by David Cornelius
If you’re wondering how the “Superman” movie franchise could have gone so horribly, tragically wrong as to give us “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace,” all you really need to know is that after the underrated “Superman III” left theaters, the rights for the series were soon bought out by none other than Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. You remember those guys, the company responsible for Cannon Films. The guys who made “Delta Force,” “Firewalker,” “Detective School Dropouts,” and “Alien From L.A.,” just to name a few.Once they got their grubby hands on Supes, all bets were off. The Golan-Globus name was like a curse, and the drop in quality would remain the steepest until “Blues Brothers 2000” rolled around a decade later. The special effects budget seemed to be a mere fraction of the original’s, right down to the opening credits, which look like a pale, cartoony imitation of the now-classic “flying names” montage of the earlier films. The screenplay is laughable, the action pathetic, and somehow, everyone forgot how to act. (Hell, even the poster sucks, with Christopher Reeve’s head wildly out of proportion to his body.)
"Once again, Golan-Globus gets involved and ruins everything."
Speaking of Reeve, he gets credit for cowriting the story (along with screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, who both went on to pen “Mercury Rising” and “Mighty Joe Young,” you’re welcome), and he’s to blame for the loopy premise in which Supes takes it upon himself to rid the planet of nuclear missiles. You see, some kid thinks the best way to end the Cold War (these were The Reagan Years, after all) was to ask Superman to disarm everybody, and the Man of Steel, breaking his vow to stay out of such political matters, is eager to oblige.
I don’t know why Superman would only concentrate on nukes and not other forms of weapons, and I don’t know why getting rid of nukes would be the single thing that would end all conflict on the planet, and I don’t know why, when Supes addresses the United Nations, everyone cheers when he announces his plan. Aren’t these the same governments that refused to disarm the day before? My brain hurts.
Fortunately, we have criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who’s recently busted out of prison with the help of his moronic nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer, in his single greatest career embarrassment). Lenny’s job is to be an idiot; his dialogue consists of two alternating phrases: “Like, oh, wow” and “It’s the Dude of Steel!” If, by the end of this film, you do not want to punch Lenny in the nuts, there may be something wrong with you.
Anyway, Lex steals a strand of Superman’s hair and uses its DNA to create a solar-powered supervillain named Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). Nuclear Man has Luthor’s voice and obeys Luthor’s commands, but he also wants to punch a lot of stuff, and that makes him dangerous. He also looks like he’s always trying to squeeze a fart that just won’t come out, which makes him look slightly less dangerous.
Somehow, the existence of Nuclear Man will make it easier for Luthor to become an arms dealer, although I may have been in the bathroom for the scene that explains all this. (Seeing as I’ve seen this film at least twenty times, that must always be the right scene for a potty break.) But the Luthor-as-missile-seller plot isn’t nearly as fun as the Nuclear Man one, so I turn my attention elsewhere.
There’s a subplot involving the Daily Planet being bought out by a tabloid magnate (Sam Wanamaker), who turns the paper into a sleaze rag. The new boss has a daughter, Lacy (Mariel Hemingway, acting here with all the talent of beef jerky), who takes a liking to Clark Kent. This is the set-up for a wacky double date between Lacy and Clark and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder, as always) and Superman. Can Supes juggle two women at once? Fear not: the result is a scene worthy of Greg Brady. Or maybe Jack Tripper.
And yet we want more Nuclear Man, and so we get him trying to kidnap Lacy, making this ominous threat, the best piece of dialogue in the whole film: “Where is the woman? If you do not tell me, I will hurt people!” Nukey doesn’t elaborate, so we leave wondering if he was planning a major purple nurple, a nasty wedgie, or just a mean-spirited insult.The story just keeps chugging along, wrapping up with a fight on an old “Star Trek” set that I think was supposed to be the moon. Styrofoam rocks are hurled, punches are thrown, viewers are lulled into a nice, deep sleep. At one point in the film, Lex calls his nephew “the Dutch Elm Disease of my family tree.” The description is equally fitting this movie, a sad final chapter in an otherwise brilliant movie franchise. That this movie is how the “Superman” movie legacy ended would be a depressing thought if the movie weren’t so endlessly hilarious.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=980&reviewer=392
originally posted: 06/18/05 10:22:34