Superhero movies are very much in vogue at the moment and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed the occasional Iron Man and X-Men movie. That said, for all their budgets and dazzling special effects, they will never top the mighty Superman II. No amount of CGI is going to match Zod and chums terrorising Metropolis. Man of Steel proved that.
Now when I say Superman II is my favourite superhero movie I mean it. It’s a film that I truly love. Because of this, I had never watched Superman IV. Some memories are too precious to tarnish (only my deep love of Richard Pryor and that scene where evil Supes flicks peanuts at bottles makes Superman III tolerable to me) so I had avoided it.
However, the same chap that is responsible for me being in a DEATH PACT that means I have to watch the piss-poor crime drama, Bones, until it is cancelled or one of us dies, also demanded that I sit down and pay my Superman IV: The Quest for Peace dues. Fuck.
So, on a particularly lazy Easter Monday I sat down and finally watched it (despite owning it as part of a boxset for a few years now).
Superman IV is famous for being so awful that it led to the series being canned for the best part of two decades. I had seen bits of it, terrible bits, but this was my first proper viewing.
So how was it? Well, controversially I have to say it’s not that bad. It’s bad, sure. It doesn’t deserve to be in the same series as the mighty Superman 1 and 2 but I was expecting it to fail on every level but it does have some redeeming features.
Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman all reprise their roles as Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luther respectively and all do a good job. Certainly they’ve never been surpassed in Man of Steel or Superman Returns, even if they are somewhat dialling it in in this movie.
And the film looks pretty good for the most part, despite being apparently filmed in Milton Keynes.
Where it falls down, hard, is in the effects, pacing and the story. The film is rooted in America’s cold war obsession of the 1980s and is a bit heavy-handed with its ‘gee, I wish there was no nukes’ message. The two main plot points are Superman ridding the world of nukes (by carrying them into fucking space, putting them in a giant fucking net and flinging them into the sun) and Lex creating Nuclear Man.
Now Nuclear Man is about the worst thing from any superhero movie. A mulleted English man who was born when Superman’s cloned DNA (from a strand of his ‘super hair’ for fucksake) is throw into the sun. They even explain away how he manages to be born with clothes. It’s complete horseshit. Worse is the fact that they build up all this bullshit for an hour and then cram in the fighting (they fight, Supes loses and runs off, he gets better, comes back and wins. You know, the usual) into the last thirty minutes.
It’s all a big load of rubbery old bollocks. Especially the scene with the Kryptonian elders that looks like a scene from A Christmas Carol and the fact that Lois’ love rival (whose name I can’t even be bothered to look up) is flown into space wearing a skirt and blouse and totally survives. WHAT?
That said, taken on its own merits as a slice of ’80s family fun, it could be worse (surprisingly). The cast and production (when they actually throw some budget at a scene) save it from being completely awful but it’s never good either. The problem is that by Superman standards, it’s unacceptable. It’s a shame that this was probably Reeve’s last major role and it turned out to be a stinker.
(note: we stole at least one GIF from this article and it’s pretty fucking good, so read that)