wacky super-villains, the whole franchise marinated in mediocrity, with a dull Clark Kent, a smarmy Superman, a shrill Lois Lane, and a disposable stockpile of special effects.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is easily the worst of the bunch, considering that it tanked the franchise for about 20 years afterward. Reportedly, the movie had a severe cutback of funding, forcing the filmmakers to take special effects shortcuts, but that’s no excuse for the thorough dullness that prevails. It’s a movie that seems written by kids yet doesn’t stand a chance in entertaining any.

This is the best they could come up with: After battling Lex Luthor, Krypton Kriminals, and Richard Pryor, Superman’s next threat is nuclear Armageddon. Well, he’s not really that concerned with earth’s ability to blow itself up many times over until — seriously — a grade-school student writes him a guilt trip of a letter asking Superman to dismantle all of the nukes in the world. Easily swayed by any and all tykes who come to him with simplistic requests for complicated problems, Superman charges into the U.N., tells the world that he’s pretty much their judge and jury now, and throws all nuclear warheads into the sun. He’s preachy.

Yes, it’s head-slappingly stupid, but that’s just the beginning. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) escapes yet again from prison with the help of his annoying nephew Lenny (Cryer), and uses all of the power of his brain to make “genetic material” for Superman to throw into the sun with the nukes and create — wait for it — NUCLEAR MAN. With such a fiercesome name, one would expect this ultimate arch-villain to atomize city blocks with mushroom-cloud farts, but nothing doing. Our villain actually just has really long fingernails. You heard me right. Superman’s greatest foe: radioactive cuticles.

From then on, it’s just a countdown to see whether the film or us will survive all of the stupidity present. Sure, there are subplots about a hostile takeover of the Daily Planet and Superman/Clark Kent going on a sitcom-style double date with two ladies at the same time, but that’s just fatty padding the movie added to distract you from Nuclear Man’s antics.

I will say that the double date is just about one of the more stupid scenes in movie history, taking the old “Clark Kent and Superman are never in the same place at the same time yet no one notices” cliché and mocking the heck out of it. Both Kent and Superman have to keep coming up with increasingly wacky excuses to abruptly leave the apartment where both girls are, changing clothes over and over to the point where I wonder if Superman’s just wearing Kent’s outfit like those easy-to-pull-off stripper uniforms. Velcro! It’s super-tastic!

At the very least, my non-interest in Superman shields me against feeling hurt by the betrayal of such a lame enterprise here. Up, up and thud!

Didja notice?

  • Jon Cryer alert!
  • Opening credits of FOREVER
  • Supes’ cape flaps in space and responds to gravity
  • Superman can talk in the total vacuum of space
  • Magic energy modules ROCK!
  • Superman’s subway PSA commercial
  • I miss girls in the ’80s who wore those dresses with the really puffy shoulders
  • Everyone would want a flying toupee!
  • Superman gets peer pressure from a kid!?
  • Superman Flight Tours — book yours today!
  • Amnesia kisses and telekinetic wall-building eye vision
  • The whole world is Superman’s fan club, apparently
  • Where does one get a space net that big?
  • John Cryer can duplicate creation?
  • Long fingernails on a villain, about time!
  • If he’s made of radiation, shouldn’t the cancer rate in this movie be ridiculous?
  • Superman uses his powers to SPOIL DINNER
  • “Common knowledge that Luther hates children AND animals”? Huh?

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