The Sound and The Furie

Wow ... I am simply in awe. Unfortunately, it's not in a good way. You see, several months ago I happened upon a boxed set of all four Christopher Reeve Superman films at Costco for a mere $18, which was a spectacular price, seeing as how all four were the special/deluxe editions (Superman: The Movie in this case being the 4-disc bonus-features-packed deluxe package). Until then I'd had just the bare-bones original DVD releaes of the films, except for Superman III whose deluxe edition I found on special one day, and Superman IV which I'd never felt the slightest compulsion to buy, even before I'd heard confirmation of how bad it was in the excellent documentary Look, Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman.

But I finally gave into the temptation this evening and put Superman IV: The Quest For Peace into my DVD player, expecting full well to have 90 minutes of my life completely wasted. I'm pleased to say that, in that capacity alone, the movie surpassed my expectations. Now, mind you, I have a personal history of liking -- even loving -- movies that were largely panned by critics (The Black Hole, Johnny Dangerously, Krull, and yes, even Superman III). But I'm afraid that even I couldn't find anything to love about this sorry-ass piece of ... filmmaking. What were they thinking? Did they not realize, even by the time they'd gotten to post-production, what a turkey they had on their hands?

Christopher Reeve, bless his soul, did what he could with the material ... but Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, and Gene Hackman all seemed to be going through the motions, almost as if they themselves couldn't wait for the movie to be over. Marc McClure was kind-of just there, because the script essentially gave Jimmy Olsen nothing at all to do but follow Superman around like a puppy. And poor Jon Cryer, trapped in the netherworld between his bygone John Hughes teen-comedy glory days and his current, very enjoyable stint in Two And a Half Men ... what do you wanna bet he wishes this movie had never happened at all, or at least had happened to someone else? Nah, I can't imagine there's anyone out there he'd hate that much.

I'll grant you that the Superman movies have never adhered rigidly to scientific credibility to begin with, but even this script's writing was nothing short of pathetic. I won't go into the details, except to say that Lex Luthor's sketchy "scientific" plan would have looked silly even in a 1940's sci-fi serial, and that Superman's eyes should never, at least in a live-action film, be given any powers beyond heat vision and X-ray vision (okay, to spare you the pain of watching the movie: he uses his eyes to magically re-assemble destroyed sections of the Great Wall of China out of thin air ... I shit you not).

Come to think of it, there was one shot that was quite priceless in the movie: possibly the best ever bit of physical shtick by Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent, in which he stumbles on a marble floor and narrowly avoids falling on his ass. But that sure doesn't make up for perhaps the most annoying part of the movie: Gene Hackman pronouncing the word "nuclear" like George W. Bush ("nucular") -- all the more painful because the script called for him to say the word at least a dozen times. I had respect for Mr. Hackman until this movie ... maybe Superman can use that memory-erasing trick on me for that hour-and-a-half like he did on Lois for discovering his secret identity...?

Update: If you're still jonesin' to get all four Superman movies for a good price, you can't get much better than this -- although this set is quite skimpy on the extras by comparison.

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